There have been numerous film adaptations of Mary Shelley’s gothic/science fiction novel “Frankenstein“, three in the last two years alone. The main focus of these films is always the relationship between Victor Frankenstein (‘The Creator’) and Frankenstein’s creation (‘The Monster’). Where “Victor Frankenstein” deviates from this narrative is that it focuses on the relationship between Frankenstein and his assistant, Igor (who is not in the original novel).
Like the novel, however, the sole female character is there to be saved by the male protagonist, encourage the protagonist in his endeavors, and assure him how brilliant he is.
Warning: Spoilers ahead
Lorelei (Jessica Brown Findlay) is the only woman to receive more than two minutes on screen. She is a circus aerialist who has never noticed the poorly treated hunchback Igor (Daniel Radcliffe) until he saves her life after a deadly fall during an act.
Once Lorelei fully heals, she and Igor reunite at a high-society soiree. Recognizing Igor as the person who saved her, she develops a romantic interest in him. Though it helps that by that time Igor has lost his hunchback and received an attractive makeover.
That night Lorelei is introduced to Victor Frankenstein (James McAvoy) who relates his ideas to reverse death. She has reservations about this, “There is a difference between using a machine to restore life, and to create something that was never supposed to exist”. Frankenstein continuously warns Igor about Lorelei being a distraction.
Lorelei as a character isn’t perfect. She appears solely to benefit Igor but she isn’t entirely useless, like healing Igor and distracting guards so that Igor can stop Frankenstein. Though, again, these features benefit Igor alone.
Lorelei has a very small role in “Victor Frankenstein”. But at least she isn’t objectified and entirely neglected by the plot; she even had a bit of action.
Alas, Lorelei never gets to grow as a character, doesn’t contribute to the narrative, and exists solely in the role of the love interest.
While it appears that Fox tried to do something new by focusing on the relationship between Igor and Frankenstein, perhaps a better take would be one that made his assistant a woman. It would add a more interesting theme to clashing customs. After all, it was once thought unnatural for a woman to use her brains outside of being a homemaker.
Instead we get a single female character with presence. She is the male protagonist’s love interest who is adored from afar, guy then gets the girl, the girl assures the guy how brilliant he is and guides him to heroism.
It’s really quite unfortunate that one of the most iconic Sci-Fi novels written by a woman doesn’t have better representation for women. Imagine what the story would be like if Victor Frankenstein was Victoria Frankenstein? Though I suppose that 19th century London views are very limited in the roles of women in science.
If you are interested in watching an adaptation involving a female Frankenstein I recommend the gothic horror comedy web series Frankenstein, MD.