Long Winded Thoughts on I, Frankenstein
I saw a trailer for I, Frankenstein maybe a week or so ago. I was instantly struck by how stupid the movie looked and also by how different it looked from Shelly’s masterpiece of fiction. I was quite sure she would disapprove, and I thereby tweeted something similar. In fact, this was the exact tweet.
“Mary Shelley just sat up in her grave and said, “What the hell?” in response to I, Frankenstein.”
Fast forward a few days to the present, and I, Frankenstein (the official and verified twitter account, no less) is now following me on twitter. It is as though every entity of this movie is wholly dedicated to missing the mark with every chance that it gets. It would have taken a mere seven seconds to read my tweet and determine that I most likely would not appreciate such a follow. Instead, whoever is behind that handle either chose to not read it or simply disregarded the actual content of my tweet.
I have decided that this has also been the case as far as the actual creation of the movie goes. Either they simply did not read the actual novel by Shelley or they did and just decided to disregard the largest point she was trying to make through her words.
You’re probably wondering how I can be so critical of a movie that hasn’t even been released yet and why I think it has so fully missed the point of its source material. It mostly comes down to one prominent line in the trailer.
Before we go too far, I just want to set something straight: the monster was never named in the novel. It was always referred to as the monster or Frankenstein’s monster. Frankenstein is the actual creator – the doctor – in the novel. And although you could argue that the monster was an entity of Dr. Frankenstein, they are still two separate beings in the novel, despite their similarities and the doubling that Shelley employs to link them together. That said, the title of the movie is confusing – as it is not about Dr. Frankenstein but instead about his monster. It seems that the movie producers did, in fact, get the distinction correct, as the twitter description includes that his name is Adam.
Adam is an interesting choice. If they read the novel, it is probably a slight nod to Adam and Eve, the story of creation from The Bible. In the novel, Shelly often uses imagery and diction to tie her story to that of Milton’s Paradise Lost which is an epic poem that tells the story of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden as they encounter Satan. The monster – through multiple scenes – is definitely linked to Eve (the scene where the monster looks in to the pond at his reflection – similar to Eve’s scene in Paradise Lost where she does exactly the same thing, although with different results) and Satan (the diction used for Satan is often used for the Monster – both speak rhetoric eloquently). I suppose, the monster is also linked to Adam – but he is linked much more prominently to the other two.
Anyway, my main point is this. In the trailer, it’s alluded that Adam aka Frankenstein’s monster is going to prove to be a savior for the human race. The actual line goes something like “It takes a monster to kill a monster”. While that may be so, Shelly would definitely not approve of this little spin-off. At least from what I can tell. Why? The monster in her novel violates the natural world – and the monster simply could never be good. The monster stood as a symbol of man going too far and only promised destruction, not redemption, which is why Frankenstein is so desperate to get rid of the monster.
There’s also this pretty heartbreaking scene where the monster, who has been a huge creeper just hanging out in the bushes spying on some people, reveals himself to said spied on people. He’s super lonely and doesn’t really know what to do with himself since he’s basically a child who has been left parentless – parenting/abandonment is also a HUGE theme in the novel. Anyway, the girl, who the monster totally wanted to be friends with, is terrified. Even if the monster wants to do good, he can’t. The monster even admits to himself that good is just not something he is capable of doing. It just is not in his power – he only has the means for destruction. So he succumbs to it.
The monster was essentially the bi-product of Dr. Frankenstein “playing God” by going against the order of mother nature… which Shelley want to make clear is not something you want to mess with. At its core, Frankenstein is a feminist novel. Dr. Frankenstein creates life without a women’s involvement whatsoever – there is no egg, which is what would be deemed the natural way for such things to occur. By doing this, he literally creates this horrific, isolated being. A monster. This thinking was clearly influenced by Erasmus Darwin, who thought that it was possible to create life out of nothing, but that scientist shouldn’t even try. He believed that sexual reproduction was a superior method of creating life and that instead of changing science to our whims, we should instead try to understand it. Shelly wrote the novel not only as a warning to rein in scientific experiments from going beyond what was ethical, but also to point out the worth of women. The monster is merely a sad symbol of what the world would be if women were non-existent and scientific advancement was pursued at the cost of ALL other things.
It is still a highly relevant message. Especially with the the hashtag “#SOE” or just “SOE” or the blantant “Science Over Everything” floating around all of the time. Science is a hugely important part of our world, and I appreciate it. I really do. Look at all of the advancements we have made. Look at all of the cool lab work you get to do for chemistry class. Seriously, I love science, and I am glad that there are people who work every day to better our lives with research. However, nothing is so important that it should be “over everything”.
There should always be some limitations. For science, those limitations are ethical codes in place – mostly in regards to restriction on experimental testings and other protocols and procedures. And although Frankenstein is by no means a scientifically accurate account (although it did draw upon popular theories of the time*), it is meant as, and remains as, a cautionary tale of what happens when we go too far, seek to gain too much control, and spit on the mother nature. A version of Prometheus, if you will, who stole fire from the Gods only to be severely punished.
* Scientists/thinkers who inspired the novel seem to be Erasmus Darwin, Sir Humphrey Davy, and Luigi Galvani
** I also want to say that I took two course that really analyzed this text. Most of what I have posted comes from those lessons. I cannot claim full and totally originality as they inspired and informed much of what is written.