Where strange fact and stranger fiction collide
Warning I could not write this without some spoilers, so you may want to not read this if you have not seen Blade Runner 2049, or for that matter not seen the original or have read Do Android Dream of Electric Sheep? If you have not seen or read any of these, I am not sure why you would be interested in this post. But hey by all means don’t let me stop you from reading something I wrote.
So a few days ago I saw Blade Runner 2049, and I loved it. I love the retro-tech, the alternative time line (the Soviet Union still exists, New Coke never did, Atari is still relevant) I love the futuristic LA (and San Diego and Vegas) I love all the symbolism, taken from literature, religions, and pop culture. I love how it shouts out to the original book. I respect that it refuses to spoon feed its audience. But the part I love the most, Is a part that some people have legitimate complaint about. I love the women in Blade Runner 2049.
Now we at DCotU are not shy about saying how we love the fictitious bad girls, if they are strong and well developed female characters. I also understand that many people object to the women of BR 2049, thinking that they are extremely objectified. Yes they are, but that is one of the points of the Blade Runner Universe, even if you are a human you really just a cog in a machine.
I still have problems with the Deckard/Rachel sex scene in the original. It starts off with one of the best lines in cinema “I dreamt music.” And deteriorates to one of the worst, “Say, kiss me!” Deckard strong arms her into kissing him. This is a world where the haves take from the have nots. Deckard is a licensed state killer, his job is predicated on the fact that he has the moral high ground to take the life of an android. In an in-world context, it makes sense, that he thinks he has a right to make Rachel want him. That doesn’t mean it is right, its more evidence that even the ‘heroes’ of this world have a deep moral ambiguity streak. 2049 shows how several women survive in a grey and greyer moral world.
This DNA is inherited from the book DADoES? In that tale Rachel is the exact duplicate of Pris. If Deckard kills Pris he is killing Rachel’s twin. This should be a moral impediment to him, but it isn’t. Deckard’s weakness is that he wants to have sex with what he hunts and kills, and Rachel is exploiting it. She tells him that she loves him, but is also programed to sleep with bounty hunters to stop them from killing androids. Feeling betrayed he nearly kills her, but can’t. Of all her lovers only Deckard who is loyal to the job and Phil Resch who is a sadist can continue on with their duties. After he terminates the Nexus-6’s, Rachel acts in an act of jealously and pity and kills his pet goat. In a very non-pretty story Philip K. Dick shows how completely destructive relationships can be. He shows us that sex has throughout history been considered both the great equalizer and humanizer, and what happens when it is not.
One difference between Blade Runner 2049 and the original is that 2049 is actually an ensemble movie. Rylan Gossling’s “K” may be the lead but he is also the most boring thing about the movie. Even Deckard only shows up in the third act. So yes all the women in this movie somehow further K’s story, but everything in the movie somehow furthers K’s story line.
The first lady of BR 2049 I want to talk about is not even in the movie. Trixie, is the protagonist of the animated prequel Blade Runner 2022 Blackout. Like the movie’s Pres she appears to be a pleasure model, but she also seems to have Special Forces training. I love how the movie doesn’t feel it needs to explain everything to you. One of the key reasons that Deckard can stay underground so long is that ‘the blackout” a nuclear EMP destroyed all the computer records in 2022, if you miss that it dosn’t just stop to explain it again, it just keeps going on.
For those who want more information on that event they can go on line and watch BR 2022 BO. Trixie is the combination of naive waif anime heroine and a John Wu guns blazing hero. The humans make it apparent they have no qualms what they think of her, when she is found on the street semi-conscious and attempt to rape her. It is after she is saved by fellow replicant, Iggy, that he awakening begins. She seduces military man Ren to help with denoting an EMP over Los Angeles, destroying the records that prove that someone is android or not. Though the scenes we see of her with Ren, seem to make it more like an awakening for him than a seduction. She appeals to him emotionally, spiritually and logically as oppose to just strait out sex. To me it seems that she feels as close to him as her programing allows.
When she does attack the server site, she calmly accepts her fate, (after whipping out about a dozen or so soldiers) despite the fact she believes she has no soul and will cease to exist after her death. Unlike modern terrorists who seek a reward in heaven, she is sacrificing herself for the benefit of her people.
K’s holographic girlfriend is in many ways the most troubling of female characters in BR 2049. She is programed to love K, so we don’t know how much of her feelings are one and zeroes or ‘real.” As a sentient hologram she understands K’s dilemma of not being a human on a very personal level. It appears that she has out grown her programing though. She hires a prostitute so she can project herself over the other woman’s body so that she can truly make love to K. She also decides to destroy her personality in everything but the mobile projector so it cannot be used against K, but increasing the possibility that she could be destroyed. I doubt that was defacto Wallace Corp programing.
She is also K’s Jimmy Cricket, inspiring him to be the better man and is the driving force that keeps his emotions on ‘baseline”. She inspires him when he is looking for clues. She is the one who comes up with the vital idea to investigate whevere makes emotions. She is the one who encourages him to give up his serial number for a real name. When K encounters the large holographic Joi, it becomes obvious that she was not like her photonic sisters. That when she kept saying that K was special, what really she meant was that she was special, or at least they were special. I would have loved to have seen her personality further developed, but then again the movie already ran 2 hours and 43 minutes.
My favorite lady of 2049 is Luv. Part corporate executive part assassin, she reminds me of Nuromancer’s Molly, but where the former was amoral, Luv is strait out evil. You get the feeling though part of it is because of her programing, and some of her actions are out of her control. Still she seems to take the darkness ball and run with it when she wants to. She is supposed to be emotionless, but she is not above crying, though she has to be loyal to Wallace you can see her horror when he destroys the newly born replicant, for not being what he wanted. Though the number two at Wallace Corp, she is infinitely more interesting and cooler than her boss.
She like K, is not supposed to be able to lie, but they both have both out grown there programing. She uses this to her advantage to get things by Wallace when she can, up to lying about being attacked by someone she fells needs to be killed that Wallace might disagree with. And you got to love someone who gets her nails polished as she orchestrates a missile attack on people who are attacking her potential enemy.
She defines a character that cannot cross certain lines but will play with them as much as she can. Despite the fact that her history was controlled she embraces the dark and evil aspects of her life. They define her and just like Deckard’s skills and legal authority gives him moral superiority over the replicants he retires, Luv’s skills and lethalness makes her feel to superior to those around her, even if at some level she is programed to serve them. In end the one emotion she is allowed, pride is her Achilles heal. Honestly I would have loved to seen a Luv centered movie, more than a K one.
Lt. Joshi AKA Madam, is played by Robin Wright. She fears what will happen if the world finds out that at least in one instance that an android gave birth to a child. But at the same time, gives K, 48 hours after he fails his baseline test, to get his act together or it is implied make a run for it. In the end she dies rather than knowingly give K up.
Her counterpart in the original movie is Captain Henry Bryant, who in the first movie has to threaten Deckard to take the job. Philip K Dick described Bryant as “Twenty years before he was the type of cop who would have called black people N*****.” And he was right on the mark. Bryant is this terrible racist who bullies his men to do a job he cannot. Despite the fact he is a terrible person he is the most interesting character in the movie. Good characters do not always equal a good person.
Opposed to Bryant, Joshi seems to really care about the men who work under her, and refuses to give K up, she gives him a chance to run if he can’t get his act together. She respects her cops and is respected by them in a way that Bryant cannot even fathom.
I have seen posts that call Mackenzie Davis’ character Mariette “The Prostitute”, that is a shame because she is much more than that. She is also a spy and a rebel and beyond that a true believer in her cause. Despite all of what she must have seen in her life she is the second nicest person in the movie next to Joi (who is programed to be that way) The only time those characters get catty, is to each other not because they shared the same man, but because Joi sees her as a threat, and Mariette sees that Joi isn’t quite as egalitarian as she thinks she is. I wish she like most of the women in this movie had more screen time. It is a shame that most her time is center around the scene where she is hired by Joi, to act as an intercessory as she projects herself over Mariette’s body, so she can make love to K. To me the stand out performance is when she looks at the flames flicker to heaven when K awakes and Freysa gives him his final mission. It then you see not the eyes of a sex worker but someone who believes that she is witnessing history and a better chance for her people.
Freysa played by Hiam Abbass is yet another character I wished this nearly three hour movie had more time to explore her back story. The leader of the android resistance, she has a long history with Deckard but is willing to sacrifice him for the cause. Like her nemesis Wallace she has no eyes, but in this case it prevents being able to prove that she is an android. We see her with eyes in pictures of Deckard’s baby, and we know at one time she had eyes, did she take them out herself to prevent identification by the authorities. I wish someone would write a book with her and the other women in this movies back stories.
Despite her limited screen time Dr. Ana Stilline played by Carla Juri, is the heart of this movie. In more than one way this is her story. An autoimmune disease prevents her from leaving earth, and forced her to live in a bubble. She is the keeper and dispenser of memories, she give them to androids so they can deal with the pains that life gives them. In ways she is like the ancient story teller who gives people encouragement. She has the additional advantage of being able to be the only one who can distinguish real from fiction.