Mary Shelley & Tim Burton : The Frankenstein Effect


Literary monsters have made huge impacts on our society through their influence on books, television and most importantly films. Some of these literary monsters include Dracula and the bogeyman, but thereis one other that has made a massive impact: “Frankenstein”. “Frankenstein” was written by Mary Shelley in 1818. The significance behind “Frankenstein” lies in the acceptance of women as credible contributors in English literature. Mary Shelley feared where science would take us and the ethics behind the situation.”Frankenstein” has also managed to have a pervasive cultural influence. A lot of these influences can be found in Tim Burton’s Corpse Bride, Vincent, Frankenweenie and The Nightmare Before Christmas. There is one similarity between all of these films and Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, mad scientists and the reanimated corpses/monsters and how they have advanced over time.

The use of mad scientist’s in the films and Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein”, help forward the schemes in their stories. The mad scientist can be villains or even antagonistic. They can be insane or eccentric, but one thing is for sure, they fail to see the evil implied from playing God. In “Frankenstein”, Victor Frankenstein is horrified by is creation and doesn’t even want to own up for making him. The whole time that Victor was making his monster, you would think that he might have been appalled by the corpse he was re-animating at the time, not after it’s been finished. The monster ends up being responsible for many deaths and for Victor’s downfall. It makes you think, “well that’s what you deserve”. You can’t play God and expect there not to be consequences. Many mad scientists become accidental villains and many don’t. In The Nightmare Before Christmas, the mad scientist is Doctor Finklestein who is also called the evil scientist. Unlike Victor, Doctor Finklestein takes full responsibility for his creations, one of them being Sally. She is a rag doll who has been stitched together by Doctor Finklestein. He tries to keep her locked up, unlike Victors creation.Tim Burton’s movie Frankenweenie is also similar, however the corpse brought back is a dog. In Frankenweenie the mad scientist is the young Victor Frankenstein who brings his dog, Sparky, back to life after being hit by a car. Just like the real Victor Frankenstein’s monster, Sparky wreaks havoc. Instead of denying making the creature, the young Victor Frankenstein convinces his parents and friends to like his creation. Each of these mad scientists are intrigued with creation and going outside of the normal standards of science. However, they each have different intentions for their creations. Mary Shelley’s Victor Frankenstein had been taken and used as a model for mad scientists in literary works and films today. It has evolved over time, for instance the evil Doctor Finklestein and the young Victor Frankenstein who has only positive intentions.

Just like the mad scientists, the reanimated corpses/monsters play a major role in developing their stories. In the 18th century people were very intrigued by the human anatomy and tampering with it. People were more intrigued with the ability to change the human body. Mad scientists like Mary Shelley’s Victor Frankenstein and many of Tim Burton’s characters wanted to step outside the normal standards of science. However the role of the reanimated corpse has pretty much stayed the same. Victor Frankenstein’s creation is known for the havoc he has brought upon his creator. Victor’s creation kills a lot of people and causes Victor a lot of emotional damage. However, the monster just wants to learn how to be like a human and wants a mate. He wants to be normal like any other person. However, Victor is very alarmed by what he ended up creating. He is no longer intrigued by what he has created. In The Nightmare Before Christmas Doctor Finklestein isn’t upset with creating Sally, instead he wants to keep her to himself. However, like the other creations, Sally wants to be normal. She is constantly running away from the doctor and putting him to sleep. She is also constantly falling apart and putting herself back together. Young Victor’s dog Sparky is constantly wreaking havoc among his neighbors and family as well.

Mary Shelley and Tim Burton’s mad scientists and reanimated corpses can be linked to the Frankenstein effect and how we as a society create our own monsters. From the moment a creation or a monster is made, he is known as an abomination. Victor Frankenstein wants nothing to do with the monster he has created. The monster wants nothing more than to learn how to be normal like other people. It takes a blind man who can not see the monster, to teach him how to speak. The creature can now speak and read. It raises the question whether the monster was really a monster at all or if it was because of how he was treated. The monster only becomes more violent because of how Victor treats him, the same with Sally and Doctor Finklestein. Nature vs nurture comes into play. Do we try to act differently because we trust more of what our friends think of us than how our parents raised us? Have we as a society created our own monsters?

Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein”  is known for its mad scientist, Victor and his reanimated corpse/monster. It has changed the way society interprets literary monsters. The mad scientists and reanimated corpses have evolved over time. According to Suzanna Storment, in “Frankenstein: The Man and the Monster”, “The book serves to warn readers, both past and current, of our own powers. It was almost as if Mary Shelley in 1818 could see nearly 200 years into the future, recognizing that our scientific discoveries of nuclear weapons and cloning could eventually be our demise.” They have different intentions than Mary Shelley’s Victor Frankenstein, however the mad scientists and reanimated corpses work to show how you can’t play God without expecting some pretty bad consequences. Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein” has even had a huge effect on society, called the Frankenstein effect, revolving around how we create our own monsters in society. Were they monsters to start off with, or did we create them ourselves?

Works Cited

Storment, Suzanna. “Frankenstein Commentary.” Frankenstein Commentary. Dr. Michael Delahoyde, Oct. 2002. Web. 08 Dec. 2014.