Frankenstein Adaptations Are Almost Never Frankenstein Adaptations

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There are many interpretations of the Frankenstein story — many of them autobiographically-based. This is one of the reasons it is such a good story. But a parent’s neglect and the toll it plays not only on the child, and everyone in his life, is certainly a central one. And one that is often neglected in Frankenstein adaptations in favor of exploring the themes of science, nature, and man’s hubris specifically in relation to his work. These interpretations are not mutually exclusive, but the latter is often valued over the former.

It is perhaps easy to look at Frankenstein,and its two male protagonists, and to adapt it with little attention to the importance of women and other socially-devalued characters in the story. After all, they are all periphary characters. But they are the characters who suffer the most. Or at least the ones who suffer the most with the least amount of power to change their fates.

Victor and his Creature are constantly suffering, but they have created their own suffering and have many chances to alter their own destinies. Elizabeth and the Creature’s female companion are never granted that same power.

The Future of Frankenstein Adaptations

As this Den of Geek article points out, faithfulness does not equate to quality. Some of the most faithful screen adaptations of books are the worst, while some of the least faithful adaptations can become something better. There are too many variables involved, too many possible permutations to make sweeping generalizations. And, in the world of Frankenstein adaptations, for example, Whale’s 1931 film remains the classic, one that continues to influence culture in its own important ways.

However, it would be nice to get a modern Frankensteinadaptation that is more readily available than Danny Boyle’s stage version and more complete than Penny Dreadful‘s Creature — if only for all the high school English teachers who need something to show when they are out sick.

Sadly, as far as I know, there are currently no faithful Frankensteinadaptations in the works. What is happening in the Frankensteinadaptation world? Recently, a whole lot of biopics about Mary Shelley. In 2017, Elle Fanning played the author in Mary Shelley, a conventional biopic that told the story of the relationship between the young author and Percy Shelley, as well as the ways in which Mary Shelley felt out of step with her time. The film boasted a female writer, Emma Jensen, female producers, and a female director, Haifaa Al-Mansour (Wadja).

Elsewhere, HBO Max has ordered a series called The Shelley Society from Riverdale/Sabrina showrunner Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa. The series will depict a young version of Mary Shelley, who moonlights as a hunter of monsters and supernatural threats (including a manifestation of Mary’s own literary creation, Frankenstein’s Monster).

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