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Blade Runner - 40th Anniversary


Ric
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One thing I will add is that does the film suffer from a lack of diversity? Yes, it does. Both the protagonist and all the antagonists are white. Does it pass the Bechdel test? I doubt it, although the lead female character is a strong one which is a positive.

These things have been endemic in cinema for decades, white male American audiences were the target and sadly that demographic features the most un-reconstructed people who would actively rail against positive images of diversity.

If you are wanting to make the case the Hollywood, and media in general, within the US is a polarised mess of racial biases then I think you've got a case, but singling this film out for having "white people walking past Asians" seems thin gruel indeed.

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Considering how influential the film was on Anime and there are often direct homages to it in the genre, I think the Japanese themselves seem to have missed the racism directed at them. 

 

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is one of the best racisms in cinema history. 

A bored person trying to stir controversy to pass the time. 

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4 hours ago, Ric said:

One thing I will add is that does the film suffer from a lack of diversity? Yes, it does. Both the protagonist and all the antagonists are white. Does it pass the Bechdel test? I doubt it, although the lead female character is a strong one which is a positive.

These things have been endemic in cinema for decades, white male American audiences were the target and sadly that demographic features the most un-reconstructed people who would actively rail against positive images of diversity.

If you are wanting to make the case the Hollywood, and media in general, within the US is a polarised mess of racial biases then I think you've got a case, but singling this film out for having "white people walking past Asians" seems thin gruel indeed.

I haven't read the book so this is just about the film.

It's a film where the central character is an ex police officer who works as a hitman killing runaway (white) slaves which has zero black men in it despite there being 100s of extras. Ridley Scott is a very intelligent director, this isn't an oversight or a careless lack of diversity it's a deliberate decision. Despite there being no black men Deckard still uses the N word in comparison to the 'Skinjob' slur when he says the police captain is a man who "used to call black men n****rs". You are supposed to wonder why there are no black men in Los Angeles in 2019. In Alien Scott uses Sci Fi to tell a story about class and industrial relations, in Blade Runner the subtext is all about race.

 

 

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If you want to know it's actually the reverse. The Off World is a place for the rich and powerful, you have to be perfect to get there, what is left on Earth are the "undesirables" 

I agree but that's just a thinly veiled metaphor for White Flight which was obviously a big issue in LA in the 70s and 80s. Hollywood movies from the Reagan era are generally very reactionary and  off the top of my head you see the same sort of Yellow Peril themes in Die Hard with Nakatoma Plaza and Back to the Future 2 where future Marty gets fired by the Japanese guy.

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1 minute ago, Detournement said:

I haven't read the book so this is just about the film.

Dick pretty much had a drug fuelled hate of most parts of society, an attitude I have to say I can understand, I dare say if you took some of his stuff out of context you could find some questionable content.

1 minute ago, Detournement said:

It's a film where the central character is an ex police officer who works as a hitman killing runaway (white) slaves which has zero black men in it despite there being 100s of extras. Ridley Scott is a very intelligent director, this isn't an oversight or a careless lack of diversity it's a deliberate decision. Despite there being no black men Deckard still uses the N word in comparison to the 'Skinjob' slur when he says the police captain is a man who "used to call black men n****rs". You are supposed to wonder why there are no black men in Los Angeles in 2019. In Alien Scott uses Sci Fi to tell a story about class and industrial relations, in Blade Runner the subtext is all about race.

Right so there are two things going on there. We know that BR is really just a mix of Dick's world vision with a healthy dose of Private Eye noir. The whole point of Bryant is he is meant to sound like that, like a classic racist cop that doesn't care so long as the people he needs dead are dead and nobody finds out about it. He is a throw back to rural American 1960s police chiefs. The interesting point is the origami by Gaff, who is also on the scene. He makes a chicken. Is that meant to signify that Deckard is a chicken or that Bryant is a cock. We know that Gaff's origami plays a key part in the film.

The scene is also important to set up to show that Deckard doesn't think like Bryant. His concern is that he doesn't want to work for him, or the force. Despite his (ex)profession, he comes across as ambivalent towards replicants.  Something we see changing dramatically throughout the film.

However, the issue regarding the casting of black actors is definitely something that has to be addressed. I don't take the subtext is racial, if it was, then there would be negative black stereotypes and there just isn't. Unless you include the term skin-job as synonymous to the N word. It is, however, something that when highlighted does raise the question. I'll be honest I don't think Scott has ever been explicitly asked about that.

 

1 minute ago, Detournement said:

I agree but that's just a thinly veiled metaphor for White Flight which was obviously a big issue in LA in the 70s and 80s. Hollywood movies from the Reagan era are generally very reactionary and  off the top of my head you see the same sort of Yellow Peril themes in Die Hard with Nakatoma Plaza and Back to the Future 2 where future Marty gets fired by the Japanese guy.

I think that's just too much of a leap, imo. While you are not incorrect with the political sentiment at the time, the film isn't replicating White Flight, more the perceived dystopian future. What I will say is that the 80s and even into the 90s, the way Hollywood dealt with racial stereotypes, even in the mainstream movies that you mentioned, was to be charitable, clumsy.

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6 minutes ago, Ric said:

Dick pretty much had a drug fuelled hate of most parts of society, an attitude I have to say I can understand, I dare say if you took some of his stuff out of context you could find some questionable content.

However, the issue regarding the casting of black actors is definitely something that has to be addressed. I don't take the subtext is racial, if it was, then there would be negative black stereotypes and there just isn't. Unless you include the term skin-job as synonymous to the N word. It is, however, something that when highlighted does raise the question. I'll be honest I don't think Scott has ever been explicitly asked about that.

 

https://www.ejumpcut.org/archive/onlinessays/JC41folder/bladeRunner.html

I found this article which says a lot of what I was thinking it also includes this footnote about Dick. It's a film where white slaves have been invented and black people have disappeared, it's not a coincidence.

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4. Philip K. Dick's Flow My Tears, the Policeman Said posits a future in which African Americans have been involuntarily sterilized and/or limited by law to one child per couple. The decrease in the U.S. black population makes them unthreatening curiosities in the popular imagination, as Native Americans are now. Though he doesn't suggest such government intervention in Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, clearly Dick had thought about the form an American "final solution" might take.

 

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1 minute ago, Detournement said:

https://www.ejumpcut.org/archive/onlinessays/JC41folder/bladeRunner.html

I found this article which says a lot of what I was thinking it also includes this footnote about Dick. It's a film where white slaves have been invented and black people have disappeared, it's not a coincidence.

I'll have a look at it, thanks. 

What I do notice is that he is referring to the original cinematic release. The Director's Cut was released in 1992, and addressed a few things, most notably it removed the narration. A narration, as I mentioned in my OP, that was added late on due to studio demands, and was likely subject to less rigorous "checking". That article was written in 1997, 5 years later, and in his notes he specifically says he uses the cinematic release because it benefits his argument, despite his acceptance that the narration used, then dropped, was not sanctioned by Scott (or the screenwriters, for that matter).

What's more, he seems to lean into Dick's work for his references, yet Ridley Scott's Blade Runner (the title was actually from an obscure novel the studio had the rights to) is not the story from Dick's book. The fact that there is a racist character portrayed (negatively it has to be said) in another of his work, doesn't lend weight to the world of Blade Runner, yet he certainly seems to suggest that.

 

All that said, it's a decently sized piece and I will look at it objectively.

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15 hours ago, Detournement said:

I've taken my time over this, and I've had to be very careful as BR is one of my favourite films and people don't like learning bad things about stuff they like, but being objective I went over it several times.

I have to say, specifically, the author fails to really make a case. They do their best by trying to pull in theories from others, but the article style means he makes no visual distinction between what he is using as a citation and his own opinion. This may be fine if I had access to his sources, but I don't. There are many instances where he flip-flops between supposition and opinion, then using that unsupported claim as the basis of further claims. I could list maybe 6 or 7 pretty major inconsistencies in the article, but rather than writing endless paragraphs I'll give you a single example:

 

In the book, animals are special because they are almost all extinct, and those which aren't are easier to replicate than breed. This is core to both the film and the book, in the film this manifests itself with the snake Zora uses in her dance routine, and the owl at Tyrell's place. In the book, not the film, and bear in mind he is referring to the film in his article, there is a scene where an animal is killed. Everyone is shocked, because animals are so rare. So far, so good, no issue there. I mean the lack of animals, bad, but nothing specifically racial about it. However he then tries to claim that the killing of the animal shows that Deckard cared more about animals than he does replicants and therefore because replicants, in the author's opinion, is synonymous with being black, the fact he shows less concern for a replicant demonstrates the inherent racism.

This is an extremely flawed premise for a number of reasons, not least because it's a somewhat spurious jump from one thing to another, but also that he has missed the whole point of his reaction to Replicants. He's not racist towards them, and actively doesn't join in with the perceived legacy racism demonstrated by Bryant, as we've discussed the point is he is ambivalent, that his journey changes that drastically. The author makes no mention of later developments of the film yet this is where his character arc specifically leads to a reversal.

You see the problem here, and this is just one of many very similar situations the author finds himself in, is he is using source material that is not the material he is critiquing, yet uses that as the basis of his argument. That's the classic "a table has four legs, a dog has four legs, a dog is a table" failure of logic.

 

I could expand on this, as I say there are several places in the article where he makes leaps and expects you to go with them, yet any objective reader would have to question the logic of that leap. He uses citations and rolls them into his opinion which devalues both. It's like the article was written as an academic piece then dropped and published when it didn't meet that standard.

 

 

In summary? The film was in the 80s, which is hardly known for its nuanced portrayal of "non-white" characters and cultures. Are there questions to be asked regarding the lack of black actors? Sure, it's something I'd like to see Scott address. I mean we could make the argument that it just went on casting and that's just the way probabilities work, highly unlikely but possible, however even then someone should have said, "hey guys...it might just be me, but isn't there a large demographic not being represented here?". However, is Blade Runner explicitly about race? I'm sorry I just don't buy that. There are just not enough stereotypes, tropes or intentional micro aggressions to even come close to making that claim, and the article itself, while layout out a fairly decent premise, fails almost completely to justify it. Is race part of a dystopian future? Sure, of course it is, that's why it's dystopian and not utopian, but you can't label everything racist because it reflects modern society's fear of the future if that fear includes racism. It's like saying, Ghostbusters is racist because they treat the ghosts badly.

We started this off by suggesting white people walking past Asians is somehow the epitome of anti-Asian sentiment on the West Coast of America. That's certainly not something proffered by that article, and without wishing to be confrontational you have provided no basis for that claim other than "it was perhaps of the time". Now we are moving onto whether this was a replication of specifically being negative towards African/Caribbean heritage, and while there may be more circumstantial evidence to support this, the article itself comes across as confirmation bias.

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Just now, Detournement said:

The guy that wrote that article is intelligent and you are dumb. I wouldn't worry about it (or write any more huge posts). 

I spent a lot of time and effort to go through all the claims, all the references I could and all you can reward me with is "you are dumb".

I think that simply underlines you have failed. I doubt I will spend that amount of time on anything you consider relevant.

 

 

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4 hours ago, Savage Henry said:

I love Bladerunner.   I’ll also go so far as to say I think I love 2049 even more.  Two genuine masterpieces.  

I had this discussion with my mates the other week.  Both films are masterpieces, and the original pretty much defined a genre, but i'd go as far as to say that 2049 just pips it.

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2049 is, imo, a better film. Both are masterpieces as been mentioned but some of the cinematography in 2049 is all-time levels of greatness.

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I love Blade Runner, the ‘proper’ director’s cut version that sorted all the shite that spoiled the original. I’ll pass on the discussion about the racism, and no black actors appearing in it. I recently watched, for the first time in a while, some early Connery James Bond movies, and boy, the casual sexism! Smacking a female character’s arse and telling her to run along now, etc. Wouldn’t happen these days, but at the time…

Could name a ton of my favourite movies from ‘back in the day’ that could be picked apart for racism, sexism, lack of diversity, portrayal of gay characters, whatever. 
 

Blade Runner remains one of my top 5 movies of all time, along with ‘12 Angry Men’, ‘You Only Live Twice’, ‘Contact’, and ‘AI Artificial Intelligence’.

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