While on a convention panel a couple of weekends ago, talking about the evolution of the monster in horror, the question was asked, "What isn't scary anymore than once was?" As we went down the panel line, my answer was "Frankenstein". As is inevitable, unless you clarify right away, a rather smug looking gentleman a few rows back said, "Don't you mean 'Frankenstein's monster'? Frankenstein was the doctor." No, sir, I really did mean Dr. Frankenstein is the thing that once was scary and no longer is.
After all, Frankenstein's amalgamation of corpse pieces didn't reanimate himself. He is a victim of circumstance, because Victor Frankenstein chose to take a bunch of body parts and see if he could make a living person out of them. Then, repulsed by his own creation, he flees from the creature and leaves him to fend for himself. The blood that the creature spills, including that of the doctor's own brother, is really on Dr. Frankenstein's head.
I realize that most people consider the creature to be the monster, but I really disagree. And yet, where once the story of Victor Frankenstein might have been frightening to people, he is no longer.
In Mary Shelley's tale, Victor Frankenstein wants to make the creature in a response to his mother's own illness. We have scientists doing much the same thing in biomedical companies, albeit not with a bunch body parts assembled in the shape of a man. We call it "modern science".
Yes, the research is intended to help people, but Frankenstein wanted to help people too. There's not much distinction between the two, in my opinion.
After all, we even have scientists trying to jump start brains whose electrical activity has ceased (aka the subject is very dead). Who knows what might happen if they succeed. Would the previous inhabitant of said brain come back, or someone else?
Hmm. Maybe Dr. Frankenstein's story is still a little scary after all.