Category Archives: Blog Prompt

Blog Prompt #5: Sakes Alive

Fatalism in Terminator 1 & 2

The struggle to change the future in Terminator 1 & 2 is resonant with humanity’s desire to control its destiny to die. Delaying the inevitable is analogous to humans’ belief that death can be prevented, and the Skynet apocalypse is treated as such a deadly event. Sarah Connor and Young John have differing approaches to the apocalypse, which mirror their maturity and views of death.

Most prominently, Sarah Connor is in the original movie an innocent, spunky character. She’s dragged into a battle for the future like it’s a trip to the grocery store. Once again, this is an example of Sarah’s loss of innocence in the series – she is, after this event, forever corrupted by her knowledge of the dystopian future of Skynet. In Terminator 2, this knowledge drives her. Indeed, it is arguably her only motivator: even her love for John is an extension of her desire to save the human race in 2029. John is, to her, an object to be protected. Her transition to adulthood made her conscious of the fact that she will one day die, as is the realization of many adults in middle age; also like them, she has become obsessed with stopping death – or, Skynet.

Young John plays his part beautifully as well. Ever the optimist, he exudes all the idealism of a small child newly introduced to the world of men. He comes up with simple black and white solutions to grey problems – “You don’t ever kill people. It’s wrong.” – with no thought to when the rules should be broken. This thoughtlessness is mirrored in his approach to the Skynet apocalypse. John’s actions, while they help prevent Skynet, don’t treat the apocalypse as inevitable – he approaches his goals as naive and hopeful, in contrast to Sarah’s weaponized, anarchist, destructive approach. Just as children understand that death occurs but fail to think about it, so does John work against Skynet but refuse to accept its eventual reality.

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Blog Prompt #4: Words Galore

What significance does memory hold in the film?

Memory serves at least three major functions in Blade Runner.

  1. precursor to consciousness
  2. ethical standard
  3. indicator of humanity
First and foremost, memory in Blade Runner is treated as a possession without which it is impossible to be considered sentient. Humans are of  course considered conscious by default. Replicants, on the other hand, are limited to a lifespan of slavery in four years, and are only allowed to collect a toddler’s amount of experience before they die. Thus, replicants are broadly considered to be inferior to human beings. They aren’t treated as second-class  citizens – they are treated as animals. This abuse is partly due to their laboratory origins. When Deckard meets Rachael – a replicant supplied with all the memories of a human being – later in the film, her behavior is subtly different from the expected human behavior, in spite of the memories in her head. This suggests a fundamental difference between humans and replicants.
An ethical standard is the second role that memory plays. A central plot device in the film is Deckard’s  quest to (re)gain his humanity. He gradually does so as the film progresses, thanks in no small part to the various ethical dilemmas that he faces. (Should replicants be punished for wanting longer life? What happens if I mistakenly kill a human being? Can/should I love/lust after a replicant? etc.) Deckard evaluates these questions, it would seem, by examining both himself and his experiences to arrive at a conclusion. “Experience: replicants have killed people. Therefore they should be punished. Ex: I’ve never been wrong about a replicant before. Therefore there is no risk of a mistake. Ex: This replicant has memories and wants to have feelings. Therefore I can teach her to love.” Deckard’s experiences provide a standard against which he can weigh his actions. The same is true for Roy – in his short time, he’s seen only abuse at the hands of human beings, so he feels justified in killing the source of his suffering.
However, the most important thing the memory does for Blade Runner is to provide a criteria for humanity. Obviously, every human in the movie has a lifetime’s worth of memories stored up, and we take their status as human for granted. The audience is less sure about replicants, although it’s clear upon further examination that one of the movie’s goals is to convince the audience that the replicants are human. Look no further than Deckard himself for this information. He looks up information from Rachael’s past in a “file”, which allegedly contains information about the memories of all replicants. Earlier in the film, Deckard is seen daydreaming about unicorns. At the very end, he encounters an origami unicorn left in his path by Detective Gaff, the man responsible for looking after him. As this unicorn was placed in a location that Gaff would not normally have known, the strong implication is that Gaff looked up “unicorns” as being personally significant in Deckard’s file – which implies that Deckard is in fact a replicant, imbued as Rachael was with human memory. This revelation also has the impact of changing Deckard’s quest from “regaining his humanity” to “gaining it in the first place”, and explains how with time, Deckard becomes more human as he accumulates real-world experiences and real-world memory. As Deckard is arguably the most human character in the film, memory is clearly the film’s absolute indicator of humanity – it’s what Deckard quests for all along.
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Blog Prompt #2: Electric Boogaloo

Parallel Universes Edition: What if the creature had gotten to Walton first?

To: Mrs. Seville, England.

You may be delighted to hear the news that today, I rescued a man who was wandering among these frigid wastes. Unfortunately, you would be wrong on two accounts: in your delight, and in that he was a man. The creature I rescued was no man born of woman, if I am to believe his fantastic story. But before I spin you his horrible tale, I must describe to you his singular person.

This being, who has no name, towers over mortal men by a yard’s length. Wreathed in dreads of oily, black hair, his head sheaths two sickly yellow eyes. A gaping mouth of piercing white teeth, framed by inhuman black lips, cleaves his face. His off-white skin is pale, translucent even, to expose his veins in uncanny detail. His frame is gargantuan to behold, yet his mental stature is nothing if not even more considerable. He is an expert in the art of rhetoric, and can frame thoughts with the hand of a masterful craftsman. I digress: the story of his origin is more captivating even than his alien countenance.

He tells me, dear wife, of a man so bent to his art that he neglected his health, his friends and even his family for the sake of his studies. He was obsessed with life – not just the behavior of living things, but the creation of life itself. This scientist, mad with passion, assembled the poor creature from the bodies of the deceased, and gave life to it, but, coward that he was, he fled at the sight of the terrifying being he had created. Oh, injustice! That he had only stayed to nurture his newborn child! You will soon see, dear wife, the wickedness of the scientist’s way!

The wretched creature ran into a forest and learned the ways and language of man, and with no small difficulty: all that saw him drove him out as an abomination. One day, he learned of his maker’s name – Frankenstein – through a journal, and the creature began to scour the countryside for his master and creator. Finding him, the poor soul demanded that its existence be validated with a female companion, and Frankenstein agreed; but the fickle man destroyed the second creation at the monster’s visitation. Hateful man! The monster was now left without a companion in all the world, but for the impulse of a vain fool. Frankenstein, now bloodthirsty, lunged at the monster, and chased him across continents to the present location. How cruel the evil father is to his child!

Dearest wife, I fear I must go; for the day grows long, and there is much to do. The creature promises to elucidate the rest of his riveting story to me on the morrow. ‘Til then, I bid thee sleep easier than I this night!

Sincerely yours,

Walton

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To: Mrs. Seville, England.

My lovely wife, this day has justice been made known. The foul man Frankenstein was giving chase to his creature in this climate, and was taken aboard our vessel in the sorriest of conditions – we, of course, unknowing it was he. The creature, however, recognizing his master instantly, flew into a fit of laughter at the sight of him, and at Frankenstein’s awakening, enclosed himself in a room with his master for “a small talk”. Soon later, the creature emerged bearing tragic news – before he could ask his master for an explanation of his rash actions, Frankenstein leaped out the window and drowned rather than face the consequence of his wanton meddling with life. Despondent after bearing this news to us, the creature asked to be alone, and retired to his temporary room. Had I not known better, I would say his sobs of grief and defeat had been stifled laughter, but I know this creature’s heart to be pure.

We will return the creature to land once our trek is complete; God willing, with us as a mediator, society will accept him as one of their own. Perhaps you can even meet him upon our return!

With love,

Walton

nature: innocence

Blog Prompt 1: How and why do descriptions of nature feature so strongly in the novel? What function do they serve in our understanding of the events, themes, and/or characters?

A common theme in nineteenth-century literature is the idea of nature as a healing agent. The writings of Thoreau exemplify this mindset: having left society for months to live in a shack by a lake, Thoreau wrote exclusively of the wonders and beauty of nature, in contrast to the perils and ugliness of civilization. From Frankenstein: “Alas! Why does man boast of sensibilities superior to those apparent in the brute; it only renders them more necessary beings. If our impulses were confined to hunger, thirst, and desire, we might be nearly free; but now we are moved by every wind that blows and a chance word or scene that that word may convey to us.” (p. 64) Mary’s clear intention is to cast man as an animal burdened by his so-called sensibilities; enslaved to this beast called society, he has lost touch with his innermost desires, and thereby condemned himself to unhappiness.
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The metaphor, however, goes one step further. We briefly discussed the loss of innocence in class. As was mentioned, Victor’s education at Ingolstadt accordingly robbed him of his childlike fantasies of alchemy and the occult. In the novel, this represents Victor’s coming of age, and the casting aside of his ignorance of the truth about the world. This exposure to the new sciences prompts him to obsess over creating a monster to the point of making himself ill. Not, I contend, because of his absence from nature, but because of his ardent dedication to the “adult” world. Later, Frankenstein laments his own folly, fearing himself to be exiled from society if anyone were to discover his heinous creation. Similarly are Adam and Eve made sinful and cast out for tasting the Fruit in the Biblical creation myth. Creating a monster represents Victor’s original sin, and his transition from childhood to adulthood.
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The monster, too, is depressed by his knowledge of the world: young and naive, he observes the peasant family in their business, and he rejoices at their beauty; but once they see him – once he ventures into the world and tries to become a participant instead of just an observer – he’s driven out by the disgusted screams of the humans he once adored. This ostracism is what represents the monster’s loss of innocence. He ventured forth from his home in nature into the world of men; thus corrupted, he can never feel true happiness again. As a sinful adult, he seeks the misery of others rather than his own happiness. The loss of innocence is a literary theme not unique to Frankenstein, but pervasive throughout its length as one of if not the most compelling plot device in the story, with both main characters suffering through the distorting transformation.
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