2009 Module A: Texts in Time

???A deeper understanding of disruption and identity emerges
from considering the parallels between Frankenstein and Blade Runner.???

Compare how these texts explore disruption and identity.

The human race, despite its great diversity, is united by one shared quality ??“ our humanity. Our tendency to strive toward new knowledge and discoveries and our instinctual nature to survive as well as create make us primarily the same. The science-fiction novel Frankenstein by Mary Shelley, published in 1818, and Ridley Scott??™s film Blade Runner, released in 1982 present some of the human experiences that we encounter and make us reflect upon our human nature, two of which involve ???disruption??™ and ???identity??™.

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The desire for knowledge and the efforts toward an advancement of science often results in the disruption of one??™s sense of morality. At the time of writing her novel, Shelley was exposed to some famous scientists at the time, including Giovanni Aldini who conducted public experiments in an attempt to regenerate life from dead organic material in 1803. Such controversial issues at the time inspired her characterisation of Victor, who is an ambitious scientist whose goal is to artificially create life. His sense of morality is disrupted as his egotistic attitude blinds him from seeing the consequences of his actions, which can be seen in his claim: ???More, far more will I achieve: I will pioneer a new way, explore unknown powers??¦??? The emphasised use of first person language as seen in the repetition of ???I??™ sets a hubristic tone. The audience can hear his confidence and determination. The foreshadowing of some great disturbance in nature is made when he continues, ?????¦ and unfold to the world the greatest mysterious of creation.??? The superlative description tells the audience that Victor is determined to seek out Nature??™s secrets and exploit the moral boundaries if it is necessary. Indeed, later in the book when the monster is born, this great disruption in the natural ways of birth and life unfolds. Thus the character of Victor clearly demonstrates that human??™s desire for scientific knowledge can result in the impairment of one??™s sense of morality.

Blade Runner treats the idea in a similar way. Tyrell is also a man seeking the power that follows a great scientific achievement. However, his incentives are fuelled by more than a mere scientific innovation ??“ he also wants commercial dominance. This will be discussed later. In the early 1970s prior to the film??™s production, there were a lot of scientific achievements including the first production of genetically modified organisms (GMO) in 1973. The social implications GMOs brought and the ethical issues that rose from them are reflected in the film. Tyrell??™s temple-like home is first introduced through an extreme wide shot from a high angle, and the hazy yellow sunlight illuminates its grand surface. This leaves the audience with the first impression that he is a powerful and wealthy man, living in this enormous temple-home. We then see him for the first time inside this home, surrounded by life-size statues and ornaments, wearing his oversized, thick glasses. The glasses represent his lack of moral vision, supporting the idea that his morals have also been disrupted by the focus on science, similarly to Victor in Frankenstein.

The human identity is explored through the relationship between a creator and his creation. This is an idea that is dealt in great depth in both texts. We identify ourselves as ???humans??™, and value similar things such as life, nature and the relationships we build throughout our lives. In Frankenstein, the monster is a curious character whose surprisingly ???human??™ qualities make us reflect on our own identity as the human race. He asks, ???Am I not shunned and hated by all of mankind??? The rhetorical question evokes thoughts within the audience??™s mind. The effect is accumulated in the following lines: ???Tell me, why should I pity man more than he pities me??? The strong emotive language and the repetition of the word ???pity??™ amplify his message. We cannot help but sympathise in him in his wretched and abandoned state. We are urged to ask ourselves whether our superiority over other living things is simply our own idealistic model of humanity. This philosophical level of pondering over humanity??™s true meaning and identity was influenced by Shelley??™s exposure to the Romantic Movement of the late eighteenth century, especially reading her husband Percy Shelley??™s works of the time.

Tyrell??™s relationship with Roy, the Replicant, also supports the same idea. Roy shows remarkably ???human??™ qualities in comparison to his creator who has been overcome by commercial greed and lack of morality. During the 1970s, the Transnational Corporations gained dominance and consequently gave rise to issues such as increasing consumerism at an unprecedented international level. They stimulated mounting concerns in society, as reflected in the film. In Roy??™s death scene, Tyrell??™s character and his focus on commodities and commercial power are contrasted with Roy??™s character. Roy sits in the rain, placed at an eye-level angle, with soft blue light illuminating his face. This places the audience where we feel as though he is speaking to us personally. In the blurred background behind him, there is a large neon advertisement (???TDK???) that reminds us of the unavoidable consumerism in the world. The soft, sustained notes in the background music add a pensive atmosphere, adding further depth to his statement: ???All those moments will be lost in time like tears in rain.??? This remarkable ???human??™ quality in his helpless resignation to death highly contrasts his greatly dehumanised creator. Once again, we are left with the question of whether we truly are as ???human??™ as we identify ourselves to be.

Disruption and identity are largely involved in our human experiences. As explored in both Frankenstein and Blade Runner, we may develop a desire for knowledge and new discoveries to the extent that our moral values become disrupted. Also, our human identity is reviewed through the comparison of creators and their creations, especially the portrayal of creations as upholders of higher ???human??™ values than their creators. Humanity, as our uniting quality, will never cease to give us those human experiences.


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