The major Universal monster movies were released between 1923 and 1960, the time of the Great Depression, the Second World War, and the Cold Wars. These movies gave America a sense of escapism during tumultuous times, but also showed a representation of the American mindset. Additionally, modern-day viewers can look back on these films and describe them from modern sustainability viewpoints.
Beginning with the movie Dracula in 1931, monster movies captivated the American public. Dracula, a vampire, preys on human victims by sucking their blood for nourishment. This could be seen as a sustainability effort to deal with overpopulation. From 1930 to 2010, the population has grown by about five billion, according to some estimates. By feeding on people, Dracula could have curbed the population explosion.
Dracula also chose to prey on humans, an arguably more sustainable food source than our current industrialized agriculture systems of today. Amounts of people are plentiful and are raised humanely if you choose from upper and middle class spheres. As Jonathan Swift would agree, maybe Dracula was a sustainable monster.
The following year, Universal released The Mummy – a film about a priest brought back from the afterlife due to an Egyptian curse. The traditional mummification process uses palm wine and oils – more sustainable options than heavy chemicals that are used in preserving bodies for wakes and funerals today. The mummy became who he was due to magic and anti-toxic embalming methods, a sustainable choice.
The Invisible Man, released in 1933, is the story of a scientist who has discovered invisibility through a plant-derived drug called “monocane.” His scientific studies can be compared to bioengineering and humanity’s obsession with control over nature. His work extracts and manipulates chemicals from a common plant to create a drug that brings invisibility and eventual insanity. His work is not sustainable, in the fact that he is creating hazardous chemicals – impacting human health, a part of our environment.
Through four major Universal monsters, sustainability efforts are not the forethought, but an effect of each monster’s actions. While all monsters had primary goals of killing humans, the Invisible Man, the Mummy, Frankenstein and Dracula each had environmental benefits and detriments, they still affected their worlds – even only on the silver screen.