With its exaggerated scenes of a dystopian America of the year 2020, Blade Runner is at once a cautionary film that details the dangers of human ambition and a thought-provoking challenge to the orthodox notions of what makes one “human. ” There is no check-list or group of qualifications that are communally agreed upon that render one a human being; there is, however, no shortage of debate and quarrelling. One may argue that as long as there are no true guidelines as to what makes one human, than everyone is vulnerable to abuses of power and humanity itself.
Fabre argues that “psychological continuity” is critical for one to be considered a person. Psychological continuity is the “overlapping chains of strong connectedness,” according to Fabre. One could assume these overlapping chains to be memories of events that the individual has, himself, experienced. Fabre does not divulge if an individual has to inherently have psychological continuity or whether it may be a phenomenon that is developed. So, is the ability to form memories or, even, the existence of memories the requisites of being human?
Although, much of the human characteristic of Blade Runner centers on empathy, one may argue that the true idea of human characteristics in the film center around the idea of growth to a state of equilibrium within the characters. One may define equilibrium in this case as a state of contended knowledge and understanding of one’s true identity or self. In other words, within the world of Blade Runner, at least, to be human means to journey to a center state of equilibrium (almost like a chemical reaction) in a journey through time.
It is the evolution of the subject (however miniscule and not depending on the positive/negative connotations of said evolution) and the understanding that the subject begins to develop that defines his or her humanity, whether that evolution begins in the womb or when the individual is otherwise “created. ” Just as we grow uniformly content through our venerable years, the artificially-created beings in Blade Runner grow increasingly with age. Roy, designed as a fierce “combat model,” has ironically grown to be a poetically rich man and draws our attention to the pertinent issues of Blade Runner by the elegant efficiency of his words.
Roy is an excellent case of ‘human’ technology continuously and steadily evolving to become truly human. His quest to extend his and his comrades' lives shows that he truly understands the richness and preciousness of life; something he was never meant to understand. He relishes every moment of his life, and he makes tactful commentaries relating these moments to the irony of his present situation. “It's not an easy thing to meet your maker,” Roy sarcastically tells Tyrell during their meeting, prompting us to consider the implications of such a meeting between creator and created.
Following Tyrell's remark, “You've done extraordinary things,” Roy sarcastically replies, “Nothing the god of biomechanics won't let you in heaven for. ” Roy, angry that he is viewed by others to be less than human, uses tragic sarcasm to describe Tyrell receiving credit for Roy's accomplishments, like the way an inventor receives credit for his invention's accomplishments. In addition, Roy has become so deeply enriched with the feeling of being emotionally alive, that he sees no better way to express the inexpressible poetically.
In his final soliloquy atop a building in the rain with Deckard, Roy recounts his most triumphant moments and acknowledges a great sadness within him. He dejectedly foresees that “All those moments will be lost” at his death, understanding the tragedy and hopelessness of his and his comrades' situation and the discrimination, slavery and hardships that they have been forced to endure. Roy has grown into a philosopher, transfixed by his human desire to live like any other, and he displays a great deal of compassion as he pulls Deckard up from his death.
He overcomes his combat nature to forge a new destiny. Meanwhile, the other “humans,” such as Tyrell and Sebastian, never grow through their own experiences to see the harm that they may and have inflicted. They are static beings, in that they never learn from their experiences and never seek to change their ways. However, to be clear, the evolution does not always have to be for the better. Furthermore, Roy's comrades also have come quite far. In their few years, they've grown dynamically, as any human beings would, to assume a more teady-state one may describe as ‘humanity. '
As the diversity of their personalities unfolds in Blade Runner, it becomes clear they've acquired healthy human qualities. Zhora, a replicant model designed to kill, ironically chooses to dance for men, while Pris, the “pleasure model,” seems to have a more sinister personality, with her painted face. When Leon discovers his lover, Zhora, was shot and killed by Deckard, a deep “human” rage consumes him. These emotional responses provide unmistakable proof that true human qualities lie beneath.
When replicants are created, they have no emotional response and no understanding of humanity, because as Tyrell explains, these qualities are learned. Once emotionless shells in their early years, the replicants have acquired their own personalities through their passages through time and the experiences that have shared. Tyrell describes memories to be the very heart of emotions. Because replicants early in their life have no memories, and thus no emotions, society considers them as mere machinery.
As Tyrell recognizes that humans are different from replicants only by the memories they carry, he designs an experiment to test his theory. Rachael is an experimental replicant, implanted with false memories designed to make her believe she grew up like any other. With memories to furnish her emotions, Rachel was human from the moment of her ‘birth. ' When she learns of her replicant heritage, she is devastated, as any person would be, and ironically grieves in human ways. She numbs from the shock, in a haze from her personal world suddenly crumbling to dust.
We would no doubt react in a similar way if we were suddenly told we were replicants. In other words, even in her defeat, she brilliantly fits Tyrell's “more human than human” slogan. Tyrell would have us believe that Rachael is the end stage, that she is emotionally complete. In fact, it is the exact opposite. Until Rachael learns her true identity she is less human than the rest of the replicants, who have learned, accepted and grown from their beginnings. However, it is not until Rachael learns her true identity that she can begin to forge her own memories and, thus, true experiences.
It is at that point (when she learns that she is a replicant) that Rachael starts to become human, for she begins a journey of self-discovery and identity. Before, she is merely a facade of a human, a being tricked into believing she is something that she is not. To continue, Deckard seems, by all accounts to be human; he looks human and acts human. However, he seems to be alone on Earth, as he has no real relationships, friends or an identifiable past. In fact, Deckard seems plainly miserable and alone on Earth. There are clues throughout the movie (i. e. hat Deckard is still on Earth) that suggest that he is a replicant. At the end of the movie and, specifically, the scene with the origami unicorn it seems almost certain that Deckard’s memories have been implanted and he is truly a replicant. We may assume that Deckard did not have knowledge that he was a replicant before this point. It is quite symbolic that Deckard may finally find happiness and a relationship with Rachael after he has learned and accepted his identity. He will begin a journey with Rachael and forge his own memories and experiences with her, no matter how little time they have together.
This shows that Ridley Scott (the director of Blade Runner) is trying to show that it is not the way in which one is created that makes him or her “human,” it is the way that he or she experiences things for himself and grows. In conclusion, Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner challenges the pre-conceived notions of what it means to be human. The film is an expose on the value of the experience, knowledge and understanding of self within the human experience. Part of the intentional irony within the film is the way that the replicants, who were created for a specific purpose (i. . combat, sexual services), turn themselves towards completely new directions. They take ownership of their own experiences and forge new lives (however short) for themselves; this is when the main characters in the film truly become human. The true humans in the film are not the impersonal, huddled masses that congregate on the streets. Blade Runner shows that the true measure of humanity is not the manner in which one is created or born, but the journey that one experiences in the search for self; it is the yearning for self-awareness.