Thursday, April 26, 2012

Stereotype Busters - Frankenstein

To skip to the stereotypes, scroll down to the point where the asterisks congregate. (***)

Today's Thursday, which is pretty much my lazy day, since I have no tuition, which would otherwise have taken up a sizeable chunk of the day. Instead, I spent the afternoon doing practically nothing of any measurable significance, and spent the evening sleeping. Today was fairly uninteresting, and I lack any fascinating anecdotes. Except for something funny that happened before I got home from school.

I stayed back after school a bit to watch the drama practice - the one I wrote the script for. I must say, I'm expecting a lot out of them. They've got good actors, who play their roles well, so all they need now is to practice more and make the story run smoothly. I just hope I don't have any young rival script writers in any other schools. Hmm.
By the time I was ready to leave school, my little sister's school would have finished in five minutes time. So my mother fetched me from school, and we went to my sister's school, where there is a perpetual traffic jam. Narrow roads in front of a school as large as SK Convent, right next to SMK Convent? Not a good combination. I got out of the car and walked to the gate, so that my sister would be out by the time the car reached the school.

While I was standing outside the gate, waiting for my sister, some of the other classes were released first. I don't want to drag a short story unnecessarily long, so I'll cut it short: While I was standing outside the gate, some of the younger girls came outside to wait for their parents. These would be the 6-to-12-year-olds. I soon felt a bit out of place, standing tall in my school uniform above the sea of short heads. But then I noticed a couple of girls looking at me, and one of them whispered my name to the other. They must have been looking at my name tag. This made me feel embarassed, because I was wearing the wrong name tag today. I have three pairs of shirts, and each one has a name tag sewn onto it. One of them says "JONATHAN LIM". The other two say "JONATHAN LHW". Just like the LHW that I gave myself in this blog. Ever since I got the name tag six years ago, my name has become a subject of confusion to everyone who read it, but I must say, I've never felt so uncomfortable about it until that moment there. If I knew how to draw a sheepish smiley, I'd do it right here.

And now, the stereotypes.


A lot of us think that we know quite a lot about Frankenstein, despite ever having read the books. I know I did. Funny, isn't it, how we claim to know about something despite not knowing it at all?

A lot of us have gleaned everything we know about Frankenstein through humorous TV references. Fictional crime investigation shows, science documentaries, and even Saturday morning cartoons have made passing references to Frankenstein at one point or another. In fact, a lot of the common horror-genre components that we see today - such as Igors and lightning rods - are usually attributed to Frankenstein.
They would be correct, too. That is, if you take the movie as the original Frankenstein.

For years now, ever since the invention of the Cinema, people have been turning intelligent classic stories, into movies designed for entertainment. You don't believe me? Why do you think there are two different remakes of the classic Snow White tale in cinemas these days, neither of which comes very close to the original story? As I have made it my quest to read the original stories of Classic Literature, I prefer to say that, several stereotypes of Frankenstein are true, if you look at the movie, but aren't true at all if you look at the context of the book. Which is what I do.

But first, there are some stereotypes about Frankenstein which were not true in both the book and the movie. Let's take a look at them.

#1: The monster was named Frankenstein.
People think that the monster was named Frankenstein. In actuality, the monster was never given any name. Frankenstein was the name of the doctor who created the monster; thus, the monster is sometimes called Frankenstein's monster. From another point of view, you could call the monster Frankenstein, or Frankenstein Jr., on the basis that Dr. Frankenstein was his "father", but you'd be sick to think that. \
As far as I can tell from what I've read about the movie, Frankenstein's monster was called "the monster". In the book, the monster is always refered to as a "daemon" by Dr. Frankenstein. No, Dr. Frankenstein was not such a crackpot that he immedeately named the monster after himself when it opened it's eyes.

#2: Dr. Frankenstein had a hunch-backed assistant named Igor.
I really have no idea where this came from or how it came into origin. In the book, Dr. Victor Frankenstein did not have any assistant of any sort. He took on the job of making the monster, alone and in secret. As for the movie, there were several close Igors in the three movies that were made, but none of them exactly being an Igor. In the first movie, Dr. Frankenstein did have a hunch-backed assistant. His name was Fritz. Other than the hunch, he didn't look very horribly disfigured. Then in the third Frankenstein movie, there was a blacksmith named Ygor, who had disfigurations from his neck to his legs. He was not Dr. Frankenstein's assistant.

#3: Dr. Frankenstein channeled intense electric energy from a thunderstorm into his lab via a lightningrod, which brought the monster to life.
In the book, Dr. Frankenstein refuses to impart with the secret of life that created the daemon, on the fear that his host and subsequent readers would repeat his horrible mistake and bring another monstrous creature into the world. But he says that the idea came to him in a sudden epiphany, and it seemed so simple. The description of the monster's coming to life was vague. But there is one part at the beginning of the story, when Dr. Frankenstein was a kid, and he saw a tree get incinerated into cinders by a lightning strike.
In the movie, Dr. Frankenstein claims to have discovered the "ray" that started life. He then sets up his complex machinery, and raises the body into the air. After a while, it comes back down, and moves it's hand. It appears to be mere coincidence that it was a thunderstorm at the time. There was no freak clap of thunder, nor a bright flash of lightning, that brought the monster to life. You can even find the video on youtube. Rather dull, to tell you the truth.

Now, there are several stereotypes given to Frankenstein rather unfairly, because of the movie. Here are as many of them as I could think of.

#4: Dr. Frankenstein was insane, and he shouted "It's ALIVE!" when the monster came to life..
In fact, Victor Frankenstein was quite sane. It was simply that he, like many people at the time, was trying to discover the secret behind life, and when he thought he had it, he couldn't simply put it down. While it seems gory to bring dead bodies alive today, it was thought in those days that it would grant people immortality. Actually, when Frankenstein's monster did come to life, Victor was so horrified of his unexpected success that he ran to his room and hid his head under the blanket. Following that event, he was so put-off, that he went into a delirious fever, which seemed like the heat of insanity to his friend.

#5: At the best of times, Frankenstein's monster said things like "Urrarghuuuhg" all the time, and occasionally spoke broken English.
Actually, after the daemon had been created, it ran away from Victor Frankenstein's home, and traveled to places unknown to Victor. By the time he finally met his monster again, it had spent more than a year watching humans and learning from them, and was in fact extremely eloquent, to the extent that he described the moon and the birds of the forest in a poetical manner.

#6: The monster was terrified of fire since it's creation.
When the monster escaped from the lab, it first ran into a forest. After a few days there, it came across a small fire which had been left by some beggars the night before. Intrigued by the warmth it was giving off, he stuck his fingers into the flame, and was shocked when his fingers were scorched, and quickly withdrew them. Since then, he came to respect fire, and learn to use it. By no means did he ever flinch at the sight of a torch. In fact, he once set fire to an empty cottage and dance at the edge of the flames live a savage, but that's besides the point.

#7: The monster had two bolts sticking out of his neck.
This is completely attributed to the movie. There was never any mention towards bolts of any sort in the book. Frankenstein was described as having yellowish skin, and frightening watery eyes which were the main source of his ugliness. He was unhumanly large, thanks to his creator. Also, he did not have a squarish flat head.

#8: The monster was a thoughtless behemoth that killed everything that crossed paths with it.
As was pointed out before, the daemon was actually quite intelligent, and in fact quite appreciated life, and humans. However, he did commit a number of murders, but not exactly with the animalian viciousness that people often attribute to him. Well, look at it this way: if everyone you met screamed at you and threw rocks at you before you even got a chance to open your mouth and speak, well, you'd go a bit wrong in the head too, woudln't you? You'd feel very much ticked off, wouldn't you? In fact, the eloquent daemon claims that he only killed because of the rage in his heart, and he says that if he had been shown love, he would have been peaceable. He even says that commiting the murders was no enjoyable task, and that even now he feels pain when he remembers the screams of the victims.

#9: When the monster had gone too far, the villagers gathered together and formed a mob, picking up flaming torches and pitchforks. They then proceded to gather at the foot of Frankenstein's hill, where they waved their weapons around menacingly.
Ah, yes. It is from the Frankenstein movie that we get the age-revered scene of the angry villagers forming a mob to chase out the mad scientist who got too many ideas above his station. The truth is, the villagers never knew anything about the monster (except for extremely few of them who saw him and chased him off; but that happened hundreds of mile away from Victor's home), until Victor himself went to the judge of the village and told him about the monster he had created, which had caused all the shocking murders of late. As mentioned earlier, Victor was horrified of his monster. In no way was the monster his "pet". When the villagers started looking for the monster, they actually formed organised search parties and combed the mountains. There was no mob, and no pitchforks.


And that's the end of our little stereotype show. I wanted to add one more, about the ending of Frankenstein, to make a nice #10 list. But that would have absolutely spoiled it for everyone, so I decided, nah. This is just a little list compiled by myself, who is fed up of all the changes that movie makers add to perfectly good stories. In a sense, this was just a little rant of mine. Thanks for reading, and good night. That is, if you can sleep peacefully.

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