Saturday, November 15, 2008

The Impact of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde on Modern Pop-Culture

These have to submit two essays on Restoration Literature at the Uni on Monday. I picked the only two titles from the cospect I've read - "Robinson Crusoe" and "Gulliver's Travels". Just finished the second one. And as I was saving the file I browsed through my folders with Uni stuff and I found some old writings I decided to publish here :)

The Impact of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
on Modern Pop-Culture

There are novels considered to be timeless classics and yet, when you read them you need to be familiar with the specific historical events around their creation, the social enviroment and their author's biography. But there are also novels which remain timeless, readers all over the world can associate with their characters and find paralel beteween the fictional events and their everyday life. One of these timeless stories in Robert Lewis Stevenson's "The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde"

A lot has been said and written about the themes and the symbols in the novel. That's why I want to draw your attention elsewhere - The Impact of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde on modern pop-culture. There are a great number of characters and stories, which can be connected to Stevenson's masterpiece. Some of them borrowing storytelling elemets, some of them directly inspired by or parodying the novel, and some following the same topics of dualism and dark nature and using them in a similar way. Not to mention that the words "secret identity" are now a key expression used for every superhero's alter-ego.

Let's begin with one of the most evident and famous inspirations. The character(s) of Jekyll and Hyde appear in Alan Moore's comic book, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, and the film based on it. The bold and quite intersting idea of a team of crimefighters, quite much like the famus team-ups like Justice League, Legion of Superheroes and Teen Titans, but instead of comic book icons it brings together famous characters from classic literature, creating a unique crossover. The Victorian setting allowed Moore and O'Neill to insert "in-jokes" and cameos from many of the great works of Victorian fiction, while also making contemporary references and jibes, and also bear numerous steampunk influences. In the issues Hyde - stronger than ever, and with the Jekyll Persona buried in case it gets him killed - dies aiding the saving of earth from the Martians of The War of the Worlds. Curiously, neither are ever referred to by the names from the original book's title; Hyde is always called 'Hyde' or 'Edward' by other characters, but never 'Mr. Hyde'.

The Hulk sometimes referred to as The Incredible Hulk, is a fictional character, a superhero appearing in the Marvel Comics Universe. Created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, the Hulk first appeared in 1962. He has since become one of Marvel Comics' most recognized superhero characters. His origin - After nuclear physicist Dr. Robert Bruce Banner was caught in the blast of a gamma bomb he created, he was transformed into the Hulk, a raging monstrosity. The character, both as Banner and the Hulk, is frequently pursued by the police or the armed forces, often as a result of the destruction he causes. the powerful and brutishly emotional alter ego of an emotionally repressed scientist who comes forth whenever he experiences extreme emotional stress like anger or terror, is an example of the Jekyll and Hyde motif. While the Hulk often proves vital to saving the day, seeking usually to protect, his terrifying nature drives Bruce Banner into isolation, much like Jekyll, fearing discovery.

Stevenson's book was also the inspiration behind Two-Face, a supervillain Bob Kane created in 1941 to battle Batman. An upstanding citizen and DA, Harvey Dent was horribly scarred and traumatized. This caused his formerly repressed Hyde to emerge. The two personalities come into direct conflict often and make decisions they are split on using the outside moderator of a flipped coin. Submerged in the underworld, it appears that the darker side of Dent finally replaced the better side.

Bane, another character from the DC Comics universe, a supervillain from the Batman series. Shrouded in mystery, Bane appeared in Gotham City assigned to eliminate Batman for crime boss Rupert Thorne. Besides being a man of great physical size and power, Bane's strength is augmented by "Venom," a Super Steroid that increases his strength, physical size and durability for limited periods of time. Much like Dr.Jekyll turns himself into Hyde. The Venom potion, injected in his organism is also his weakness - when the supply of the chemical is cut he goes back to normal and loses his powers.

Another comic book relation - Marvel Comics supervillain was named after and based on Mr Hyde. Calvin Zabo was born in Trenton, New Jersey. He was a morally abject but brilliant medical researcher who was fascinated by the effect of hormones on human physiology. One of his favorite stories was Stevenson's 1886 classic, The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. He was convinced that the experiment in the story could actually be performed and obsessed with the idea of unleashing his full bestial nature in a superhuman form. However, he needed money to do this so he robbed his various employers systematically. Though too intelligent to be caught, the medical community was suspicious of his tendency to always be employed by organizations which were subsequently robbed.He was eventually successful in creating his formula, and turned into a huge, Hulk-like creature he called "Mister Hyde", named after the Mr. Hyde in the book. In this new form he found he had superhuman strength enabling him to crush cars and tear through steel as though it were made of cardboard.

There are many movie adaptations of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. The very first film adaptation dates back in 1912. However they are all directly based on the novel, or exploit the famous character and put him into some cheesy B-movie horror flicks. Probably the movie with the most impressive cast is the 1942 version directed by Victor Fleming and starring Spencer Tracy, Ingrid Bergman, and Lana Turner. But I want to focus on similarities with other movies.

I find a paralel between Stevenson's character and the most iconic movie villain of all times, Darth Vader. Just like Dr. Jekyll, Anakin Skywalker has his alter-ego - Mr.Hyde are Darth Vader are both a fine alegory, depicting the evil that lies in each one of us and the downfall of those who let that evil take over their lives. Jekyll slowly loses his identity to Mr. Hyde. In EPISODE V The Empire Strikes Back Yoda tells Luke Skywalker "Anger, fear, aggression; the dark side of the Force are they. Easily they flow, quick to join you in a fight. If once you start down the dark path, forever will it dominate your destiny, consume you it will" - just like Jekyll, who once transformed into Hyde feel the urge to do it again and again untill finaly he loses control over the transformation and ends up as Hyde. After his fall to the Dark Side Anakin becomes Darth Vader, and in EPISODE IV A New Hope, Obi-Wan Kenobi describes his former padawan with the words "He more machine now than man; twisted and evil." and Stevenson's Hyde is described more as some kind of diabolical creature than a human being, a deformed and frightening grotesque, with ape-like movements, driven by rage and fury.

The character(s) of Jekyll and Hyde play a minor role in the film, Van Helsing, as well as a substantially larger role in the animated prequel Van Helsing: The London Assignment. Gathering together elements from cult gothic horror stories, Van Helsing encounters also Dracula, Frankenstein and Dr.Moreau.

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde is often parodied in the Looney Tunes cartoons, such as "Dr. Jerkyll's Hide", "Hyde and Go Tweet", and "Hyde and Hare".

A R. L. Stine (called the Stephen King for children) book from the Ghoosebumps series, a young girl (named Heidi) moving to live with her reclusive uncle, only to discover he is the direct descendant of the original Dr Jekyll, and is carrying on his work.

In the movie The Pagemaster, starring Macaulay Culkin, Jekyll is shown transforming into Hyde and chases the kid and his friends in the world of literature.

No comments: