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Frankenstein Is Not the Monster!

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Okay, this is such a trivial thing that most people are going to think, “Who cares?” Unfortunately, I do, and it has been driving me crazy over the years to hear people wrongly referring to the monster as “Frankenstein.” As a devout fan of the cinema and lover of classic books, I want to set the record straight: the monster is not Frankenstein; the doctor who created the monster is!

I have come to this point – of actually putting on record my feelings about this – because my daughter was watching a cartoon, and I was mortified by the reference to “Frankenstein’s brain,” in the lyrics sung during the opening credits. The show, Phineas and Ferb on Disney Channel, came on again a half hour later, so I made a point of sitting down to watch. As the words “Frankenstein’s brain” are sung, one of the characters is seen staring into the open skull of what looks like the monster from the movies.

This seemingly inconsequential fact has annoyed me for a long time. People always refer to the monster as Frankenstein. If one reads Mary Shelley’s fantastic book, Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus, it’s very clear that the title refers to the doctor, who like his Greek counterpart, stole something from the gods and is punished accordingly. By creating life from nothingness, Frankenstein sends himself into a tragic journey where genius meets harsh reality, resulting in disaster for his family, friends, and community.

The early film versions of the story make this fact clear as well. Frankenstein is the doctor, not the monster; though even the 1936 film Bride of Frankenstein no doubt added to the confusion, with the female monster being created as a “bride” by Frankenstein for the monster, but it seems the public started thinking of the monster as Frankenstein and it continues until this day.

Go into a costume store before Halloween, and the misconception is printed in bold letters on the front of the bag containing the monster mask and clothing. You can even check this out in online costume stores, where “Little Frankie” costumes are waiting for the baby you love to be dressed and ready to be scary this October 31. At this point the confusion is so intensely ingrained in the general public that it is almost impossible to hope for an end to the madness.

When I tried to explain some of this to my daughter, she said, “Like, what’s the big deal, Dad?”

Well, I guess it is no big deal, but it will continue to bother me from now until Halloween and beyond. I had to say it and now I have: Frankenstein is the creator; the monster is just that, a monster.

 

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About Victor Lana

Victor Lana has published numerous stories, articles, and poems in literary magazines and online. His books In a Dark Time (1994), A Death in Prague (2002), Move (2003), The Savage Quiet September Sun: A Collection of 9/11 Stories (2005) and Like a Passing Shadow (2009) are available online and as e-books. He has won the National Arts Club Award for Poetry, but has concentrated mostly on fiction and non-fiction prose in recent years. He has worked as faculty advisor to school literary magazines and enjoys the creative process as a writer, editor, and collaborator. He has been with Blogcritics since July 2005, has edited many articles, was co-head sports editor with Charley Doherty, and now is a Culture and Society editor. He views Blogcritics as one of most exciting, fresh, and meaningful opportunities in his writing life.
  • elf

    I think you may have to give Phineas and Ferb a pass on a technicality. The brain shown in the title sequence is indeed referred to as belonging to Frankenstein and the scenes may infer that is also the name of the monster. However, isn’t it also possible to call it “Frankenstein’s brain” because Dr. Frankenstein procured it for use in his monster? If I buy a battery for my car and install it in my car would it not still be referred to as “Elf’s battery”?

  • http://viclana.blogspot.com/ Victor Lana

    Well, technically, if it were “Frankenstein’s brain,” it would have had to be removed from the good doctor and then how would he have gotten it into the monster? I don’t think Igor was up to the task.

    This makes me recall a Star Trek episode in which Spock’s brain was removed by aliens and replaced by Dr. McCoy, who was guided by Spock telepathically.

    Okay, what the heck, let Phineas and Ferb have a pass then!

  • http://www.indyboomer46.blogspot.com Baritone

    Victor,

    Just thought I’d mention that my son, the fellow who runs the “cellpoems” site, just won the Ruth Lilly Prize for Poetry awarded by the Poetry Foundation and “Poetry Magazine.” Kinda cool.

  • http://snallabolaget.com Sommerfeldt

    In a way, the doctor Frankenstein was a monster, though – perhaps even more of a monster than the monster itself for having created it in the first place.

    But I’ll stop splitting hair here – it annoys me too that people call the monster by the doctor’s name. :)

  • http://viclana.blogspot.com/ Victor Lana

    Congratulations, Baritone. Wonderful!

    #4- Absolutely true! In the book the Monster is eloquent but repulsive. In the Arctic when he sees the doctor is dead, he then can go off and die too, as if he wanted to be sure his creator never made another like him.

  • Dan Povenmire

    I assure you, as the writer of that lyric in the Phineas and Ferb theme song, that I am well aware that Frankenstein refers to the Victor in the original book, and not the monster. However, I am also aware that language is a fluid and constantly changing thing and that common usage actually changes the meaning of words over time.

    If you were to stop a hundred people in the street and ask them to draw Frankenstein, chances are none of them would draw a guy in a labcoat. They would assume that you meant the monster because that is the common usage of the name. “Frankenstein” has become an abbreviation of sorts for “Frankensteins’ Monster.”

    I do feel your pain though because I get irritated whenever anyone refers to a chimpanzee as a “monkey.”

  • http://viclana.blogspot.com/ Victor Lana

    Dan, thanks for leaving a comment.

    I do think you’re absolutely right, and there is no way to change things now. The monster is Frankenstein in the public’s imagination, just the same way an actor who plays a character is mistaken as the character he/she plays.

    By the way, my daughter loves the show and, when she thought I was even being slightly critical (by pointing out the thing about the monster) she was ready to defend Phineas, Ferb, and the whole gang to the end.

  • Dan Povenmire

    Your daughter is wise beyond her years.

  • FNYOB

    I made a bet Thursday night with a man who is dressing up as “Frankenstein” for Halloween this yr. He said that was the name of the monster and I said NO it wasn’t and now he’s going to owe me 100 drinks!

  • http://viclana.blogspot.com/ Victor Lana

    Good for you, FNYOB! Cheers x 100 to you!

  • hualda

    i have to agree.. esp. when i was in the philippines 99.99999% of people there think that the monster is frankenstein XD btw i love the novel….

  • hualda

    but what i was thinking is that the monster would be like dr. frankenstein’s son since he is the one who create IT… so everyone assumed the surname… frankenstein XD lol sorry for my imagination :P

  • http://viclana.blogspot.com/ Victor Lana

    Well, Hualda, in a way as creator Frankenstein was the “father” of the monster and responsible for it’s gruesome doings.

  • http://www.ambrotoons.com/word/ Spud

    This misconception is sufficiently pervasive that many of our readers didn’t get today’s cartoon, wondering who the guy in the bow tie was supposed to be.

  • http://viclana.blogspot.com/ Victor Lana

    Dan Povenmire, please respond to this regarding Phineas & Ferb movie. Thanks.

  • Jim King

    Everyone already knows this, dude, and pointing it out is probably the lame, last ditch desperate attempt of a not-very-intelligent person to sound like a brain.

  • Shadow Knight

    Look frankenstein is the monster because that’s what a person portrays it when hears that name.

    What else are you gonna call it the zombie with 2 nails on his head? or frankenstein’s retarded mnster?

  • Prometheus

    Actually his monster nvr had bolts in his neck, guess someone nvr read the book

  • Brian of Nazareth

    I bet the same people who think the monster’s name is Frankenstein are the same ones who read Stoker’s novel Dracula and are confused to see the Count walking about during the day and not bursting into flames (or even sparkling).

  • Frankie102

    I have been teaching Frankenstein to my middle school students for 21 years. There are thousands of folks out there from who have been in my classes and are well aware that the Monster remains nameless and Victor is Frankenstein.

  • bart

    this is my biggest pet peeve and i actually broke up with a girl in high school over her misuse of the name. and i’m not even a fan of the book frankenstein…it’s just something that leaves me angry when i hear it. Thank you for clearing it up.

    • Jerl

      You, my friend, are a fucking douchebag. If you said you were in Kindergarten when that happened, you’d still be a fucking douchebag. Just not as big.

  • Derrick

    Having never read the book until now, for a literature course, I was completely confused! I prefer to think of the spawn of Frankenstein as a creature. As all who love Frankenstein, know that the creature is a loving, caring creature until he is pissed off – kind of like all of US!

  • Name

    The monster was actually called Adam i learnt that from Horrible Histories!

  • Name

    In many ways, Frankenstein IS the monster!
    That’s the answer I was taught to recite to anyone who says that Frankenstein was the doctor. :)

  • Jerl

    Frankenstein wasn’t a doctor either numbnutz…

  • Monster novel/ movie lover

    Another misconception that annoys me, is when couples dress as the monster and the “bride” for Halloween. The “bride” (according to the book) was never made, and according to the movie ‘The Bride of Frankenstein’ (mentioned in the post) she was disgusted by the monster and rejected his pleas for affection.

    I feel your pain for inaccuracy!

  • Hilal

    I feel your pain man.