Frankenstein was frequently referenced in the recent, interminable American election campaign, mostly in regards to Republican candidate John McCain.
Newspaper editorials spoke of “McCain’s Frankenstein” after a reform bill the Senator had championed in 2002 “turned against its creator”, drastically limiting his fund-raising abilities. Less kindly, McCain’s handicap, a stiff, straight-out arm salute, was lampooned as “The Frankenstein Wave” or “The Frankenstein Handshake”.
Back in 2004, Democratic candidate John Kerry’s stern looks and elongated, Herman Munster face rated numerous Frankenstein comparisons. The illustration at left is by Christopher Foote.
Four years earlier, Al Gore’ characteristically rigid posture made him the Frankenstein of that contest. When he approached his opponent during a televised debate, bearing down on George Bush to make a point, the press referred to the moment as Gore’s “Frankenstein lurch”.
The illustration above is from The Party’s Over, a post-campaign satirical picture book by artist Zina Saunders. The McCain Frankenstein is raised by campaign mastermind Steve Schmidt as a familiar-looking Bride looks on. Another illustration in the book shows the McCain Monster set upon by the torch-wielding ladies of TV’s The View.
Frankenstein’s Monster, truly indestructible, endures as a strong political symbol, suggesting menace, things gone wrong or, as caricature, mocking a public figure’s demeanor. It’s a long tradition going all the way back to 1824, barely 6 years after Mary Shelley’s book was first published, when a British Parliamentarian compared newly emancipated slaves to potential Frankenstein Monsters. Politicians, political commentators and editorial cartoonists have alluded to Frankenstein’s Monster ever since.
In the most recent campaign, Senator McCain turned the joke around, introducing himself at a rally by saying, “I’m older than dirt, and I’ve got more scars than Frankenstein!”
A video clip of John McCain’s (slightly flubbed) Frankenstein self-reference.
Zina Saunders’ The Party’s Over, with a preview of the book.
Zina Saunders’ website.