Frankenstein and Blade Runner Essay (Contexts and Representation)

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Explore the way in which different contexts affects the representation of similar content in the texts Frankenstein and Blade Runner.

Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner, whilst separated by 174 years, feature very similar content which can be seen by comparing the two side by side. Coming from different contexts, they both express their anxieties about technology, which is shown through a man made creature, and they both exhibit a strong valuing of nature. However due to their different contexts, these ideas are represented differently. The medium of production is clearly different, as is the representation of the creature and whether or not they are able to assimilate into society. In both texts the responder is meant to sympathize with the creature but through different ways. Frankenstein, published in 1818, presents a monster unable to assimilate into society due to his grotesque appearance. This is reflective of the gothic element of the time, whilst he also exhibits parts of the Romantic Movement as well as the Age of Enlightenment. In contrast, the 1992 film, Blade Runner, has replicants that are a product of the DNA technology and cloning coming to fruition at the time of the movie’s release. The clear contextual differences effect the final presentation of texts despite the fact they deal with the same universal themes. The contexts of Frankenstein and Blade Runner affect many ways in which they represent their ideas and on the most basic level, a key difference would be their medium of production. Both creators chose to use the most popular medium of their time; for Shelley that was a novel, for Scott, a film. At some level, this choice also reflects some aspects of their stories. In Shelley’s case, the novel places a value on literature, which is shown in the monster’s discovery of the novels and his own valuation of language, which he considers “a godlike science”. In contrast, Scott clearly felt film was the best medium to display the future and the advancements in technology that would occur. In order to emphasise this, he focused highly on cinematography, vividly portraying the setting through his camera work. The effectiveness of this can be seen in the opening aerial shot of Los Angeles, in which a slow panning long short of great structures of lighting and advertising overlay the concrete skyscrapers, many of which look reminiscent of buildings from the 1980s. It is worth noting that whilst Blade Runner is based on Philip K. Dick’s 1969 novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? Blade Runner achieved a must higher level of recognition. This could quite possibly be due to the fact Dick chose to express his idea in a novel rather than a film. In this way, the texts different contexts show that whilst they have the same aims, they are presented differently for in order to reach the greatest amount of people. Despite the contextual influences that are very apparent in both these texts, they both use a man-made creature as a centrepiece for their work. Regardless of the fact 170 years separated the texts both Shelley and Scott were fascinated by the notion of humans creating life. In both cases, this seems to have stemmed from an anxiety about technology. In Shelley’s instance, the Romantic Movement had been progressing for twenty years as a reaction to the age of enlightenment and reason. With the industrial revolution coming to fruition in the late 1700’s, many people had growing apprehensions about technology and the fact it could replace humans. Shelley uses this idea with regards to Frankenstein’s monster and his creation stems from galvanism, a scientific theory being explored at the time, involving the use of electricity to bring about movement in a dead creature’s muscles. The result of this is a creature that cannot assimilate into society, as is seen in his first thought upon seeing the monster in chapter 5 “No mortal could support the horror of that countenance...” This...
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