My Empathy for Frankenstein's Monster
For the first time in a long time, I decided to rewatch the Universal Horror Films. Black and white horror films have always struck a chord with me, and these are no different. This is where a lot of horror cultivated. By no means were these the first horror movies, but after these films were released, horror had its layout. It figured out how these monsters should look, how they should act, and the emotions they would project. It was a base structure of what was to come.
The Universal Monsters are iconic in their own right and many of them are truly terrifying, in a not so jump scare sort of way. However, after doing my mass rewatch, I found myself empathizing with Frankenstein’s Monster.
Frankenstein (1931) is widely known but if you are not familiar, it is a story about a mad scientist named Henry Frankenstein (Colin Clive), who creates a human being out of body parts of the deceased. Frankenstein’s Monster (Boris Karloff) is then resurrected by electricity to roam the town. The Monster was accidentally given the brain of a murderer from the clumsy mistake of Dr. Frankenstein’s assistant. After a murder occurs on the hands of the monster, the villagers hunt him down with torches and try to eliminate his existence permanently.
From a critiquing standpoint, this film is beautiful. From makeup to set design to performances, it is utterly entertaining and I was transfixed by the multitude of its 1930s beauty on display. Even with the flaws that are present, I still love all the elements to this classic tale. The follow-up, Bride of Frankenstein, is also on par with the first, if not a smidge better.
Bride of Frankenstein (1935) picks up immediately where the first one left off. This one, however; includes the always amazing Elsa Lanchester. Dr. Frankenstein is back to reveal that after the villagers pillaged the town to destroy the Monster, he miraculously survives. Now that he knows of the Monster’s survival, it’s time for the mad scientist to create a mate for him. The title of the film reveals what Elsa’s demise will be, and even if she isn’t in the movie for long, she is fierce. After my viewing, I felt a bit angry and sad. Angry towards the things that The Monster had to go through, and sad for the things he had to deal with. Frankenstein’s Monster did not ask to be created, nor equipped with an abnormal brain unkempt to understand basic human tendencies. Clearly, the murder committed is not the ideal part of the story, which I obviously do not condone, but I wanted to talk about the way the Monster is deemed a nuisance amongst peers.
These days, we have a lot of societal issues with how someone is perceived. Individuals of all ages strive to be as thin as possible because it is what in embedded into their heads from pop culture. Diets run amuck on the internet saying they’re the next big thing to try, and beauty tips are all over arbitrary sites online. Clickbait columns such as “11 Ways To Make Yourself Prettier” and the sort litter browsing histories, but don’t forget to read number 5 because you’ll be shocked at what you read! Fashion trends storm through stores faster than someone can change their socks. The unfortunate circumstance of not living up to such standards can lead to bullying both verbal and physical.
Society's high expectations are extremely harmful to many individuals. These can lead to many personal mental health issues as well. Some of these issues are getting better, but at a slow pace and we are nowhere near a perfect world when it comes to acceptance of individuals. Not only is it a huge problem now, but these topics are clearly evident in cinema from the ‘30s. Sometimes when we think of the past, we think of how people say it was ‘easier back then’, but in reality, it wasn’t. They still dealt with all the issues we deal with today, but probably not as heavy as today and certainly not as well-known.
In Frankenstein and Bride of Frankenstein, you can tell the only thing that the Monster wanted was to find happiness, be accepted, and to be loved. After an unfortunate event, everyone turned their backs on him leaving him in despair. He did not like himself and brushed off his appearance as hideous. Villagers created a witch hunt to burn him alive, his creator originally wanted him dead for good, and the bride that was created for him wanted no part of him and could not even stand a touch from his hand at first meet. The emotions that Boris Karloff invoked helped build my sympathy towards the Monster. I feel as though I’ve been in his shoes at points in life when it came to not fitting in. It hits home a little too much.
My emotions clearly connected to these two classic films, which furthers my opinion that events that happened in my life involving being bullied and not being up to par on perfect standards are visible in classic cinema. I feel as though there are many relatable traits in the Monster that individuals experience every day. After watching both of these films and feeling the connection, the only thing I wanted to do was tell the Monster it will be ok and give him a hug. I also believe my sympathies extend to most of the Universal Horror Monsters. The monsters are unlike basic human life and society wants them ostracized. But a lot of their actions and transformations weren’t their fault and they have to deal with the actions of people who could not control themselves.
Topic aside, I highly recommend seeing Frankenstein and Bride of Frankenstein. You won’t be disappointed, at least not like the Monster. They are probably two of my top three Universal Horror Films, and they are currently available on Shudder. Give them a watch!