Social Commentaries on the Disruption of Human Condition

1 January 2017

A deeper understanding of disruption and identity emerges from considering the parallels between Frankenstein and Blade Runner [copy this essay and you die >:( Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and Ridley Scott’s Bladerunner are both social commentaries that reiterate the zeitgeist of their era; exploring parallel anxieties concerning the disruption of the human condition, the human condition being the meaningful interaction between humanity and the world around.

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Both composers raise this as the salient premise, through the embodiment of these disruptions in an identity. Identity and character play a significant role in unpacking the contextual fears and criticisms in both of these texts. Frankenstein and Bladerunner utilize differing mediums and conceptual aesthetic frameworks to elucidate their contextual parallels. Bladerunner as a grand narrative utilizes postmodern textual features like anti-humanist agendas and Frankenstein as a hybridized gothic text employing principles established by romantics framing enlightenment.

Shelley and Scott both share concerns with the teleological perspective of the disruption of the human condition due to the corrupting clutches of technology. Shelley and Scott display strong contextual links which endure across time, such as common scientifically dominated worlds and contemporary anxieties. As the contemporary human condition dominates the face of the Earth with unerring progress, it is paradoxical in both texts that the focus shifts to the flaws of this domination.

Victor’s hamartia is his own blinding ambition and need to defy ‘the natural’ a contextual parallel to the process of enlightenment, to even try to dominate it” who shall conceive the horrors of my secret toil… pursue nature to her hiding-place”, the personification of nature and blatant disrespect creates a disruption in the human condition. The humans in Bladerunner are portrayed to be inferior to the replicants by the dysphemistic term “little people”. The human condition is degraded to a mere game, in which humans are the pawns.

This is evidenced throughout the film by the symbolic motif of the chess set “commerce is our ultimate goal here” where life is seen as a commodity, a resource ready to be exploited. This is further inferred by the perpetual product placement and towering billboards framed by low angle shots in the opening sequence, these elements coupled with the unsaturated shots of the urban landscape create a spatial inequality symbolic of the contextual links to Reagonomics. Mirroring enlightenment the lement of life is also debased within Victor, where life isn’t a powerful and sacred natural force, but a series of technological processes, seen through the lack of emotive language when he aborts his creation “I ardently wished to extinguish that life. ” In each case people are valued as a resource, not their worth as living, breathing beings. This teleological perception of the human condition is derived from the collective concerns of the exploitation based on the ambiguity of the human condition.

Framed by irrational and rational fears, this blurring distinction creates a plausible threat to the human condition motivating a change in action or perception. This “human condition” portrayed in both texts is contrasted with the “disruptions of the human condition. ” Victor’s creature is metaphorical of an ‘everyman,’ created from dismembered parts of the deceased and the replicants in Bladerunner built to “replicate” the human form, these beings embody the technologizing of identity and disrupted human condition “to make an alteration in the evolvement of an organic life”.

The replicants and Victor’s creature symbolize the birth of technology; raising the question of whether the human condition can survive a disruption like the birth of technology. Victor’s creature embodies a monstrous sublime over a traditional sublime and the mechanization of the identity, possessing the capacity to leave men in awe but it is this sublime that causes his own grief. “If I cannot inspire love, I will cause fear” he attempts to pursue his place and revaluates his identity.

The creature expresses his anguish for his own paradoxical existence through the rhetorical “my accursed origin…my disgusting circumstances… why did I live? ” Similarly the replicants are relegated to “bare life”, where their identity is essentially stripped away from them and imposed with another. They’re identified as tabula rasa with no humanity initially embedded within them. Perceived through the implementation of false memories “we can control them better… you’re talking about memories! acting as an artificial identity, Rachael unaware of the truth is introduced by ambient lighting with her foreground illuminated by sunlight, contrasted with the scene of realization where she is painted in darkness and at the point of realization Rachael is delved into complete darkness. Chiaroscuro and color manipulation are employed to metaphorically give the truth an omnipotent overtone. The blurring of the distinction between what attributes or lack of attributes which separates Victor’s creation and the replicants from being called “humans” is the salient premise raised in both texts.

This ambiguity is the common tool used to channel the concerns about the extents of the mechanization of the human condition. Both composers juxtapose a conflicting understanding of the human condition to put in stark contrast the teleological direction of the human condition and allow the audience to develop their own critical thesis of the human condition. Shelley utilizes epistolary form in the form of lowbrow horror while Scott employs postmodern textual features in film.

Bladerunner following a postmodern tradition is a pastiche of genres incorporating film noir through a hardboiled detective and a femme fatale. Cliched characters like the femme fatale and Deckard are caricatures of caricatures; the human element is twice removed to serve the anti-humanist agenda. This framing of the human condition is a critical viewing, allowing the audience to discern a moral stance. The antagonist Roy Batty being the only character who is not two dimensional, but bares humanity perceived through Deckard’s rescue,” Ah!

Kinship” the transition from night to dawn symbolizes moral tale of humanity contrary to this he is anti-human. The tale is anti-humanist as the protagonist and antagonist are revealed to be replicants, “We’re not computers-we’re physical”. The film disrupts the conventions of a moral tale, parodying it to serve as a tale of the human condition through anti-humans. Similarly Shelley’s crude epistolary form is an embodiment of the creature by its roughly sewn form reflecting the seams that crudely weave technology in Shelley’s context.

The creature persistence in trying to find its place in humanity, and is interoperated as a romantic character pushing the boundaries separating man from beast. Shelley’s characters embody an enlightened scientific rationale and a romantic ideology these qualities evoke empathy allowing for a critical thesis of the displacement of the human condition to be conjured within the reader. Contrary to this, Bladerunner follows postmodern tropes where it is difficult to maintain empathy for characters that embody a moral tale reinforcing the anti-humanist agenda.

Both texts subvert the role of “man” and Frankenstein’s Gothicism and Bladerunner’s postmodernism are utilized to frame the narrative allowing a suspension in disbelief and express darker ideologies about the teleology of the disruption of the human condition. This allows a viewing of the identities from a displaced perspective to a recentering of the human condition and identity. The texts mirror what has already occurred in the history of the human condition through their characters and in doing so explore strong contextual parallels like common technological worlds and contemporary anxieties.

Shelley and Scott discuss the salient premise of disruption within the human condition through a shared teleological perception. Using differing aesthetic frameworks like sublime and postmodern rhetoric they critically assess the disruption of the contemporary human condition allowing the audience to discern a moral stance. They share the common goal to inspire and motivate action or a change in the perception to preserve the human condition.

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