Blade Runner’s Eldon Tyrell proclaims the company’s motto as ‘more human than human’. How has the notion of humanity been explored in Frankenstein and Blade Runner? Thesis: The nature of humanity is progression, when we progress too far we play God and lose basic traits of humanity. Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein draws on concerns from the romantics era to illustrate the instinctive and greedy appetite for progression that is part of the nature of humanity. Furthermore Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner touches on Shelley’s notions of danger in human enterprise and the uncontrollable drive of scientific evolution.
These texts critically inquire into the follies of greed, and moral corruption. Despite there being over 150 years between their compositions these texts similarly represent the consequences of playing God, and in turn the loss of humanity that goes with it. The common thematic concerns of these texts are explored through the use of camera angles, imagery, tone and metaphor. Both Frankenstein and Blade Runner portray how the ambition to break through human limitations in an act to play God is bound to result in failure.
The religious imagery used when Frankenstein grants the “spark of life” upon the Creature in his effort to “pour a torrent of light into our dark world” helps us come to the conclusion that the Creature is the very embodiment of the monstrosity that humans are capable of creating. The metaphor of light in, “until from the midst of this darkness a sudden light broke in upon me” conveys Victor’s instinctive awakening to the possibility of creating a perfect being impervious to diseases.
Such an unmentionable act trespasses the realm of the godlike providence, signifying the beginning of Frankenstein’s blindness. He is quick to realise that he has created a monster, as shown by the regretful tone in, “I beheld the wretch – the miserable monster whom I had created. ” This depicts that untamed human ambition can lead to the inadvertent creation of the ‘grotesque’ when playing a human God. Similarly in Blade Runner, the dystopian world demonstrates the aftermath of humanity’s desire to create a better society when playing God.
The opening panoramic shot portrays a decaying city dominated by industrial buildings. This decaying city works in conjunction with the recurring motif of artificial neon lighting and eerie sounds to create a cold dark ambience. Blade Runner’s shadowy atmosphere is symbolic of the lack of warmth, affection and family which has been created by the human need of progression. Such technological defeat indicates humanity has gone too far, resulting in complete destruction of nature.
Furthermore Tyrell’s malicious need for god like power over the replicants he creates is shown when he states “If we gift them with a past, we create a cushion or a pillow for their emotions, and consequently, we can control them better. ” The incessant need for supremacy displayed depicts an obvious intention to play God and appropriately, the human beings in this alternate future seem artificial and lacking humanity. Both texts warn the audience about the dangers of human ambition to progress in science which holds the capacity for not only devastating the environment but also humanity itself.
The two texts comment on mankind’s loss of humanity. Shelley depicts this theme through the dichotomy between the creature and Victor, his creator. The creature is able to show basic human instincts as it relates to “the pleasant showers and genial warmth” of nature on it’s pilgrimage through the wilderness. In contrast, Victor shows “insensibility to (natures) charms” while creating the creature by containing himself in a “deep dark deathlike solitude”, this alliteration is metaphoric of Victor’s inability to relate to nature and display basic human qualities which the creature can.
This directly relates to the romantic era, when Shelley wrote Frankenstein and that the appreciation of nature was considered inseparable from the human experience. Therefore, this dichotomy is metaphoric of mankind’s loss of humanity. Scott reinforces mankind’s loss of humanity through the execution of the Tyrell Corporations motto “more human than human. ” The loss of humanity can be seen in the contrast between replicants and humans.
Pris is wearing a bridal gown while hiding from Deckard; this is metaphoric of the replicants ability to feel emotions of love and familial belonging, a basic human instinct which the humans of this world are unable to feel. J. F Sebastian’s ironic dialogue “I make friends, they’re toys, my friends are toys” shows that humans no longer have real families and have lost the ability to develop relationships naturally. Contrasted again by Batty’s howl of pain at the death of Pris, this is symbolic of the familial bonds and relationships formed between replicants.
Not only does this comparison establish the motto “more human than human” as a truism, it is symbolic of Scott building upon Shelley’s original depiction of mankind’s loss of humanity thus reinforcing her warning against the amoral pursuit of science and technology. Shelley and Scott draw upon the concerns of their times; the characters warn us that overstepping our boundaries and unrestrained scientific advancement comes with a consequence. The texts critically inquire into the human ability to commit monstrous deeds in the name of ‘progression’.
It is evident that despite their contextual differences, both texts are linked through their common concerns about our inherent readiness to abandon that which distinguishes humans from all other species. Perhaps the underlying message of these texts is that despite the things we create being a reflection of ourselves and our societies, it is ultimately our creations that mould us and who we are. This is illustrated by Winston Churchill’s words “we shape the things we build, thereafter they shape us”.