Genre Studies: Fantasy, Science Fiction

1st Quarter: Fantasy

Recommended Books

Class Notes

2nd Quarter:
Science Fiction

Recommended Books
Blade Runner

Blade Runner

     (left) "Are you for real?" Zhora asks.  At the end of the film, the viewer doesn't know for sure.  It's a fine example of the many double-meanings found throughout the film. 
     (Below) Zhora is the first replicant that Deckard finds; ironically, she is working in a strip-club--a place where she reveals herself.  The irony is carried into imagery as she wears a transparent blouse and, in her flight from Deckard,  runs through several panes of glass. 

     (Left) In another line laced with double-meaning, Gaff tells Deckard, "You've done a man's job!" 
     But is he one? 
     (below left) As Deckard sleeps, he dreams of a unicorn.  At the end of the film, Gaff leaves an origami unicorn at Deckard's apartment, hinting that he knew about the dreams. 
     The scene was stupidly cut from TV versions of the film. 

"Is this to be an empathy test?" Tyrone asks.  On the surface, the viewer might assume that this question was directed to the Voigt-Kamff test, but he is also interrupting Rachel's questioning of Deckard.  Her questions are clearly designed to provoke an emotional response. 

"...every Replicant asks questions, the deepest ones ( 'How much have I left to live ?', 'Have you ever retired a human by mistake ?') These very questions, moreover, seem to escape the characters that are put to such a test -- Roy looks for, then questions Chew, J.F. Sebastian, Tyrell and finally, Deckard. We do not know whether these characters essentially escape, that is, if they survive, for it seems these questions keep their life in suspense and foreshadow their sentence of death. Regarding this question mark, the movie remains ambiguous" (Gauthier).

What about those numbers? 
When Deckard is first given the assignment, mention is made of six
replicants on the loose (three male, three female), yet Deckard only chases after four. Why? (Leong)

One Explanation
During his briefing, Bryan tells "Deckard that there were originally six replicants and that one was killed during the break-in attempt. This would leave five replicants for Deckard to retire, but Bryant acts all along as if only four need to be retired [Until, of course, he adds Rachael to the list]…  The LAPD puts the current "top gun" Blade Runner, Holden, on the job of tracking down and retiring the four remaining replicants. However, when Leon disposes of him so easily, the authorities realize that they have a major problem on their hands. The LAPD decides to try a risky gambit by having Tyrell revive the captured male replicant and giving him memory implants from the most renowned Blade Runner ever (the retired or deceased Rick Deckard). The new Deckard has all of the original's psychological strengths and weaknesses housed in the superior frame of a replicant. This is corroborated by the new Deckard's ability to take extreme physical punishment (witness his beatings at the hands of Leon, Zhora, and Pris) and to shove Rachael around his apartment. This "reincarnation" of Deckard also explains why Roy Batty knows his name, even though they have never met before… 
     Unfortunately, two monkey wrenches get thrown into the works. The first is an outgrowth of the human Deckard's memories: the new Deckard is wracked by doubt and guilt over the killings (presumably what caused the human Deckard to retire in the first place) and then to make matters worse, he falls in love with Rachael. The second is the existence of an unsuspected saboteur with hidden motives (Gaff) who tips off the new Deckard about its own true nature [by leaving the origami unicorn, implying that Gaff knows about his dreams, which he could only do if they were artificial implants].  These two incidents completely unravel the LAPD plan to bring in the unsuspecting new Deckard for retirement after it has disposed of the other five replicants (original four + Rachael who turns up missing). Thus forewarned, the new Deckard and Rachael gain a headstart on any pursuers. Given that the new Deckard is still the best
Blade Runner ever, perhaps there is some hope for the fugitive couple. Then again, we have no idea how far along they are in their life-cycles. To paraphrase the shadowy Gaff: it's too bad they won't live.... but then again, who does?  (Pontolillo)

The Voigt-Kampff test thus happens to be a means by which to measure affective moods and focuses upon the body, more accurately upon the eye, so as to detect every reaction to the test. More than the systematic tracking of Replicants, it stands for a yardstick by which to measure the subject's appropriateness to the world…  The Voigt-Kampff test thereby tries to snatch from the tested subjects emotions that could betray their own identity. This results in a sense of insecurity, the sensation of being chased, thus pressing Replicants to a flight. (Gauthier )

Their whole life indeed rests upon what they consider as evidence of their being-in-the-world. Replicants try to assert their humanity as they rely upon photographs which… Replicants are perfect 'skin jobs', they look like human beings, they talk like them, they even have feelings and emotions… What they lack is a history. For that they have to be killed. Seeking a history, fighting for it, they search for their origin, for that time before themselves.(Gauthier )

Blade Runner and Issues of Today

Arguments that Deckard is a Replicant
* More clues are provided in the photograph retrieved from Leon's apartment.
When Deckard enhances the photograph, the image reveals a bottle of Johnny
Walker Classic sitting on a table, which is the same type of bottle that
Deckard keeps on his piano. Furthermore, in the background, there is a
picture of an unidentified man who has a similar hairstyle to Deckard and
sits in exactly the same pose as Deckard does at that moment, with his cheek
resting on his hand. This, of course, would imply that one of Leon's
replicant associates was in fact Deckard.
* Along the same line, replicants seem to have a habit of collecting
photographs, which help provide a link to their non-existent pre-programmed
pasts. Both Leon and Rachel are shown using photographs as a means of
validating their existence. Interestingly enough, Deckard's apartment is
also cluttered with photographs.
* When they first meet, Batty already knows Deckard's name, implying that
Batty already knew him, possibly as a fellow replicant. This has interesting
implications for the scene when Deckard questions Zhora in her dressing room,
since she did not seem to attack him until she realized that he had been
reprogrammed as a blade runner.
* A number of remarks made to Deckard [including]  Rachel's retort "Have
you ever taken that test yourself?"… 
* One interesting scene, which may be due to the result of a camera glitch,
has Deckard's eyes glowing yellow-orange when he assures Rachel that he would
not 'retire' her.

Arguments that Deckard is Human
Making Deckard a replicant makes the film less interesting in a number of ways. If Deckard is human, the question of
What it is to be human clearly becomes a central issue of the film. When Roy saves Deckard, a replicant is showing a behaviour so human that it makes the definition shake. When Deckard falls in love with Rachel, a human is feeling something for a non-human. If replicants are hunting and falling in love with replicants there is no ambivalence and therefore no conflict. (Wikipedia)

Rachel's remark is to underscore the idea that there really isn't any difference between humans and replicants anymore.  This idea is also stated during Holden's examination of Leon.  Leon doesn't know what a tortoise is.  Holden asks,
Holden: "Know what a turtle is?"
Leon: "Yeah.  Of course."
Holden: "Same thing." 

"A Blade Runner seems to be a cut above an ordinary policeman, yet Gaff, an ordinary policeman, has knowledge about replicants' memory implants (believing the Deckard replicant theory), a knowledge which Deckard, a supposedly veteran Blade Runner gains only at the beginning of this story. That, of course, is a huge oversight: that Deckard learns about such memory implants only now, after his career as a Blade Runner has more or less finished…  how is that Gaff, the ordinary policeman, knows about the implants either at the same time as Deckard, or beforehand? To accept that Gaff knows beforehand is to get into a scenario where we'd also have to accept that some kind of joke is being played on Deckard, with everyone in possession of the facts except him. Why enlist Deckard at all?" (Connolly)