Friday, October 12, 2007

Your Thoughts on Blade Runner

This week, posting to the blog is OPTIONAL, and will get you 2 points of extra credit. So, if you'd like a couple of extra points, please answer the following questions by Monday, 15 October at 5 pm:

1) In his interview with WIRED, director Ridley Scott says that he decided to choose either Latino or Asian culture for a template for the city of the future in Blade Runner (he calls it "San Angeles."). Scott chose Asia, though he doesn't say why. What function did the Asian/Oriental imagery, signage, and people serve in Blade Runner? How did the Asian look-and-feel contribute to the film (how did it signify that this was "a city of the future"?)?

2) David Desser writes that as a genre, science fiction consistently features strong binary oppositions like Self/Other, Human/Alien (or Human/Robot), Nature/Technology, High/Low, Male/Female, Middle and Upper Class/Working Class. What dichotomies do you see at work in Blade Runner? Choose some of the plot elements or characters (or sets of characters) and explain how they exemplify some of these binaries.

3) Why do you think Blade Runner depicts street life as Asian (Chinese/Japanese?), but renders the elite world of Tyrell and his Corporation as Egyptian? Or, do you read Rachael as also marked with Japanese (Geisha?) signifiers? Does Rachael fit in with, or stand out (apart) from, the world of the Tyrell corporation?

Good luck with the midterm exam! And remember, you must print it out, staple it, and hand it in by 3:35 pm on Tuesday or you lose beaucoup points. Make sure your name is on every page of your answers, also. Feel free to e-mail me this weekend if you have questions about the exam.


Steve Madonna...Yeah! said...

[1] The whole reason the replicants were created were to put them to work at hard labor for no pay. We call those things slaves, and when I think of slaves, I think of Egypt. There were numerous Egyptian references as the film progressed and mimicked ancient Egypt’s society. The building that the Tyrell corporation is based out of is a pyramid, the significance of which I need not to explain. The head of the Tyrell corporation can be seen as a pharaoh. Atop his pyramid building, he makes slaves destined to work at hard labor. I can see why he chose the Asian influence to show that it is the city of the future. Japan is the world’s headquarters for innovative technology. Tokyo is the ultimate cyperpunk city. The entire city of Tokyo moves really fast, the population is crammed in with no space wasted, and the multi-colored lights and giant plasma screens that flood the city give it that “city of the future” feel. I can see a lot of Tokyo in San Angeles.
[2] There are many binary oppositions present in Blade Runner, but the ones that stand out are Human/Robot and Nature/Technology. Human/Robot is obvious to the plot as the whole movie is about Harrison Ford killing robots. You could go further into that and say that Human/Robot means the link between being a human and being a robot. The main dilemma with artificial intelligence is if it has it’s own thoughts and thought processes, isn’t that what makes a human a human? Nature/Technology is the other big one. I didn’t see a tree or animal the entire movie (unless I missed it and there was one). With new technology and a bigger population comes the elimination of some natural product to make room. Technology is thought to always be better than nature, but in some cases that is not true. They made the robots too perfect. Thus, they made them really dangerous to humans, so dangerous that they banned them from the Earth.
[3] In the first question I talked about the city of Tokyo being the closest city to a cyberpunk environment. It’s fast and bright. An Egyptian street life just wouldn’t make sense. Egypt is the most recognizable Asian empire with slaves. I really think that is why he chose that. Rachael stands out from the Tyrell corporation. She does remind me of a Geisha. Perhaps this is significant to the fact that she is an experimental replicant. She is of a different culture.

Derek Vineyard said...

1. Japan is one of the fastest technologically evoloving country existing today. The other buildings and surrounding areas were just high rises and skyscrapers that were dwarfed to Tyrell's pyramid like building. It is like Japan itself or sum and parts of many other Asian countries in that below they had the poor people that worked as food and street vendors, however surrounding all that were tons of futuristic buildings. Vendors and all the street lights represented a city, the way the city looked and how it was erected and aesthetically inclined toward the sky equated to the future. I feel as though the only building that had some kind of visual hierarchy to it was Tyrell Corporation's building. Visually whoever is at the top of the triangle is the overseeing, nearly unreachable person and you would only need to build that high is because the people below are unable to see you, who can see god anyways?

2. The main dichotomy is human and replicant. Most of the humans have all moved onto other worlds and only a few remain. Probably because technology has destroyed most organic and biological things that existed. Another dichotomy is high and low, where Tyrell is not only high and above the replicants but the humans as well, as most humans regard him as an embodiment of genius and only few humans can meet Tyrell.

3. The Asian part of Bladerunner is to remind us of achievable technology, however the Egyptian part of it is a figurative thing meaning an empire built from “slaves,” or replicants that build and die within a number of years. Replicants are like slaves, you only need a number of them to be around and once they're done, it's wear and tear, dispose and replace. Rachel is kind of a geisha because she shows some artistic abilities like playing music, they attractive way she dresses and her submissive nature. I do not think she really stands out from the Tyrell corporation or from the Bladerunner world at all, they mentioned making replicants for the pleasure of soldiers, and replicants for all kinds of tasks and eventually some of them will wonder about themselves.

Mason Thorne said...

(1) Oriental imagery envokes, at least in a western mind, a sense of mystery. In the 80's, though, when Japanese and other Asian companies were mass producing electronics and technology people would have undoubtedly associate the images of Oriental writing and culture with futuristic technologies. Like I said before I think the Asian imagery brought on a sense of strong culture and mystery to the future city. The city had a true cultural collage. There was so much going on, but it all seemed to make sense.

(2) The most obvious dichotomy would be the human/robot or replica, as they call them. But there were many others placed in the movie, such as the roles of rich and poor. The majority of the film was placed in the dirty lowerclass neighborhoods that were so prevelent in the post-war world. These neighborhoods contrasted intensely with the mammoth buildings of the replica plant, that showed a sleek and lavish lifestyle. Character wise this was visually portrayed through Tyrell, the rich company owner, and J.F. Sebastien, a wimpy worker.

(3) The Egyptian theme, I feel, is used to represent the epic acheivement. Just as the Egyptians created something that no one thought was possible, so to does Tyrell in his creation of replica humans that seem real. I also believe it was simply to show the immense power the corperation. Rachael seems to be a bit out of place as far as the Egyptian theme goes. Egyptian women are depicted as powerful like Cleopatra. Whether that is historically true or not is irrelevent. Rachael's character reads more like a submissive Geisha, as you said. She is always looking to run be helped by Decker. Although, there was the case when Rachael shot the replica. Even then it felt out of place for her to do something so brutal and risky. She was in need of rescuing and therefore seemed in contrast with the power and majesty of the Egyptian themed complexes of Tyrell's business.

Chemical Shortage said...

-Making the choice to use Asian imagery to portray a futuristic society is, in my opinion, a wise one. Since western and eastern cultures are so drastically different, it makes sense to choose a culture, which is already very foreign to American viewers, the same way the future is to them. We do not know what advantages or disadvantages we are going to have in the future and it is unfamiliar to most of us the same way eastern culture is. So putting things that most of the audience won’t understand to the extent of what it is, is almost creating a futuristic society within our own timeframe. Since Asian culture is one of the most technologically prominent cultures in the world, it almost makes sense that it would be a prominent culture in the future. Asian culture is also so mysterious to most of us the same way that the future is unknown and the unknown is always intriguing.
-Human/Robot is probably one of the most prominent binaries that I can see in Blade Runner because they are simply dealing with man-made “humans” and they have become so real that it is hard to tell them from actual humans without a test that triggers emotional response. The most interesting thing about this is that the replicants are actually more emotionally aware and affected than the actual natural born humans are.
-Nature/Technology is another very important binary in Blade Runner but it is also very similar to Human/Robot. Nature always seems to be something that is important to us even thought we chose to destroy it with the aid of technology but it always lies prominent in our minds over technology. The funny thing is, that the replicants, again, behave more “naturally” than the humans do.
-Whenever slaves are taken captive it is always by cultures that are drastically different and don’t understand each other very well. IE; Egyptians and Hebrews, Europeans and Africans; etc. Whatever culture is more “prominent” usually takes the lead of aggressor. The same way that the Hebrews were enslaved by the Egyptians because even though the Hebrews were strong in numbers, the Egyptians had a complete society and an army of soldiers on their side. Europeans and Africans are no different. Therefore choosing a foreign culture to dwell on street levels makes sense because the “white man” always seems to prevail whether his methods be just or unjust and it is a reflection of that phenomenon that rang to me when I saw the movie. The Tyrell Corporation would not have existed if they did not have someone to aid in their success so if it weren’t for the primarily Asian cultured street dwellers the Tyrell Corporation would not exist.