The Analysis of Blade Runner 2049 According to the Social Theories
Directed by Denis Villeneuve Blade Runner 2049 (2017) is a fantastic sci-fi movie displaying a dystopian alternative world scenario in which the current society of the world has fallen apart and shaped by a new hierarchical social order. In this alternative world, the lowest part of the social hierarchy is made up of the living things called “replicants” who are bio-engineered humans with enhanced strength produced for serving humans. The humans are placed above these population in the hierarchy naturally. In other words, replicants are basically bio-human slaves.
In Blade Runner 2049 is referred that before the movie’s timeframe starts the first replicants codenamed as “Nexus 8” had rebelled against humans around 2020s and became prohibited. In those years, they were hunted down mostly by “blade runner”s. Afterwards people started to produce replicants again with a new serial number -Nexus 9-. However, it turned out that some of the older model replicants survived and in order to demolish them the blade runners continued to work as hunters. Going forward to the timeframe of the movie, 2049, it is seen that the new model replicants have been integrated into society even though they still face discrimination from the human population.
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In this respect, the movie takes place in a dystopic Los Angeles where you may see this impact in the social lives of the citizens. Centers upon a character named Officer K who is a Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD), a blade runner and a Nexus 9 model replicant himself, the movie starts with a scene where the audience can see the blade runner kill an outdated Nexus 8 replicant. Discovering that this replicant has a buried body of a Nexus 8 model replicant in his yard, he takes off after the truth. Later, he finds out that the replicant was a woman and died in the childbirth which is impossible for a replicant. Deeply associating this incident with himself, he starts to think that he is “the replicant baby”, the impossible one.
In the movie, one may see the social theories related to social order, modernity and ambivalence, mobility, differentiation, identity, fantasy and desire. In this paper I’ll touch upon these related theories and associate them with the movie.
Starting with the social order, as I mentioned before one may see that there is hierarchy in the social order of Blade Runner 2049 universe. Comprising the bottom half of the hierarchy triangle replicants are seen as they belong to the service industry. They are kind of slaves or the working class in this universe while the humans are the masters or the wealthy class. In this universe, the replicants are forbid to revolt or rebel or reproduce. In this respect, this population conveys similar aspects to subjects of the biopolitics.
Agamben (1998) states that biopolitics -referring to the possibility of a new ontology that derives from the body and the forces- not only stands in opposition to biopower but also precedes it ontologically; biopower is responsive to a lively and creative force that is exterior to it, which it seeks to regulate and shape, without being able to merge with it. He notes that binary codes, disciplinary techniques and hierarchical structures play central roles, as their substance and objects have proven themselves to be more flexible and mobile.
In this respect, accordingly with the biopolitics, the replicants could be described as the exterior force in the universe which the authority could regulate and shape without having to merge with it. The authority is humans here. As mentioned before, when the replicants tried to rebel the consequence of their behavior had been the hunting of the whole Nexus 8 series of the bio-engineered humans. They are unconditionally controlled by the humans and they have no right to say in the series. The authories may change their positions, locations, keep them silent via violence and keep them away from regenerating if they want just as the biopolitical objects.
One other theory related to Blade Runner 2049’s social order is modernity and ambivalence. Bauman (1991) indicates that the world is surrounded with friends and enemies; and there are strangers also; excluded this circle. Strangers are described as a person who arrives unexpectedly and stays without a notice. However, it’s not like a guest, he stays forever; and it’s not like the other people from the familiar population, he’s different. Bauman describes the stranger as out of place:
In the native world-view, the essence of the stranger is homelessness. Unlike an alien or a foreigner, the stranger is not simply is not simply a newcomer, a person temporarily out of place. He is an eternal wanderer, homeless always and everywhere, without hope of ever ‘arriving’ (Bauman, 1991).
Bauman notes that due to strangers’ ambivalent positions, they become unwanted peculiarities who are constantly kept at bay since they are considered to be viruses within and parasites upon a host body. Accordingly he states that a stranger may bring the outside to the inside and demolish the bases of the societies. On the other hand, he indicates that modernity tries to make the borders grey between friend and enemy; kill the border between the strangers and the friends and enemies by establishing heterogeneous entities. He also adds that modernity tries to be ambivalent; demolishing the order which extinguishes the ambivalence:
The stranger comes into the life-world and settles here, and so – unlike the case of mere ‘unfamiliar’ – it becomes relevant whether he is a friend or a foe. He made his way into the life-world uninvited, thereby casting me on the receiving side of his initiative, making me into the object of an action which he is the subject: all this, as we remember, is a notorious mark of the enemy. Yet, unlike other, ‘straightforward’ enemies, he is not kept at a secure distance, nor on the other side of the battle line. Worse still, he claims a right to be an object of responsibility – the well-known attribute of a friend. If we press upon him the friend/enemy opposition; he would come out simultaneously under- and over-determined (Bauman, 1991).
In this respect, it could be said that in the movie the population which could be described as “strangers” or as the “ambivalence” could be depicted as the replicants. They are neither human nor mechanical gadgets. They have so many similarities between them and the humans in order to be considered as ones but also have so many differences from the humans which make them cannot be considered as humans. They are also not simply newcomers, people temporarily out of place arriving to the humans’ lives. They come out of nowhere as eternal wanderers, homeless always and everywhere, without hope of ever ‘arriving’ to somewhere. This makes them become ambivalent, or in other words, abject. Accordingly with the modernism, demolishing the wall between strangers and the friend and enemies, in the movie, the replicants also are seen as both friends to the humans – Wallace’s assistant- and the enemies – the rebels. Or, as both of these: Officer K.