Hello, UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television!

For a few days now I have had people visit this blog, one post in particular, who have come from the UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television.

Hello.

In any case, here is the post they are interested in:

THE SEXUAL POLITICS OF BLADE RUNNER

In “Blade Runner” (1982) the director, Ridley Scott, seems to have produced a very anti-feminist film, albeit perhaps unwittingly. He has certainly claimed that elements of the film were intended to combat “male chauvinism”. Such as the brutal shooting of the replicant (robot) Zhora character by Deckard. Maybe. But it seems a strange way to do it. Create a famously spectacular death for her scantily-clad character crashing through glass windows and being shot by the handsome male protagonist. I am not sure that sends any particular message.

br004newzhora

(This is from “The Final Cut” version of the movie and has the stuntwoman’s head digitally replaced with that of the original actress, Joanna Cassidy.)

In an interview Ridley Scott claimed it was a cinematic necessity that the main female character, the replicant Rachael, should look so fresh and beautiful, because that is what “patriarchal technology” would do in creating a female robot or replicant. But all technology is “patriarchal”. What would a matriarchal technology look like? It is hard to imagine, beyond the proverbial grass huts.

Rachael as career woman, complete with what looks like an 80’s power suit? (I think the 80’s power suit for businesswomen actually came a bit later than this film. So maybe it was the prescience of genius. Or maybe it was just using a 40’s kind of outfit in line with the film noir aspect of the movie.)

Blade Runner (1982) Directed by Ridley Scott Shown: Sean Young (as Rachael)

A doll of “Rachael”: that is, a doll of a woman pretending to be a doll pretending to be a woman …

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From Figure Art of S. Pettersen.

Rachael “lets her hair down” figuratively and literally:

BladeRunner-1024

The theatrical version of the Deckard-Rachael love scene:

For comparison, below is the extended, uncut version of this controversial love scene in Blade Runner. It shows a few things. Sean Young could really act, despite claims that the men in the film had to help her through her scenes. Even if that is true, she responded well and rose to the occasion. I don’t believe, from personal introspection, that rape fantasies typically appeal to men (rough treatment maybe, but within a consensual relationship). Further, my observations have been that women are far more interested in rape fantasies than are men. In fact, I am starting to suspect that a scene of this type appeals to women, and may have been placed in the film for that reason. Nonetheless, I still find the above version of the scene disturbing. Below is the extended version of the Deckard-Rachael lovemaking scene, which seems less coercive than that in the movie versions. It is also a lot more erotic. It is strange and ironic that Rachael becomes more of a woman once she realises she is a replicant (robot).

Sean Young complained that she had to take weeks off after the filming of this scene, and the story was that Harrison Ford really disliked her and the roughness was not just good acting. (And yet no feminists call for his head. I sometimes think that many men are liberals in language but not in behaviour with women, like Clinton. And so they get a pass because for feminists “words speak louder than actions”. Harrison Ford is a political liberal and a friend of Clinton’s, ironically.)

It would not be a completely strained reading to see the film as sending an anti-feminist message. Rachael is passed from one man to another. Her pose and poise as a businesswoman, in something that looks a bit like a 1980s power suit with the big shoulders, is lost when she realises that she is literally not a woman but a robot. She regains her lost womanhood by becoming the mistress of the cop, Deckard, who takes her under his care in a classic bartering of sex for protection. It could be read as an allegory of a woman leaving the workforce, where she comes to realise she is living an unnatural and robotic existence, for the safer traditional domestic realm.

I have read Philip K Dick’s novel, on which the movie is based, and I liked it as an accomplishment in itself. Some people have tried to sustain an argument that Dick was attacking Jewish influence in his book, but I couldn’t really see that.

The character of Rachael is very different in the book and the movie. Sean Young physically resembles the description of Rachael in the book. But the Rachael in the movie is a much more compliant character. In fact, that is part of my point. Rachael is a profoundly anti-feminist character. I realise that Ridley Scott has a reputation for feminist movie characterisations, such as in Alien and in Thelma and Louise, but this is not evident in Blade Runner. In fact, Rachael could, jokingly, be described as receiving what the Manosphere would call a “nuclear neg” in being told by Deckard that she is not even a real woman, but a mere replicant. She then spends the rest of the movie trying to prove that she can function as a woman, and effectively a wife.

It seems to be mostly the fanboys and betaboy critics who are always looking for anti-sexist statements in films. I suspect clever men like directors think in richer, more nuanced ways. Ridley Scott can claim that Blade Runner is a statement against chauvinism, to humour a critic, but consider the facts. He gives us a lingering look at the Zhora character’s body as she works as an “exotic dancer” and then has her shot dead in what has been described as the most spectacular and “beautiful” screen death ever. He has the Pris character (Darryl Hannah) in a fetishistic costume with great emphasis on her stockinged legs, and she dies in what literally resembles an electric orgasm. Rachael I have already mentioned, but the bounty hunter practically rapes her, and she is fine with that apparently.

In some ways it is a highly chauvinistic film, “Not that there is anything wrong with that”. (Apart from the rapey sex scene, which I didn’t like, especially in the rapid-fire screen version.) A subtly patriarchal aspect of the film is that the female replicants lack surnames. Even Rachael. Traditionally women do not in fact have their own surnames, but use their father’s and then their husband’s. All through the film, it is “Rachael” and “Deckard”. As I just mentioned, Rachael is not given a surname, whereas conversely Deckard has a first name, Rick, but it is not used much. Rachael is the only female replicant to survive, and she does so by placing herself under the care of Deckard and starting to act as “Mrs Deckard” in all but name.

Is Blade Runner a Misogynist Text?” (And so what if it is? Must art be PC?)

I rather like the following ending, which is supposedly available with the “Final Cut” set as an “alternate ending”. I believe there are many people who think it is too bright and sunny after the gloom of the rest of the movie, but it could also be seen as akin to simply waking from a nightmare. And the dialogue tends to support my argument that Rachael sees Deckard and herself as a natural couple (she asks “are you and I lovers?” and about his ex-wife – in fact, husbands will recognise her tones as becoming rather wifelike!). So much of this movie is confused and contraverted, such as whether Deckard himself is a replicant. I tend to think that it makes more sense for him to be a replicant if he is going to have a relationship with Rachael. It makes it less bizarre. Otherwise, when you get right down to it, he is a man sleeping with a doll. In fact Rachael says to Deckard, in the last words in this driving scene, that she thinks they were “made for each other”. Perhaps she means that literally. That they were both “made”, both being replicants. His reaction at about 1:27 seems to show that he has come to a shocked recognition of what she is implying about his nature as a replicant.

I suppose I always assumed that Deckard could not impregnate Rachael, but some people have envisaged her like this, with internal reproductive organs:

mean magazine

From the same recent set of images: it is pleasant, if fanciful, to imagine that this is Rachael in her new life:

mean magazine

A review of The Final Cut (2007). I only have the Director’s Cut (1992).

I gather that this “happy ending” driving scene with Deckard and Rachael is included in the Final Cut version only as a “deleted scene”. Moreover, the more erotic, slower and less violent version of their earlier love-making scene is also only included as a deleted scene. So Ridley Scott did not take the opportunity to make the scene less “rapey”.

A comment I received, possibly from a spambot:

The official version instead, was modified by the production, cutting the unicorn’s dream to don’t let understand that Deckard is a Replicant, and it has been added the happy-ending to increase the audience’s satisfaction, and money incomes. So in this version Deckard isn’t a Replicant but a human being that, at the end, escapes from all with his new girlfriend toward a happy life.

This might have been a spam comment, but it makes quite a coherent point. That is certainly a reasonable reading, but it is also possible that Ridley Scott had it in mind all along that Deckard was really a replicant. He may have cut the film in its first release to hide this, but still put a hint in the dialogue in the final driving scene with Rachael and Deckard. That is, the final remark of Rachael’s that they are “made for each other” makes sense if he was made as a replicant, like her.

I still maintain that there is something very odd otherwise about a man essentially running away with a fembot. It has already been established that she lacks normal empathy. What kind of “wife” would she make for a human male?

And of course, if I am replying here to a spam comment, that is ironic since I am talking to a robot now myself.

This post has been cited at:

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&

Tim Neath’s blog

&

This Spanish language page touching on Sean Young.

Further discussion of the film, based on forty-five minutes of deleted and alternate scenes and the light they throw on the film as released in the Director’s Cut for example, may be found here. And some comments on a 2007 documentary on the making of the film, particularly on the casting and character of Rachael, can be found here.

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2 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Jim on July 19, 2015 at 4:02 pm

    You certainly are fond of that female character in Blade Runner. I’ve heard so much about the movie but have never seen it. Only bits and pieces of it anyway.

    Reply

    • It is a good movie. I find the replicant idea interesting, and the concept of empathy testing. I am interested in the problem of empathy and the extent to which we can understand what other people feel.

      And there is the philosophical problem of whether a robot can be conscious and feel emotion. It ties in with the thought experiment of the “zombie” in cognitive philosophy.

      This is a repost of an earlier post because the latter was attracting a bit of attention at the UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television. It seemed to be on their intranet a week or so ago. Maybe an instructor had wanted his students to look at it, possibly to critique its thesis, namely that the Rachael character is an antifeminist one, whether Ridley Scott fully intended it or not.

      Reply

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