Composers illustrate paradigms that correspond with their social, historical and economic contexts. The capacity of such ideals transcends with in time with Mary Shelly’s 19th century novel ‘Frankenstein’ and Ridley Scott’s sci-fi film ‘Bladerunner’ . Both texts pose similar disclosures regarding the existence and morals of humanity. As a romanticist Shelly condemns humanities intrusion with nature and attempts to override it. Similarly Scott replies with a critique of humanities ruthless ambitions.
However the two texts are also in great contrasts as time shifts the criticism from rebellious un-godly behavior to greedy, capitalist, mass industrulisation in pursuit of ultimate commercial dominance. Both texts employ techniques such as allusion and charcterisation to depict similar dystopian scenarios as a result of humanities intervention with nature. Composed during the industrial revolution a time of rapid economic and scientific development, Mary Shelly embraced romanticism as she scrutinised her surrounding society of traditional, loyal church goers.
As a romanticist she typifies nature and warns of humanities attempts to meddle with it. Such warning is displayed through Victor’s passions of creating life. As quote “I became capable of bestowing animation upon lifeless matter”. Shelly uses an intertextual reference to Frankenstein as being the ‘Modern Prometheus’. As this ancient greek champion of humanity stole fire from the gods and was punished for it with eternal agony, she takes on the moral of this fable that when humans try to emulate god or disrupt natural order they shall be punished.
Continuing Shelly’s distrust of science as Frankenstein realises his potential to create life he warns the readers not to aspire to quote “become greater than nature will allow”. Despite this Frankenstein not only decides to continue but to create a living human being. This is due mostly to Frankenstein’s thirst for knowledge and science quote “I ardently desire the acquisition of knowledge” this is reflective of the economic backdrop. Shelly also uses this as a technique of dramatic irony to highlight the error in Frankenstein’s acquisition of knowledge.
She suggests that knowledge is dangerous and man can not be trusted. Shelly’s glorification of nature is also in line with the ideals of romanticism, quote “the spirit that inhabits and guards this place has a soul more in harmony than man”. Shelly’s use of personification to inspire nature with human characteristics allows her to depict nature as an all powerful and eternal force. The thrill of such a forbidden, illicit idea of creation is reflective of Shelly’s radicalism as well as gothic romanticism she’s evoking.
Frankenstein is determined to produce a giant quote “about eight foot in height, and proportionably large”, the size of the monster is representative of the grossness of Frankenstein’s ideals. Despite this Frankenstein loathes what he is doing but he continues quote “tortured the living animal to animate the lifeless clay”. The criticism here is of the horrors of experimentation on live animals before anesthetics were invented. This was a concern from romanticists in the 19th century. Frankenstein hates what he his doing however he can’t resist, quote “often did my human nature turn with loathing from my occupation”.
Such has the effect of demoralising himself until he is blinded, quote “my eyes were insensible to the charms of nature”. Frankenstein can no longer see the beauty of nature and for a romanticist this is a serious indictment. As the Monster is telling Frankenstein his story in the Alps a, favorite romantic location, the theme of man playing god is established. Such an ideal sustains that by creating the Monster Frankenstein has become more than just a scientist but a god like figure. Further biblical analogies are embedded in such references as the Monster declares “I sat down and wept”, an extract from Psalms.
To have created a monster is bad enough but to have created a victim of fate is even worse. The monster must not only shelter from the cruelties of nature but also man. During the Monster’s story the subplot of the Turk is also conveyed as cultural prejudice of the period. Shelly’s political and social ideals are also evident. The monster is astonished to learn of the system of ancestral wealth and position. This also makes him realise that he is nobody. In contrast Ridley Scott’s “Bladerunner” is similar in displaying the consequences of man’s intervention with nature, however it is composed in a vastly different context.
Filmed towards the end of the 20th century in a period of unchallenged capitalism, Reaganism, rising asian influence and development of computers, the film gives a negative depiction of a future technological society. Such dystopias were popular of the century such as Orwell’s ‘Nineteen Eighty Four’ ‘(1984)’ and Huxley’s ‘Brave New World”, the latter of which is greatly science incorporated. The inclusion of ‘blade’ in the title gives a sense of danger and ‘runner’ conveys the idea of fast paced action both of which are significant in the film. The bright flames of ndustry amongst a pitch black sky of pollution differ’s from Shelly’s moralistic forebode, this opening scene depicts a world that has already come to a dystopic, wicked fate. The motif of an all seeing eye draws astonishing parallel to Orwell’s ‘1984’. The Tyrell corporations pyramid and grand structures dominate impoverished urban landscapes, Scott uses this to demonstrate the arrogance of big corporations and their power over the proletariat. As replicants are human-like beings that only live for four years it suggests a society in which humans are regarded as disposable like manufactured goods.
The use of euphemism through using the word retirement over execution masks reality and truth over a pseudo-consoling phrase, this compares closely with ‘Brave New World’. Much of the film depicts this new life on earth. A voice is heard advertising ‘a new life’ in a ‘off world colony’ offering the opportunity for a new beginning. This suggests that science and technology has reached its limit and failed to deliver a paradise on earth. Nearly all public lettering is in Japanese this is understandable due to predictions during the 80’s that Japan would over take the US in GDP.
The advertising of large companies such as Cocoa-Cola and Atari amongst bright neon lights shining dimly upon people walking like zombies always with umbrellas presumable to protect themselves from toxic rain. Again these shots depict corporate irresponsibility in a dystopia. Oddly enough the protagonist Deckard has not migrated to an ‘off-world colony’. Morality a central theme to the film is brought forth due once again to the actions of the Tyrell Corporation which has the motto “More human than human”.
As Leon and Roy assault the eye maker Roy says “if only you could see what I’ve seen with your eyes”. this suggests that the replicants experience more memory and emotion than planned. Before Zora’s death Deckard asks her about her work during which she see’s no issue in standing completely nude and bare in front of him. This displays her transparency and lack in morals, this is further shown in her clear plastic outfit whilst being chased by Deckard. As Leon assaults Deckard it becomes clear what the replicants emotions are, revenge for being engineered into a life of slavery and quasi-human existence.
As Rachel is playing the piano Deckard claims she’s playing beautifully when in fact she’s playing quite mechanically. He may not notice due to him actually being a replicant or being blinded by love, either way Deckard his going against his job and restrains her quote “kiss me”. This is a transformation of his philosophy. Roy also realises his emotions once he meets Tyrell “Its not easy to meet your maker” this is also a biblical reference as the end of human life. Once Deckard kills Pris we see Roy’s emotions as he examines her dead body.
The emotions and memories of human-like beings raises serious questions about the moral actions of humanity. Though it is made clear the consequences of human intervention, greed and lust for knowledge in both Frankenstein and Bladerunner both texts also offer a sanctuary of hope. As Walton sails through the arctic towards Russia he writes “what may not be expected in a country of eternal light? ”, unfortunately for Deckard there is not as much comfort as his unicorn dream is an unreachable utopia and it is Scott’s metaphorical belief that science and technology has already superseded nature.