A Tale of Two Monsters

To many, the worlds of Joss Whedon’s Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Mary Shelley’s Nineteenth century novel Frankenstein would appear to share little beyond affection for the macabre and the unexplainable.   Yet, the popular show about a teenage girl who battles the forces of darkness confronts many of the same issues that Shelley addressed in Frankenstein.   Whedon uses a popular and imaginative genre to address complex and philosophical issues much in the same way Shelley asks critical questions about the morality of science and our relationship with our creator.

Romantic ideology expresses an admiration for the male hero who struggles with opposing forces in his psyche. The conflicting pulls of social and antisocial impulses, emotional and intellectual concepts as well as nature versus technology, which often manifests in the ‘demons’ that haunt him.

For Shelley’s Victor and Whedon’s Buffy, these ‘demonic’ forces come to life in the complexities of their relationships with Victor’s Monster and Buffy’s nemesis turned ally turned paramour Spike.

Shelley’s novel tells the story of Victor Frankenstein, a young man from an aristocratic and loving (if somewhat passive) Genovese family. Victor’s family includes his father, brothers and an adopted, much loved “cousin/sister” Elizabeth; the reader quickly learns that it was the “fondest hope” of Victor’s late mother that Victor and Elizabeth eventually marry.

However, when Victor goes to the University at Ingolstadt, he indulges in his interest in alchemy and medieval science, feverishly, furtively attempting to create life. When his experiment is successful, he is repulsed by the “demonical corpse to which [he] had so miserably given life” (Shelley, 43). He immediately runs in terror from the laboratory. The now-living creature, horrifically made from materials gained from the “dissecting room and slaughter-house” (Shelley, 39), is left to negotiate an unfamiliar and unfriendly world without the guidance of...