Adam: The Biomechanical Demonoid Reimagining of Frankenstein’s Monster in Buffy the Vampire Slayer
The Big Bad of season four of Joss Whedon’s supernatural series Buffy the Vampire Slayer is the scientific government military institution of the Initiative and the horrible creation of its leader Dr. Walsh, Adam. The parallels between Adam and the monster in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, despite the equally obvious deviations from the original work. In Frankenstein, the monster after reading Paradise Lost relates to Adam, God’s first and fallen creation, which signifies the name Dr. Walsh chose in Buffy. The primary similarities in Whedon’s interpretation include the philosophical questioning of the creature Adam in relation to his new existence and his destructive nature, albeit not vengeful.
The Adam plotline begins in episode 4.13 “The I in Team” in which mad scientist figure of Dr. Maggie Walsh wakes up her creature that she constructed from the most deadly parts of various monsters captured by the Initiative. This parallels to Victor Frankenstein’s graveyard shopping trips in which he collected all the necessary ingredients for his creation. She is killed immediately, and standing over his creator’s body, Adam utters his first word “Mommy” (“The I in Team”, television). Clearly, this differs from Shelley’s monster who torments Victor Frankenstein. However, Adam is more than a murderous biomechanical demonoid; he questions the world, himself, and his existence, asking a child, the first person he sees aside from his creator: “what am I?” (“Goodbye Iowa, television). The child tells Adam that he is a monster before Adam kills and dissects him, curious to his innerworkings as a human. Frankenstein’s monster, too, murdered a child, Victor’s youngest brother William, out of spite to Frankenstein who abandoned him.
Adam later monologues, as villains typically do, about the dissection, telling Buffy that he wanted to “learn about the world” and that “the insides of the boy were beautiful” although they taught him nothing about the world as a whole (“Goodbye Iowa”, television). The boy’s insides just made him feel and awoke an interest within himself to learn about his feelings. He knows only what he is, a kinematically redundant biomechanical demonoid, but not who he is. Frankenstein’s monster, too, knows his place in the world: he’s a monster, “the miserable and the abandoned,” that can’t exist in society (Shelley, 275). He studies a family because he also wonders about the world. Just as Adam believed the boy he murdered to be beautiful, the monster observed the family to be beautiful and graceful, quite contrary to the hideous image of himself that he viewed in a reflection.Frankenstein’s monster then desires his creator to make him a mate like himself. Similarly, Adam planned to make Riley, a human soldier improved unknowingly by Walsh’s experiments, more like him, demonic parts included, as a brother figure (“Goodbye Iowa”, television). Unlike Frankenstein’s monster, Adam is unrepentant of his crimes and after coming to terms with his monster status, he decides to continue to plague the world on a much grander scale.
One of the major gothic themes in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein is that of isolation. Dr. Frankenstein isolates himself from his family and friends, concealing his terrible secret and ultimately causing their murders. Joss Whedon’s interpretation of the Frankenstein story tackles this theme with drastically different outcomes. Season 4 of Buffy the Vampire Slayer shows the Scooby Gang outside of the confines of Sunnydale High, which was just about as cozy and familiar as a high school on top of a hellmouth can be, where they were easily able to rely on eachother. Their first year of college and adult life strains their friendships as they deal with the shifting directions of their lives, ranging from individual issues of work, witchcraft, and new relationships. Isolated, they struggle with the Big Bads of real life, and then after Spike, working advantageously with Adam, divides the members of the Scooby Gang, they try to work alone to defeat Adam. At the same time, Adam attempts to surround himself with those like him, controlling Riley with a chip, a cyborg Dr. Walsh sans sentience, and a reanimated soldier, but it’s not enough. He plans to create an army.
Ultimately, they resolve their issues with each other and join together again. Soldier Riley Finn essentially loses his mind when isolated within the Initiative after the death of Dr. Walsh; drugged and confined he has to contend with the problematic nature of the institution for whom he works, but Buffy brings him back from the brink and into the Scooby Gang fold after a much needed detox from Initiative drugs. Whedon shows that only together are they able to defeat Adam when Buffy, Giles, Xander, and Willow literally joined their essences together into Buffy’s body to take down Adam. Admittedly, it’s pretty cheesy: friendship overcomes evil. Dr. Frankenstein avoided coming clean out of pride and fear to the point that almost everyone he cared about was killed. Whedon’s reimagining of Frankenstein in which the mad scientist protagonist takes responsibility for his creation and seeks out help reveals Victor Frankenstein probably could have handled things better (i.e. without so much death).
As in Shelley’s Frankenstein, Adam’s creation questions the dangers of misused knowledge and science. The Initiative, designed to protect Americans from demons, worked effectively until it went too far and enabled dangerous and secret projects like Adam to exist. Dr. Frankenstein arrogantly created his monster to test the bounds of his scientific obsession and to feel the importance of a god as he detailed: “a new species would bless me as its creator” (Shelley, 54). In Whedon’s interpretation, Dr. Walsh, too, wanted to be a creator, more specifically a mother, quite unlike Frankenstein who immediately rejected his ‘child’. Additionally, Adam, with knowledge he gains from the Initiative’s vast database, plans to deliver the world from the incapable hands of humans who use technology ineffectively (“Primeval”, television). Ultimately, both Frankenstein and Walsh create confused and sentient beings that destroy in pursuit of knowledge and in frustration that they are alone in the world as monstrous outsiders.
Shelley, Mary Wollstonecraft, and Maurice Hindle. Frankenstein, Or, The Modern Prometheus. London: Penguin, 2003. Online.
Whedon, Joss, and David Fury. “The I in Team.” Buffy the Vampire Slayer. The WB. 8 Feb. 2000. Netflix. Web. 1 May 2014.
Whedon, Joss, and David Fury. “Primeval.” Buffy the Vampire Slayer. The WB. 16 May 2000. Netflix. Web. 2 May 2014.
Whedon, Joss, and Marti Noxon. “Goodbye Iowa.” Buffy the Vampire Slayer. The WB. 15 Feb. 2000. Netflix. Web. 2 May 2014.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Digital Image. Wikipedia. 2000. 2 May 2014. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Adam(buffy).jpg
Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Digital Image. Wikia. 2011. 2 May 2014. http://buffy.wikia.com/wiki/File:Buffy-the-vampire-slayer-season-1-promo-hq-03-1500.jpg