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.