THE 200 YEAR OLD MONSTER HAUNTING OUR FUTURE
Happy 200th birthday to Frankenstein, first put on to paper in 1816. Mary Shelley crafted the original tale of Viktor Frankenstein in the style of a Gothic romance; overflowing with emotional turmoil and in awe for foreboding landscapes.
Since then, though, the Frankenstein story has been refashioned many times for the screen – often losing the romance and becoming a sci-fi/horror flick. All versions, though, involve a monster being pulled into life by the heinous cobbling together of dead and dying bits and pieces of humans – and sometimes other animals -- and then zapping the conflated mass with electrical energy.
After being electrified into life, the monster then suffers a series of rejections; firstly, from his creator, Dr. Victor Frankenstein, and then from pretty much the entire human world altogether. These rejections drive the creature into despair and then onwards into a murderous campaign of revenge.
THE RECURRING THEMES OF FRANKENSTEIN
For those reflecting deeply upon the Frankenstein story the following themes are usually held to be important:
Technological Hubris. The fervent labors of Dr. Frankenstein--as he obsessively pursues his goal of creating life--is a cautionary tale against the arrogance of technological discovery. Shelley’s novel exhorts explorers and discoverers and adventurers not to become so mesmerized by the heroic importance of their projects that they overstep the bounds of Nature or of Morality. For his part, Dr. Frankenstein is so entirely enveloped by hubris, he’s unable to imagine or predict the unexpected consequences of his vile research.
Alienation. After casting his creature onto the world, Dr. Frankenstein assigns various offensive titles to it: ‘the thing’, ‘the beast’, ‘the abomination’, ‘the fiend’, ‘the demon’. Frankenstein was originally intent on making a technological marvel but he’d gotten it very wrong—and the people that encountered his creature usually wanted to beat it away with a stick. Frankenstein’s creature becomes alienated from humanity and any form of social care just because of its frightful visage. Despite this alienation from humanity, Frankenstein’s creature exhibits many a human trait. He yearns deeply for love and companionship and he takes great delight from the charms of nature. The creature is also highly curious. He ardently engages in learning about the many creative patterns and social bonds in human life.
Monstrosity. Dr. Frankenstein’s creation is monstrous; an inartistic unwieldy assemblage; whose figure is humungous and whose strength and stamina is superhuman. But the theme of monstrosity is not confined to the monster itself. As the story unfolds, the ‘monstrosity’ theme is transferred by Mary Shelley back onto Dr. Frankenstein--whose irrepressible feelings of horror and hatred slowly transform him into a monster as well. Frankenstein ends up stalking his creature across the whole of Europe in order and kill it. In the beginning. Dr. Frankenstein was crazily obsessed to create a new human being from scratch but, midway through the story, he’s done a rude about-face to become obsessed with extinguishing that life. This eccentric swing inflames the monster who confronts Dr. Frankenstein face-to-face to ask: “how dare you sport with life?’
Abandonment: Dr. Frankenstein’s creature is lonely and lost. It was heaved into the world without much guidance, with no education, and a complete absence of love or care. Perhaps, we can forgive Victor for the overwhelming apprehension that led to him disowning his invention. Alas, though, he never summoned the courage to take responsibility for the monster in any caring manner. When he did start feeling accountable, this only energized Frankenstein to want to kill his creature.
The Frankencities Project is an application of these ‘Frankenstein themes’ to the urban form. This is undertaken in the belief that Shelley’s Frankenstein -- though 200 hundred years old -- may well provide a pathway to predict the character of our cities as they change over the near future.
For more information about the Case Studies from The Frankencities Project see this article in the Urban Transcripts Journal. For an investigation into the methodology of the Frankencity project, read this Diseña article or this article in The Mandarin.
Note: If all this dark dystopian foresight aint very appealing, then skip on over to tour the 'happy sister' project of Frankencities, called Ecotopia 2121, which details the best-case scenarios of the world's future super--Green Utopian cities.