Aesthetics & Identity in Blade Runner

PrefaceThe Gothic : IntroductionGothic Aesthetic TechniquesTransgression and AbjectionTerror, Horror and the SublimeThe Gothic and the Postmodern • Blade Runner : IntroductionPower in Blade RunnerReality in Blade RunnerDeath in Blade RunnerIdentity in Blade Runner • Restoration • ConclusionWorks Cited


As the story unfolds, Deckard finds his identity questioned, specifically his humanity and his role in the system, but he is also restored.

It isn‘t just Rachael who is instrumental to Deckard‘s restoration, as the object of his desire and awakening to feelings he has neglected. He takes some formidable beatings which knock him back into his own flesh. Baudrillard tells us that the hyperreal and the prohibition on death both lead to disembodiment. Deckard‘s job becomes increasingly repulsive to him. Does he sympathise with the replicants? Does he recognise, in the “Other”, the “Other”, he has sought to expel and whose exclusion has sucked the meaning out of his life? Zhora‘s death sickens him. Pris’ death unnerves him. Roy‘s death will potentially change him altogether.

During the chase in Sebastian‘s building, where Roy pursues Deckard, the hunted becomes the hunter. He challenges Deckard with the questions that Deckard has tried to avoid. ‘Aren’t you the “good” man?’ He congratulates him when he shows spirit or resolve. Roy wants Deckard to appreciate life, before he takes it away from him. He wants to be on equal terms. He wants his death to have significance; to appropriate its form for himself.

Roy is also taunting us. Once more, Blade Runner transgresses; we are not at all sure who is the hero and who is the villain here. Good and evil become fluid. We sympathise with both and are simultaneously repelled.

Through a narrow shaft, drenched like a newborn babe, Deckard escapes Sebastian‘s mausoleum and tries to flee to a neighbouring building, literally leaping for his life. Roy recognises himself, seeing Deckard struggling for his life. Roy does the unthinkable; he saves Deckard. Baudrillard tells us that the only way to beat the system is to grant a purely symbolic gift. Roy gives Deckard a gift of life.

Thus Roy enacts his final reversal, becoming Christ, the father, a nail embedded in his hand. He takes the place of his father, Tyrell, to set down a new gospel. During the chase, he has taught Deckard ‘the facts of life‘; in effect, reconstructed him by means of terror of death and exposed the terrors of control. ‘Quite an experience to live in fear, isn‘t it? That‘s what it is to be a slave.’ Unlike Tyrell, who only disappointed, who could only offer control, Roy has offered hope of an alternative. Or, at least, made the necessity of an alternative apparent.

As Roy dies, he makes a last declaration to the beauty and uniqueness of the subjective perspective and releases a white dove into the darkened sky.

I‘ve seen things you people wouldn‘t believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I‘ve watched c-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhäuser Gate. All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain

© 2010, 2011, 2012, 2019 Kirstin Sørensen

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