WTFAW: Blade Runner

Todays subject is the Sci-Fi Neo-Noir movie Blade Runner, from director Ridley Scott, the maker of one of my favourite sci fi movies of all time, Alien. And the theory we’re discussing today is one of the most divisive, discussed and argued theories in the history of cinema.

Dave: Specifically, the idea that Deckard is a replicant!

Indeed. So, what are the arguments?

Dave: In the directors cut of the movie, Deckard is shown dreaming about a unicorn. At the end of the movie, he sees an origami unicorn presumably left by the mysterious Gaff, who may have access to his fabricated memories.

Is that all?

Dave: Well, Ridley Scott himself also said that he envisioned Deckard as a replicant.

I see.

Meanwhile, producer Michael Deeley and Harrison Ford himself believed Deckard to be human. And while he was human in the original book, the movie makes several changes, including his motivations, he’s no longer married and the number of replicants he kills. The overall paranoid atmosphere of the movie adds to this uncertainty.

Dave: Hold on… Something’s wrong. Why are you not debunking the theory?

Because it’s plausible.

Dave: Wait, what?! Are you serious?!

Yes. With the addition of the directors cut, the added ambiguity makes it very possible that Deckard is a replicant.

Dave: So, let me get this straight… This theory adds up?

Yes, inasmuch as “Deckard COULD be a replicant”. It’s really impossible to decisively tell, one way or another.

Dave: Wow! I can’t believe it! I finally did it! After all this time, I brought you a theory that isn’t stupid!

What?! No, you didn’t!

Dave: Huh? But you said…

I said the arguments added up, and that the theory was plausible. That doesn’t mean it’s not stupid.

(After all, there is a reason it’s called “Why the Fans are Wrong” and not “Why the Arguments Don’t Add Up”)

See, the problem with this theory is that, in my humble opinion, it is missing the point of the movie.

Think about it. What are replicants?

A replicant is a genetically engineered android, virtually indistinguishable from a human being, except for their emotions. They are mainly used for manual labour, as soldiers or, in some cases, as glorified sex toys. Structurally, they are organic. That is, they have organs and bleed when they’re injured. Pretty much the only way to tell for certain whether someone is a replicant or not is to subject them to the Voight-Kampff test, and meassure their emotional responses.

Over time, however, they may develop empathic cognition, i.e learning to understand and control their emotions, similar to humans. After that, they become immune to the test. As such, they have a lifespan of only 4 years, in order to prevent that from happening.

Dave: Ok, thanks for the lecture. Does this have anything to do with anything?

Yes, because here’s my point:

Fundamentally, there is no difference between humans and replicants.

In other words, it makes no difference if Deckard is a replicant or not.

Roy and his accomplices are not malfunctioning. They are doing what any human being would do.

I’m reminded of the Asimov story “Little Lost Robot”, where Susan Calvin observes the dangers of a robot without the First Law, which states that a Robot may never, be it actively or by inaction, allow a human to come to harm.

All normal life, Peter, consciously or otherwise, resents domination. If the domination is by an inferior, or by a supposed inferior, the resentment becomes stronger. Physically, and, to an extent, mentally, a robot — any robot – is superior to human beings. What makes him slavish, then?
Only the First Law! Why, without it, the first order you tried to give a robot would result in your death.

I argue that, in a way, the same applies to the replicants. They are sentient creatures, and the only thing that keeps them subservient is that they are implanted with memories that tell them they have to do whatever job they have been assigned. But then, over time, these robots may start to ask why they are doing this. They start to imagine, reason and dream. When told by someone weaker and dumber than them they had to obey, they killed their owners and ran away.

Because unlike Asimovian robots, they are not actually programmed with the three laws. And once they develop an immunity to the test, and finally come to terms with and understand their emotions, they are truly indistinguishable from humans.

I mean as in, there is no difference between such a replicant and a human being!

The replicants in the movie are not killing and fighting because they’re defective, but because they are desperate, and they don’t want to fucking die! They want their creator to try and circumvent the lifespan limit, so they can live their lives. They have hopes, dreams, fears and lust for life, as well as concern for one another.

The things that makes them dangerous are their strength, their intelligence and their lack of emotional understanding. The first two are forced upon them by their creators, and the third is something they are forbidden from overcoming!

Humans have created sentient creatures, for the express purpose of slave labour, and those slaves that object are murdered. No, wait, sorry. Retired.

Which, in itself, shows a disregard for sentient life that rivals the replicants supposed lack of empathy.

So all this returns us to my main point, regarding this theory.

While the arguments for it may add up, and the theory itself is plausible, the fact that the theory exists at all is, in itself, missing the point. Is Deckard a replicant or human? What’s the difference?!

So congratulations, Dave. You brought a theory that added up, and yet somehow still managed to be stupid.

Nicely done…


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