Blade Runner vs Frankenstein – Context

December 24, 2016 Religion

The impacting context on a text when it is created is strongly influenced by societal values, as well as the form and the features of the text itself. Mary Shelleys Gothic novel ???Frankenstein???, published in 1818, and Ridley Scotts post-modernistic transformation, ???Blade Runner – The Directors Cut??? released in 1992, both contain similar themes and values, while reflecting very different contextual influences of the early 19th and late 20th Century.
Shelleys ???Frankenstein??? was primarily a moral critique of science and technological advancements, forewarning of the grim, unnatural world that could possibly become a reality. Victor Frankenstein, a young scientist has an obsessive desire to create life. He manages to do so, creating a ???monster??™ that he subsequently abandons on the premise of his appearance, ???more hideous than belongs to humanity??¦unearthly ugliness??? and refuses to take responsibility or blame for his actions. Victor is blind to the ethical and moral ramifications of the role he played within the Monsters life and his subsequent misery and suffering. In a time of great social and political change, Shelley saw the Industrial Revolution and the Age of Enlightenment suddenly shifting values of the time to more materialistic aspects, and away from community and compassionate views held by her. As a part of the Romantic Movement, Shelley was an avid follower of the significance of ???sublime??™ nature, the imagination and individuals??™ free-thought. This is clearly echoed throughout her text, ???Another storm enlightened??¦ with faint flashes??¦by degrees the calm and heavenly scene restored me???.
Scotts dystopic film ???Blade Runner???, graphically displays the chaotic world of Los Angeles in 2019, where nature and humanity are artificially created and simulated within a mechanised, hellish existence. The Tyrell Corporation are the leaders of genetic engineering, manufacturing Replicants, a second-class race of slaves whose purpose it is to colonize other planets due to the degradation of Earth. Deckard is a Blade Runner, hired to ???retire??™ Replicants found outside their stations. Roy Batty is the leader of a group of rebel Replicants, who escaped an off world colony and made it back to Earth to try and find the answer for more life, as a Replicants lifespan was only a mere four years. This created a foreboding symbolic reflection of great social and political flux during the 1980??™s. Consumerism and strongly capitalistic policies of ???greed is good??™ were privileged within the society at the time. This is represented by the scale of the Tyrell Corporation, a monolithic building overshadowing the insignificant humans below. It showcases how big business dominates the new world, which results in the semblance of humanity who are left on the streets. From the opening scene, the high angle camera shots show fiery pipes spewing flames and pollution into the sky, highlighting the catastrophic effects that scientific advancement has had on humanity.
The respective settings highlight the ideas and values of each text, ???Frankenstein??? encapsulating scenes of the beauty of nature, ???serene sky??¦verdant fields???, reflecting the Romantic ideals influencing Shelley at the time. While ???Blade Runner??? however, contains violent lightening, persistent rain and explosions of flames to further highlight the degradation of nature and how the same concerns about the world have evolved into a more stark and terrifying future.
Both texts contain warnings and predictions of the future of our society and our world if scientific endeavors and advancements are left unchecked, despite being influenced by very different contexts. The forms of each text also play a vital role in how the responder interprets the values represented and what effect the warnings have.
As a novel, ???Frankenstein??? is an example of the popularity of literary entertainment within the 19th Century, where intelligence and free-thinking were encouraged before the onset of technological advancement. Descriptive language is essential to setting a scene, and establishes a wide variety of interpretations. The epistolary narrative structure of Walton, Frankenstein and the Monster creates a more personal and emotional perspective, which heightens responder sympathy and empathy. The concentric narrative interdependency further involves the responder, positioning the perspective differently throughout each story. The film medium as mass entertainment became more popular to contemporary responders, with directorial intrusion positioning every detail as part of the mise-en-scene for a graphically driven world. The layered effect of the film signifies a deeper meaning to the text, as well as the surface action within the plot. Cinematic style is a major concern for the film medium, using technological innovations in ???Blade Runner??? to showcase visual proof of man??™s ability to mirror God and imitate the natural world, an important thematic concern within the text.
The theme of ???playing God??™ is one encapsulated within both texts, the concerns for each society reflected through the use of religious allegory, creating a strong tone of fear and impending doom for humanity. The leitmotif of the serpent reinforces the biblical allusions within ???Frankenstein???, establishing a strong connection to the Bible and the representation of Satan in the form of a snake, who coerces Adam and Eve to eat the Forbidden Apple, ???be a serpent to sting you??¦fangs of remorse tore at my bosom???, symbolizing Victor as the serpent, and therefore as Satan. His scientific experiments represent the temptation to imitate the God-like abilities of creation and for this he is subsequently punished. His arrogance and egotistical characterization to abandon his ???offspring??™, ???I beheld the wretch ??“ the miserable monster who I had created???, further distances his plight from the responders. After refusing to procure a companion for his ???son??™, the Monster??™s suffering and frustration at being the only one of his species becomes externalized, ???I will watch with the wilness of a snake that I may sting with its venom??¦ you shall repent for the injuries you inflict???, pushing him to murder Victor??™s younger brother, William and his new-wife, Elizabeth in retribution of his mistreatment.
Within ???Blade Runner???, Zhora, one of the escaped Replicants, is hiding out in a dreary night club, working as an exotic dancer. She holds a snake for her performance. The animal symbolism of Zhoras??™ snake and the parallels drawn to ???Frankenstein??? establish the positioning of the Replicants as immoral, dangerous creatures. The responder is disposed to see various Miltonic allusions of her as also embodying Satan. Throughout the remaining development of the characterization and plot, however, the perspective changes due to the empathetic feelings towards the Monster and the Replicants, ironic in a sense that both ???creations??™ are decidedly ???inferior??™ to humans, and yet showcase more human-aspects than humanity depicted in both texts, ???More human than human???. Depicted in the chase scene between Roy and Deckard, Roy??™s body is undergoing the first stages of death, when he pushes a large nail through his hand, ???Time??¦ to die???; an allusion to the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, and his last words before his death, ???It is finished???. This moment could be interpreted as Roy embodying Jesus and his virtues, becoming Christ-like and paralleling beliefs held about the Replicants at the beginning of the film. He then saves Deckard from death and sacrifices himself, further strengthening the sense of empathy within the responder for the Replicants??™ plight for life.
???Frankenstein??? and ???Blade Runner??? are both texts of the science fiction genre, using scientific technology and scientific jargon to create a sense of ???futuristic??™ fear, as privileged forces of reason and science prevail above religion and superstition. As part of ???Frankenstein??™s thematic concerns, human dignity was being sacrificed for mass production and maximum profit. As with ???Blade Runner???, greed and corporate abuse of power challenge human compassion and sense of community. The fear created was through the use of the generic form of Gothicism. Fear of the Monster was created through the Gothic convention of the indefinable. As the Monster had no name, no form, it represented something much more horrific by his appearance, ???Never did I behold a vision so horrible as his face, of such loathsome yet appalling hideousness???.
In contrast with ???Blade Runner???, the Replicants are superior in intelligence, strength and beauty to their human creators, ???You??™re so different ??“ You??™re so beautiful???. The fear of them is heightened ironically by this fact, as they encompass no weaknesses other than their life spans. This reflects the context at the time, which is still to this day obsessed with youth and image. The characterization of the Replicants positions the responder to feel empathy for and eventually relate to them, a sense of hopeful fear is established in their presence and it is suggested that they are the ???future??™ of humanity.
???Blade Runner??? is shaped by a different genre, that of film noir and the use of post-modernistic elements, used within the characterization of Deckard and the Replicants. The generic forms impacting on the film are paradoxical to the structures and forms of the Gothic and Romantic genres shaping ???Frankenstein???. Deckard is a stereotypical cynic, a toughened and often arrogant detective, ???How can it not know what it is??? encompassing the flawed anti-hero character of film noir. Juxtaposing Deckard??™s powerlessness within humanity is Tyrell, the genetic creator of the Replicants. He lacks any reverence of compassion, ???Rachel is an experiment ??“ nothing more???, further showcasing his indifference and unfeeling monstrosity. He also remains blind to the ethical ramifications of his creations, mirroring Victor within ???Frankenstein???. In the scene of his death, the responders are positioned to feel empathetic towards Roy and not Tyrell, through Roy??™s emotional deliverance of ???I want more life???, heightening the awareness of Tyrell??™s death as an act of moral retribution. Similarly in ???Frankenstein???, William and Elizabeth??™s deaths at the Monster hands act almost as the restoration of justice and retribution against Victor??™s lack of parental responsibility for his ???offspring??™. There is a lack of character development within both texts, which heightens the sense of social degradation as a major theme and concern reflected by the values and influences of the times in which they were composed.
Although 160 years separate the publication of Mary Shelley??™s novel ???Frankenstein??? and Ridley Scott??™s film ???Blade Runner???, many of the themes and values encapsulated within both texts are similar, reflecting societal fears impacting on the differing contexts of the time against the advancement of science and technology to the point of the degradation of nature and humanity.


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