more human than human

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Fantasy  |  House: Booksie Classic
essay about blade runner

Submitted: March 22, 2015

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Submitted: March 22, 2015

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Identifying a replicant in Blade Runner is established through the administration of the Voight-Kampff test; a test of cross-referenced questions that correlates a failure in response to certain emotional stimuli as a lack of empathy and ultimately an indicator of replicant nature. When Deckard states that “replicants are like any other machine, they're either a benefit or a hazard”, Rachel questions Deckard's own ability to distinguish human from replicant implying that the VK test might not be an accurate assessment of humanity. The movie is ironic in a sense because the humans that are depicted in the movie seem to lack any sense of empathy while the replicants themselves, especially Rachel, exhibit a wide array of emotions. Throughout the movie Rachel displays an authentic command over her own free will, a humanistic trait that machines do not have, by making important life decisions to steer the outcome of her life. Tyrell says that his replicants are “more human than human”, and Rachel does not only contradict the notion that replicants are machines void of humanity but in fact also appears to be “more human than human”.

Rachel's humanity is evident when Deckard gives her the VK test. She first smokes a cigarette before the test, a common vice used generally to relieve anxiety, a "human" emotion, which shows that she is not as perfect as is assumed, for what is human if not to err. During the test, Deckard asks for a reaction to being shown a photo of a nude female. She shows a distaste for this question by sarcastically asking Deckard if the question was to find out if she was a replicant or a lesbian; her rebuttal comes off as condescending as well as if it was a “what kind of question was that” situation. She then displays not only a little jealousy but an ability to put value in herself even though she is a essentially a slave when she tells Deckard that she would not allow her husband to hang up that particular photo on the wall claiming that she should be enough for her husband. The assumption is that replicants should not be capable of such a demonstration of emotions.

Some will argue that she failed the test when she does not respond to what she thinks of boiled dog for dinner after all it is intrinsically “wrong” to eat a boiled dog. She knows that humans eat animal meat and that dog is technically an animal. However instead of saying yes she would eat it or act disgusted as a “human” would, she does not reply because she appears to be mulling over the morality of eating a dog. Her very contemplation is a very human response. Actually, there are parts of the world where eating dog is something that is not frowned upon. Referencing to Deckard stating that the owl at Tyrell Corp "must have cost a fortune", she would have no knowledge on the morality of eating a dog so she cannot be blamed for not being able to respond. After all, a human child in Blade Runner would not know about the morality of eating a dog since it is assumed that animals are pretty much extinct in the movie.

One defining characteristic of Rachel's humanity is her ability to make her own decisions, her own free will. She chooses to save Deckard, a human, from the replicant Leon signaling the fact that she does understand basic morality. She chooses to love Deckard signifying an actual capacity for love. She chooses to run away with Deckard in search of a better, more happy life, which is something that humans have been doing since the beginning of existence. Though Rachel's acceptance of being a replicant was difficult to internalize when she appears to be crying, she rejects the idea of replicant nature and ends up using her own free will to make important decisions such as to love and run away with Deckard which lends further credence to her humanity.

Rachel's sense of “humanity” is juxtaposed against the humans shown in the film. For example when Tyrell states that he has given the replicants a “gift” of memory there is actually a more selfish motive behind it because this gift is meant to serve as a means of control. Some of these memories included sexual child abuse and a situation where baby spiders hatched and proceeded to eat the mother. These memories serve to instill in the replicant subconscious a rejection of the idea of reproduction. This blatant ignorance of replicant well being and linear-minded attitude towards control by any means necessary is a stark contrast with Rachel's compassionate mindfulness towards Deckard, a supposed human. In another situation, there is another person acting out of self-interest in Deckard's boss Bryant who forcefully employs Deckard by threatening him in order to take care of the “problem” of replicants so that he may meet the expectations of his own bosses regardless if his actions affect Deckard negatively or result in the deaths of replicants. Now, the definition of humanity is certainly a gray area and differs from person to person but I think all would agree that Rachel is “more human” than either of these characters.


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