Monday, February 7, 2011

A Costumery Etymonday

Before we begin, an aside: I have determined (based solely on my rigorously anecdotal evidence) that Proust, his novel I mean, is lengthy and absorbing enough for one to become addicted to it--but if that happened to me--and I'm not saying it did--would that be a bad thing? Speaking of addiction, I brought you here today to talk about what I only too late realize is a TV trope: the mad scientist. We were watching The Magnetic Telescope episode of the Fleischer Superman series (1942) wherein the villain is this cat: And The Lady posed a great question: See how he's dressed? That's how Mad Scientists dress, of course, like chefs without the floofy hat--just look at Dr. Horrible. (source) But why do they dress that way, and how long have they been doing it? TV Tropes mentions Dr. Frankenstein and Rotwang as early representative of the type. Rotwang is from Fritz Lang's Metropolis, a thing well in the region of my ignorance, but look at this photo gallery here, he dosn't seem to wear the now-traditional costume, but he's not far off: So Rotwang is 1927. Dr. Frankenstein is of course much earlier, in 1818, still pretty much the 18th century so there's no way he was described as dressing that way--but Frankenstein, apart from the monster's Universal Monster ubiquity, is well in the well of my ignorance as well. And only now I make the connection that wizards are the medieval version of Mad Scientists, and Mad Scientists are the electrical age version of wizards. Anyone have a page citation for the R.E. Howard story where a sorcerer refers to what he does as science? Can anyone antedate the white-coated Mad Scientist costume from 1942 (the date of the above Fleischer Superman)?