Death and the little thing called life

The other day a friend  told me about a Netflix show, the Frankenstein Chronicles, that interested him.  So I decided to check it out.

If you haven’t been following the series, first of all, it’s set at a time when London was literally a sewer, they burnt coal with no restrictions, and poor families tossed children they couldn’t feed out into the streets to fend for themselves. In addition,  Sean Bean (aka the beheaded Ned Starke from the Game of Thrones) plays a detective tasked with finding the “monster” who’s been mutilating dead children and grotesquely stitching them back together again. It’s critical to find this person because when Jesus returns to earth those of us who’ve been good will get to sit next to him but only if we have a body to reoccupy.  Preferably one that has not been chopped up or in other ways violated.  Jesus is evidently a bit picky about who he keeps company with.

Now, I know what you’re thinking.  Jan, you’ve gone off the nut once again.  So let me explain.  In the 1800s, medicine was evolving into a science. Doctors were on the verge of many advances to help prevent premature deaths from childbirth to plagues.  But only, dot dot dot, if they could get a better understanding of human anatomy and to do that they needed, dot dot dot, corpses. The corpses were happily provided by prisons and poor houses as those blokes weren’t going to sit next to Jesus anyway. But innocent children were off-limits.

Ned Starke to the rescue

As to why the preoccupation with death, remember life wasn’t so great back then. This fact was seized upon by preachers promising a meet and greet with the big JC, thereby making death the reward for a virtuous life.  So, in the Frankenstein Chronicles, when mutilated children’s bodies begin littering the shores of the river Thames, fingers are pointed at the scientific community.  It must be doctors dumping their botched experiments, thereby depriving children of a wonderful after life experience. Our hero has a different theory but I doubt I’ll stick around to watch all three seasons (sheesh) just to find out if he’s right. To me these Netflix series’ start out with an interesting concept but then somewhat rapidly become expensive soap operas sans the cheesey acting.  However, the producers and screen writers have done a brilliant job of depicting the environment that spawned early horror classics such as Frankenstein and Dracula. 

As a writer I’m not sure we’re always aware of the environmental and societal forces shaping our work. I doubt either Mary Shelley or Bram Stoker thought “I’m surrounded by death so I might as well write about it.”  But maybe I should speak only for myself.  What do you think?