We’ve had fun this week discussing Veronica Mars through the prism of her potential suitors. We’ve heard from Team Duncan, Team Piz, Team Weevil, and Team Everyone Else (in the parlance of our times). For Team Logan, I’ll direct you here. But, with all due respect to Team members everywhere, the obvious correct choice is TEAM VERONICA.
Arguments over the recording’s merits aside, the song’s central message remains as true today as it was on the day it was written. Bela Lugosi is indeed dead. Continue reading Chvrches Is Right
This story was originally written for a 10th grade English class.
Roy Bellows winced as the scalding soup spilled over the edges of the green plastic bowl onto his hands, and he flung the bowl onto the tile below him. As he nursed his blistered fingers, he looked down at the mess he had caused and cursed himself. Suddenly, he cocked his head and looked at the overturned bowl again. Something about the half a sphere protruding from the floor fascinated him. Instead of mopping up the soup that covered the floor he went to the cupboard and got another green bowl. He set it down right next to the first one and studied what he saw. Acting on a sudden impulse, he used a modeling knife to cut the outer edges of the bowl off and slid them together to connect them. He felt an absurd wave of pleasure course through him, but immediately it left him in favor of puzzlement. Why had this image suddenly come to him?
Over the next few weeks, Roy found himself continually being drawn to this shape, this image. He doodled it on the comic section of the newspaper every morning, he sculpted the connected hemispheres in ice cream sundaes and even mashed potatoes, and he even went as far to erect a diorama of this structure on a grassy field on the floor of his usually well kept apartment.
Now in addition to being a compulsive idiot, Roy was also portly, middle aged, near-sighted, single, and lazy. It was because of his inherent indolence that he would take frequent breaks while constructing his diorama to peruse the fine public programming to be found on PBS during the daytime. One of his viewing choices was eventually a children’s program called “Teletubbies.” Now if you’ve ever seen this show you most likely can attest to the strange call the vibrant colors and cutesy-poo situations exert on the unsuspecting viewer.
Roy sat entranced as Tinky Winky (the largest, purple Teletubby), Dipsy (the green, and next largest of the Teletubbies), Laa Laa (the yellow Teletubby), and Po (the smallest, red Teletubby) frolicked and had a merry old time in Teletubbyland with the rabbits and the flowers. Roy could not tear his attention away from the program until it had concluded.
Whether he became aware of it or not, Roy soon began to make it a daily ritual of staying home from his job as a patent attorney, working on his double-domed diorama, and turning the television on for a break just in time for the Teletubbies (which he watched, regardless of the endless repetition, all the way through every day). After 16 days of sitting in a darkened room with the blinds pulled close, and his rapt attention focused on the antics of Tinky Winky and the gang, he almost fell out of his chair from a sudden and ominous realization. As the Teletubbies continued to gallivant across his television set, he looked back at his diorama. He glanced back at the television to get a look at the building the Teletubbies called home and, his suspicions confirmed, he turned back to his sculpture. All this time he had been obsessing over the Tubbytronic Superdome, the house of the Teletubbies!
Shocked he turned back to the show and felt his troubles melt away as Dipsy scrubbed his feet with his Tubbysponge. In spite of the deep surprise he had just felt and the turmoil it had caused in his life, he felt perfectly content to continued watching until Tubby Bye-Bye. He didn’t seem to find it odd at all that as the baby in the sun squealed and set on the television show he became extremely drowsy and drifted off into a deep sleep.
He became aware that he was lying face down on an odd metal operating table without any clothes on. He could hear a soothing voice somewhere out of sight, in the inky darkness surrounding him on all sides say, “Okay, Tinky Winky, time to insert the Tubbyprobe.”
Roy awoke with a start and shook the bizarre dream out of his mind. He drifted back to sleep.
He became aware that he was lying face down on an odd metal operating table without any clothes on. He could hear a soothing voice somewhere out of sight, in the inky darkness surrounding him on all sides say, “Okay, Dipsy, time to insert the Tubbyprobe.”
Roy’s eyes again burst open as he tried to think of something else. As he attempted to keep his mind on a different subject, he fell back asleep.
He became aware that he was lying face down on an odd metal operating table without any clothes on. He could hear a soothing voice somewhere out of sight, in the inky darkness surrounding him on all sides say, “Okay, Laa Laa, time to insert the Tubbyprobe.”
Roy fell off the couch and muttered to himself wondering what on earth was going on. Before he could even pick himself up off of the ground, he had fallen asleep again.
Roy became aware that he was lying face down on an odd metal operating table without any clothes on. He could hear a soothing voice somewhere out of sight, in the inky darkness surrounding him on all sides say, “Okay, Po, time to insert the Tubbyprobe.”
Roy awoke and stood up, confused and shuddering at the memory of the dream. He ran to the bathroom and splashed cold water on his face.
The next day, he went back to work and was quite exhausted after having to catch up with all of his work and after spending the morning being berated by his boss. He felt a twinge of disappointment when he realized that he had missed the Teletubbies. He ate dinner, took a shower, and settled down to bed. No sooner had his eyes closed than he was being pulled out of his bed and carried above the heads of his abductors as they ran to the window and jumped out.
Roy gasped and sat up in bed as he ran over the events of the dream in his mind again. He rubbed his eyes and laid down again as he drifted back into unconsciousness.
He hurtled out his window, held aloft by his kidnappers, but the glass didn’t shatter as they passed through it, and as they entered the outside air, they rose up into the night sky. His abductors let go of him and as they fell upwards faster and faster he could see them and realized that they were Teletubbies! He looked up, and saw a gaping hole in the sky that he was being sucked into. Some kind of tractor beam seemed to be pulling him into the giant Tubbycruiser overhead, and as he entered the hole, it hissed shut behind him, and he felt the sensation of extreme speed as he was grabbed by strong, but fuzzy arms and thrown into a cell that was lined with what appeared to be unbreakable glass. Now the images in Roy’s dream started to flash by in rapid succession, and he was surprised to find he could understand, with surreal clarity, everything he saw.
He seemed to have been taken to the actual Teletubbyland. He was herded into a metal dungeon in the bowels of the real Tubbytronic Superdome along with a group of about ten other men and women. Every now and then they were let out into the field to stretch and exercise, but a Teletubby that they didn’t ever seem to show on the television program was in charge of them. He was named Jumbly Jombly and was colored black. He had a pentagram-shaped protuberance coming out of the top of his head, and a nasty green whip that he used to keep the abductees in line.
Roy remembered watching as the Teletubbies feasted on Tubbycustard and Tubbytoast, while the humans were given warm water and Tubbygruel. Periodically, groups of people were led out of the dungeon, while other groups were led in. Soon, it was Roy’s turn to go, and he followed as Dipsy led the prisoners with Po taking up the rear with Jumbly Jombly’s whip. A variety of experiments were performed, utilizing various Tubby instruments, but the most horrific of all came last. All the experimental patients were laid on medical tables and fastened down as a strange shuffling creation made its way out of the shadows. This mechanical monster had a hose coming from its face that moved of its own accord. Horribly bulging eyes were to be found atop this robotic terror, roving around crazily. The patient at the end of the row of tables began to struggle in abject horror as the monstrous vacuum machine scuttled toward him. Tinky Winky and Laa Laa set about removing the skull of the patient above their ears, exposing the brain. The vacuum, which the Teletubbies called Noo Noo, extended its hose towards the brain and sucked it right out of the skull. Roy felt the contents of his stomach heave, and watched in a kind of perverse fascination as an unintelligible analysis tumbled from Noo Noo as he moved to his next victim. Roy began to fear for his own brain, and trembled in his bonds awaiting his turn, which never came…never came…never came.
Roy was returned to his home and the Tubbycruiser hovered off to collect a new sampling of the human race. As he settled back into his bed in his dream, he sat bolt upright in bed quivering in abhorrence of the images in his dream. He wondered what on earth was wrong with him.
Suddenly, a deafening pounding shook his door in its frame, and made the hinges creak. He rushed to the door and unfastened the bolts and the door swung wide. Strange men wearing trenchcoats and snap-brimmed hats walked inside and Roy gaped at them in amazement.
“Are you from the government?” Roy asked, his voice faltering and the strange men giggled with high-pitched voices. The tallest one stepped forward and removed his hat and coat to reveal…Tinky Winky! Roy gasped in horror.
“My dreams…,” he whispered. “They were real?”
“Yes,” Tinky Winky growled as he stepped forward menacingly. “We abducted you, but you survived. Your brain tissue was left intact.”
“The great windmill declared that we had enough data. You weren’t needed.”
“What do you want?”
“We want good ratings!” Tinky Winky said, and all four Teletubbies erupted into a fit of giggling.
“The youth of this world is being indoctrinated into accepting our eventual colonization of your planet, and the subjugation of your inferior race.”
“That’s horrible!” Roy exclaimed. Suddenly, the shortest figure stepped forward and revealed himself as Po. He angrily bobbed up and down, waving his arms and shouted, “Dammit, Tinky Winky, why don’t you just kill the poor bastard?!?”
Roy’s eyes glanced terrified from side to side, “What are you talking about?” Then, Tinky Winky reached into his coat and pulled out his magical bag. He reached inside it, whipped out his Tubbyblaster, and leveled it squarely between Roy’s eyes.
“Time for Tubby Bye-Bye,” he said as the rest of the Teletubbies took a step backwards.
“Uh-oh,” they said together. Giggling madly, Tinky Winky pulled the Tubbytrigger.
All right, now that we’ve all seen I, Frankenstein (and read Jesse’s review) here’s a place for us to talk about it without spoiling all its twists and turns (there aren’t any) for those who haven’t seen it yet (everybody). And anyway, I’m not here to savage the movie. I spent the last couple of months grumbling at anybody who’d listen about what gargoyles and demons had to do with the Frankenstein story, so it’s only fair that I consider the answers the filmmakers offered.
I, Frankenstein as Adaptation:
It turns out that this epic story of the struggle between gargoyles and demons for the fate of humanity revolves around the character of Frankenstein’s Monster, a central figure in Mary Shelley’s 1818 novel, Frankenstein. In addition to his origin in this seminal science fiction novel, the creature has a long and varied cinematic history. Even before the iconic Universal version of the story, Thomas Edison adapted the story for film. Over the years there have been so many additions to and variations on the Frankenstein mythology that a story like I, Frankenstein ends up being a grab-bag of elements from many different Frankensteins.
I, Frankenstein‘s creature is a soulless (or is he?) creature assembled by Dr. Victor Frankenstein from parts of exhumed corpses and reanimated by the application of electricity, obtained from a tank of electric eels. Dumped in a river by his creator, the creature returns to murder the doctor’s wife and then flees to the arctic. Frankenstein pursues his creation, dies of exposure, and is brought back by the creature to be buried in his family’s graveyard. After a skirmish with some demons, the creature meets the gargoyle queen and is named Adam.
Interlude On the Subject of The Creature’s Name:
In the novel, Frankenstein does not give the creature a name. This is tied up in his rejection of his creation, and he alternately refers to it as a “fiend,” a “wretch,” and a “monster.” In the absence of a given name, audiences generally resort to one of two other options. The most popular is obviously to just refer to the creature as Frankenstein. This most likely solidified in the public consciousness in the 1930s, with the popularity of the Universal film adaptation and an advertising campaign that was primarily just the title and the image of Jack Pierce’s design for the creature. The film so successfully colonized the public’s imagination that even now, 83 years later, if you ask somebody who Frankenstein is you’re very likely to get a description of the monster with the flat top and neck bolts (drawing the pedantic ire of nerds like us everywhere). The second most common name for the creature is Adam. Mary Shelley is said to have referred to the creature by this name in early drafts/tellings of the story and in letters to friends. For his own part, after reading Milton’s “Paradise Lost” (Shelley’s creature is highly intelligent and eloquent), the creature tells Frankenstein that he saw himself in the story of creation, though he identified most with Satan, saying “I ought to be thy Adam, but I am rather the fallen angel.” Pop culture examples of this usage include Dark Shadows, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and I, Frankenstein.
I confess, it’s a little hard to know just how self-aware the filmmakers were in creating their version of the story. Their use of Adam for his name suggests some nerdish faux-fidelity, and they included the flight to the arctic from the novel. But did they also know that when they had their doctor use electric eels in his creation process that they weren’t adapting Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein but Kenneth Branagh’s Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein? This creature’s design incorporates the long hair from the book (at least it does for the beginning of the movie set in the 1700s), but understandably forgoes the yellow corpse pallor and blackened lips. He’s also an Eckhartian six-foot-something instead of an eight foot tall giant. Now, in fairness, Dr. Frankenstein’s ambition was to create a being possessing physical beauty in proportion to his other attributes, so I guess in this movie we are to assume he succeeded (some patchwork scarring notwithstanding). In any case, I assume that even Mary Shelley would have approved of this Dr. Frankenstein’s ab selection.
But, beyond the details of their presentation of the creature, I’m interested in trying to suss out the weird way this movie interacts with some of the themes of the original story (this may get tricky, since the movie doesn’t really make much sense).
The novel tells the story of a creator who abandons his creation, appalled by what he’d wrought (as I mentioned the creature draws explicit parallels between himself and Satan in “Paradise Lost”). The creature is lost and angry because of this abandonment and lashes out at his creator, demanding that the doctor build him a companion. The story ends with the creator dead and his creation heading off to destroy himself in despair. In the universe of I, Frankenstein, God is very real and his emissaries on earth take the form of a dwindling band of gargoyles. Their mission is to combat demons disguised as human, and these demons are specifically interested in Adam because he doesn’t have a soul. Now, by tackling this stuff head-on, I’d say that they are making a bid to be the True Spiritual Sequel to Mary Shelley’s novel. Let’s see how they did.
Adam spends the entire movie violently opposed to the demons (I guess because they tried to kidnap him at a particularly low emotional moment) and vaguely on the side of the gargoyles (he doesn’t seem to have much use for them, and they SUCCESSFULLY kidnap him more than once, but shortly after one of the main gargoyles tries to kill him he snarls something to the demons about how the gargoyle order MUST be preserved). So, accepting that Adam is supposed to be the novel’s Frankenstein’s monster, that means that we end the film with the creature having shifted identification from Milton’s Satan to Adam. Indeed, after killing countless demons, his final Batman monologue is all about how he’s going to take on the gargoyles’ mission from God and protect the rest of humanity.
To Kill a Gargoyle, or Aesthetic Innovation in I, Frankenstein:
I’d like to take a moment to praise I, Frankenstein for what I think is its greatest contribution to the “Boring PG-13 Action Movie That Travesties Classic Monsters” genre. I’m talking, of course, about the movie’s twist on the way that these kinds of movies have their monsters burst into sparks and ashes when they are killed. Presumably taking their cues from Buffy the Vampire Slayer, which had to make the deaths of their villains palatable for a television audience, the go-to move here is to have your dying monster burn or dissolve into ash. I, Frankenstein’s leap forward in this arena is that after the demons or gargoyles burst apart, their souls take the form of fire (for the demons) or a beam of light (for the gargoyles). These souls burst out, rush all around the room AND THEN DESCEND TO HELL OR ASCEND TO HEAVEN. That’s right, in addition to watching a demon flake apart & scatter, you get to watch his soul burn a hole in the ground as it is taken to Hell. This means that during the big group battles you can get some sense of how things are going by estimating the fireball/lightbeam ratio. The effect also seems readymade for the I, Frankenstein stunt spectacular at Universal Studios Nowhere.
The movie’s depiction of Adam’s emotional journey is a little hard to follow because Eckhart spends the entire movie frowning and running in circles no matter what’s going on around him, but I think we can figure this out. After we’ve flashed foward a couple of hundred years and picked up with Adam frowning and killing demons and running in circles in what is presumably a modern, if dystopian, world, the gargoyle queen yells at him for letting a police officer get killed by a demon during a fight. Adam dismisses her concern over the dead man, and we are seemingly meant to take this as evidence that he lacks any connection to mankind and his war against the demons is motivated more abstractly because they tried to kidnap him before the gargoyles successfully kidnapped him. At the end of the movie, he is willing to sacrifice himself to save man- and gargoylekind alike, presumably because he became friends with Yvonne Strahovski. In exchange for his self-sacrifice, he is rescued from falling down into Hell by the gargoyle queen. So in this reading, he has gone from feeling like Milton’s Satan, rejected and cast down by his creator, to feeling like Adam, a being created with a purpose and protected by God. Which, incidentally makes it weirder to me that in his final superhero monologue he doesn’t say anything about the name Adam (which was given to him by the gargoyle queen, and would seem to align him with humanity) and instead concludes by him calling himself Frankenstein (I guess so they could call the movie I, Frankenstein). As for the meaning of that title, your guess is as good as mine.
Scenarios That Would Have Made The Title Appropriate:
- Taking Up The Family Business
As the movie proceeded, I actually began to expect this one to happen. Of course it did not. In this scenario, Yvonne Strahovski’s character, Terra(!), would have died during the raid on the demon science compound. After all of the demon business was resolved, Adam would have used the secrets of Dr. Frankenstein’s journal to reanimate her, forgiving his “father” for his own creation and taking the name Frankenstein himself.
- What Goes Around Comes Around
In this scenario, Adam has a son sometime during the course of the movie. He abandons the kid at the end of the movie (either out of heroic “for its own good” sacrifice or because the kid is repulsive) and realizes, filled with emo self-loathing, that he’s become just like Frankenstein.
- The Reading of the Will
In this scenario, the movie is less about demons vs. angels, and more a legal drama about the court proceedings over the disposition of Dr. Frankenstein’s estate (naturally there is a stipulation that the heir must spend the night in Frankenstein’s castle). In the end, the creature has to claim his creator’s name in order to be named his heir.
- I, Frankenstein…
In this scenario, the movie is more of a biopic, in a semi-anthology or chapter segmented format.
Prologue – “I, Frankenstein”
This is the brief recap of his creation, the death of Dr. Frankenstein, and the creature’s assumption of the name.
Chapter 1 – “I, Frankenstein, take this woman to be my lawfully wedded wife..”
This is the story of how he built and then courted his wife.
Chapter 2 – “I, Frankenstein, do solemnly swear that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States…”
In this one, he brokers the peace between the demons and gargoyles while fending off political attacks from birthers.
Chapter 3 – “I, Frankenstein, being of sound mind and body, declare this my Last Will and Testament…”
This one has him writing his will on the morning of his retirement party.
Don’t go see I, Frankenstein.