Exploring Depths of Experience in Arts, Letters, Science and Ideas
Running the Blade: Examining the Imagery of a Hollywood Cult Film By Thomas O. Meehan. Photographs by Ryan GallagherGo Back to the Table of Contents
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Modern audiences may empathize as well with the concept of technology as an endemic enemy of freedom and human dignity. In the world of Bladerunner, technology serves to enslave all people who do not occupy privileged positions. How this vision of technology as the enemy of human happiness inspires empathy in a society in which even the poorest of us lives an easier, gadget enhanced, existence, which grows increasingly easier as time goes by, is difficult to explain. Perhaps the simpler among the audience envision a modern world in which everything is simply too difficult and beyond their understanding or control.

None the less, this film, unlike so many science fiction films, never succumbs to the temptation to allow technology to become the theme of the film; as do so many science fiction films. Bladerunner is about humans in a world that is meant to be allegorical to our own; and this, not the plot or the special effects, is the secret to Bladerunner’s claim to our attention.-a claim I feel to be fully warranted.

Despite the trite elements and Hollywood arcana, Bladerunner is ultimately about alienation in a world in which more and more of us feel unsure of our own essential humanity and how that humanity fits into an increasingly sterile environment.

Bladerunner takes Faulkner’s eternal human verities and makes us view them as though for the first time against the unaccustomed background of a hellish future, which is merely, an extension of the world in which we already live.

In his hunt for the replicants, the hero cop discovers that the enemy is as desperate for human fulfillment as he is, and the theme of man creating man becomes no more science fiction than the relationship between parent and child. Bladerunner essentially asks if the new self-made man of genetic science and technology is a fit parent? Can we be happy with our gadgets while still asking the unanswerable question such as where do we come from? Where are we going? Why are we here?

It is the replicant who saves the human out of a sense of the preciousness of life and the comradeship of sentience. In the end, the replicants are almost superior to their human antagonists not because of their superior strength or intelligence-but because they are constantly aware of their preprogrammed mortality, and yet nevertheless maintain their capacity for poetry and the contemplation and consideration of the infinite.

The questions the replicants put to their corporate creators are the ones we put to God. This film works because we 21st century replicants, without God, have only ourselves to question, and all our computers are inadequate to the task.

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