Texts composed from specific contexts provide insights into new paradigms corresponding to their historical, social and economic framework and as a result, composers incorporate and mould ideas within texts as a reflection of context. The capacity of thematic concerns to transcend time are manifested within Mary Shelley’s 19th century gothic novel ‘Frankenstein’ (1818) and Ridley Scott’s dystopian science fiction film ‘Blade Runner’ (1992) as both pose markedly similar existentialist discourses regarding the fate of humanity.
Through ‘Frankenstein’, Shelley’s romantic approach condemns humanity’s intrusive assumption as creator during an era where scientific hubris prompted people to abandon the metaphysical aspects of life, whereas Ridley Scott composes ‘Blade Runner’ during the modern zeitgeist of consumerism and materialism as expressed by the contemporary mantra of ‘greed is good’. Both texts resonate towards modern responders beyond their context through the analogous moral and ethical boundaries, along with the core concept of what makes one human, procuring both universal issues and insights into the fundamentals of human behaviour.
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Composed during the industrial revolution and a time of scientific experimentation, Shelley typifies Romanticism within Frankenstein, foreboding her enlightened society of playing God. Shelley composes Frankenstein as a gothic horror novel, illuminating the consequences of scientific misuse, further reinforced by the genre’s reflection of society’s notion that anything was possible, a concept emitted from the emerging industrial revolution and scientific advancements.
Manifested within the intertextual allusion in its alternative name, “The Modern Prometheus”, is Victor Frankenstein’s act of overstepping man’s natural boundaries, as the hubris of his pseudo god status results in the morally flawed galvanism and reanimation of the dead. Frankenstein’s unmitigated pursuit of knowledge in his search for the “elixir of life” poses as an ethical concern, reflective of Shelley’s ‘warning’ towards society, and this results in the isolation of Victor – “I shunned my fellow creatures as if I had been guilty of a crime. – thus Frankenstein recognises the repugnancy of his actions. This is epitomised within Frankenstein’s creation of the creature, where Shelley employs first person narration, allowing responders to gain a sense of the emotions experienced during the scientific progress – “Engaged heart and soul, in the pursuit of some discoveries which I hoped to make … conceive the enticements of science. ” A foreshadowing tone is also laced within Victor’s recount of the creation, suggestive of a dire aftermath – “thus ended a day memorable to me: it decided my future. Analogously, Blade Runner explores the development of technology as opposed to science in Frankenstein, illustrating the ability of core concepts to evolve through time and context. Set in a dystopian future in LA 2019, Scott explores the contextual concerns of the Reagan era during the 1980s where consumerism and environmental disregard were expanding concerns. The unmitigated technological progress and environmental destruction is highlighted within Blade Runner’s opening montage, through extreme long shots during a mise en scene encompassing flaming towers within a dark background, suggestive of a hellish environment.
The use of synthesised non-diegetic music along with film noir further reinforces the notion of an artificial environment, devoid of nature, signifying a loss of humanity – “Tortoise, what’s that? “. This dystopian future is a portrayal of the world which Shelley warned humanity of. Similar to Shelley, Scott materialises the usurpation of God and unmitigated technological exploitation through Tyrell, a commercially driven scientist and creator of Replicants, synthetic human beings.
Likewise to Frankenstein, Tyrell embodies the character of pseudo god status, attempting to overstep humanity’s boundaries, labelled “the god of biomechanics”. The moral issue of unchecked technological advancement is also evidenced within multiple panning shots of Asian iconography and multinational corporations such as Tyrell’s ziggurat, evocative of a commercialised context – “Commerce is our goal here at Tyrell. ” An evolving context is exemplified through a comparison between Frankenstein and Blade Runner as differing issues between texts becomes apparent.
In addition, both texts examine the significance of what it means to be human and its relevance to each respective context. In Frankenstein, Shelley juxtaposes Frankenstein to the creature in an attempt to highlight the integral qualities of the human condition. Initially, profound ambition takes over Frankenstein as Shelley prefigures his exclusion from companionship and natural world, shown in his emaciated depiction through bleached imagery – “so thin and pale”. However, despite Frankenstein’s preoccupation in science, the motif of ature as a regenerative force allows him to return to the sublime natural world and evoke his spiritual renewal, depicted through pathetic fallacy – “the flowers of spring bloomed into the hedges”, whilst drawing a literary allusion to Wordsworth’s ‘Tintern Abbey’. The epistolary tale allows responders to experience what the creature is feeling as opposed to Frankenstein’s emotions as the creature is exposed to the harsh nature of society and becomes a product of the cruel world.
Juxtaposed to Frankenstein however, the creature presents more human qualities than Frankenstein as the creature yearns for companionship, epitomised within the creature’s envy towards the De Lacy family, a symbol of family, companionship and basic human qualities, as the creature states “I admired virtue and good feelings and loved the gentle manners and amiable qualities of my cottagers. ” The creature elicits sympathy as it causes the reader to evoke pathos with his existential confusion, blurring the distinction between creator and creation.
Comparatively, humanity in Blade Runner is seen to be emotionally disconnected and stifled through the absence of intimate relationships, exemplifying the modern context of technological advancement. In Blade Runner, Humans are characterised with physical disabilities such as Sebastian’s Methuselah Syndrome, metonymic of humanity’s alienation and inability to relate to others – “I live here pretty much alone. ” Similarly to Frankenstein, the replicants are juxtaposed as they are characterised as firmly attached to one another, sharing intimate bonds.
Scott ironically presents the replicants as “more human than human”, propelling responders to question the notion of what makes us truly human. Comparable to the creature in Frankenstein, the replicants display human traits including their tenacity to live and their capacity for companionship; all of which are absent in the human characters in Blade Runner. This is epitomised with a slow motion low angle shot of Zhora, a replicant’s, “retirement” or death, exaggerating her persistence to live on, highlighting a heightened sense of humanity, revealing that she is not merely a “skin job”.
Thus the qualities of the human condition are exemplified in the exploration of humanity within “Frankenstein” and “Blade Runner”. Through the intrinsic links between the textual and contextual concerns, it is evident through the societal paradigms established in both texts that composers reshape and implement ideas within differing mediums of text in order to connect to an ever evolving context. These timeless texts possess the capacity to transcend time and context as common values remain universal and unaltered, allowing responders to relate to each text’s exploration of specific thematic concerns.