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Themes -Blade Runner - Issues, concerns or values


The overriding concern is the diminished humanity displayed by human characters in contrast to the replicants who appear to have genuine companionship, compassion, empathy, morality and civility.  People appear diminished with less autonomy, freedom or choice.

1. The dispirited masses have been subjected to brutalised torture and sapping deprivation. (Deckard can only order two-not four at the noodle bar.  The settings are so grim, grimy and gloomy, even the brighter spirits would become demoralised.  There is a growing gap between the rich and poor (“little people”) with most of the former migrating off colony.


2.   When bureaucracy, through bullying and intimidation gets so overpowering, it kills the human spirit dis-empowering its victims.


3.  The Dehumanising effects of technology: 

Francis Bacon, a 17th C. scholar commented, “It is well to observe the force and virtue and consequences of discoveries” when he discussed printing, gunpowder and the compass.

•        Loss of power – fulfilment - Don McLean:  “developments in technology and communications are not                        liberating but controlling, “I always wanted to be free.” 

•        Isolation from others resulting in a lack of people skills.

•        Loss of empathy - Increasing disconnection or alienation from society

•        Loss of heroism – only celebrities

•        The rise of Cybernetics (use of implants to make robots or cyborgs – humans with computer chip grafts or biological brains) is a growing field of technical development and increases the threat of Artificial Intelligence taking control over humans as portrayed in Space Odyssey, Terminator or The Matrix.


Computers double their capacity every 18 months and they could acquire a billion times more intelligence than the human brain. It is possible this Artificial Intelligence could develop into a malign force and eliminate all humans from the face of the earth. 

Alternatively by merging with the technology we create, we become more like it and we could become less human and more mechanical in our outlook and robotic in character. 

automaton \aw-TOM-uh-ton, -tn\, noun:

1. a mechanical figure or contrivance constructed to act as if by its own motive power; robot.
2. a person or animal that acts in a monotonous, routine manner, without active intelligence.
3. something capable of acting automatically or without an external motive force.

Automaton comes from the Greek autos + matos, literally meaning "self thinking." It entered English in the 1600s.   Dictionary.com

Trans- humanism blurs the line between technology and biology. Through body optimisation we may be attempting to speed up the evolutionary process but are we playing god?  

4.   Of greater concern is the craven attitude of the masses.  The resigned  compliance, acquiescence  and fatalism was evident in their supine passivity and expressions of futility for achieving justice in dealing with the bureaucracy.  It is just bad luck and there is nothing anyone can do about it! No hope, no escape from an overpowering totalitarian state.


5.  The lack of Civility is another major concern.

We live in a Culture of Blame and Disrespect. Incivility is everywhere.

Bryant has a confrontationalist manner of speaking. First he tries to be slimily ingratiating to Deckard but when this does not work he resorts to abusive threats and bullying to get Deckard to come out of retirement. (“You’ll become a little person”)

In contrast the replicants appear to be courteous and respectful of each other indicating that they care for each other.  They also have a craving "for more life, Father"

There isn't much dignity left today, a point beautifully made in an essay by David Brooks in The New York Times. The "dignity code", as Brooks calls it, has been "completely obliterated" by the pressures of modern life. 

6. The isolation of the individual in society

        Loss of empathy - Increasing disconnection or alienation from society is contrasted in the portrayal of both Sebastian and Tyrell with that of the replicants who look after each other eg: Leon & Zhora or Roy & Pris.  

Ayn Rand:  “Civilisation is the progress toward a society of privacy; The savage’s whole existence is public, ruled by the laws of the tribe.  Civilisation is the process of freeing man from men”

7.  The earth has been so scorched and depleted so people’s greatest aspiration is for off world colonisation.

Antithetical Views of Nature:

Genesis 1. 28

And God blessed them and said unto them (Adam and Eve), “Be fruitful and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over  the fowl of the air.. and over every creeping thing…..

In earlier times, nature was considered resilient and indomitable.   

"You may drive out Nature with a pitchfork, but she will ever hurry back, to triumph in stealth over your foolish contempt".  - Horace, Epistles,  Book I, X 24.

It was only after the publication of  Rachel Carson’s (An American writer and scientist) Silent Spring, that people began to recognise the potential of human disaster through the vandalism  perpetrated by  improved technology.  Rather than resilient, nature was fragile and vulnerable when fundamental natural rhythms were ceaselessly  destroyed by ruthless exploitation by ever increasing mammoth technology.  If Ecosystems are repeatedly defeated, human life will be diminished and likely extinguished.

Ridley Scott  is showing great prescience or foresight when he warns us about the long term effects of pollution and environmental degradation. 

Man has not only subdued the earth but conquered and utterly defeated it.  There is no real attempt to replenish it, thus the need for off world colonies.  The opening scenes are nightmarish – a nuclear winter.

As a Canadian Indian Chief queried; “When we kill the last fish, what will we eat – money?


7.  The disparity between rich and poor, the powerful and the powerless is symbolised by how many storeys above ground level they live.  Tyrell lives 700 storeys above ground level.

Sebastian lives on the 15th floor of an empty derelict flat.  Many of the masses appear to live on the street.

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