Aesthetics & Identity in Blade Runner

PrefaceThe Gothic : IntroductionGothic Aesthetic TechniquesTransgression and AbjectionTerror, Horror and the SublimeThe Gothic and the Postmodern • Blade Runner : Introduction • Power in Blade Runner • Reality in Blade RunnerDeath in Blade RunnerIdentity in Blade RunnerRestorationConclusionWorks Cited


Power in Blade Runner

The difference between the stylised, brilliant corporate architecture of the Tyrell pyramids and the dark, fragmented dilapidation of the city is striking. The form of the Tyrell pyramids is symbolic of supreme, unchallenged power, the divine infinite and authority (the bright beams projecting into the dark sky imply a direct link), but also Death, being of old monuments to the dead, in a four-fold invocation of the sublime. Striking, too, is the difference between the efficient, spacious, ethereal heights and the decaying, cluttered, teeming depths of the city. The effect is a fall from grace. The ethereal light implies power, privilege and authority; it is an idea. A hierarchy of class is evident, determined by wealth, power and status. As Captain Bryant candidly points out to Deckard, ‘If you‘re not cop, you‘re “little people”’; a bottom-feeder, expendable, null and void. Deckard chooses to be complicit to, rather than a victim of the system. The coward‘s way out, as Gaff‘s origami chicken suggests.

Sublime terror is also invoked in the looming dominance of corporate symbols and advertisements. Everywhere we recognise the logos of Atari, TDM, Coca-Cola etc. A blimp, a mechanised semblance of the kind of monstrous species of fish which inhabit the deepest, darkest depths of the sea where no light can penetrate, prowls the lower reaches of the city, spreading the word of a better life in the colonies. A billboard depicting a smiling geisha tells us to consume. With demonstrative delicacy she puts morsel after morsel into her mouth, reminding us how it is done in case we had forgotten. Singled out in the metropolitan darkness as the only image that is bright and colourful, the image is perverse and uncanny, hyperreal.

Lyotard observes that there is something of the unpresentable in capitalist economy. It is regulated by the idea of infinite power or wealth. It contains its own destabilising effects (‘The Sublime’ 255), visibly apparent everywhere in the underbelly of the decaying city. We cannot deny that corporate and industrial imperialism and capitalist economy are among the monsters in this narrative.

Control is another identifiable monster, audibly notable in the form of the constant drone of “move on”, “cross now”, “don‘t walk”, which mercilessly pounds away at the remains of free will. The effects and measures of control run deeper, however, imposing themselves in sinister ways upon the film’s main characters through the means of distinctions, fear, and the management of death and formation of identity.


© 2010, 2011, 2012, 2019 Kirstin Sørensen

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