The My-Stery: Frankensteinian Females
Last week, I wrote about how the ideas about creation in Frankenstein can be found in records like “Dr. Funkenstein” and “Monster.” Since Nicki Minaj is on “Monster,” I want to continue the Frankenstein theme with women. Although Mary Shelley wrote Frankenstein, most of the women seem to be weak, secondary characters in the story. Dr. Frankenstein’s fiance/bride, Elizabeth, is murdered by the monster, Justine is wrongly accused of a murder done by the “monster,” and the monster’s bride never actually comes to fruition (although later films show it differently) for fear that she would not comply with Frankenstein and the “monster.” His mother, Caroline’s, death fuels Frankenstein’s desire for creation. Looking at novel again, the secondary characters are as important to shaping the themes of the story.
It looks as if Shelley is commenting on the creation of the female as an afterthought (Adam and Eve), who is stripped of her powers. She is subtly hinting at the mythical reaction to the perceived power women have in the creation of life and over men. Frankenstein wanted to create life on his own, not shared with his soon-to-be wife. Male-dominated creation has often worked on the basis of controlling both nature and women. Another interesting note is that characters like Safie (her name is linked to Sophie, goddess of Wisdom), who is known for her independence and intelligence, does not die, and the “monster” learns language from her interaction with Felix. At a time when women were expected to submit, Mary was able bring in conversations about male power and creation in relation female dis-empowerment. In a sense, the “monster” represented the suppressed feminine shadow haunting Frankenstein.
How does this translate to contemporary female use of Frankenstein? My three examples are The Brides of Funkenstein, Nicki Minaj and Mercedes in Glee. Comprised of singers Dawn Silva and Lynn Mabry, The Brides of Funkenstein were a spin-off group of Parliment. Although they are considered “brides,” still putting a woman’s purpose to be in relation to men, these women are definitely not passive. In “Disco to Go,” the women sing “a humping we will go/a bumping we will go/we’ll take some funk/ we’ll put it in your rump/and then we’ll make you disco.” Another song, “War Ship Touchante” (moving or touching in French), depicts them as protectors of a ship and in control over the “brothers,” teaching them the “dance of sensitivity.” The lyrics of the song sound almost like a reply to Frankenstein’s rigidity. With high record sales and awards, these women proved themselves to be fully capable.
Nicki Minaj is another artist who has used Frankenstein as a theme in her career. As I mentioned in my other post, Minaj confronts herself as a creation in her work often. In her appearance as the bride of Blackenstein on SNL, besides making fun of her supposedly fake behind, Minaj does what the original Frankenstein fears — a woman who talks back and takes no nonsense from a man. But it also plays on the stereotype of Black women as non-submissive to men and objectifying Black female bodies in addition to the belief that women should be submissive to men.
Minaj continues with the David Guetta-produced “Turn Me On,” David Guetta is a Frankenstein figure who is creating a robotic mannequin doll, Minaj. After she is completely made, she leaves and walks outside to comes across mannequin figures likes herself only less human like. Three of the female ones go after Guetta’s character only to reveal that he is not real either, but some metal-looking creation. While they are doing that, Minaj is surrounded by male mannequin figures, before leaving on a horse. Unlike the original Frankenstein story, this Frankenstein does create both male and female figures and Minaj is not immediately known as a “bride.” Instead she rides off into the distance on her own will. She is no longer an object, but humanized, whereas Frankenstein in this is no longer shown as human, but a creation as well. In collaboration with the song, the song becomes like a trick from which after she escapes.
Finally, Mercedes as Frankenstein in “The Rocky Horror Glee” episode. The Rocky Horror Picture Show was a 70s version of Frankenstein with the scientist as an alien transvestite, Dr. Frank-N-Furter, and his golden boy creation, Rocky. Although I do have my issues with the episode (the erasure of queer identities and the toning down of Rocky Horror in general), Mercedes playing the scientist puts another perspective to the story. She chooses the role for herself, taking back the role of a creator from a male to a female. And she looked confident and sexy while doing it. Although she is still playing a transvestite, it is an interesting trajectory from male to cross-dressing male to female in Frankenstein-influenced stories. It makes me wonder what a feminine Frankenstein or a cross-dressing Dr. Francine (don’t forget women can cross-dress, too!) would have been like. Anyone want to write that story?