Joseph Conrad, Ridley Scott, and the changed face of the dystopian oppressor in fiction and film
thesisposted on 28.03.2022, 18:41 by Patrick Pearson
Dystopian fiction and film over the past fifty years have seen a shift in the way the oppressor in dystopian scenarios is represented. The revised depiction of the agency of repression has moved from the State as dystopian tormentor to the Corporation as the new subjugator, and envisages capitalism run rampant and the Corporation grown all-powerful, corrupt and tyrannical. This thesis examines the genesis of two filmic texts of the late twentieth century, Alien and Blade Runner, both directed by Ridley Scott, which have been influential in framing the modern cultural metanarrative around fears that globalised capitalism may have catastrophic consequences for future society. Arguing that Joseph Conrad has been a strong stylistic and thematic influence upon Scott’s early work, and through Scott upon subsequent dystopian texts, I first investigate Scott’s familiarity with Conrad’s writing, then closely analyse Conrad’s 1904 novel Nostromo and the two seminal Scott films. I suggest that Conrad’s fiction anticipates the four fears underlying Scott’s films: that runaway capitalism will spawn neo-imperialist corporate oligarchies; that these will commercialise and commoditise life; that they will ruin the environment; and that they will globalise tyranny. Conceptualised through the critical lenses of Postcolonial and Globalisation Studies, and employing a New Formalist approach to textual analysis, the study concludes that Conrad has been integral to the change of identity of the oppressor in late twentieth-century and early twenty-first century dystopian texts.