In Blade Runner, relationship between Frankenstein and the monster is paralleled though Tyrell and Batty. The investigation into identity comes as a result of the relationship between Deckard and the Nexus 6s in which similarly challenges us to consider what it means to be human. Both texts explore the potential of man’s desire for progress to disrupt the natural order, and challenge our traditional conception of identity. Frankenstein reveals how the protagonists act is in opposition with nature and the natural, while Blade Runner depicts a dystopic world where technology has overridden nature, leading to a world where identity is a mix of cultures and creations that are overcrowded and are defined by isolation. Although the texts stem from wide ranging contexts, the parallels between them allow us to explore the development, and changing interpretations of disruption and identity.
The comparative study of Mary Shelley’s romantic gothic novel, Frankenstein (1818) and Ridley Scott’s futuristic hybrid film, Blade Runner: Director’s Cut (1991), both significantly demonstrate the personal struggles experienced by individuals due to the loss of nature and humanity as a result of technological advancement. Mary Shelly explores how Victor Frankenstein’s desire to pursue knowledge and power without personal responsibility leads to both the Creature’s and his own struggles in life. Likewise, Ridley Scott show how Tyrell’s unethical actions of creating replicants and a lack of parental responsibility for them result in their personal struggles in a disintegrating society in the near future. In Frankenstein, Victor Frankenstein’s unethical enquiries into the source of life and the attempt to usurp the role of God cause the Creature to experience various struggles in life. Shelley’s use of Galvanism and Genesis, with the support of biblical allusion to criticise humanity’s disregard for nature during the Industrial Revolution in the 19th century is used to exemplify the detrimental consequences of science on individuals.
Although contextual principles and ideologies evolve consistently alongside society, perpetual values regarding humanity and its profound interest in scientific progress continue to resonate over time. The didactical texts, Mary Shelley’s, ‘Frankenstein’, and Ridley Scott’s 1991 film, ‘Blade Runner-Director’s Cut,’ critique society’ definition of humanity and its values. When analysed in cohesion, the influences pertaining to the Romantic and Post-modernist contexts challenge the responder to question the ethical and moral concerns of its era. These include the violent, implacable and hubristic behaviour engrained within human beings, thus demonstrating the similarity between their respective contexts and textual mediums. Consequently, the nature of humanity and scientific progress are reflected through literary and filmic techniques, addressing the exploitation of mankind’s progress and ultimately questioning what it means to be human.
An analytical interpretation of the texts, accounting for their differing contexts, divulges the composers’ endeavour to challenge the adequacy of contemporary societal values, primarily the idea of responsibility, and to forewarn us of the penalties of defying the natural order and distorting the limitations of man. It is not ‘surprising’ that man has continued to play god throughout the ages, but struggles to atone fateful actions. In the selected extract from Frankenstein, page 280, Mary Shelly empowers the monster by providing him with a bitterly reflective voice, lamenting the injustice that has developed throughout the novel leading to this heightened point. As the monster devours Walton’s ears with tales of his desolation and destitution he has agonized as an abnormal creation, the key issue of human responsibility to their scientific creations is conveyed. This reveals aspects of Shelly’s contextual background at the time of composition.
It was this impatience which led him to be hasty in building the creature. “The minuteness of the parts formed a great hindrance to my speed, I resolved…to make the being of gigantic stature…” Yet when the creature first ‘awakes’ Frankenstein is horrified by the creature he himself has created. “…breathless horror and disgust filled my heart”. Yet it was Frankenstein who chose the creatures features, who decided to make him gigantic in stature but he is disgusted by what he has created and seems to blame the creature for its appearance. This is an example of Frankenstein lacking ‘clear sight’.
To what extent does the time in which the composers live influence their response to enduring human emotion? Our morality shapes us and forces us to explore new avenues, but our crude desire to unravel and expose the mysteries of life will drive and reveal a future void of moral and ethical compassion. It is this fatal warning which Mary Shelley and Ridley Scott seek to convey in their retrospective texts, Frankenstein and Blade Runner. Drawing upon their personal contextual concerns, both composers uniquely inform an ambitious humanity of that the implications of the ruthless pursuit of knowledge and our innate craving to penetrate the secrets of nature will inevitably drive humanity towards a dystopian future. Shaped by their distinctly different contexts, Shelley and Scott strive to convey this notion, through bold cinematic and literary techniques, characterisation and themes, of the fatal path humanity has placed itself on.
As a romantic novel, Frankenstein responds to the encroachment of rationalism and the Age of Enlightenment, specifically the unknown repercussions of man’s hubristic pursuit of knowledge. Shelley’s apprehension to science, influenced by the late 18th century industrial revolution and galvanism, is encapsulated by Frankenstein as he ‘infuse[s] a spark of being,’ forming a creature that ultimately destroys him. This is an intertextual reference to the subtitle of the novel, “The Modern Prometheus”, evoking the Greek myth of man’s desire to become god and paralleling the disastrous consequences stemming from ambition. Additionally, the epistolary structure of Walton’s letters acts as a framing device to Frankenstein’s destruction, foreshadowing the result of his own journey. Shelley utilizes Walton as a foil to Frankenstein drawing comparison
Shelley questions the eighteenth-century scientific rationalists' optimism about, and trust in, knowledge as a pure good. Blade Runner, however, has a strong environmental purpose, people during the sixties and seventies began to recognise the potential of human disaster through advancements in technology. Rather than resilient, nature was fragile and vulnerable when rhythm of nature was destroyed by the ever advancing and destructive technology. If ecosystems are repeatedly defeated human life will likely be extinguished. The bleak vision portrayed illustrates a chaotic nuclear holocaust, ecological fragility through soil depletion and acid rain.
SCIENCE AS GOD The film’s religious imagery foregrounds the Promethean dangers of man playing God. The synthetic replacement of what is natural has morally compromised and tainted humanity. Scientific progress has violated human existence, resulting in mass dehumanisation and desensitisation. Freedom has been replaced by subservience; mankind reduced to a commercial commodity whose main purpose is to produce and consume advertised goods. Society is barren, family life and personal relationships replaced by stultifying uniformity and oppression.
Her warning of the dangers of such actions is encapsulated within Victor’s concerning words of “how dangerous is the acquirement of knowledge”, whilst Shelley’s use of a fragmented epistolatory narrative adds a disturbing sense of truth and realism, foreshadowing the dark consequences of Frankenstein’s actions. Shelley’s warning is evident throughout the novel which ultimately reflects her context through the concern of scientists within her era exploiting the advancements in science. It also reinforces the dangers of our humanity’s inherent yearning to play the role of the Creator. Such a warning also exists within Scott’s “Blade Runner” where the director echoes the rise of capitalist principles through the symbolic dominance of Tyrell’s towering dwelling, a reflection of both his desire for omnipotence and commercial power. Scott’s warning of the dangers of