In Ridley Scott’s masterpiece, Blade Runner, we see a future where much of nature has been removed, replaced with city streets, blank stone buildings, and the inorganic leavings of humanity. There is an obsession with authenticity – ‘real’ animals are incredibly rare, replaced by synthetic lookalikes for made for pet owners. Even human beings are gradually being replaced by synthetic Replicants, and fearful of losing the line between created and creator, the humans use extensive tests to determine humanity, artificial shortening of replicant lifespans so they do not develop full personalities, and Blade Runners to find and kill replicants attempting to pass as human. Even memories are manufactured, as in the case of Rachael, a replicant who did not know she was one. Mad scientists in this world appear at every turn, usually mousy or maladapted men like Chew or Sebastian or Tyrell; but their creations are intricate and often beautiful. Numerous parallels are drawn between them: the humans of the story are the more machinelike, the replicants more emotional; Sebastian’s disease shortens his life, much as the replicants’ lives are shortened; Roy’s anger at Tyrell is very much the anger of a man at his God for making him the way he is. This film was released in the 1980s, when biotechnology and genetic engineering was just being developed: a way to create things which were as complex as the creations of God, a way to be Gods ourselves. The problem comes in when the creations, formed of clay or plastic or flesh, are too much like reality; then who is to say what is real, and what is a copy or a mere object? The replicants are ambiguous in how much they feel, in whether they are robots or clones, in who is one and who is human. This obsession with natural and synthetic, and the blurring between them, is a major theme of the movie.
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