Whether it’s the time of year or simply the fact that classic monster movies play pretty regularly around my place, I found myself watching Frankenstein last night. And whether it was a remarkably insightful bit of costuming or my own tendency to observe apparel in movies, I couldn’t help noticing the fit of Frankenstein’s Monster’s jacket.
The monster–played beautifully by Boris Karloff–wears a black, man’s blazer. It fits him in the very broad shoulders and buttons across his chest, yet the sleeves are so short they fall between his elbows and wrists. To imagine the man who would fit in that jacket is to imagine a four foot tall linebacker.
It’s as ill-fitting as a man-made monster in modern society.
People like to think that clothes don’t matter, and in the grand scheme of debt, mass shootings, domestic violence, and tumultuous foreign affairs, maybe they don’t. But in terms of metaphor, when you’re creating a character who doesn’t quite fit into the world we live in, I dare you to find a better illusory technique.
Through movies, magazines, reality shows, and department store ads, we’ve been taught to interpret people from how they dress. I’m not talking about high fashion vs. street wear, but more the way we present ourselves. Faded T-shirt with a book quote, jeans, and converse sneakers on a guy sends an entirely different message than a tux and tails. Some can pull off both. Others are awkward in the one that feels like a costume, whichever it may be.
Clothes make the man, the monster, the hero, and the villain. The reason some characters are relegated to the shadows is because they don’t want us to see who they are. They aren’t fully formed. They’re hiding their true selves.
And from the cheap seats? The monster wasn’t the villain of the movie. Who do you think was?