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Comparison of Blade Runner and Frankenstein

Comparative Literature 

When looking at two or more forms of narratives we need to establish the similarities and differences in a number of areas. All literature has much in common, yet it may differ in outward forms depending on when it was written and the text type or genre used to create meaning.

While Blade Runner is a collaborative work of the twentieth century using technological mediums, Frankenstein is a more traditional novel written as part of a competition to see who could create the most Gothic (horror) story using language.  The two are separated by two hundred years and yet share many of the same concerns.


 Areas of comparison include:

Context and Background – How do Historical and biographical situations influence the text.

Style: how the composer shapes the text or expresses their message.

Theme, values, issues or concerns that may have relevance to us or have universal implications.

Techniques; these will vary according to text types and the author’s style.

Language or linguistic features; how the meaning is conveyed.

Evaluation: We are all, especially examiners interested in your opinions; how you related and responded to the text. It is important to be honest and yet to support all your assertions and judgments with supporting evidence. 

 
 Comparison of Blade Runner and Frankenstein

Genre:

BLADE RUNNER

FRANKENSTEIN

Blade Runner1 is a Ridley Scott adaptation of the Philip 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. 

 

More @ Cinematic Techniques: 

 

 

This is a Gothic Novel.

Mary 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.

Mary 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.

Context:

BLADE RUNNER

FRANKENSTEIN

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 BR. 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 s*xual relations, racial integration and political upheaval.

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)

Science and Humanity:

Both artefacts have a serious moral message, about the dangers of trying to play God, and about the potentially destructive results that can occur when a creation becomes more powerful than its creator.


BLADE RUNNER

FRANKENSTEIN

Blade Runner depicts an industrialised society where Technology is supreme. The climate – appears a nuclear winter poisoned by fall-out- dark, dank, with constant acid rain.  The City is full of human misery – crowded, homeless, so anyone with good health has moved off earth.

Technology, from fire(over cold& dark) , the wheel(over gravity and distance), flight and genetic engineering all contribute to moving away from the natural rhythms of life and from what it means to be a human being.

- Don McLean:  “developments in technology and communications are not liberating but controlling, “I always wanted to be free.”

The Dehumanising effects of technology:

·        Loss of power – fulfilment

·        Isolation from others

·        Loss of empathy - Increasing disconnection or alienation from society

·        Loss of people skills -

  • Loss of heroism – only celebrities

This is a cautionary tale warning about the threat to a diminished humanity posed by Science.  Both Walton, the narrator and Frankenstein are challenging the frontiers of human knowledge and will suffer for it.  Shelley parallels Walton's spatial explorations and Frankenstein's forays into unknown knowledge, as both men seek to “pioneer a new way,” to make progress beyond established limits. Science and too much rational learning can diminish our humanity. We should value our natural sensual humanity and reject the scientific notion that rational thought will lead us to a more humane society. If not, our humanity will become diminished.

In both texts, humans lose control over their man made creations.

What makes us Human:

 

BLADE RUNNER

FRANKENSTEIN

Humanity has been diminished as there is little evidence of community displayed by human characters in contrast to the replicants who appear to have genuine companionship, compassion, empathy, morality and courtesy.

As Tyrell’s motto: “ more human than the humans”

 

The lack of Civility is another major concern.

Bryant has a confrontationalist manner of speaking. First he tries to be slimily ingratiating to Deckard but when this doesn’t work he resorts to abusive threats and bullying to get Deckard to come out of retirement.

The human characters snap at each other indicating the lack of respect they have for each other due to the break down in human relationships, whereas the replicants speak much more politely and courteously to each other demonstrating the regard they have for each other and a caring empathy lacking in the humans.

There isn't much dignity left today, a point beautifully made in an essay by David Brooks in The New York Times. The "dignity code", as Brooks calls it, has been "completely obliterated" by the pressures of modern life.

Frankenstein is a gothic horror novel that explores what makes us human.  What are the attributes of a human being and how do we become integrated into society.  Are we born with human nature or are we conditioned and constructed to value each other.  The old nature/nurture argument.  When his creation turns against him, who is at fault;  the creature or the society that rejects him?  We know from a study of social customs that many people who feel rejected by society often turn into mass killers.  Repeated negative experiences of social outcasts can lead to anti-social behaviour and the best way to socialise people is to include and value them as fellow human beings. 

There are many examples of people who are Altruistic – caring - kind to each other throughout the novel including the Monster’s many initial acts of kindness; cutting wood for Felix’s family, saving a young girl from drowning  - all not appreciated.  Shelley is obviously contrasting mankind’s ability for civility and amity with its capacity for callous barbarity.

 

Computers double their capacity every 18 months and they could acquire a billion times more intelligence than the human brain. It is possible this Artificial Intelligence could develop into a malign force and eliminate all humans from the face of the earth.

 

Alternatively by merging with the technology we create, we become more like it and we could become less human and more mechanical in our outlook.


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