Netflix’s popular science fiction series The Umbrella Academy raises new questions about how the familiar trope of the ape-man has been adapted for a contemporary audience. Tracing the figure of the ape-man through representative works of nineteenth-century science fiction—Jules Verne’s The Mysterious Island, Robert Louis Stevenson’s Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, H. G. Wells’s The Island of Dr Moreau, and Edgar Rice Burroughs’s Tarzan of the Apes—shows that the character has often been used to interrogate ideas of race, gender, and power across the Victorian age. More than just a stand-in for nineteenth-century evolutionary debates, the figure of the ape-man reflects cultural ideas about the relationship between humans and their “animal instincts,” constantly questioning what sets humans apart in the hierarchy of animals.

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