I have never seen the original Frankenstein movie, but I don’t think majority of the people today have also. Nonetheless, when one says “Frankenstein,” anyone can immediately draw a picture in their heads. There are also countless movies inspired by or have incorporated Frankenstein in their own way as it has become a house-hold name in the horror genre. The first time I saw “May,” I was immediately reminded of Frankenstein, however, the film makes its own tweaks and turns to the concept that make it original. There was no evil scientist, castle or Igor. The film also doesn’t focus on “Frankenstein” itself, but the creation of a contemporary Frankenstein. But, much like Victor Frankenstein’s motivation to create his monster, May was also blinded by her desire to do the unthinkable by any means necessary.
The movie was slowly-paced, but rightly so. For the first part of the film, we see May’s difficult childhood because of her lazy eye. With this, we are made to understand why she is the way she is in adulthood. The audience, understanding her backstory, tends to root for her through her awkward ways. Partly comedic and partly cringe-worthy, she engages in a short fling with the local mechanic, Adam. Interestingly, the name May comes from the Greek goddess of fertility, Maia. Adam, on the other hand, is Christianity’s first human. But, when May tries to engage in coitus with Adam, their short fling crashes and burns to the ground rather awkwardly. Eventually, Adam’s death is rooted due to this very reason. I do not intend to focus on this symbolism but it might be an interesting thing to note.
Going back to the discussion, we see May engage in both heterosexual and homosexual relationships, in her desperate attempt to be “looked at,” which in previous papers, I have stated equates to being desired. In a way, she is what Harry Benshoff describes as “queer” in his work “The Monster and the Homosexual.” Queer, as Benshoff describes, is something that not only deviates from the norm but directly “opposes the binary definitions and proscriptions of a patriarchal heterosexism.” In other words, queerness attempts to question the status quo, and in doing so, upsets the balance of society. We see her queerness, or in the words of Robin Wood, otherness early on in her life due to her lazy eye. She failed to make any form of social bond with anyone growing up, except for a few people that, unfortunately, only accepted her in their lives for a sexual relationship. And although Adam states that he “likes weird,” perhaps because he, himself, have weird traits (weird obsession with slasher, gore films), he eventually gives up on May suggesting that she is just “too weird” for him. In this particular scene, we see how society accepts queerness; from a safe distance, dramatized through fiction and literature. However, the moment one encounters it in real life, it is once again othered and oppressed by society.
After all the repeated rejection and continuous ostracizing by society, May ends up taking matters to her own hands; taking her mother’s advice “if you can’t find a friend, make one” to dangerously literal terms. Following Robin Wood’s framework, society’s constant othering had turned May into a monster. In relation to queerness, she figuratively castrates the patriarchal, heterosexual society through her knife, taking bits and pieces of what she finds as their most “perfect” body part. In this process of creating a friend to accept her, she does not only forcefully take (quite literally) other people’s parts, but gives a part of herself as well to finally bring to life the monster she has created. In Joan Hawkin’s reading about abjection, she mentions something of “metaphorical significance to the slashing of a woman’s eye,” although she does not clearly say what it is. In the very beginning of the movie, we see May with her hands covering her face covered in blood suggesting it was punctured. Later on, we see the very reason why she did this. After screaming frantically “See me!” which metaphorically stands for her desire to be desired, she ends up giving her own eye to Amy in a very graphic way to say the least. In my opinion, this bears a very significant meaning in two ways: first, when she gives her own eye to her friend “Amy” (an anagram of her name), the audience is shocked to see Amy, an abomination, come to life and wrap its arms around May. This scene suggests that after all her efforts of “making a friend” (pun intended), only she can truly “look at her,” and in turn, desire her. Second, the moment the camera assumes Amy’s perspective, we see Adam’s severed and stitched hand slowly creeping up towards May. This is quite meaningful as it follow’s Williams argument of how women exercising the active cinematic gaze are punished. Since Amy’s eyes are May’s as well, she is punished, and the audience as a viewer, by being made “to bear strong associations with the monster, who, like her, is defined by its difference from the masculine norm.”
All in all, I really liked the film. It’s low budget can be evident in some scenes, with the acting and special effects. Nonetheless, it did succeed in giving me the creeps, and I’m sure my friends will feel the same. I would recommend the film to my peers.