Black Frankenstein and Racial Neoliberalism in Contemporary American Cinema

Reanimating Racial Monsters in Changing Lanes

Authored by: Michael G. Lacy

The Routledge Companion to Global Popular Culture

Print publication date:  December  2014
Online publication date:  December  2014

Print ISBN: 9780415641470
eBook ISBN: 9780203081846
Adobe ISBN: 9781136175961


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Frankenstein in popular American cinema, literature, art, and horror-comic parodies continues to evolve and capture the attention of literary, critical rhetorical, media, and cultural studies scholars. Picart (2004) argues that the evolving Frankenstein cinematic sequels have dramatically deviated and evolved from Mary Shelley’s novel (e.g., Frankenstein now refers to both monster-maker and monster), transforming it into a cinemyth, or “public performance spaces within which patriarchal and matriarchal myths compete” and “conservative and progressive ideologies struggle against each other in working through collective anxieties, traumas, and aspirations” (Picart, 2004, p. 336). Rushing and Frentz (1989, 1995) contend that the evolving Frankenstein narrative is a mythic narrative, reflecting a “dystopian shadow,” which expresses unconscious cultural anxieties or repressed fears that an external human creation (e.g., technology) is out of control and threatens to supplant, enslave, or kill humans and destroy civilization (1989, p. 63). Furthermore, dystopian myths also have an inferior or interior cultural shadow that expresses repressed fears of “dark races,” femininity, freakish or “hystericized” bodies, or anything that deviates from rational Western consciousness (Rushing & Frentz, 1995, p. 39; see also Picart, 1998, pp. 1–20; 2004, p. 338). Monsters in popular films are not pure emanations from the culture’s collective unconscious, but driven by commercial and aesthetic interests, thereby reaffirming or subverting hegemonic projects, systems, ideologies, and values (Picart, 1998, 2004; Rushing & Frentz, 1995, p. 36).

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