It’s part of the research: Attempts to control the natural in Buffy and Frankenstein

Anna De Vaul

Northeastern State University, Tahlequah OK


Various critics have examined the ways in which Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (1818) serves as what Gerald Gaylard calls “the classic early example of sf’s critique of the imperialistic hubris of a particular human endeavor to improve upon nature.” Buffy the Vampire Slayer’s Frankenstein-inspired season four, in which military scientists from the secret research organization the Initiative create their own creature, Adam, from the body parts of demons, serves as both a deliberate representation and reinterpretation of the motif and an example of a recurring theme in the Buffyverse of (doomed) scientific attempts to dominate, suppress, control, and, often, destroy the natural/magical. Through examination of the Initiative’s efforts to modify and use the natural/magical (as represented by demons and Slayer) and the interactions between Initiative scientist Maggie Walsh and former Watcher Rupert Giles, this paper discusses the privileging of the natural/magical over the scientific/technological in season four of Buffy as a reflection and extension of the relationship between science and nature in Frankenstein. It also discusses, via the lens of post-colonial theory, the positioning of scientific research and experimentation as an imperialistic force in both novel and series. In doing so, it considers the relationship between imperialist models of science and the evocation and experience of the sublime, arguing that the series engages with theories of a female or gendered sublime as a sublime of undoing. By examining the juxtaposition of the natural/magical and scientific and the association of science with imperialism in book and series, this paper reflects upon the series as a modern reworking of select motifs in Frankenstein.

Keywords: Buffy, Frankenstein, imperialism, nature, science, sublime, Yaeger

2018 National Conference
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