What do you imagine when you hear Frankenstein? Most people will say, “a hideous looking monster”. Surprisingly, Frankenstein is not the name of the monster, it is the scientist’s name who created the creature. This misconception is probably because of the horror movie Frankenstein. The novel Frankenstein was first published in the 19th century, it was written originally by Mary Shelley. But now, it is better known for the feature film that was adapted from the novel. The movie gained huge popularity as a black-and-white movie in Hollywood in 1931, and it is still considered one of the most representative horror films. Also, the monster not having a name has led to a misunderstanding. Not having a name signifies that Victor Frankenstein had no affection for the monster he created. Its gigantic body, square-shaped face with a prominent forehead, with translucent yellowish skin pulled so tautly over the body will be the image of the monster that people will depict of it. That is why this story has been continuously reproduced into movies, plays, dramas, cartoons, musicals, etc. and the word Frankenstein has become synonymous with the monster. Really? I want to ask a question, who is a real monster? I wonder if it is correct that only a hideous appearance is called a monster. Let’s listen to a story of an unnamed creature who was desperately abandoned, the musical Frankenstein.
The musical production Frankenstein’ is presented at Chungmu Art Hall to celebrate the theater’s 10th anniversary, which is based on Mary Shelley’s novel. Surprisingly, the musical is an original Korean play, not a licensed one from abroad and it is only a self-created musical in Korean. The running time of this play is 180 minutes including 20 minutes of intermission (a short break between two parts of a film, concert, or show). The unique feature of this play is that it has multiple casts for each role and the main actors take two different roles in Act 1 and Act 2.
The scientist Victor Frankenstein researches the concept of the ‘Undying soldier’ at the request of the military during the 19th century Napoleonic War. Victor has gone through an unhappy childhood, his mother passed away from plague and his father died walking through fire to save Victor. His neighbors point fingers at him and blame him for his parents’ deaths because they believe he is cursed. He tries to get rid of a deep sense of loss and overcome his trauma through the creation of life. Then, he meets Henry Dupre, who is Victor’s one and only friend, he is convicted of treason after attending to the wounds of an enemy soldier. Victor Frankenstein overturns Henry’s sentence and persuades Henry into joining him in his military project and long dream: the artificial creation of life. However, the project is canceled after Napoleon’s defeat at Waterloo, and Victor returns to his hometown Geneva with Henry. They continue the research in Frankenstein’s castle. But their experiments fail because the subjects’ brains are not fresh enough to endure the procedure. While searching for a sufficient brain, a series of unfortunate events occur, Henry got killed because of Victor as he is caught up in Dr. Jang and Walter’s murder. Victor is left with a suitable brain for his experiment: Henry’s. With Henry’s head, Victor creates an artificial human. He thought his friend Henry will revive but unexpectedly, a tertiary creature, the Monster. Witnessing the beastly misdeeds of the Monster, Victor tries to end its life.
Evading its creator’s attempts to kill it, the Monster escapes from Victor’s laboratory and disappears. Three years later, the Monster comes back with a thirst for revenge that signals the start of tragedy and destruction. The monster started to kill precious people around Victor, and the last encounter was made in the North Pole. In the final duel, after hurting Victor’s one leg, he hands over a gun to victor. The monster got shot by Victor, and he leaves the last word; “You won’t be able to get out of here as your leg is injured. There is no one here. You should feel the loneliness that I have felt in my lifetime.” Waling Victor is left alone in the North Pole.
The topic can be discussed from the musical ‘Frankenstein’
What message about racism does the musical ‘Frankenstein’ is delivering?
We are living in a society made up of diverse races, but still, racial discrimination happens a lot. The monster from ‘Frankenstein’ was just one of the existences, it was not a monster from the beginning of the story. The perspective that is seen by prejudice created the monster. This story is not only in the novel but there are also many cases in real-life. These are the cases in which victims become perpetrators as a result of racial discrimination, one representative example is the 1992 Los Angeles riots. Four officers of the Los Angeles Police Department(LAPD) used excessive force in the arrest and beating of Rodney King. This event was recorded in video and seen by millions of people. In the event, he was seriously injured but, ultimately, the police officers were found not guilty. Angry Black citizens took to the streets in protest first, this became intensified and turn into a riot. Furthermore, there were many incidents in which Blacks assaulted Asians, which is a reverse discrimination. Especially, Korean-owned businesses were looted, destroyed, or damaged. Not only Black people but also Koreans sometimes discriminate against foreign workers.
Same for the creature created by Frankenstein. The monster, who has been shunned by his creator, gets abandoned. He is taken to a gambling house while he is eating a mountain animal because he is not able to suffer hunger anymore. He becomes a slave who fight at the fighting stage. Just because he has a different appearance from humans, people call him a monster, treating him as an emotionless being, and an object. He has tremendous power to kill even big bears, but unlike those who rush to kill each other in the duel, he does not attack or kill them first. At this time, the owners of the fighting stage says, "Why is this Monster pretending to be nice?" Kill him quickly!" The monster gets tortured with fire and treated as an object. He swallows the sadness but all of a sudden, he feels anger at Frankenstein, who creates him but abandons him irresponsibly, and becomes a real monster who kills others. All the monster wanted is not to be lonely, and to be loved by someone. I think the ending of this story will be different if Victor embraces and show love to the monster. Caring and taking interest in excluded beings are what we should do to help them become a member of society.
Haejin: It was a play that made me think of the development of science and the research ethics violated by it. I thought I should try to have a more critical view of future scientific development, and I felt that we need to comply with research ethics well.
I think the theme of the musical Frankenstein is guilt and love. Victor must have felt guilty that he made a monster and did not take responsibility for it. The monster also might feel guilty for the people he has murdered to take bloody vengeance on Victor. Not only feeling guilty but also being unloved is their common point. I think the ending of this story would have changed if there had been someone that truly touched them with love. This musical made me think about various topics in one story. If you look at the actors' monstrous singing and acting skills together in the theater, you can find out why this musical is long-running and receives unconditional and steady love from audiences. I recommend that you to watch the musical ‘Frankenstein’, where you can experience the value of cultural life.
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