Frankenstein and Blade Runner

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A comparative study of Mary Shelley??™s Frankenstein and Ridley Scott??™s Blade Runner reveals the significance of context in a revisitation of common ideas within differing milieus. Both texts critique the notion of egotism and consequently challenge perceptions of what constitutes humanity; the relativity of such a notion is indicative and indeed shaped by the texts??™ social and political contexts. Shelley??™s Frankenstein serves as a cautionary tale in light of the Industrial Revolution, highlighting the dangers of humanity??™s ambition and ??“ albeit subconscious ??“ aspirations for divinity. Scott too examines this similar humanist predicament but in light of his late 20th Century context, namely the imminent prospect of biomechanical engineering within his projected postmodern dystopia. This commonality of purpose within the differing contexts demonstrates a revisitation of values, illustrative of the shifting process due to context.

Shelley demonstrates the implications of human egotism through the scientific exploitation of her protagonist, Victor Frankenstein. Frankenstein critiques Shelley??™s social context, specifically the dangers of the perceived uncapped technological progression evident in the Industrial Revolution. The nature of Shelley??™s cautionary tale becomes evident in the condemnation of Frankenstein, whose demise upon the ???birth??™ of his Creature acts as a cautionary undertone against the unbridled urge of the post-industrial scientist. Frankenstein??™s torment is highlighted in the murder of his innocent brother, ???betrayed to death and ignominy??? by the monster. Shelley??™s critique of the Enlightenment in its rationalising of science and opposition to the Edenic principles of Christian theology influences the characterisation of her protagonist; the subtitle of the novel ??“ The Modern Prometheus ??“ signifies the metaphysical dimension of Frankenstein??™s aspirations, replacing the natural ecology of creation with his own egotistic urge for divinity. Indeed, through Frankenstein??™s ???fervent longing to penetrate the secrets of nature??? and his Promethean attempts to create life, Shelley warns against the dangers of her Byronic hero??™s self-centred ambition and disproportionate self-empowerment.

As with the creation of the ???monster??? in Frankenstein, the creation of the replicants in Blade Runner elucidates the exploitation of science by some egotistic entity. Blade Runner??™s critique of society is similarly influenced by its context ??“ specifically, the rampancy of consumerism and rising prominence of technology. However, Scott??™s critique is directed towards the overall discourse of society, as the perceived egotism of the corporate sector, highlighted by the Tyrell Corporation, can be viewed as a reaction to this projected consumerism. Tyrell??™s creation of the ???more human than human??? replicants marks the film??™s defining irony; through this dependence on materialism, society has necessitated the production of these androids ??“ so human in nature ??“ to satisfy their material desires. Indeed, it is this very human nature of antagonist Roy Batty which facilitates the destruction of Eldon Tyrell ??“ his desire for prolonged life resulting in the death of the self deified corporate God. Similarly to Victor??™s downfall in Frankenstein, Tyrell??™s death symbolises Scott??™s denunciation of such materialistic commercial exploits, thus highlighting his critique of corporate egotism through his speculative Los Angeles of 2019.

Shelley??™s critique of human egotism through scientific aspiration prompts an ontological exploration into what indeed constitutes humanity. Demonstrating the exaltation of human intuition aroused by Shelley??™s Romantic influence, Frankenstein examines the relativity of humanity through the plight of the Creature, the ambiguity of this notion evident in his social exclusion. Though collectively abhorred the Creature??™s humanity is irrefutable; his encounter with the blind de Lacey provides his only opportunity of friendship, heightening his rejection on the grounds of appearance. Frankenstein??™s traditional Christian doctrine of original sin signifies the abandonment of his parental duties, insisting that the Creature is inherently evil because of his perceived inhumanness. This contrasts the Godwinian logic behind Shelley??™s characterisation of the Creature; declaring his own human virtue, the Creature asserts that ???misery made [him] a fiend.??? Through the Creature??™s personal voice, Shelley evokes empathy towards the Creature; the eloquence of his delivery further heightens the incongruence of his ostracism. In light of the scientific exploitation which brought about his being, the ambiguous end to the Creature??™s plight allows the audience to garner their own conceptions of the nature of humanity.

The humanity of the Creature in Frankenstein can be likened to the replicants realisation of their mortality in Blade Runner. The destructive fusion of science and capitalism prompts the creation of the replicant ???race???, revealing the postmodern scope of Scott??™s ambiguous portrayal of human identity. The recurring motif of eyes associated with Tyrell??™s appearances highlights the undercurrent of surveillance which pervades the industrial wasteland of Los Angeles. Indeed, the lack of humanity presented by Tyrell and even Deckard himself reflects the conflating, depersonalising effects of globalisation evident in Scott??™s dystopia. Seemingly devoid of any filial ties, they contrast the experiential Batty in his relationship with Pris, ???burning so brightly??? despite their limited lifespan. Scott appropriates the gothic notion of the ???doppelganger???, blurring the line of human distinction, the Batty-Deckard dichotomy revealing that it is society??™s pre-existing conceptions of humanity, rather than the replicants supposed lack of humanity, that result in the replicants??™ isolation. Indeed, by saving Deckard in the penultimate rooftop scene, Batty becomes perhaps the film??™s most humanitarian figure. Like the futile desires of Frankenstein??™s Creature, Batty??™s ominous death evokes sympathy in the audience, further challenging their perceptions of what constitutes humanity.

By examining the composer??™s critique of their respective societies in Frankenstein and Blade Runner it becomes evident that common philosophies can be revisited within differing contexts to reveal changing values. Values are inevitably influenced by a contextual shift, demonstrated in the commonality of the texts??™ critique of scientific egotism and consequent challenging of the boundaries of human distinction. The perpetual nature of these concerns is highlighted in how they are presented in differing contexts; Shelley in light of Romanticism and the Industrial Revolution, and Scott of globalisation and rampant consumerism.

How does a comparative study of Frankenstein and Blade Runner bring to the fore ideas about the nature of humanity In your response make detailed reference to your TWO prescribed texts.

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