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FINDING FRANKENSTEIN IN THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW

When the word Frankenstein is pronounced, one immediately thinks of a gigantic, squared-headed, green, man-made monster. Mary Shelleys novel, published in 1818, is one of the most famous works of gothic literature and has been the inspiration for many adaptations and rewritings. From the 1910 film adaptation made by the Thomas A. Edison Studios, the famous Frankenstein movies interpreted by Boris Karloff, the Frankenberry cereal, Edgar Winters song Frankenstein, the 1974 Mexican movie Santo y Blue Demon contra el Dr. Frankenstein, television shows such as The Munsters, to the 1975 The Rocky Horror Picture Show film; Frankenstein has become an icon of pop culture. But, what are the elements that make one think that a musical film about a transvestite resembles Mary Shelleys novel? The word Frankenstein has become a weapon to drag people into cinemas, book stores or whatever possible media, and although most people are familiar with the story, many have not read the novel. The visual image of a clumsy gigantic man, of course, is the easiest way to identify Frankenstein, but as Chris Baldick said, Frankenstein myth is a skeleton story requiring only two basic principles: a) Frankenstein makes a living creature out of bits of corpses. b) The creature turns against him and runs amok. (Baldick, 3). This essay will try to recognize what Frankensteins elements are present in The Rocky Horror Picture Show, and why is it considered a Frankenstein adaptation.

Frankenstein films are usually classified as horror films, but the flexibility of the novel has produced many genres being the musical horror comedy, The Rocky Horror Picture Show (RHPS), one of the most different from all. The elements Baldick mentioned are very important when comparing RHPS with Frankenstein, nevertheless it would be important to consider one more fact: both, film and novel could be considered as to have been created out of many parts as well as the monster. The creation of man has been one of the most fascinating topics through history. There are two main stories which inspired the novel of Frankenstein and consequently The Rocky Horror Picture Show: the myth of Prometheus and the creation of Adam. The myth says that Prometheus was given the task of creating man, he shaped it out of mud and Athena breathed life into his clay figure (Grimal, 455). According to the Bible, God created Adam out of dust from the soil and breathed life through his nose making him a living creature. Even though the main element used to give life is different, air and electricity, the result is almost the same. Creation is a topic present in the film and the novel but with some differences; on the one hand, in the novel Victor keeps his creation a secret, in some way, he is ashamed of his own creation. On the other hand, Frank-NFurter wants everybody to see what he has done. His attitude towards his creation is kind of pygmalionic, clearly the end of the myth has nothing to do with Frank-N-Furters story but the idea of the creator being in love with his creation is similar. [] he carved a figure, brilliantly, out of snow-white ivory, no mortal woman, and fell in love with his own creation. (Ovid, 497-8)

The Doppelgnger motif of man as a duality is also present in both stories, the presumptuous imitation of God when giving life. The idea of man playing to be something superior is represented at the end of RHPS, when Frank is singing in the pool. The image is simple, Michael Angelos painting of The Creation of Adam appears at the bottom of the pool, and Frank is situated just in the middle of God and Adam. The message he is conveying is that he is superior to man. And that is precisely the reason for his destruction. In Greek mythology, when a character is doomed because he transgresses his limits and rises up against an authority, it is said that he is committing hybris. Just as Prometheus rises up against the gods, Frank and Victors hybris is the idea of raising the boundaries of nature by creating his own man, leading creators and creations to their destruction. Beside the similarity of the creation between RHPS and Frankenstein the most important fact is that both works are, in some way, the monster itself. That means that both were created out of parts of many things and that intertextuality played a very important role when writing the story and adapting the film. When Mary Shelley wrote the novel she was influenced by many literary classics she had read. John Miltons Paradise Lost was one of those texts and at one point of the novel; the monster says that after reading it he sympathized with Satan. Many times I considered Satan as the fitter emblem of my condition; for often, like him, when I viewed the bliss of my protectors, the bitter gall of envy rose within me. (Shelley, 113) As for RHPS the film is also constructed with many other references, not only literary but also filmic. It has become more significant since so many texts,

films and plays had built a background that gives the audience a complete perspective of the subject the film wants to portray. The film refers to and parodies the horror and science fiction films from the past such as King Kong. Frankensteins multidimensionality is the reason of the frequent rewritings and film productions. The variety of topics the story deals with, such as creation, death, science and religion, makes possible the re-interpretation of the story. Fidelity is no longer important when presenting not only a Frankenstein version but any sort of adaptation because of the simple fact that it is hard to suppress a sort of yearning for a faithful rendering of ones own vision of the literary text. (Cartmell ed. 15). An author or director can only choose one or two topics and it would not only still be a Frankenstein story, but, if it is well done, people would embrace it as if it were. One particularity that Frankenstein has is the opportunity it gives to new generations of reinventing the story. Since its publication, the meaning of the story has changed within the mentality and ideology of people. So: if in the nineteenth century, British caricaturists could use the monstrous rage of Frankensteins monster as figure for rebellion; [] then in the twenty-first century, standing on the brink of almost unimaginable innovations in biotechnology, we can expect a constant return to the story of Frankenstein, the most serviceable cultural template weve found so far to articulate modern anxieties about the unforeseeable consequences of scientific experimentation. (Picart, et al, viii) The figure of Frankenstein has become not only an icon but also a merchandising product. The fascination towards the story of man creating life will be fashionable for a long time. No matter if the story is changed as long as it has the topic about creation it will still be considered Frankenstein. Many

analysis have been made on The Rocky Horror Picture Show, some people think it is a parody of many movies and that it cannot be considered just as an adaptation of Mary Shelleys novel. On the contrary I think that as Baldick said, as long as it has the two main elements of the story it has to be considered a version of Frankenstein. Besides, who says that Boris Karloffs movies were loyal adaptations of the novel?

Mara Isabel Carrasco Cara Chards

SOURCES: 1. Shelley, Mary. Frankenstein. Collin Classics, 2010. 2. The Rocky Horror Picture Show, Director Jim Sharman, UK & USA. 1975 3. Baldick, Chris. In Frankensteins Shadow. Myth, monstrosity, and Nineteenth-century writing. Clarendon Paperbacks, 1990. 4. Picart, Caroline Joan (Kay) S., Smoot, Frank, Blodgett, Jayne. The Frankenstein Film Sourcebook. London: Greenwood Press, 2001. 5. Grimal, Pierre. Diccionario de mitologa griega y romana. Espaa: Ediciones Paids, 2008. 6. Kline, A.S, ed. Ovids Metamorphoses, University of Vermont, 2000. 7. Cartmell, Deborah. Whelehan, Imelda. The Cambridge Companion to Literature on Screen. Cambridge University Press, 2007. Chapter 1: Reading film and literature. Brian McFarlane.