Earlier this week on the podcast, Ariel mentioned not being a huge fan of BLADE RUNNER. She mentioned that while she admires it for its look and its craft, she can’t get into it due to the way it poses a question and then never actually seeks to answer it.
The question – one of the great questions of our time – is what it means to be human.
Interestingly, for a film as visually lush as BLADE RUNNER is, and for as many edits as there are of this feature, the question is seldom reflected visually. There are precious few moments where the mortals that make up Los Angeles of the 21st Century truly let their fear, anger, love, and other such telltale human emotions shine through in a tangibly visual sense. The replicant test actually goes so far as to begin with a question designed to establish empathy, and yet the film does very little to visually reflect a sense of empathy.
Perhaps it’s because these ideas are not only difficult to identify in ourselves – let alone others – that the film sticks to what makes us physically human.
Throughout the film, officer Gaff keeps leaving around these little origami creations. Chickens, unicorns, stick men…you name it. The creations are a teeny nod to what Deckard may or may not be seeing, but what I love about them is the way they underscore the obvious. The establishment in BLADE RUNNER has to look deep into the inner workings of their targets in the story, because from the outside, they absolutely seems human.
We have grown so unobservant, so ambivalent about the people we interact with, that we barely register anything about them. Head? Torso? Limbs? Yep, nothing to worry about here – let’s move on. It’s evocative of what we experienced earlier this year in EX MACHINA; we were acutely aware that Ava wasn’t human, but when she covered up her metallic bits, the certainty suddenly lessened. What does that say about us?
Gaff seems to recognize this in his snide way. He seems to understand that as long as a being is anatomically correct, that we will accept it. He knows that we won’t follow orders from a handheld gizmo, or a box with a screen (little did he know…), but put any sort of A.I. into a humanoid form, and mankind will follow along without question.
Is it just what’s in us mentally and emotionally that makes us human, or shouldn’t the packaging count for something too? Isn’t that why we rebel against cosmetic surgery and anti-aging and have been pushing for better body image and celebrating the flaws?
When in the reality of BLADE RUNNER did humanity start taking all that for granted? I think we should look into that to avoid making the actual mistake.
Here’s three more from BLADE RUNNER for the road…
This series of posts is inspired by the “Hit Me With Your Best Shot” series at The Film Experience. Do check out all of the awesome entires in their series so far