Reflections on Blade Runner

  • Greetings everyone,

    My name is Kahdeidra, and I was unable to attend this week’s class session; however, I have listened to the audio recording of the discussion and have attempted two provocations based on what I heard and my own analysis of the reading and film. I’d love to read your thoughts!

    Provocation #1.
    In this Monday’s class, Professor Mandiberg posed the following question: How did the text and the film represent race or not? The class discussed how the Androids are enslaved labor and that indigenous and African-descended people are entirely excluded from the narrative. For me, the idea of colonizing another place immediately foregrounded racialized colonialism and chattel slavery. However, there also appears to be a metanarrative on Orientalism in the film. In the film’s setting, Japanese female sexuality is idealized and is the dominant representation. This contrasts with the U.S. tradition of White female sexuality and beauty being idealized. One recalls the advertisement in the opening scenes. The advertisements feature an Asian woman dressed as a Geisha. As a viewer, how did you “see” this woman? Did she seem out of place, or did you accept it as a logical aspect of setting? What was Deckerd’s relationship to his surroundings?

    My experience was that we seem to participate in the orientalizing of Asian cultures because our gaze is aligned with Deckerd, a White male authority figure who does not speak either Japanese or the dominant street language, that evolves from several different languages. It was a powerful commentary on linguistic ideology when the Asian American cook is forced to translate for him, and we learn that he is in fact multilingual, despite pretending that he did not understand Deckert’s use of English. Even still, Deckerd does not seem embarrassed, only annoyed by the languaging practices around him. He retains his White male, monolingual privilege in a clearly Asian-dominated, multilingual context.

    Later in the film, I recognized what appeared to be another example of idealizing Japanese female sexuality. The make-up design of the female android with white powder and black eyes was reminiscent of Geisha make-up and Japanese Kabuki theater. Did anyone else have these thoughts? Or, is my analysis overreaching?

    Provocation #2. 
    What do we make of the death of Tyrell, the founder of the Tyrell corporation? It was glossed over in the class discussion, but I think that it is worth revisiting. Consider the manner in which the android killed him. He firmly kissed him on the lips and then gouged his eyes out. How did you read the kiss? Was it homoerotic? Was it a commentary on androgyny and sexual fluidity? Finally, was it significant that his eyes are gouged out? If so, what could his eyes and immediate death symbolize? (I was surprised that he died immediately after this injury. I expected that he would be forced to live with blindness.) What themes could be at play in regards to the role of corporations in our lives?

3 thoughts on “Reflections on Blade Runner

  1. Hi Kahdeidra, my name is Carolyn and I enjoyed your post. Here are some thoughts. I agree that the opening scenes of Blade Runner set up the types of race and language layers in the film you point out and describe. You refer to <> which I view as establishing female subservience, esp. as it is highlighted through the neon of the ad on and the projection of it from a monumental screen, made more striking against the ominous, post-apocalyptic dark background of LA with intermittent, fiery explosions. And then, a Coca Cola soft drink branding ad appears, to assert what is left of the traditional American identity.

    I don’t think you’re over reaching in your considerations of <> and I would add that, in the character of Rachel, it is also combined with the “look” of a 1940’s era film noir leading lady. The concept and fantastic result ofo combining the two is quite amazing to me in terms of makeup/theatre design.

    I’m still mulling the significant running theme and use of eyeballs in the book/film and will re-watch the scene of Tyrell’s death in this context. –CAM

    • p.s. these are the citations from Kahdeidra’s post that I placed between which do not appear on screen in my reply post above:

      “the advertisement in the opening scenes…feature an Asian woman dressed as a Geisha.”
      “the make-up design of the female android with white powder and black eyes was reminiscent of Geisha make-up and Japanese Kabuki theater.”

  2. I don’t feel provoked; I support your theses, which aren’t overreaching at all! I just wonder if the filmmaker was deliberate about the race and gender statements in the film. I assume messages about corporatism and enslavement were intentional, but I suspect that the orientalism and sexism were baked in as ethos of the time period (and this one).

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