Frankenstein vs. Bladerunner

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Evan L. Wendel 11-20-06 CMS.796: Major Media Texts Comparative Analysis Worldspace in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner:From Romantic Nature to Artificiality The language and style of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein are both deeply rooted in the literary traditions of the Romantic period, and yet Victor Frankenstein’s scientific experimentation, and eventual success in creating life from inanimate matter, certainly makes Frankenstein an early forbearer of the science fiction genre. However, it is important to point out that Mary Shelley’s novel is primarily concerned with critiquing the science of the early 19th century, whereby the worldspace of Frankenstein, that is to say, the physical surround the characters of the text inhabit, remains highly structured around Nature, which is used to elucidate their lived experiences. Blade Runner (Ridley Scott, 1982; rev. 1992), in stark contrast, positions the viewer from the very opening sequence of the film within a hauntingly mechanized and non-natural future—the hellish worldspace of Los Angeles in the year 2019. The aim of this essay will be to explore parallels between Frankenstein and Blade Runner in order to illuminate key differences between their respective worldspaces, and examine how character experiences, regardless of their humanness, are articulated through language, imagery and visuals within these spaces. The parallels between the Creature in Frankenstein, and Roy Batty (Rutger Hauer), the poetic leader of the fugitive replicants in Blade Runner, are obvious. Both are living creations of unchecked scientific endeavors, thereby raising many of the same philosophical, moral and ethical concerns. Similarly, both are regarded as Other, that is, distinct from humans, though the distinction is blurred more in the case of replicants, as 2 they are genetically engineered to simulate humans in everything but emotional response. By comparing Roy’s lived experiences with those of both Frankenstein and his Creature, while keeping in mind the imagery and visuals which define the spaces they respectively inhabit, it becomes clear that they exist within two diametrically opposed worldspaces. Jay Clayton has argued that Blade Runner draws on an undercurrent in the Frankenstein myth, namely, sympathy for the Creature, and he very successfully maps how the film similarly elicits our sympathy for the replicants (88-91)—like Frankenstein’s Creature, Roy possesses an eloquence which is undeniably compelling. Even so, Clayton tends towards examining these characters in isolation, paying scant attention to the spaces they occupy. Despite all of the sympathy conjured up for the replicants, the parallels drawn between humans and replicants, and Clayton’s contention that the “artificial creatures end up seeming more ‘human’ than the people who stalk them,” there seems to be a decidedly different message stemming from the surrounding worldspace, and the ways in which the replicants relate to it (85). While we may at once feel sympathy for the replicants (made easier by the fact that they visually appear human-like, unlike Frankenstein’s Creature), we simultaneously recoil from the world presented to us. By closely analyzing two scenes in Blade Runner that exhibit striking similarities to moments in Frankenstein, it becomes clear that, regardless of sympathy for the replicants, this non-natural, mechanical, and by extension, non-living world, is a space representative of a grim future which has its origins in the very same all-penetrating and monomaniacal scientific hubris Mary Shelley indicted almost two centuries ago. The haunting futurity of Blade Runner, inscribed by the total absence of Nature, makes the warning against science run amok exponentially more profound. 3 The Tyrell Corporation, residence and business place of Eldon Tyrell, the Godlike scientific “genius” behind the creation of the replicants, occupies a space central to...
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