Science Fiction Film & Television

‘Hail, Mary, the Mother of Science Fiction’

Popular fictionalisations of Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley in film and television, 1935-2018

Science Fiction Film & Television (2018), 11, (2), 233–255.

Abstract

This article uses fictional depictions of Mary Shelley as the ‘mother’ of sf to explore how gendered images of the Romantic genius continue to influence our perception of women in genre fiction. It introduces the concept of the Romantic authorship and reviews Shelley’s legacy as the mother of sf, and then analyses Shelley’s fictionalised appearances on-screen: in film, television and new media, from 1935 to the present. This analysis demonstrates that even in fictions depicting Shelley as an author in her own right, she is still marked by a gendered understanding of how women should function creatively. The way female authors are fictionalised (as opposed to how they are depicted in biographical or academic texts) reflects our expectations of women in the creative industries more broadly.

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Franssen, Gaston, and Rick Honings. ‘Introduction: Starring the Author’. Celebrity Authorship and Afterlives in English and American Literature. Ed. Gaston Franssen and Rick Honings. London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2016. 1-21. ‘Introduction: Starring the Author’ Celebrity Authorship and Afterlives in English and American Literature 1 21 Google Scholar

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García, Pedro Javier Pardo. ‘Beyond Adaptation: Frankenstein’s Postmodern Progeny’. Books in Motion: Adaptation, Intertextuality, Authorship. Ed. Mireia Aragay. Amsterdam: Rodopi, 2005. 223-42. ‘Beyond Adaptation: Frankenstein’ Books in Motion: Adaptation, Intertextuality, Authorship 223 42 Google Scholar

Gilbert, Sandra M. and Susan Gubar. The Madwoman in the Attic: The Woman Writer and the Nineteenth-Century Literary Imagination, 2nd ed. New Haven: Yale UP, 2000. The Madwoman in the Attic: The Woman Writer and the Nineteenth-Century Literary Imagination Google Scholar

Gill, Linda. ‘Women Beware! The Appropriation of Women in Hollywood’s Revisioning of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein’. Journal of American & Comparative Cultures 24.3-4 (2001): 93-8. ‘Women Beware! The Appropriation of Women in Hollywood’;s Revisioning of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein’ Journal of American & Comparative Cultures 24.3-4 93 8 Google Scholar

Haiduc, Sonia. ‘“Here Is the Story of My Career …”: The Woman Writer on Film’. The Writer on Film: Screening Literary Authorship. Ed. Judith Buchanan. London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2013. 50-63. ‘“Here Is the Story of My Career …”: The Woman Writer on Film’ The Writer on Film: Screening Literary Authorship 50 63 Google Scholar

Higson, Andrew. ‘Re-Presenting the National Past: Nostalgia and Pastiche in the Heritage Film’. Fires Were Started: British Cinema and Thatcherism, 2nd ed. Ed. Lester Friedman. London: Wallflower, 1993. 91-109. ‘Re-Presenting the National Past: Nostalgia and Pastiche in the Heritage Film’ Fires Were Started: British Cinema and Thatcherism 91 109 Google Scholar

Hofferth, Sandra L. and John F. Sandberg. ‘Changes in American Children’s Time, 1981-1997’. Advances in Life Course Research 6 (2001): 193-229. ‘Changes in American Children’s Time, 1981-1997’ Advances in Life Course Research 6 193 229 Google Scholar

Hutcheon, Linda. A Theory of Adaptation, 2nd ed. London: Routledge, 2013. A Theory of Adaptation Google Scholar

Kantor, Julie. ‘STEMinism’. Huffington Post (20 Aug 2014). https://www.huffingtonpost.com/julie-kantor/steminism_b_5691586.html. Accessed 10 Jan 2018. Google Scholar

Kaye, Heidi. ‘Feminist Sympathies versus Masculine Backlash: Kenneth Branagh’s Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein’. Pulping Fictions: Consuming Culture Across the Literature/Media Divide. Ed. Deborah Cartmell, I.Q. Unter, Imelda Whelehan and Heidi Kaye. London: Pluto, 1996. 57-71. ‘Feminist Sympathies versus Masculine Backlash: Kenneth Branagh’s Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein’ Pulping Fictions: Consuming Culture Across the Literature/Media Divide 57 71 Google Scholar

Kiely, Robert. The Romantic Novel in England. Cambridge: Harvard UP, 1972. The Romantic Novel in England Google Scholar

Lauritsen, John. The Man Who Wrote Frankenstein. New York: Pagan, 2007. The Man Who Wrote Frankenstein Google Scholar

Lloyd-Smith, Allan. American Gothic Fiction: An Introduction. New York: Continuum, 2004. American Gothic Fiction: An Introduction Google Scholar

McNutt, Myles. ‘Cultural Interview: PBS Digital Studios’ Frankenstein M.D. [Part One]’. Cultural Learnings (18 Aug 2014). https://cultural-learnings.com/2014/08/18/interview-frankenstein-md-bernie-su-anna-lore-pbs-digital-studios/. Accessed 10 Jan 2018. Google Scholar

Mellor, Anne K. Mary Shelley: Her Life, Her Fiction, Her Monsters. London: Routledge, 1988. Mary Shelley: Her Life, Her Fiction, Her Monsters Google Scholar

Miller, Neil. ‘What Is Your Favorite Frankenstein Adaptation?’. Film School Rejects (25 Nov 2015). https://filmschoolrejects.com/what-is-your-favorite-frankenstein-adaptation-dc659d26bf32/. Accessed 10 Jan 2018. Google Scholar

Monk, Claire. ‘The British Heritage-Film Debate Revisited’. British Historical Cinema. Ed. Amy Sargeant and Claire Monk. London: Routledge, 2002. 176-98. ‘The British Heritage-Film Debate Revisited’ British Historical Cinema 176 98 Google Scholar

Munford, Rebecca and Melanie Waters. Feminism and Popular Culture: Investigating the Postfeminist Mystique. London: I.B. Tauris, 2013. Feminism and Popular Culture: Investigating the Postfeminist Mystique Google Scholar

O’Flinn, Paul. ‘Production and Reproduction: The Case of Frankenstein’. Frankenstein. Ed. Fred Botting. London: Palgrave, 1995. 21-47. ‘Production and Reproduction: The Case of FrankensteinFrankenstein 21 47 Google Scholar

Peeren, Esther. Intersubjectivities and Popular Culture: Bakhtin and Beyond. Stanford: Stanford UP, 2008. Intersubjectivities and Popular Culture: Bakhtin and Beyond Google Scholar

Polaschek, Bronwyn. The Postfeminist Biopic: Narrating the Lives of Plath, Kahlo, Woolf and Austen. London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2013. The Postfeminist Biopic: Narrating the Lives of Plath, Kahlo, Woolf and Austen Google Scholar

Searles, Baird, Martin Last, Beth Meachan and Michael Franklin, eds. A Reader’s Guide to Science Fiction. New York: Avon, 1979. A Reader’s Guide to Science Fiction Google Scholar

Shaw, Debbie. ‘In Her Own Image: The Constructed Female in Women’s Science Fiction’. Science as Culture 3.2 (1992): 263-81. ‘In Her Own Image: The Constructed Female in Women’s Science Fiction’ Science as Culture 3.2 263 81 Google Scholar

Shelley, Mary. Frankenstein; Or, The Modern Prometheus. London: The Folio Society, 2015. Frankenstein; Or, The Modern Prometheus Google Scholar

Shepherd, Lynn. A Treacherous Likeness. London: Constable & Robinson, 2013. A Treacherous Likeness Google Scholar

Stableford, Brian. ‘Frankenstein and the Origins of Science Fiction’. Anticipations: Essays on Early Science Fiction and Its Precursors. Ed. David Seed. Syracuse: Syracuse UP, 1995. 46-57. ‘Frankenstein and the Origins of Science Fiction’ Anticipations: Essays on Early Science Fiction and Its Precursors 46 57 Google Scholar

Troost, Linda and Sayre Greenfield. ‘“Strange Mutations”: Shakespeare, Austen and Cultural Success’. Shakespeare 6.4 (2010): 431-45. ‘“Strange Mutations”: Shakespeare, Austen and Cultural Success’ Shakespeare 6.4 431 45 Google Scholar

Vidal, Belén. ‘Introduction: The Biopic and Its Critical Contexts’. The Biopic in Contemporary Film Culture. Ed. Tom Brown and Belén Vidal. London: Routledge, 2013. 1-32. ‘Introduction: The Biopic and Its Critical Contexts’ The Biopic in Contemporary Film Culture 1 32 Google Scholar

Wallace, Amy. ‘Sci-Fi’s Hugo Awards and the Battle for Pop Culture’s Soul’. WIRED (30 Oct 2015). https://www.wired.com/2015/10/hugo-awards-controversy/. Accessed 10 Jan 2018. Google Scholar

Weinstock, Jeffrey Andrew. ‘Invisible Monsters: Vision, Horror, and Contemporary Culture’. The Ashgate Research Companion to Monsters and the Monstrous. Ed. Asa Simon Mittman and Peter J. Dendle. Farnham: Ashgate, 2013. 275-89. ‘Invisible Monsters: Vision, Horror, and Contemporary Culture’ The Ashgate Research Companion to Monsters and the Monstrous 275 89 Google Scholar

Adams, Ann Marie. ‘What’s in a Frame?: The Authorizing Presence in James Whale’s Bride of Frankenstein’. Journal of Popular Culture 42.3 (2009): 403-18. ‘What’s in a Frame?: The Authorizing Presence in James Whale’s Journal of Popular Culture 42 403 18 Google Scholar

Aldiss, Brian. Billion Year Spree: The True History of Science Fiction. New York: Doubleday, 1973. Billion Year Spree: The True History of Science Fiction Google Scholar

Aldiss, Brian. Frankenstein Unbound. New York: Random House, 1974. Frankenstein Unbound Google Scholar

Battersby, Christine. Gender and Genius: Towards a Feminist Aesthetic. London: The Women’s Press, 1989. Gender and Genius: Towards a Feminist Aesthetic Google Scholar

Bingham, Dennis. Whose Lives Are They Anyway? The Biopic as Contemporary Film Genre. New Brunswick: Rutgers UP, 2010. Whose Lives Are They Anyway? The Biopic as Contemporary Film Genre Google Scholar

Blumberg, Jane. Mary Shelley’s Early Novels: ‘This Child of Imagination and Misery’. Basingstoke: Macmillan, 1993. Mary Shelley’s Early Novels: ‘This Child of Imagination and Misery’ Google Scholar

Busse, Kristina. ‘The Return of the Author: Ethos and Identity Politics’. A Companion to Media Authorship. Ed. Jonathan Gray and Derek Johnson. Malden: Wiley Blackwell, 2013. 48-67. ‘This Child of Imagination and Misery’ A Companion to Media Authorship 48 67 Google Scholar

Cocca, Carolyn. Superwomen: Gender, Power, and Representation. London: Bloomsbury, 2016. Superwomen: Gender, Power, and Representation Google Scholar

Codell, Julie. ‘Gender, Genius, and Abjection in Artist Biopics’. The Biopic in Contemporary Film Culture. Ed. Tom Brown and Bélen Vidal. London: Routledge, 2014. 159-75. ‘Gender, Genius, and Abjection in Artist Biopics’ The Biopic in Contemporary Film Culture 159 75 Google Scholar

Cueto, Emma. ‘Women Clean up at Nebula Awards, but Sci-Fi Still Has Work to Do with Gender Equality’. Bustle (16 May 2016). https://www.bustle.com/articles/161143-women-clean-up-at-nebula-awards-but-sci-fi-still-has-work-to-do-with-gender-equality. Accessed 10 Jan 2018. Google Scholar

Donawerth, Jane L. and Carol A. Kolmerten. ‘Introduction’. Utopian and Science Fiction by Women: Worlds of Difference. Ed. Jane L. Donawerth and Carol A. Kolmerten. Syracuse: Syracuse UP, 1994. 1-14. ‘Introduction’ Utopian and Science Fiction by Women: Worlds of Difference 1 14 Google Scholar

Elliott, Kamilla. ‘Literary Film Adaptation and the Form/Content Dilemma’. Narrative Across Media: The Languages of Storytelling. Ed. Marie-Laure Ryan. Lincoln: U of Nebraska P, 2004. 220-43. ‘Literary Film Adaptation and the Form/Content Dilemma’ Narrative Across Media: The Languages of Storytelling 220 43 Google Scholar

Engstrom, Erika. ‘Schoolhouse Rock!: Cartoons as Education’. Journal of Popular Film and Television 23.3 (1995): 98-104. ‘Schoolhouse Rock!: Cartoons as Education’ Journal of Popular Film and Television 23.3 98 104 Google Scholar

Erll, Astrid. ‘Travelling Memory’. Parallax 17.4 (2011): 4-18. ‘Travelling Memory’ Parallax 17.4 4 18 Google Scholar

Franssen, Gaston, and Rick Honings. ‘Introduction: Starring the Author’. Celebrity Authorship and Afterlives in English and American Literature. Ed. Gaston Franssen and Rick Honings. London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2016. 1-21. ‘Introduction: Starring the Author’ Celebrity Authorship and Afterlives in English and American Literature 1 21 Google Scholar

Freedman, Carl. ‘Hail Mary: On the Author of Frankenstein and the Origins of Science Fiction’. Science Fiction Studies 87 (2002): 253-64. ‘Hail Mary: On the Author of Frankenstein and the Origins of Science Fiction’ Science Fiction Studies 87 253 64 Google Scholar

Fuller, Graham. ‘Kenneth Branagh’. Interview Magazine (6 Feb 2012; originally published Nov 1994). https://www.interviewmagazine.com/film/kenneth-branagh. Accessed 10 Jan 2018. Google Scholar

García, Pedro Javier Pardo. ‘Beyond Adaptation: Frankenstein’s Postmodern Progeny’. Books in Motion: Adaptation, Intertextuality, Authorship. Ed. Mireia Aragay. Amsterdam: Rodopi, 2005. 223-42. ‘Beyond Adaptation: Frankenstein’ Books in Motion: Adaptation, Intertextuality, Authorship 223 42 Google Scholar

Gilbert, Sandra M. and Susan Gubar. The Madwoman in the Attic: The Woman Writer and the Nineteenth-Century Literary Imagination, 2nd ed. New Haven: Yale UP, 2000. The Madwoman in the Attic: The Woman Writer and the Nineteenth-Century Literary Imagination Google Scholar

Gill, Linda. ‘Women Beware! The Appropriation of Women in Hollywood’s Revisioning of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein’. Journal of American & Comparative Cultures 24.3-4 (2001): 93-8. ‘Women Beware! The Appropriation of Women in Hollywood’;s Revisioning of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein’ Journal of American & Comparative Cultures 24.3-4 93 8 Google Scholar

Haiduc, Sonia. ‘“Here Is the Story of My Career …”: The Woman Writer on Film’. The Writer on Film: Screening Literary Authorship. Ed. Judith Buchanan. London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2013. 50-63. ‘“Here Is the Story of My Career …”: The Woman Writer on Film’ The Writer on Film: Screening Literary Authorship 50 63 Google Scholar

Higson, Andrew. ‘Re-Presenting the National Past: Nostalgia and Pastiche in the Heritage Film’. Fires Were Started: British Cinema and Thatcherism, 2nd ed. Ed. Lester Friedman. London: Wallflower, 1993. 91-109. ‘Re-Presenting the National Past: Nostalgia and Pastiche in the Heritage Film’ Fires Were Started: British Cinema and Thatcherism 91 109 Google Scholar

Hofferth, Sandra L. and John F. Sandberg. ‘Changes in American Children’s Time, 1981-1997’. Advances in Life Course Research 6 (2001): 193-229. ‘Changes in American Children’s Time, 1981-1997’ Advances in Life Course Research 6 193 229 Google Scholar

Hutcheon, Linda. A Theory of Adaptation, 2nd ed. London: Routledge, 2013. A Theory of Adaptation Google Scholar

Kantor, Julie. ‘STEMinism’. Huffington Post (20 Aug 2014). https://www.huffingtonpost.com/julie-kantor/steminism_b_5691586.html. Accessed 10 Jan 2018. Google Scholar

Kaye, Heidi. ‘Feminist Sympathies versus Masculine Backlash: Kenneth Branagh’s Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein’. Pulping Fictions: Consuming Culture Across the Literature/Media Divide. Ed. Deborah Cartmell, I.Q. Unter, Imelda Whelehan and Heidi Kaye. London: Pluto, 1996. 57-71. ‘Feminist Sympathies versus Masculine Backlash: Kenneth Branagh’s Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein’ Pulping Fictions: Consuming Culture Across the Literature/Media Divide 57 71 Google Scholar

Kiely, Robert. The Romantic Novel in England. Cambridge: Harvard UP, 1972. The Romantic Novel in England Google Scholar

Lauritsen, John. The Man Who Wrote Frankenstein. New York: Pagan, 2007. The Man Who Wrote Frankenstein Google Scholar

Lloyd-Smith, Allan. American Gothic Fiction: An Introduction. New York: Continuum, 2004. American Gothic Fiction: An Introduction Google Scholar

McNutt, Myles. ‘Cultural Interview: PBS Digital Studios’ Frankenstein M.D. [Part One]’. Cultural Learnings (18 Aug 2014). https://cultural-learnings.com/2014/08/18/interview-frankenstein-md-bernie-su-anna-lore-pbs-digital-studios/. Accessed 10 Jan 2018. Google Scholar

Mellor, Anne K. Mary Shelley: Her Life, Her Fiction, Her Monsters. London: Routledge, 1988. Mary Shelley: Her Life, Her Fiction, Her Monsters Google Scholar

Miller, Neil. ‘What Is Your Favorite Frankenstein Adaptation?’. Film School Rejects (25 Nov 2015). https://filmschoolrejects.com/what-is-your-favorite-frankenstein-adaptation-dc659d26bf32/. Accessed 10 Jan 2018. Google Scholar

Monk, Claire. ‘The British Heritage-Film Debate Revisited’. British Historical Cinema. Ed. Amy Sargeant and Claire Monk. London: Routledge, 2002. 176-98. ‘The British Heritage-Film Debate Revisited’ British Historical Cinema 176 98 Google Scholar

Munford, Rebecca and Melanie Waters. Feminism and Popular Culture: Investigating the Postfeminist Mystique. London: I.B. Tauris, 2013. Feminism and Popular Culture: Investigating the Postfeminist Mystique Google Scholar

O’Flinn, Paul. ‘Production and Reproduction: The Case of Frankenstein’. Frankenstein. Ed. Fred Botting. London: Palgrave, 1995. 21-47. ‘Production and Reproduction: The Case of FrankensteinFrankenstein 21 47 Google Scholar

Peeren, Esther. Intersubjectivities and Popular Culture: Bakhtin and Beyond. Stanford: Stanford UP, 2008. Intersubjectivities and Popular Culture: Bakhtin and Beyond Google Scholar

Polaschek, Bronwyn. The Postfeminist Biopic: Narrating the Lives of Plath, Kahlo, Woolf and Austen. London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2013. The Postfeminist Biopic: Narrating the Lives of Plath, Kahlo, Woolf and Austen Google Scholar

Searles, Baird, Martin Last, Beth Meachan and Michael Franklin, eds. A Reader’s Guide to Science Fiction. New York: Avon, 1979. A Reader’s Guide to Science Fiction Google Scholar

Shaw, Debbie. ‘In Her Own Image: The Constructed Female in Women’s Science Fiction’. Science as Culture 3.2 (1992): 263-81. ‘In Her Own Image: The Constructed Female in Women’s Science Fiction’ Science as Culture 3.2 263 81 Google Scholar

Shelley, Mary. Frankenstein; Or, The Modern Prometheus. London: The Folio Society, 2015. Frankenstein; Or, The Modern Prometheus Google Scholar

Shepherd, Lynn. A Treacherous Likeness. London: Constable & Robinson, 2013. A Treacherous Likeness Google Scholar

Stableford, Brian. ‘Frankenstein and the Origins of Science Fiction’. Anticipations: Essays on Early Science Fiction and Its Precursors. Ed. David Seed. Syracuse: Syracuse UP, 1995. 46-57. ‘Frankenstein and the Origins of Science Fiction’ Anticipations: Essays on Early Science Fiction and Its Precursors 46 57 Google Scholar

Troost, Linda and Sayre Greenfield. ‘“Strange Mutations”: Shakespeare, Austen and Cultural Success’. Shakespeare 6.4 (2010): 431-45. ‘“Strange Mutations”: Shakespeare, Austen and Cultural Success’ Shakespeare 6.4 431 45 Google Scholar

Vidal, Belén. ‘Introduction: The Biopic and Its Critical Contexts’. The Biopic in Contemporary Film Culture. Ed. Tom Brown and Belén Vidal. London: Routledge, 2013. 1-32. ‘Introduction: The Biopic and Its Critical Contexts’ The Biopic in Contemporary Film Culture 1 32 Google Scholar

Wallace, Amy. ‘Sci-Fi’s Hugo Awards and the Battle for Pop Culture’s Soul’. WIRED (30 Oct 2015). https://www.wired.com/2015/10/hugo-awards-controversy/. Accessed 10 Jan 2018. Google Scholar

Weinstock, Jeffrey Andrew. ‘Invisible Monsters: Vision, Horror, and Contemporary Culture’. The Ashgate Research Companion to Monsters and the Monstrous. Ed. Asa Simon Mittman and Peter J. Dendle. Farnham: Ashgate, 2013. 275-89. ‘Invisible Monsters: Vision, Horror, and Contemporary Culture’ The Ashgate Research Companion to Monsters and the Monstrous 275 89 Google Scholar

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de Bruin-Molé, Megen