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Frankenstein as a robot?

by on November 7, 2012

After watching Blade Runner this week, (where genetically engineered humanoids were created as human slaves but eventually rebelled in search of longevity of life) I got to thinking about creating human beings and whether, even if the creations are not made from metal or other man-made items, but from pieces of real human, they still qualify as ‘robots’. In turn, this took me to pondering whether the ‘monster’ created by Dr Frankenstein could come under the title of ‘robot’.

Whilst this monster is not mechanical, it, like many of the robots we see in films and books, also deserts and attempts to kill his creator (as in Blade Runner), but in this case because he was rejected by him. We see that his feelings were hurt by the rejection of his creator, and as such it has made him ‘evil’.

The ‘creation’ is not developed as a slave for mankind (as was the origin of the word ‘robot’ – robota meaning ‘forced labour’ in Czech) but instead out of Frankenstein’s desire to create life. It was supposed to be a mirror of mankind, but “his yellow skin scarcely covered the work of muscles and arteries beneath” and the beautiful features that Frankenstein had selected such as flowing black hair and white teeth “only formed a more horrid contrast with his watery eyes, that seemed almost of the same colour as the dun white sockets in which they were set, his shriveled complexion and straight black lips.” In this notion, it is easy to see how the idea of Frankenstein’s monster is a terrifying one: he is created from the bodies of corpses – he represents life in death and is therefore a ‘zombie’ (albeit a very intelligent one with less of a penchant for brains?) – and also has the features of a human, but does not fully resemble one, placing him firmly in the Uncanny Valley.

An interesting point is that Frankenstein‘s full title is Frankenstein: The Modern Prometheus. In Greek mythology, Prometheus was a Titan who taught humankind various arts and was sometimes said to have shaped humans out of clay and endowed them with the spark of life. It is easy to see why this name was given to Dr Frankenstein (shaping a human and using a literal spark to bring them to life) and, not yet having seen the film Prometheus, which we have talked about in class, I could only hazard a guess that this film also includes relevance to creating life – whether it be the life of David or another creature…

Although the following clip is only a trailer for the recent stage version, it shows very well the creepiness/uncanniness of the monster (fantastic acting by both Johnny Lee Miller and Benedict Cumberbatch) The way they have created the monster – with what look like seams all over the body is incredible! :


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