Ridley Scott and Mary Shelley's Portrayal of Dominant Social Narratives of Their Time in 'Blade Runner' and 'Frankenstein'

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Authors create works to convey their experiences and views on society. The texts they create are utilized to send a message and express their standpoints on social narratives. In the related works, the movie ‘Blade Runner’ (1982) and the novel ‘Frankenstein’ (1818), the authors contradict the dominant social narratives of their time, supporting counter-narratives, including romanticism and the regress of technology and unfettered capitalism, respectively. These texts effectively portray a view of the world in their time in history through a different lens than the majority of society and depict views and morals which endure and effect on today's society.

The gothic science fiction book ‘Frankenstein’ is a prime example of ideology going against the grain of the dominant social narrative, whilst simultaneously unveiling values in society which endure to today, providing insight into our lives today. ‘Frankenstein’ was published in 1818, during the midst of the Industrial Revolution, and whilst neo-classism was the most prevalent movement, there was a rise in romanticism. With the Industrial Revolution at its peak and the Ideology of neoclassicism dominating society in that point of history, Mary Shelly bravely constructed a text to challenge this dominant social narrative. Romanticism was a movement in literature and the arts which had a focus on imagination as a source of creativity rather than facts; and incorporated ideas such as the belief in the individual, the love of nature, interest in gothic and wondrous, and faith in inner experience and wholesomeness. A very strong example of these ideologies is Victor Frankenstein, the main character of the text, as well as the numerous examples of vivid nature imagery present. The depiction of nature as a vivid and wondrous thing supports a backbone of romanticism as a creative and whimsical movement, but moreover, the love of nature; conveying that nature and our climate must be appreciated and protected. Yet another prominent concept that exists within the carefully constructed text ‘Frankenstein’ is the value of life, and concurrently, what it means to be human. Victor Frankenstein acts as a representation of the hubris of humanity and folly whilst he is horrified by his attempt at the replication of human life. Furthermore, this creation serves as a biblical allusion, and depicts humanity acting as a god, again through Victor Frankenstein, although he was gravely punished for his 'impossible': “His limbs were nearly frozen and his body dreadfully emaciated by fatigue and suffering. I never saw a man in so wretched a condition”. He paid the ultimate price after attempting acting as God, whilst neglecting his creation, his 'monster' and paid the ultimate price.

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Another prime example of a text using biblical allusions and the value and concept of human life, producing an excellent parallel to 'Frankenstein', is the science fiction cult film ‘Blade Runner’, directed by Ridley Scott in 1982. ‘Blade Runner’ was inspired by hard-boiled detective fiction work as well as genres such as cyberpunk, additionally being very loosely based on 'Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?' by Philip Dick in 1968. Scott astutely places the viewers in a dystopian California where there are blade runners who hunt and 'retire' artificial creatures known as 'replicants', created by Tyrell Corporation. Throughout the cityscape, there is constant acid rain, depicting the gloomy setting of the metropolis, as well as depicting the pollution in the environment hence producing it. During the '70s and '80s, there were immense advancements in technology but inversely, the decline of the climate. As Ridley Scott grew up in the dismal industrial landscape in northeast England before he moved to America. During the 1980s, a large quantity of Americans feared for the decline of their nation. The powerful Asian companies and untethered capitalism are depicted in ‘Blade Runner’ through the mammoth company Tyrell Corporation, with unchecked potential for biological discoveries, and allowing Dr Eldon Tyrell to play God and do as he pleases. The ziggurat in the opening scene shows a great example to one of the enduring qualities of the movie, depicting the world trade center, a place of wealth and trade, and this ziggurat, being at the opening and the tallest building, depicts the significance and prominence of trade and capitalism in Scott's setting, but provides a powerful warning of how untethered capitalism can kinder our society conveying a strong illustration of the integrity of the text. The focus of wealth and science is perfectly portrayed in Tyrell, the owner of a large biotechnology company, where he creates artificial life, without considering the consequences. When Tyrell curses his creation with being 'more human than human', whilst creating a limited lifespan, leads to one of his creations, in particular, Roy, to confront him. When Roy approaches his maker, he is only told: “The light that burns twice as bright burns half as long - and you have burned so very, very brightly, Roy”. Tyrell is so uncaring or the consequences of the life he is created and is essentially talking up the wonders of his creation. This confrontation leads to Tyrell's death, proving yet another strong relationship between the two texts, and Roy kissing Tyrell depicts a biblical allusion of the kiss of Judas. In Roy's final 'living' moments, he saves the one person left he is determined to kill, Rick Deckard, a blade runner. In his final moments, Roy realizes that what he has 'seen with your eye' will just be 'lost in time, like tears in the rain.' Roy shows greater humanity than the 'human' he saved, and Scott ingeniously uses this scene to reflect on the value of human life, and produce another common idea between ‘Frankenstein’ and ‘Blade Runner’.

‘Frankenstein’ and ‘Blade Runner’ are two expertly crafted texts with interconnected themes and ideas, countering the dominant social narratives of their times. Whilst neoclassicism and the technological and capitalist growth of society at the cost of the environment were prominent views in the societies at the time of ‘Frankenstein’ and ‘Blade Runner’ respectively. Both authors ingeniously conveyed ideas in separate times in history, residing in different societies, portrayed contrasting counter-narratives as well as related and interconnected ideas, which still endure to this day, and provide a striking insight into present society and what could come of society.

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Ridley Scott and Mary Shelley’s Portrayal of Dominant Social Narratives of Their Time in ‘Blade Runner’ and ‘Frankenstein’. (2023, March 01). Edubirdie. Retrieved April 20, 2024, from https://edubirdie.com/examples/ridley-scott-and-mary-shelleys-portrayal-of-dominant-social-narratives-of-their-time-in-blade-runner-and-frankenstein/
“Ridley Scott and Mary Shelley’s Portrayal of Dominant Social Narratives of Their Time in ‘Blade Runner’ and ‘Frankenstein’.” Edubirdie, 01 Mar. 2023, edubirdie.com/examples/ridley-scott-and-mary-shelleys-portrayal-of-dominant-social-narratives-of-their-time-in-blade-runner-and-frankenstein/
Ridley Scott and Mary Shelley’s Portrayal of Dominant Social Narratives of Their Time in ‘Blade Runner’ and ‘Frankenstein’. [online]. Available at: <https://edubirdie.com/examples/ridley-scott-and-mary-shelleys-portrayal-of-dominant-social-narratives-of-their-time-in-blade-runner-and-frankenstein/> [Accessed 20 Apr. 2024].
Ridley Scott and Mary Shelley’s Portrayal of Dominant Social Narratives of Their Time in ‘Blade Runner’ and ‘Frankenstein’ [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2023 Mar 01 [cited 2024 Apr 20]. Available from: https://edubirdie.com/examples/ridley-scott-and-mary-shelleys-portrayal-of-dominant-social-narratives-of-their-time-in-blade-runner-and-frankenstein/
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