How does a comparative study of Blade Runner and Frankenstein bring to the fore ideas about morality and science?
The comparison of texts Blade Runner, directed by Ridley Scott and Frankenstein, by Mary Shelley allows the reader to explore their retrospective contexts and provides an insight into the values and perspectives that were apparent at the time of composition. Both these texts deal with issues surrounding changing morals and the progression of science. The texts offer us the perspective of the dangers of unchecked scientific progress when it is motivated by greed and glory, and the effects these advancements can have on society and the natural environment. They also provide insights into the moral values that were regarded important in each composer’s eras. These values have been influenced by the contextual issues that enveloped society at the time these texts were composed. Morals such as what it means to be human and what it means to be monstrous, personal responsibility and the role of the creator are questioned within both texts. Both composers are skilful in how they bring these ideas to the fore in their use of differing forms and styles. Shelley uses narrative structure, characterisation, vivid imagery and symbolism and elements of Gothic and Romantic literature while Scott’s re-imagining of film noir and cyberpunk is filled with potent imagery and symbolism, thoughtful use of lighting, colour and film techniques like camera angles to evoke his futuristic world.
When exploring the texts Frankenstein and Blade Runner, the most dominant similarity between the texts is the questioning of unchecked scientific progress and the limits of these advancements before human nature is threatened. In Frankenstein Shelley presents us with a protagonist who, from a very early age is curious to the basis of life, “The world was to me a secret which I desired to divine.” Upon entering university Victor strives to discover how imbue human life initially for the “benefit of mankind,” however, once finding the secret to create human life he is overcome by greed and glory,-“A new species would bless me as its creator and source.” Overcome by pride in this new found ability to “pour a torrent of light into our dark world” he fails to explore the ethical considerations and moral ramifications of creating life. In the dawning of the Industrial Revolution, Shelley presents her concerns regarding the introduction of industries which were mainly economically driven. Shelley uses intertextuality by posing a character that is typical of her industrial era and one that will mirror the scientific advancements of her day, by replacing the fire of Zeus with electricity which is used to ‘spark’ the man made creature to life. This replacement of the Greek mythological fire with ‘modern day’ galvanism is the purpose of the subtitle of the novel, ‘The Modern Prometheus.’ Shelley uses scientific endeavour to drive her narrative by using the story of her own scientist, Victor Frankenstein who exclaims early in the novel, “I will pioneer a new way, explore unknown powers, and unfold to the world the deepest mysteries of creation.” Shelley is critical of these new advancements and her distrust in the Industrial Revolution is reflected in the novel due to her immersion in romanticism which acted as a reaction against the scientific rationalisation of nature at the time she was writing.
Similarly, Scott brings to the fore his concern regarding science and his text serves as a warning to society about of the dangers of advancing technology. While in Frankenstein Shelley links science to morals and ethics, in Blade Runner, there is a complete absence of ethics. This reflects the 1980s context: the US economy was the most powerful in the world ad a portion of society was uneasy about consumerism, multi-nationalism and materialism. They feared large corporations would become more powerful than government and control the world, as seen in Blade...
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