Plastic Gothic: Frankenstein, Art and the Microplastic Monster

Robyn Glade-Wright


The contamination of life with plastic pollution and humanity’s lethargic response to the problem is an unfolding terror: a story of Gothic horror unfolding in contemporary times. The power of Mary Shelley’s Gothic novel Frankenstein looms over the current terror of plastic pollution to encourage changes to the materials we create, use and discard. In Frankenstein, a monster was spawned in a process that desecrates the act of creating new life. Similarly, in my work of art Microplastics Found in Human Embryo, the depiction of an embryo is desecrated by plastic contamination. Frankenstein was unable to control his monster, and, denied empathy and love, the monster killed Frankenstein’s loved ones and haunted its creator’s soul. As microplastics are largely unseen, and increasing exponentially, they are becoming a modern monster. Microplastics can cross the placenta and the blood brain barrier, endangering the life and health of our children, potentially robbing us of progeny, and the future of humankind. Over the past two hundred years, Frankenstein has functioned as a shadowy mnemonic tale, haunting scientists and technologists by reminding them to consider the impacts of their creations. Shelley’s message, if applied to the current dangers of the “Age of Plastic”, might help us to clean up plastic pollution and embrace sustainable materials. In this spirit, Microplastics Found in Human Embryo reveals a monstrous idea, which aims to help awaken us from complacency and convince humanity to form a relationship which sustains all forms of life on Earth.

Keywords: Plastic, Pollution, Environment, Art, Frankenstein, Horror, Monster, Gothic

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