Comparison of Blade Runner and Frankenstein
When looking at two or more forms of narratives we need to establish the similarities and differences in a number of areas. All literature has much in common, yet it may differ in outward forms depending on when it was written and the text type or genre used to create meaning.
While Blade Runner is a collaborative work of the twentieth century using technological mediums, Frankenstein is a more traditional novel written as part of a competition to see who could create the most Gothic (horror) story using language. The two are separated by two hundred years and yet share many of the same concerns.
Areas of comparison include:
Context and Background – How do Historical and biographical situations influence the text.
Style: how the composer shapes the text or expresses their message.
Theme, values, issues or concerns that may have relevance to us or have universal implications.
Techniques; these will vary according to text types and the author’s style.
Language or linguistic features; how the meaning is conveyed.
Evaluation: We are all, especially examiners interested in your opinions; how you related and responded to the text. It is important to be honest and yet to support all your assertions and judgments with supporting evidence.
Comparison of Blade Runner and Frankenstein
Blade Runner1 is a Ridley Scott adaptation of the Philip K. Dick novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?
As a dystopia (dark future) it uses the glazed cinematic techniques of film noir that tends to distance us from the characters and actions.
More @ Cinematic Techniques:
This is a Gothic Novel.
Mary claims the inspiration for her story came from a vision she had during a dream. Her story was the only one completed and has become one of the most famous Gothic novels of all time.
Mary Shelley uses the narrative device of a Ship’s Captain retelling a tale through epistemology (letters to his sister) he has heard from an obsessed distraught Scientist he has rescued from an ice floe in the remote Arctic Ocean.
Blade Runner has a strong environmental focus. It was only after the publication of Rachel Carson’s (An American writer and scientist) Silent Spring, (1961) that people began to recognise the potential of human disaster through the vandalism perpetrated by improved technology.
Rather than resilient, nature was fragile and vulnerable when fundamental natural rhythms were ceaselessly destroyed by ruthless exploitation by ever increasing mammoth technology. If Ecosystems are repeatedly defeated, human life will be diminished and likely extinguished.
The bleak vision portrayed illustrates a chaotic nuclear holocaust, ecological fragility through soil depletion and acid rain.
In BR. man has not only subdued the earth but conquered and utterly defeated it.
As a Canadian Indian Chief queried; “When we kill the last fish, what will we eat – money?
The sixties and seventies were times of great social, cultural and historical changes with changes in attitudes in s*xual relations, racial integration and political upheaval.
As Europe moved away from a world dominated by superstition and religious faith to one of empirical scientific research and logical deductive reasoning, the Romantics helped to retain some of the personal and emotional compassion that makes us fully human.
The swing towards a more humanistic attitude towards fellow mankind and the reverence for the natural over the man made is clearly depicted in Frankenstein. Shelley questions the eighteenth-century scientific rationalists' optimism about, and trust in, knowledge as a pure good. While the Philosophers believed in the perfectibility of man through reason, the Romantics put their faith in the ‘immortal spirit’ of the individual’s emotions.
The Romantics maintained suspicions about the dark inscrutable workmanship of the Scientific and empirical attempts to improve on nature.
Learn from me, if not by my precepts, at least by my example, how dangerous is the acquirement of knowledge, and how much happier that man is who believes his native town to be the world, than he who aspires to become greater than his nature will allow. (101)
Science and Humanity:
Both artefacts have a serious moral message, about the dangers of trying to play God, and about the potentially destructive results that can occur when a creation becomes more powerful than its creator.
Blade Runner depicts an industrialised society where Technology is supreme. The climate – appears a nuclear winter poisoned by fall-out- dark, dank, with constant acid rain. The City is full of human misery – crowded, homeless, so anyone with good health has moved off earth.
Technology, from fire(over cold& dark) , the wheel(over gravity and distance), flight and genetic engineering all contribute to moving away from the natural rhythms of life and from what it means to be a human being.
- Don McLean: “developments in technology and communications are not liberating but controlling, “I always wanted to be free.”
The Dehumanising effects of technology:
· Loss of power – fulfilment
· Isolation from others
· Loss of empathy - Increasing disconnection or alienation from society
· Loss of people skills -
This is a cautionary tale warning about the threat to a diminished humanity posed by Science. Both Walton, the narrator and Frankenstein are challenging the frontiers of human knowledge and will suffer for it. Shelley parallels Walton's spatial explorations and Frankenstein's forays into unknown knowledge, as both men seek to “pioneer a new way,” to make progress beyond established limits. Science and too much rational learning can diminish our humanity. We should value our natural sensual humanity and reject the scientific notion that rational thought will lead us to a more humane society. If not, our humanity will become diminished.
In both texts, humans lose control over their man made creations.
What makes us Human:
Humanity has been diminished as there is little evidence of community displayed by human characters in contrast to the replicants who appear to have genuine companionship, compassion, empathy, morality and courtesy.
As Tyrell’s motto: “ more human than the humans”
The lack of Civility is another major concern.
Bryant has a confrontationalist manner of speaking. First he tries to be slimily ingratiating to Deckard but when this doesn’t work he resorts to abusive threats and bullying to get Deckard to come out of retirement.
The human characters snap at each other indicating the lack of respect they have for each other due to the break down in human relationships, whereas the replicants speak much more politely and courteously to each other demonstrating the regard they have for each other and a caring empathy lacking in the humans.
There isn't much dignity left today, a point beautifully made in an essay by David Brooks in The New York Times. The "dignity code", as Brooks calls it, has been "completely obliterated" by the pressures of modern life.
Frankenstein is a gothic horror novel that explores what makes us human. What are the attributes of a human being and how do we become integrated into society. Are we born with human nature or are we conditioned and constructed to value each other. The old nature/nurture argument. When his creation turns against him, who is at fault; the creature or the society that rejects him? We know from a study of social customs that many people who feel rejected by society often turn into mass killers. Repeated negative experiences of social outcasts can lead to anti-social behaviour and the best way to socialise people is to include and value them as fellow human beings.
There are many examples of people who areAltruistic – caring - kind to each other throughout the novel including the Monster’s many initial acts of kindness; cutting wood for Felix’s family, saving a young girl from drowning - all not appreciated. Shelley is obviously contrasting mankind’s ability for civility and amity with its capacity for callous barbarity.
- The rise of Cybernetics (use of implants to make robots or cyborgs – humans with computer chip grafts , implants or biological brains) is a growing field of technical development and increases the threat of Artificial Intelligence taking control over humans as portrayed in Space Odyssey, Terminator or The Matrix.
Computers double their capacity every 18 months and they could acquire a billion times more intelligence than the human brain. It is possible this Artificial Intelligence could develop into a malign force and eliminate all humans from the face of the earth.
Alternatively by merging with the technology we create, we become more like it and we could become less human and more mechanical in our outlook.
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Frankenstein and Bladerunner Comparative EssayGet Your
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English Assessment Task Comparative Study – Texts in Time Term 2 Week 8 By Jesse Rand Whilst Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner are products of their own context, and reflect the values of their time, they are by no means confined by this. Rather, the themes and concerns of these texts raise issues which have more universal significance.
Although written in different times, Frankenstein by Mary Shelley and Bladerunner by Ridley Scott both address similar concerns about the threat to the natural world due to unchecked technological advancement towards the natural world as man exerts power to alter the natural rhythms of life, exploring human nature and humanity, and the usurping of God in attempting to create new life. Shelley and Scott projected into the future what they saw to be trends in their own times that threatened the balance between humanity and the natural world.
Their imagined worlds echo a warning, concerning unchecked technological advancement and ring of an inevitability if man’s power to alter the nature of the world is not controlled. The role of nature and the natural in these worlds is depicted in many similar ways with the fundamental values of the composers overlapping. The texts suggest that those in favour of technological advancement would ultimately come to regret their actions. Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (published in 1818) develops concepts sparked by Romantic thinking and from a rejection of Enlightenment thinking.
Romantics such as Shelley valued the place of nature in the world and the imperative need to preserve it. Not only did Shelley value the physicality of nature, but she also valued the personal qualities of compassion, emotion, and acceptance pertaining to human nature. Shelley explores the effect of actions that reject humanity, and challenges her audience to question what defines us as human or what takes away from humanity. With the somewhat frightening discovery of alvanism on the forefront of science at the time, there is an emphasis on the dangers of continued scientific development and its possible dehumanising effects. Shelley tells a gothic/horror cautionary didactic tale, warning Enlightenment philosophers in particular. Similarly, context significantly influenced the values that Scott presents in Bladerunner – Director’s Cut. The emerging theory of global warming, as well as the natural disaster of an oil spill at the time were the predominant factors leading to his concerns regarding technological advancement, and the consequences for nature – both human and environmental.
Although many of the values displayed in Frankenstein are similar to those in Bladerunner, Scott encapsulates a new response to them – more relevant to his contemporary personal context. The industrialised society of the 1980s saw an urgency to preserve nature. It is constantly dark in the film and Scott challenges us to think of how ‘enlightened’ we actually are. Both composers explore the effects of pushing past natural limitations and moral values surrounding the notion that, “just because we can, doesn’t mean we should. Nature has been all but extinguished in the post-apocalyptic landscape of Los Angeles in 2019. Chiaroscuro lighting and high angle shots show a global underclass composed of a melange of cultures. Asian ‘mega-economies’, globalisation and the environment found in the 80’s is a contextually mirrored by the constant darkness and the landscape that is permanently damaged by industry. Shelley, through the murders of William, Justine, Clerval, Elizabeth and Victor’s father, portrays how scientific advancements would affect nature and its supporters.
This can be reinforced by Shelley’s placement of these characters, in his hometown of Geneva where they are surrounded in nature and beautiful landscapes. The fact that the monster came to Victor’s hometown and caused harm, suggests that unchecked scientific experiments destroy nature. The concept consistently resurfaces throughout Shelley and Scott’s works, that devaluing nature, devalues humanity. Frankenstein and Blade Runner explore elements of the human nature in a way that attempts to identify characteristics that would be considered uniquely and universally human.
These characteristics that should enable us to identify the differences between the metaphysical and the natural are blurred within the two texts, reflecting the composers’ fears of the loss of humanity. Shelley and Scott strongly advocate the notion that there are inherent dangers to the human nature in an environment in which the advance of science and technology goes unchecked. Shelley’s novel serves as a clear warning against lack of restraint and sense of responsibility which men display in their temptations in search of knowledge, curiosity and glory.
This may be reflected by her own personal context in which her husband Percy Shelley was often absent due to his work. In terms of Frankenstein, it is the monster that is portrayed as the one possessing the characteristics of being human instead of his creator, Victor Frankenstein. Frankenstein denies his humanity in order to pursue his unscrupulous ambitions in creating life, destroying the distinction between man and ‘God’. “Whence, I often asked myself, did the principle of life proceed? ” In Blade Runner, the Replicants are described as “more human than human. This attempted model of a ‘perfect man’ who is superior in every way to existing humans dramatically and disastrously backfires on society when the Replicants seek retribution in their quest for humanity. “I want more life…,” Roy Batty implores Tyrell during their meeting. The Replicants, although not emotional beings, are becoming advanced enough to question their own purpose of life. This starkly juxtaposes the ‘real’ humans around Batty who lack any moral conviction or sympathy for the Replicants’ situation. Blade Runner expresses the nature of what true humanity is and how it exists within an artificial world.
The opening montage of flames and smoke rising from the towers of industry, a monolithic ziggurat structure in the background, and an eye, is central to the film. This mis-en-scene supported by dark electronic/artificial music depicts this era of sacrificing humanity for industry. Both texts contain a very intelligent creator who seems unaware of the forces that they are dealing with. They are both fascinated with human life and wish to create it themselves. Victor Frankenstein states, “One of the phenomena which had peculiarly attracted my attention was the structure of the human frame, and, indeed, any animal imbued with life.
Whence, I often asked myself did the principle of life proceed? “(pg. 51) Both creators share a fascination with where life proceeds from. Is it merely intellect? Or, as in the case of Bladerunner, are emotions the defining element of human life? Both creators are expressly interested in creating a life form equal to humans, and Tyrell even wishes to create a life form superior to man using the exploitation of the genetic technology of the time. The overarching idea of usurping the role of God is common in both Frankenstein and Bladerunner. Both authors are affected by their different values, creating differing perspectives.
Both Frankenstein and Tyrell “became capable of bestowing animation upon lifeless matter,” however in doing so they transcend the boundaries of nature and their overreaching ambition is punished. There are also parallels between the Monster and Batty as both are the creation of unchecked scientific endeavours, raising the same philosophical, moral, and ethical concerns. Frankenstein is described by Shelley as ‘The Modern Prometheus’: an allusion to the ancient Greek Titan who stole fire from Zeus to create humans, in overstepping these boundaries he was eternally punished.
Like Prometheus, Frankenstein represents one who has challenged the natural order, he is driven by “a fervent longing to penetrate the secrets of nature,” and must be punished for this transgression on forbidden boundaries. Frankenstein’s obsessive personality is synonymous with the excess of the Industrial Revolution and the period of Enlightenment which saw the forces of science supersede that of religion and superstition. Shelley’s Romantic context, with the value it placed on religion and the sublime, limited the ways in which Frankenstein could usurp God.
Whilst he created the Monster, he does not possess ‘god-like’ qualities and he expresses regret for aspiring to become “greater than his nature will allow. ” Contrasting Frankenstein, Tyrell feels no guilt for the creation of the replicants they are merely “experiments”. This reflects Scott’s post-modern influence and the little value it placed on religion. Scott shows no reverence for a God and the Post-modern context suggests that every human has a god-like affinity within. This power, as displayed in Blade Runner, can be a highly destructive force.
Tyrell’s opulence and god-like power is symbolised through the Mayan Style pyramid. Moreover, his reference to “the prodigal son” further serves to draw links between himself and God. However, whilst Tyrell had god-like power, he was myopic and weak – displaying Scott’s overall negativity towards overreaching ambition and usurping God. In both Frankenstein and Blade Runner, unchecked ambition are punished. Both Frankenstein and Tyrell are killed as punishment for transgressing the natural boundaries, displaying the overall negative results of usurping God’s role as Creator.
However, the separate contexts mean that differing perspectives on the topic of religion are apparent: Shelley as a Romantic reveres the notion of a single, sublime God; whereas Scott with a postmodern influence treats the subject of religion with more ambiguity. Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and Ridley Scott’s Bladerunner are clearly products of their own time. Yet the themes contained within these texts hold a more universal significance. Although written over 150 years apart both texts address many similar issues which displays their timeless and universal nature.
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The major concerns raised include the threat to the natural world due to commercialism and irresponsible use of advancing technology, exploring the essence of life and humanity, and the usurping and mocking of God as Creator by attempting to simulate life. Shelley and Scott incorporated their own concerns of what the future could hold regarding the balance between the natural world and humanity. Their works can be heeded as a warning toward the consequences of unchecked and immoral developments in the fields of science. #
Author: Dave Villacorta
Frankenstein and Bladerunner Comparative Essay
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