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Blade Runner and Frankenstein Essays

Ridley Scott’s film Blade Runner was released in 1982, post World War II, Post Cold War and the holocaust, a period of rapid development in science and communication technology, and commercialism. It coincided with the phenomena of economic rationalism and globalisation (often seen as American corporate imperialism), the rise of Asian involvement with Western nations and increasing concerns about the environment. Blade Runner is a Ridley Scott adaptation of the Phillip K. Dick novel ‘Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? As a dystopia (dark future) it uses the glazed cinematic techniques of film noir that tends to distance us from the characters and actions. In literature – a rejection of the forms and conventions developed in the first half of the 20th century.
A feeling that life is meaningless and often cruel, and that those things that were previously thought to be solid and certain are now revealed to be ambiguous and changeable. In terms of society, the phrase Post-Modernism also refers to late capitalism in the 20th century, characterized by fragmentation and dominance of commercial values and of technology over human actions and values.
This can be compared to Tyrell (creator) and his desire “more human than human”. Blade Runner has a strong environmental focus. It was only after the publication of Rachel Carson’s (An American writer and scientist) ‘Silent Spring’, (1961) that people began to recognise the potential of human disaster through the vandalism perpetrated by improved technology. Rather than resilient, nature was fragile and vulnerable when fundamental natural rhythms were ceaselessly destroyed by ruthless exploitation by ever increasing mammoth technology.
If ecosystems are repeatedly defeated, human life will be diminished and likely extinguished. The bleak vision portrayed illustrates a chaotic nuclear holocaust, ecological fragility through soil depletion and acid rain. In Blade Runner man has not only subdued the earth but conquered and utterly defeated it. As a Canadian Indian Chief queried; “When we kill the last fish, what will we eat – money? The sixties and seventies were times of great social, cultural and historical changes with changes in attitudes in sexual relations, racial integration and political upheaval.
Socially it was a time that saw the rise of feminism, Black Rights, Gay Power leading general to a change of social attitudes towards marginalised groups. The media became more and more powerful. Medically it was a time of phenomenal change: from IVF to genetic research and stem cell research. Transplants of human organs became accepted though the implication of selling these has become an ethical minefield. At each stage of medical advance there has been an accompanying debate, an underlying anxiety about the ethical and moral implications of these actions, not necessarily but often using religious arguments.
The media has been the prominent force in convincing people of the necessity of such programs as IVF. Frankenstein Late 18th to mid 19th centuries, said to start in 1785 with the onset of the French Revolution. Some historians chart the Romantic periods beginning with the publication of Wordsworth’s and Coleridge’s ‘Lyrical Ballads’ in 1798. Said to end in 1832 with the death of Sir Walter Scott and the onset of Victorianism. At the time of publication of Frankenstein, the gothic novel was a fairly new literary form.
In particular, the nineteenth century saw a proliferation of novels in the gothic literature genre. The conventions of this genre reflect the romantic movement of the time. They also reflect the historical/social upheaval that began with the French Revolution – this was a time of speculation and change. Frankenstein as Gothic Literature; Shelley applies conventions such as brooding atmosphere, terror, mysterious disappearances and suffering. However, she also subverts the genre by what might be deemed supernatural occurrences. In fact, it is argued that Frankenstein is the precursor to modern science fiction.
This period was a reaction to a period of history concerned with classical thought, structure, rules and conventions. Favoured innovation over traditionalism in literature and thought. Time was marked by revolution in both historical events and poetic/literary expression. This meant that writing took responders into realms beyond classical limitations in knowledge, space and time. Settings would journey into the realms of the supernatural, places from far away and long ago. Composers imbued their texts with visionary ideas and symbolism as a means to explore beyond the limits of the human condition.
As Europe moved away from a world dominated by superstition and religious faith to one of empirical scientific research and logical deductive reasoning, the Romantics helped to retain some of the personal and emotional compassion that makes us fully human. The swing towards a more humanistic attitude towards fellow mankind and the reverence for the natural over the man made is clearly depicted in Frankenstein. Shelley questions the eighteenth-century scientific rationalists’ optimism about, and trust in, knowledge as a pure good.
While the Philosophers believed in the perfectibility of man through reason, the Romantics put their faith in the ‘immortal spirit’ of the individual’s emotions. The Romantics maintained suspicions about the dark inscrutable workmanship of the Scientific and empirical attempts to improve on nature. Learn from me, if not by my precepts, at least by my example, how dangerous is the acquirement of knowledge, and how much happier that man is who believes his native town to be the world, than he who aspires to become greater than his nature will allow. 101)
Mary Shelley claims the inspiration for her story came from a vision she had during a dream. Her story was the only one completed and has become one of the most famous Gothic novels of all time. Shelley uses the narrative device of a Ship’s Captain retelling a tale through epistemology (letters to his sister) he has heard from an obsessed distraught Scientist he has rescued from an ice floe in the remote Arctic Ocean. Shelley extrapolates the consequences of delving beyond the limits of human knowledge in terms of science, yet this may be a metaphor for all branches of knowledge.

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