Frankenstein is the story of Victor Frankenstein, a brilliant Swiss scientist who discovers the secret of bringing inanimate things to life, eventually creating a human-like monster which proceeds to ruin his life. Most impressive is that Mary Shelley wrote this when she was nineteen. We don’t know about you, but we certainly weren’t writing earth-shattering, Halloween-costume-generating, horror-movie-spawning literature before we turned twenty. The novel made an impact at the time because of the oh-so-recent Industrial Revolution (1820s-ish). People were scared about these new "science" fields that were apparently capable of ungodly horrors. Frankenstein, like any good, famous novel, remarks on the times and reflects the emotions of society at large, namely their fears of science and technology.
Frankenstein couldn’t possibly have anything to do with our world. We mean, aside from the fact that it’s partially responsible for the genre of science fiction, it has seared our collective cultural imagination, it has inspired countless monster movies (Tim Burton’s among them), Halloween costumes, parodies, TV characters (think shows like Scooby Doo and The Munsters), and achieved all-around legend status, seriously, it’s like, antiquated.
It’s not as though we in the modern world could possibly relate to a terrifying fear of scientific advancement. The entire emerging field of genetics hasn’t created any controversy at all. It’s not as though the President had an entire team of professionals debate the topic and publish a report (that would be Human Cloning and Human Dignity: The Report of the President’s Council on Bioethics) condemning the entire practice and prohibiting many potential venues for further work. It’s not as though stem cell research is a hot topic these days. Right?
The fact is, if Dolly the sheep is our version of Victor’s late-night lab putzing, then Gattaca and X-Men are our versions of Frankenstein: our collective fears manifested in fantastical, narrative tales. Yes, we did just compare Dolly to Frankenstein’s monster. Just picture the loveable sheep chasing after you with a machete in hand (hoof?), and you’ll get there.
Which brings us to the whole appearances thing. Star, People, E!, those speculations about Brad and Angelina’s offspring – we are obsessed with how people look. Maybe we aren’t so different from Victor after all.
In short, you are welcome to hail Frankenstein as irrelevant – as long as you have 1) never heard of bioethics, 2) never seen an actor with more good looks than talent, and 3) never turned down that sweet-but-homely member of the opposite sex who would have done anything to go to prom with you.