“In what ways does a comparative study accentuate the distinctive contexts of Frankenstein and Blade Runner?”
A comparative study of Mary Shelly’s classic novel “Frankenstein” and Ridley Scott’s film “Blade Runner” allows the common issues between the texts to be explored and accentuates the vastly differing contexts in which they were composed. Despite their composition being separated by 200 years, Shelly and Scott shared a similar perspective on the development of science and the possible repercussions such advances could have for all of man-kind. Regardless of key differences in plot, setting, and character due to differing contexts, common themes include challenging the role of god, parental responsibility and the role of women.
Influenced heavily by her literary parents, Shelley adopted many of the feminist views held by her mother and concerns about social justice. As a young, well-educated writer, she also emerged from the romantic era with an understanding of science. The significance she placed on nature and heightened emotional sensibility combined with her understanding of science led Shelley to write the cautionary tale “Frankenstein” in which Victor assumed the role of God by bestowing life upon inanimate matter. Victor was admittedly “imbued with a fervent longing to penetrate the secrets of nature” which lead him to challenge God’s authority and upset the balance of nature. His creation was “hideous” and he was tortured by its existence. His crime against nature ensured that even “…the tenderness of friendship, nor the beauty of earth, nor heaven, could redeem my soul from woe”. Scott too examined the consequences of men playing God in his 1983 film, “Blade Runner”, although did so in a contrasting setting. Scott was raised more than a century later in an area surrounded by steel mills and a chemical industry plant, but also spent some time in New York and Hong Kong. This clearly influenced the setting and tone of the film, with the polluted air and urban, industrialised and overpopulated city. There was also a definite Asian influence with the inclusion on neon lights and cultural dress. A long panning shot of the Tyrell Corporation highlights the stark contrasts between the contexts in which the two texts were composed. The tall, imposing building shines with millions of lights and is surrounded by a bleak, dreary city, which couldn’t be more different from the “serene sky and verdant fields” that Shelly describes in “Frankenstein”. However, Tyrell’s God-like status is equally depicted. A close-up shot of Tyrell’s eyes show that his glasses magnify them, making his “windows to the soul” appear superior. A long-shot also shows that his corporation, as well as towering over the rest of the city, was also the only place where natural light can be seen. Tyrell exerts his control further by pulling down the blinds and essentially “turning off” the sun. Victor Frankenstein and Tyrell assume the role of god through their creations and suffer similar consequences as a result. A comparison of the texts reveals that despite completely contrasting contexts which influenced the differences in setting and tone, the consequences for men playing the role of God are dire regardless.
Another common theme between “Frankenstein” and “Blade Runner” that accentuates their differing contexts is parental responsibility, or more accurately, a lack thereof. In their respective texts, Frankenstein and Tyrell are both extremely intelligent individuals with a seemingly insatiable thirst for knowledge. They possess the ability to generate life and yet both fail to perform their role as giver of life to their creations. The similarities between the makers and their creations are almost unparalleled: They are both superior to humans, “Remember, thou hast made me more powerful than thyself”, “…burn twice as bright…” and believe that their makers have a duty towards them, “Do your