Frankenstein’s Food Monster

Hatred of the American food industry is killing Frankenstein with the overused and misunderstood term “frankenfoood.”Misguided mothers and selectively read hipsters like to throw the term around as though it constitutes a complete counter argument to centuries of successful food manipulation. It seems like a natural enough connection to make: Frankenstein is widely considered the quintessential example of where science can go wrong when left unchecked by humility or the voice of reason that tells you creating something capable of killing you is not the best idea. Jurassic Park is a close second.

“That’s Frakenfood’s Monster, Actually”

All hands on the table, I am not a scientific authority. I’m barely even an authority on Gothic literature. I’ve just read a lot of it. So I’m not trying to convince you that GM food is safe, only that your attempt at literary comparison is stupid.

The connection between GM food and Frankenstein’s monster runs deeper than the quick parallel of scientific hubris most people are referencing in their Facebook posts. If they actually took the time to delve into the story of Frankenstein, they might realize that, in this comparison, the food is the victim, not the consumers.

Who Made the Monster

After Frankenstein successfully brings his amalgamation of body parts to life, all he sees is a huge scary dead face, so when it starts moving he panics and runs off. The “monster” wakes up unsupervised and not knowing a damn thing. But this monster doesn’t immediately run out on the town and start strangling people. Or at all, actually. He’s essentially an overdeveloped infant at this point. He just wanders into the forest where he finds a nice home to spy on.

While that sounds creepy at first, it’s not the kind of green-faced, eight-foot, strangle-yank fest you’re probably picturing right now The monster teaches himself how to read and reason by listening to the family living there, and even develops a sense of empathy and starts doing yard work for them when they aren’t around.

The problems start when he tries to interact with the family, and they, only seeing a scary dead face on a giant body, chase him off. That’s the point where he starts forming the idea of himself as a monster. Only here does he chase down Frankenstein and start terrorizing him into making a giant dead-faced companion, and generally acting like a dick, albeit a justified one.

We Made the Monster, Assholes

The rest of the story involves a lot of sleepless nights and dismembering and chasing and snow, but we’ve gone far enough to make the point:

The monster’s identity as a monster came from other people calling him a monster. He wasn’t made that way, and left to his own devices he turned into a kind and intelligent person for a while. But his fate was sealed from the beginning because he was labeled as “unnatural.” If more people had taken the time to understand what and who he was, maybe given him a little social training and a big hat and a mask, he could have become a functional, well-balanced member of society.

That’s not to say “all GMO’s are good.” Frankenstein’s monster clearly had a few character defects in the way of anger issues and not being loved enough. But I’m neurotic, judgmental, and pretentious, and some people have man buns now. No one is raising the torch and pitchfork about that. These are things we’re supposed to negotiate with as a society. When you scream “frankenfood” and run away instead of trying to compromise with the ugly drawbacks, you’re helping to create a monster while sterilizing iconic literary figures. Feel free to continue calling Monsanto Frankenstein. Maybe it’s not entirely inaccurate. But don’t say frankenfood until you think about the monster you’re making, and you damn well mean frankenfood.

Originally published at on February 19, 2016.