Analyse how Frankenstein and Blade Runner imaginatively portray individuals who challenge the established values of their times.
Subjected by different contexts, authors use popular mediums to reflect their discontent with those who challenge society and the world around them. The epistolary novella, Frankenstein (F, 1818) by Mary Shelley deals with the fear of natural philosophy in the 19th century and its effect on traditions/society. Similarly, Blade Runner, The Director’s Cut (BR, 1992) directed by Ridley Scott is about a dystopic world that reflects the globalization and consumerism of the 1980s. The issues of irresponsible use of technology and the abuse of humanity are the concerns contended by authors to their contemporary audience.
Shelley’s Prometheus Victor Frankenstein represents the hubris of science and playing with powers beyond human understanding; mirroring the paranoia of the Gothic Romantics and their fear of scientific discovery. Shelley’s belief of the corruption inherent in science is demonstrated through the allegory of Victor’s fall from grace, which the reader first experiences through her use of in medias res. She utilizes a juxtaposition of two Victors to convey her cautionary message. Shelley portrays Victor exclaiming metaphorically charged hypotactic overstatements, “darkness had no effect upon [his] fancy,” to show a child like innocent fascination with the natural world. This is reinforced by his awe struck description of the lightning “sudden[ly] I beheld a stream of fire… as soon as the dazzling light vanished, the oak had disappeared… I had never beheld anything so utterly destroyed,” where hyperbole and imagery again displayed this wholesome awe and appreciation of nature relevant to the Gothic Romantic movement. Ironically, what follows is Victor’s foreshadowing epiphany, “the beauty of [his] dream vanished, and breathless horror and disgust fill[ing] [his] heart through”, through bathos prosing of “[a] demonical corpse to which [he] had so miserably given life.” Shelley employs religious diction biblical allusion such as ‘monster’, ‘fiend’, ‘creature’, ‘beast’, ‘daemon’, which surrounds the creation of the monster to connotations the Gothic Romantic disdain for science. Hence the juxtaposition of two Victors portrays the fear of technology as corruption.
Conversely, Ridley Scott employs the globalization and commodification of society to reflect the consequences that humanity would bear through the irresponsible use of technology. Within the film, Scott has portrayed his equivalent to Frankenstein, Tyrell to be a creator who has lost all sense of humanity. In highlighting Tyrell’s lack of humanity through his facade, Scott has metaphorically likened him to God – a wise and old caucasian male who has the power over life and death. Scott employs an establishing shot portraying the pillars of flame, symbolising the lack of nature and humanity. The scene’s imagery also denotes to Dante’s inferno, emphasising that humanity has been taken over; evident through the hybridisation of society. The establishing shot is continued through a split edit, revealing the Tyrell Headquarters. Through the salience of the shot, Scott progressively reveals the colossal pyramids; in making this Tyrell’s residence Scott reveals allusions to Aztec sacrifice and the Egyptian civilisation. The lack of humanity is a prevalent motif, evident through human and replicant interactions. Scott ironically depicts Leon to be more human than Holden, through the the use of inserts and cutaways, juxtaposing Leon’s facial expressions, emotions and curiosity, “is this the test now?”, with Holden’s monotonic voice, “come in,” and minimalistic attitude. This contrast between the polarities of humanity displays Scott’s fear about the rebellious nature of technology and the consequences that is presented humanity during the post modern era.
Comparatively, Shelley employs the changing philosophy of life and religion in the early 20th century to demonstrate the shifting definition of humanity and the secularization of faith. By formulating negative undertones towards the creation, Shelley foreshadows the reasoning behind the emergence of the true ‘daemon.’ Shelley’s use of conceit in Frankenstein’s initial reactions, “how can I describe myself at this catastrophe,” create a sense of paranoia against the human species for the creation due to its vulnerability through analeptic reference, “I remembered too well the treatment I had suffered the night before.” Shelley emphasises the hubris and ego that encapsulates Frankenstein’s paranoia, “I looked on him… his countenance… and treachery,” “for I thought I saw the dreaded spectre glide into the room.” This use of hyperbole eludes to the sense of paranoia that Shelley had conceived around the advancement of science and technology through the Gothic Romantic influence of the time. It is thus evident through Shelley’s portrayal of the creator and the creation as individual challenge the pre-established values of her time, the consequences for one to follow the same path.
Furthermore, Scott extrapolates from the materialism and consumerism of the 1980s, an allegorical narrative for the fear of commodification – particularly the commodification of humanity itself. Scott has metaphorically deemed the solidarity of nature inexistent and it’s alternatives, that is narrow, dark alleyways or unused building are often invaded by the permeating light from the large advertising blimps. To emphasis the prominence of these blimps as a means of portraying over-commercialisation, Scott uses and eyeline match, continually editing a scene depicting Deckard’s surprise at the structures appearance. Scott’s contrast between the fact that the artificial creations are attempting to travel to Earth, but the earthlings are fleeing their natural habitat is ironic and shows loss of humanity. This motif is highlighted through the portrayal of Batty and Leon to be illogically walking into the deserted human district in search for Chow, the eye-maker, Scott foreshadows its significance through a panning full shot revealing the human inhabitants to flee in the opposite direction. Showing how through the fear of commodification Scott extrapolates from the materialism and consumerism the consequences that humanity faces.
It is through the context of their times that Shelly and Scott were able to create cautionary tales that involved the true nature of humanity when it confronts issues such as irony and contradiction as well as paranoia. By allowing individuals to challenge the values of their times, they provide a link for the responder who is able to establish that the fundamentals of humanity do not change.