Class Discussion: ‘Blade Runner’

This is a space to continue our class discussion of Blade Runner.

Here are the group discussion prompts from yesterday’s class, as starting points (though you can address anything you want in relation to the film here):

  1. Consider the novel and the film together. While you should certainly take stock of similarities and differences between them, this is only a first (brainstorming) step. Your discussion here should not only note key similarities and/or differences but also (and this is the crucial part!) discuss the significance of these similarities and/or differences. Putting two texts in dialogue with each other allows you to create a more nuanced argument about themes/conflicts/characters/symbols, etc.
  1. Consider the scene in J.F. Sebastian’s apartment, where the replicants encounter other automata (his “toys” and creations). In particular, consider the scene where Deckard uncovers Pris (before she attacks him).
  1. Consider the scene in which Roy encounters his various creators (first “Chew” with the eyes, then J.F., and then Tyrell).
  1. What’s up with the “unicorn” dream & origami figure at the end of it?
  1. Consider the theme of “eyes” in the movie.
  1. Consider the theme of memories in this movie.

Also, check out Eugene’s great class notes from 3/5, for more themes of what we discussed. Let’s engage with the notion of the “cyborg,” and also “prosthesis” (remember to check out the great scene, starting at minute 43, where Deckard enhances his vision to see into Leon’s photography through the use of the Esper machine).

Chris, I know, as our presenter/discussion facilitator, you had a list of themes/moments to discuss. Perhaps you can also leave them as a comment here (or make a separate post, which I can then link to from here), and we can address them as well?

 

[The Logistics]

Just a reminder that you should make your at least one comment (just hit “reply,” either to my original post or to another comment on it) by Sunday (3/8). Then go back/read through all comments and extend the conversation by making at least two more comments (of course, more are always welcome!) in response by Tuesday 3/10. 

Your comment (reply) can be just a few sentences: provide the quote/citation and a quick explanation of how/why it functions in the context of some larger issue/question (or you can raise questions, complicate issues, extend discussions, analyze a character, or setting, etc. &/or discuss central conflicts/values/themes through the use of your evidence/analysis). Feel free to post multiple comments, and also to respond to others. If you’ve already discussed some of these instances in your previous blogs or in class, you should feel free to draw on that material.The goal is to have some good virtual discussions here to help you think critically about important themes/questions raised by this complex novel, and to find/analyze/synthesize various pieces of evidence in support of claim.

The goal in all cases is to provide specific examples from the film (quotes/scene + citation – use the minute:second format) with discussion/analysis and some connection to a larger claim/argument. You must cite currently in MLA format (in-text citation).

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48 thoughts on “Class Discussion: ‘Blade Runner’

  1. While watching the film I enjoyed the trick that was used with eyes. From my perspective the eyes were used to show the difference between the replicants and humans. The replicants had a glow of some sort in the eye. Some one said in one of there post that eyes are the window to the soul and I feel like using the replicants and showing a glow in there eye was trying to show maybe they do have souls within them.

  2. The bloody Unicorn!! The ONE thing from the entire film that I dislike because it seems so pointless. Yes, Rick’s unicorn dream and Gaff’s unicorn origami from the end is director Ridley Scott’s last minute attempt of wanting to wow us with a surprise twist and make us question if Rick is human, where NO WHERE ELSE in the entire movie is it hinted that he might be a replicant. The original theatrical release didn’t have any unicorn scenes, they were added in the Director’s Cut (of course ¬¬), and carried on to the Final Cut.

    In DADOES there is a moment where the reader questions Rick’s status as a human, with the whole situation at the fake police station, with Garland swearing that he’s an andy, until Resch leaves the office and Garland reveals himself as one. THAT moment was a plot twist. In Blade Runner we never get any moment worthy of making us scratch our head asking if Rick is human or replicant. People claim that there’s a reflection in his eyes when he’s talking to Rachel in his apartment, and the fact that he has no loved ones, only photographs, just like Leon and Rachel. But even if Blade Runner Rick Deckard turns out to be a replicant himself, it doesn’t make any sense in-universe. After the revolt on the off-world colonies, replicants are illegal on Earth, why would they have chosen him to be a Blade Runner? It just creates so many plot holes.

    Ridles Scott’s has a knack for taking stories that are already great as they are, and adding some new twist that only confuses viewers. Case in point, Prometheus.

    If it ain’t broken, don’t try to fix it.

    #deckardishuman

      • Maybe confusing wasn’t the right word, it just seemed to introduce so many unanswered and unresolved ideas regarding the whole Alien franchise. Even though it’s ‘supposedly’ not a prequel, it sure has many events and creatures that leads the viewer to think so. The ship that took off at the end is presumed to be the one that crash landed on LV-426, setting the stage for Alien. It introduces the black goo, the snake/worm creatures, the squid fetus, and the so called ‘Deacon’ alien, making the viewer think these are all precursors to facehuggers and the xenomorph species. BUT then there’s the mural they found with a sculpture of the xeno’s as we know them…

        Not to mention the amount of human stupidity present throughout the film: the map specialist who gets lost, the paranoid biologist who reaches out to an unknown creature-thing, Charleze Theron running away in a straight line from a rolling object….. Just to name a few.

        I’m not saying I hated it, as a fan of the Alien franchise it was nice seeing new material, and I’ll probably watch the sequel regardless. It just introduced new ideas, to make us go ‘ooh…ahh…’ and then left them unanswered. Just like that bloody unicorn in BR.

        -rant over-

    • yeah i was supper confused with the whole unicorn deal, i don’t really see how that makes him a replicant but I know in the book I remember questioning myself when he was picked up by the undercover-andy-police-force and Rick himself sort of questions his humanity, I myself was convinced he was synthetic. And I guess that might have been the reference in the movie, but I don’t get why a unicorn.

    • @Andrew D
      To be honest, I skipped over the unicorn scene. I saw a Deckard laying on his piano and though “wow, this scene is taking awhile”. So I kind of jumped a few minutes ahead.

      After re-watching that scene (41:50 – 42:25), the director must have though it could be used as a symbol of understanding or insight? As right after Deckard has his daydream, almost as if he had an epiphany, he is able to notice Zora in Leon’s picture.

  3. Just to mention an outside example of an adaptational plot twist done right, there’s the Stephen King 1980 novel “The Mist” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Mist) and its 2007 film adaptation (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Mist_(film)).

    The events that unfold in the film are pretty much the same as in the novel, except for some minor details. However, while the novel ends with the surviving characters facing an uncertain, slightly optimistic future, the film ends in a plot twist that is possibly one of the saddest and most disturbingly depressing downer endings in a movie I’ve ever watched. I don’t want to spoil it for anyone, but the plot details are in the links provided.

  4. Yes it does seem like that unicorn is something a lot of people like about the film, but it’s just so pointless. I guess the unicorn serves as the parallel to the spider from the book, but it has no real significance, it’s all just conjecture. On the other hand the spider had a clear purpose. The protagonist himself explains that the spider is a predatory creature that lacks empathy in order to survive, and that’s why the spider is an important symbol that appears at the end. In the film, however, there is no scene that indirectly states why the unicorn is important in the film. If one wanted to argue that Deckard is a woman trapped in a mans body, because Deckard dreams of unicorns and unicorns are considered girly, that’s a valid argument. This is why I hate when writer/directors leave everything open to interpretation, it means that your symbol mean absolutely nothing. But for the sake of this post I’ll put my own interpretation of the unicorn. I believe that the unicorn is meant to blur the lines between real and fake. Yes, a unicorn is a mythological creature, but it’s also one of the most realistic ones; it’s just a horse with a horn on it’s head. There’s only a small difference between unicorns and horses, just like there is only a small difference between the andys and the humans.

    • But that is the whole purpose of reading/watching these works, our jobs are to write about how we interpret them. There is no right or wrong answer.

    • I swear your posts or comments always crack me up. Especially the Deckard part about a woman trapped in a man’s body like haha . But I actually like the unicorn dream because I love when movies make me think about about what the true meaning really is. I love the mystery behind it. After seeing the movie, I thought the unicorn resembled that he was human. Maybe that’s why they added that part onto the other cuts of the film.

    • I like the Comparison idea as it makes me question my theory of destroying the the unreal situation of an andy and human replace it with the concept that by Deckard stepping on the unicorn hes destroying the difference that separates human from andy

  5. So Yeah The Unicorn…. I understand!

    So Gaff quote to Rick while on the roof was “it’s too bad she won’t live! But then again, who does?” Could it be that the mysterious Gaff was in a similar situation where he may have fell for a Replicant and accepted his feeling to love them but she/he died due too the 4 year time period. I believe that Gaff had the Dream of the Mythical unicorn which in a sense represents something that doesn’t exist or cannot exist. Sooooo…. in the end when Rick steps on the Unicorn Origami he pretty much crushed the concept of something that cannot exist such as his love for…. Rachael.

    This is mostly just Theory but I think if it was real then it would be an interesting twist. Although I kinda preferred the Rachael that gave up on life compared to this one whose so intent on holding onto the concept that she was real. The importants of the animals also was a bad decision as it helped show the humanity of people but in the movie Rick barely seems to care about them.

    • I like where you’re going with the Gaff theory. Resch isn’t in the film so it wouldn’t be that much of a stretch for his characters back story to be recycled for another character.

  6. Okay, so here is a few more points as to why Rick is a replicant. I am aware that these are not considered canon compared to the original movie, but the director believes it to be the definitive version of the movie, so my comments will be concerning this version. I should start off by saying, i honestly think he’s human, as he was in the book, but at the same time, he could be a skinjob.

    I have written a few points in my original post (https://openlab.citytech.cuny.edu/belli-sp2015-eng2420/2015/02/27/tame-the-unicorn/) but will add some new points to it.
    One of the main physical characteristics of a replicant is that their eyes glow. At the end of the fight with Roy, Rick’s eyes glow. Could this be because of a reflection, or is he a fake? Throughout the film, we notice that Roy is very protective of his fellow replicants. He chooses NOT to kill Rick, something very empathetic, which unlike the book, the replicants seem to show towards each other.

    I was doing some background research on the topic, and came across this link:

    http://io9.com/5181048/blade-runners-original-ending-yes-deckards-a-replicant

    Its hasn’t been confirmed, but it also has not been disproven, but the original script called for him realizing he was a replicant!

    • I forgot to add an outside work, so here’s a comment with it. I recently started reading a graphic novel from Image comics called Alex + Ada, by the Jonathan Luna and Sarah Vaughn. It takes place in a world where there are servant robots, similar to iRobot. He is a few months out of a relationship, and his rich Grandmother sends him a lifelike model. They are basically sex dolls, but he is immediately put off by it. Makes it sleep on the couch, etc. As the story moves on, he really wishes it would have some free thought. The story opens with the television talking about how a year ago, an AI went crazy and started killing humans. Laws were instituted to control the level of intelligence. It turns out that these new models have AI, but have countermeasures put in place so they can’t access that portion of their memory/control. I am at the end of the first volume, and Alex has learned from others that its possible to unlock it, and does so. Its a very interesting story about relationships, and what it means to be alive.

      I bring this up because it is a very similar idea to what we’ve seen in Blade Runner. If the world was to learn that Ada has full control of herself, she would be destroyed.

      If anyone is interested, i’ll bring in my copy on Thursday.

      http://goodcomics.comicbookresources.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/102214_AlexAda_cover.jpg

      Luna, Jonathan, and Sarah Vaughn. Alex + Ada. Vol. 1. N.p.: Image, n.d. Print.

      • Yes, I’ve read that series as well. I got mine from Comixology. I’ve read up to issue eight I believe, it’s been awhile. Very interesting, albeit slow paced, take on human to android interaction to a very intimate scale. I thoroughly enjoyed its representation on how an A.I. might view human society and make conscious reflections on itself within it. As well as the repercussions such a scenario might have on society itself.

        If you are up for another poignant take on conscious A.I. to Human relations, check out the movie Her (2013). Starring Joaquin Phoenix & Scarlett Johansson. The film details the life of a writer, who develops an intimate relationship with his highly advanced operating system.

        • I enjoyed that movie, it was a bit weird at first, even a bit creepy, but about an hour into the movie i started enjoying it a bit more. As for the comic series, i’ve only read the first 4 books, i’m waiting for volume 2 to come out on the 12th i believe. Then i’ll be caught up to you. Hehe

          • Sir, there is nothing creepy about enjoying the feeling of a dead cat around ones throat(if that’s what you’re referencing). lol
            Seriously though, GREAT MOVIE! It’s like the love story between Deckard and Rachael in the movie, but you know, done well.

          • Nice! I’m not actually sure what the latest issue is now. Must be at least +12 by now. If your interested in another post apocalyptic type adventure, try Hinterkind, or Saga (I’ve been meaning to give that one a go). Those two aren’t as focused on ‘artificial life’ as our other texts, but they do concentrate heavily on inter species interactions.

            As for the Movie, I found it Surreal actually. The cinematography, pacing, combined with the acting really made this feel like a dream(ish) kind of experience. What was up with their retro clothing too? haha

    • I didn’t notice that his eyes glowed at the end of the film, but I have to agree that even as emotionless Rick is I still think he is human

    • Just to continue our our argument from class. I still feel there isn’t enough solid evidence to claim whether Deckard is or isn’t a replicant; however, my argument is not focused on evidence of proving or disproving, but rather that the argument of Deckard being a repilicant destroys the theme of the movie. If Deckard is a replicant there is no point to the film other than what we get at face value. *Cue Phoenix Wright Turnabout music* Take into account the scene between Rachael and Deckard in his apartment. Rachael was able to play a beautiful piece on the piano, but Deckard was not. “Music is a basic human desire”, a quote I took from a recent video I watched, perfectly fits into this situation. It is already established that Rachael is a replicant, so this scene only goes to show how human these robots are despite their small differences to humans. The fact that Deckard can not play means that it is possible to be human and lack humanity. Which is why there are similarities between Deckard and the replicants; it’s not meant to convince us that he is a replicant, but rather that he is similar to a replicant. The same thing goes for the scene between Roy and Deckard. Deckards character lacks empthay, yet the replicant that he was going to kill is able to show him empathy; one can be human yet lack humanity. Yes, you can make the argument that Deckard is a replicant, but at that point you’re overlooking the bigger picture. What’s the point of making Deckard a replicant other than having a plot twist? Granted that could be the case, maybe we’re looking to much into this film and it actually has no deeper meaning. Maybe the whole point of this movie is to just have a plot twist ending. After all I agree with the point that Matt Stone and Trey Parker make in an episode of South Park called, The Tale of Scrotie McBoogerballs; sometimes people just try to look to deeply into things that have no meaning. However, that said, I want to believe there is a deeper meaning about humanity and race. That is why I say whether or not Deckard is a replicant is not the question one should be asking, but rather what message is the movie trying to convey by creating parallels between Deckard and the replicants.

  7. It’s interesting to talk about the role that the “cyborg” plays in this film, and how sometimes we might miss the point that humans and cyborgs aren’t as different as we might think they are. There was a really important discussion that was started in class about both cyborgs and prosthesis, and how do we begin to identify what it really means to be human in our current age with technologies like prosthesis. Now when you normally think of prosthesis, maybe you think of a prosthetic leg, or even an arm. But I think it goes a lot deeper. Prosthesis to me is any way that humans use technology as an extension of their physical (and mental) being. That is, we couldn’t do nearly the amount of things we do and enjoy now without certain technologies.

    I’ve been thinking about the eyes in this movie and how it relates to prosthesis in today’s age. I’ve been fascinated with how scientists are really close (like really, really close) to making artificial organs, bones, etc. If we start to do that, what makes us any different than the replicants? Those eyes that the Tyrell scientist was making in in the freezer lab isn’t much different than a guy creating an artificial kidney from a pitri dish and a 3D printer, which is what is going on right now as we speak (Davey, The Gaurdian). Anyway, I just thought the subject of prosthetics is a hidden but important topic in the film, and can be seen in our current day and age.

    Davey, Melissa. “3D Printed Organs Come a Step Closer.” The Gaurdian, 4 June 2014. Web. .

  8. Ok so with the theme of eyes did anyone else notice that Gaff had different eyes compared to everyone else in the movie. For me that makes me at least start to understand the connection to his origami animals and their connection to Rick. The way I see it is that Gaff and Rick are the Androids in the police station but Rick has the False memories and Gaff knows everything and is watching over his friend. And at the end when he leaves the origami unicorn in the hallway of Ricks apt. He is telling him in a way I know what you are and I am here for you. truthfully how else would Gaff know what Rick had been dreaming about other than if they are androids that are linked in a way or that Gaff knows that Rick is an android with false memories and he knows the exact memories that he has.

    • I honestly just realized that gaff had different eyes in the film, you might be on to something with this theory

    • I believe that their was a scene where a character asked Rick if He has ever taken the Exam himself. Also oddly enough did you notice that when Roy broke Deckards fingers he used the exact same hand too hold onto a WET Iron…. Had to Be android strength

      • yes on 1:07 is when Rachel asks him if he had ever taken the test and he ignores the question completely. that’s when we see Rachel going through his pictures or his memories as she had felt for her photo of her and her mother.
        Sadly no he losses his grip first because of the bad hand (1:45) then the good one and that’s when Roy comes to the rescue.

  9. Ok… I’m not sure what’s going on. I hit reply under someone’s post, but it creates a new post when I hit ‘post comment’. Hopefully, it doesn’t do that when I comment on other people’s posts… I really wish there was an edit or delete your own post option here.

    Er. Anyways.

    I’d like to reflect on a point made I thought was important, during our last class, about prosthesis and cyborgs. It was suggested that humans who consume drugs, may be considered a ‘cyborg’. The reasoning being that by taking something ‘artificial’ within us, we are altering our ‘natural’ organic state.

    By this reasoning. Are we not all of us ‘cyborgs’ then?

    First let us examine the idea of prosthesis. Is not a prosthesis some sort of device that substitutes or aids us in fulfilling a function? The consensus seems to be that this only entails in situations when our own body parts are defective or have been removed due to injury. However it is the idea of ‘function’ that I want to focus on. If our ‘natural’ bodies cannot fulfill a function we set forth, can we not consider our ‘natural’ bodies deficient?

    In the film Bladerunner, Deckard uses a machine to examine a photograph he took from Leon’s apartment (43 – 46). The goal Deckard is trying to achieve is two fold. First, catch a glimpse of the photographer’s visual experience. Second, to manipulate the ‘experience’ to focus in on a small detail. In both cases, neither could be achieved without such an aid. The same could be said in the case of Chu wearing a heavy coat in his lab to not freeze to death(26:30 – 30). Or even the fact that people in this world use vehicles at all to aid in transportation. Without the use of vehicles, people could not fly or reach speeds in excess of 100km/h.

    In today’s society everyone, and I mean everyone, uses some for of extension or aid to fulfill some function. The clothes we wear, can be considered a prosthesis because our natural bodies cannot survive in extreme climates. For similar reasons the structures we build aid us in fulfilling that same need. Our communications networks, allow us to connect with each other almost instantaneously; a feat our ‘natural’ selves could never do, at least not now and to my knowledge. Someone in class pointed out that our phones act as a kind of ‘cybernetic extension’ to ourselves; the idea of charging said extension reinforces that line of thinking.

    If we as an entity determine function and purpose, then how can you divide things into ‘artificial’ and ‘natural’. Consider the brain. If we consider the brain to be the center of all thought and consciousness, we assert that the center where functions and purposes are created are also located in the brain. If the brain is a ‘natural’ part of ourselves; then are not the thoughts, ideas, and motivations created in the brain not ‘natural’ as well? ‘Natural’ in a sense that the brain , as an organ of our bodies, carries out a function it has the capability of doing; in the same way the heart pumps blood, or the lung synthesizes oxygen. If we agree on that, then everything that follows as a result, should be ‘natural’.

    As a result of the brain doing what it does, we create ‘higher goals’ for ourselves. Goals such as: traveling 100km/h; creating structures that not only shelter us, but do so in creative and effective ways; wearing clothes that not only help us survive harsh climates, but also allow us to express ourselves; creating ‘music’ to express emotions; and the list continues on and on. Till we come across the creation of the ‘cyborg’ as popular science fiction thinks of it, artificial intelligence, and androids.

    Through the interaction and collaboration of our collective minds, we some how come to think of a ‘need’ or interest in what we call ‘artificial life’. Perhaps the ‘cybernetization’ of our bodies is an effort to internalize many kinds of wants and needs we’ve created over the course of history. After all if we have an ‘artificial’ body can we not perform feats such as running 100km/h, or communicate instantaneously? Perhaps the creation of ‘artificial intelligence’ is an attempt to create a being that can think of and complete complex tasks closer to the ‘higher goals’ I mentioned earlier; whether this ‘intelligence’ becomes human servants or peers seems to be what we debate in class.

    By the above reasons, is there such a thing as ‘natural’ or ‘artificial’? If ‘artificial intelligence’, androids, and cybernetics are a product of our ‘natural selves’ then is there even a difference between ‘artificial’ and ‘natural? Thinking on what I’ve said above, can you even draw a line between the two?

    Suppose it comes to pass that we achieve ‘artificial life’. Is that not a product of our own ‘natural’ thoughts and desires? This is exactly what I meant when I mentioned evolution in our previous class; the creation of an intelligent self sustaining entity. Perhaps not the next step of human evolution, but a new kind of evolution that we as a race have engineered.

  10. I don’t really see a good reason for the purpose of the Unicorn. The only thing that came to me is that most people would love to own a live animal, no matter how common (more so in the book), and here is Rick dreaming of a Unicorn. Its like Rick doesn’t just want an animal, he wants a mythological animal. This guy is aiming big.

    • I might have a wild imagination but I think the unicorn and that dream is somewhat a reference to the shared experience with the empathy box. Because in the book when people interact with the empathy box it seems to be described as a dream, and in the movie he’s siting down playing a note on the piano and so the weird unicorn dream begins. Maybe I’m just over analyzing or just deprived of sleep and just have wild thoughts but thats what I think

    • That’s an interesting point considering that in the book animals worked as status symbols. It would have been interesting to see references to mythological creatures in the book for that purpose.

  11. I don’t really see a good reason for the purpose of the Unicorn. The only thing that came to me is that most people would love to own a live animal, no matter how common (more so in the book), and here is Rick dreaming of a Unicorn. Its like Rick doesn’t just want an animal, he wants a mythological animal. This guy is aiming big.

  12. In class the question of whether or not we are already androids was discussed. A main point brought up was prosthesis, but is that a good example? Our humanity is not defined by having limbs; animals have limbs after all. I think a better point would be an experience that is exclusive to the human experience. Music was brought up both in the book and the movie. I just want to throw this article/video into the mix. The article talks about a electric/digital instrument that can achieve multiple different sounds. The video also explains how it streamlines the music experience to make it more accessible to other. To me this is something that makes humans more android-like than prosthesis. It takes away from the overall personal experience of music, and it allows humans to rely on technology to create the musical experience for them rather than have a personal human connection to it.

  13. I don’t understand the symbolism of unicorn, and i don’t understand the symbolism of eyes. I could probably try to write some pointless stuff about what could it represent but who cares anyways. there are more important things in blade runner.

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