In what ways does a comparative study accentuate the distinctive contexts of Frankenstein and Blade Runner? The comparative study of texts, allows audiences to investigate the changing nature and interpretation of issues relating to humanity as they are interpreted in different contexts. Context allows audiences to relate to and understand the thoughts, decisions and actions of individuals within a text. Context provides the opportunity to develop and shape a new genre or interpret an existing genre in a new way.
The comparative study of context allows for audiences to compare the changing values of societies over time. Literary techniques such as allusions, imagery and dialogue is used to shape context and can be used by composers to entertain, inform or persuade an audience or highlight and provide insight into interesting or noteworthy points. Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (1831) and Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner (Directors Cut-1992) individually utilise literary techniques to establish the context of their text within its time.
The comparative study of these two texts highlights how texts are inevitably a product of their time however both texts present issues that explore the intricacies and complexities of all human experience. Shelley and Scott utilise distinctive contexts to explore the nature of humanity and ultimately question what makes us human. Frankenstein and Blade Runner exist to highlight how context affects the perceptions of the audience in regards to how a text is received over time thus highlighting how a comparative study of texts can accentuate distinctive contexts.
The comparative study of texts depends on the context used to establish a relationship with the audience. Mary Shelley’s fiction novel Frankenstein (1831) is a hybrid product of 18th century Gothic-Romanticism. The text reflects recent challenges to the social order as a result of the English industrial revolution and the French revolution during the second half of the 18th century which highlighted the empowerment of the working class. Frankenstein is a work of epistolary prose fiction that is explored through multiple narrators such as the ‘monster’, Victor Frankenstein and Robert Walton.
Frankenstein exists as a didactic tale that explores the morality of trying to subvert god thus providing a lesson in patriarchal hubris highlighting the arrogance of scientific discovery without any consideration of the moral or ethical implications. Frankenstein consequently explores the nature of obsession in undermining parental and moral responsibility and evoking fear in the creation-fear of the world, fear of man. Subsequently the leading antagonist of Blade Runner, Roy Batty, further elucidates the arrogance of obsession as he explains his plight, stating, ‘Quite an experience to live in fear, isn’t it?
That’s what it is to be a slave”. Batty provides insight into the failure of creators to understand the emotional development of the creation which leads to its isolation and fear, causing the ensuing destruction of the ‘natural order’. Frankenstein utilises the characterisation of Victor, ‘I have described myself as always having been imbued with a fervent longing to penetrate the secrets of nature’ to explore the obsession for knowledge that formed part of Shelley’s context. The text therefore reflects the influences of recent scientific development such as Galvanism and evolutionary thought.
The comparative study of contrasting textual forms allows context to influence different interpretations of a text. Ridley Scott’s speculative science fiction film Blade Runner (1992) employs extensive mis-en-scene to subvert the audience’s sense of setting and history-a suspension of belief- enabling contextually dependant perceptions of the film. The films’ setting reflects its context as it echoes the concept of imperfect vision that conceptualises the short-sightedness inherent in the pursuit of perfection.
The film juxtaposes the seemingly inherent ethical pretexts of discovery with the scientific community that seeks to create a perfect race, thus Blade Runner’s scientific context becomes reminiscent of fascist Nazi Aryan ideology, IVF programs and the Human Genome project. Conversely Frankenstein utilises its sublime Swiss setting to increase the plausibility of the themes which allow them to resonate with audiences as they relate to the texts context.
Contrasting textual form is used to highlight how the context of each text enables their concurrent themes to resonate and remain relevant to 21st century audiences. Distinctive contexts are accentuated through similar theme content. Frankenstein and Blade Runner similarly indicate that efforts to ‘defy’ the natural order are responsible for the enduring sense of misery and alienation that sustains the overall melancholic tone of both texts.
Animal Imagery is used extensively within Blade Runner to reveal the primal nature of raw, native emotion of the ‘replicants’, a reflection of parental neglect which renders them incapable of understanding their emotions. Similarly Frankenstein juxtaposes the idyllic nature of childhood with the abandonment of parental responsibility to highlight the confusion behind the monsters ‘ugly’ exterior, therefore provide insight into creations’ place as the ultimate innocent of both texts.
Frankenstein and Blade Runner establish the creations’ as the victims of both physical and emotional negligence who ultimately confront their creator to correct the flaw which isolates them from the world. Frankenstein and Blade Runner similarly utilise content to highlight the creations as the source of destruction to reveal the true nature of monstrosity, the senseless creators. The pursuit of knowledge at the expense of a moral framework is identified as the creators’ ultimate fatal flaw.
As the creations of both texts reflect upon and highlight their unnatural qualities, they reveal how their creators can no longer attain the sublime. Victor highlights his exile from the sublime as he recounts how his actions and subsequent inaction ‘deprives the soul both of hope and fear’ contributing to his demise. Frankenstein and Blade Runner similarly evoke a development of critical literacy and knowledge of genre at a macro level that enables distinctive contexts to gain prominence and influence the understanding or interpretation of their respective genres as a whole.
The contextualisation of Frankenstein and Blade Runner is used to provide insight into the reception of texts as it challenges the contemporary values of the audience. Frankenstein draws parallels with Greek mythology as it establishes Victor as a modern Prometheus while also addressing elements of Jewish mysticism as the ‘monster’ exhibits qualities similar to the golem of Prague. The text is also reminiscent of Godwin and Wollstonecraft, however, is inherently less optimistic about society’s realistically attainable level of perfection, both physically and economically.
In stark contrast, Blade Runner addresses perfection as achievable in a commercial sense ‘commerce is our goal here at Tyrell’ however as Deckard states ‘nobody is perfect’ he highlights the shortcomings of forgoing the moral obligations inherent in the pursuit of commerce which ultimately enable an evaluation of humanities moral boundaries. Blade Runner pays homage to the representation (particularly through film and television) of the 1950’s detective film-noir to reveal a rendition of post-modern expressionism.
The reflection of commerce as a postmodern cultural imperative establishes the relationship between socio-economic status and pastiche consumption. Consequently, humanity is ‘created’ and traded with this ‘transformation of everything into commodity’ (Byers, 1990) becoming a reflection of the context of Blade Runner following the collapse of the Soviet Union and the economic strength of the United States during the films production. In essence the distinctive context of Frankenstein and Blade Runner reflects the interpretation and perception of the genre, textual form and content over time.
The comparative study of these distinctive contrasting contexts allows audiences to reflect on the enduring power of parental and moral responsibility, deliberate action or inaction and the features that define humanity. The key reflections in which the audience understands how they are positioned by composers as a result of their context is especially important in allowing moral assessments throughout the text. Frankenstein and Blade Runner are two texts who successfully explore the nature in which humans interpret their humanity as a response to a contextualised stimulus.
Blade Runner ultimately reveals the establishment of emotional understanding as a definitive characteristic of being human, while incidentally Frankenstein explores the features of humanities collective consciousness which enable an individual to belong through emotional dependence. The comparative study of Frankenstein and Blade Runner allows audiences gain a further understanding into the way contexts are accentuated through assessments of conceptualised fiction which explore the themes and issues which forms the unique identity of humanity.