Blade Runner 2049 and its Fatal Flaw


I was excited to see Blade Runner 2049. I went to see it with my girlfriend, her mother, and a lifelong female friend of mine. I purchased the tickets for all of us. Many of my friends had said it was one of the best movies they had ever seen. Chris Stuckman on YouTube gave it an A+. Word was that Harrison Ford said it was the best script he had ever read.

So I sat down in the reclining seats of the theater ready to be dazzled. And it was dazzling. There are special effects throughout this movie, but they’re so flawless that I did not spend any time thinking about the CGI. The production design is incredible. Like the original, it looks like a lived in world full of casual amazing technology. Roger Deakins is the director of photography. He’s the best in the business and the way he makes this film look deserves an Oscar. Performances by nearly all of the cast feel grounded in reality and make for an engaging movie. There’s a plot element involving implanted memories that I think is genius. You can find plenty of reviews that will correctly go on and on about how great so many aspects of Blade Runner 2049 are. There is so much to love in Blade Runner 2049.

Sadly, Blade Runner 2049 also has a fatal flaw. The 1982 original Blade Runner had its own flaws. Any movie where your protagonist rapes someone is problematic, but part of the whole point of the original Blade Runner seemed to me to be an experiment in what you can allow the protagonist to do if you just say the people he’s doing it to aren’t ‘real’. It’s one of the things that makes Blade Runner so damn dark. And the culture of the world of 2019 in Blade Runner is fairly misogynistic. (There are literally no female characters in the original Blade Runner who aren’t fake people.) For whatever reason, the creators of Blade Runner 2049 decided that in the 30 years following the first movie that misogynistic side of their culture has been turned up to eleven.

Instead of scenes with women as prostitutes or strippers, BR 2049 chooses to have 200 foot statues of naked women in various sexual poses, it chooses to have giant nude hologram women enticing men. They have a protagonist who has a holographic girlfriend who merges with a prostitute replicant he finds attractive so that he can have sex with both of them at the same time. They have a scene where our antagonist views his latest creation, an adult nude woman who clearly appears afraid. He touches her belly and then he guts her. Some may say these scenes develop character or show off a world that is misogynistic, but sitting next to three women I care about watching these scenes I felt awkward and disturbed.

I am not someone who shies away from graphic scenes in movies. I recognize that some stories require graphic violence, rampant nudity, or even sexism and misogyny, but when these things are presented with no real negative judgment about them, when they are presented simply as a matter of course, when they are presented in such a way that none of the male characters die and most of the female characters die in graphic ways, it becomes something else. There is a responsible way to present unpleasant misogyny in a dysotopian future (see Mad Max Fury Road). Blade Runner 2049 fails to be responsible in this way.

It is really unfortunate that such an incredibly well done movie chose to be among the most chauvinistic movies of the 21st century. For some this won’t be a problem. There are those who are much more comfortable with misogyny than I am personally. Maybe I would have had a different experience if I had not gone with three women I saw cringing and bothered throughout the movie. What I know is that in the year 2017, there is little excuse for a movie that goes so far out of its way to degrade a gender.

– Jack Cameron


4 responses to “Blade Runner 2049 and its Fatal Flaw

  1. Interesting. I definitely picked up on the degradation aspect. I thought it was apropos, considering one of the underlying themes was the exploitation of a “disposable workforce”, which most often includes the sexual predation and abuse of the females in that workforce. If it made anyone feel uncomfortable, then perhaps Scott can say “mission accomplished” in attaining some kind of verfremdungseffekt (Bertolt Brecht), by alienating you from feeling empathy for the antiheroes/protagonists.
    It also touched on posthumanist/transhumanist philosophy (hinted by the name “Deckard”/”Descartes”).
    If you dig deeper into the symbology suggested by character names, it should be apparent there is a strong Toraic/Pentateuchal/Biblical theme in Bladerunner (1982) a la Exodus/slavery/Egypt with nods at the holocaust in Germany, as well as messianic miracle baby themes. The pyramid-shaped buildings and ziggurats in both BR(82) and BR2049 are blatant references to Genesis/Exodus —
    * Rachel, the barren wife of Jacob and mother of Joseph, the favorite. Her sister Leah, and handmaidens Bilhah and Zilpah gave birth to Jacob’s other sons–Dan, Gad, Asher, Naphtali, etc., who were the namesakes for the 10 tribes of Israel that conquered Canaan.
    * Zhora Salome — sounds like Hebrew for “luminescent peace”–Salome was the daughter of Herod II and Herodias, and later the step-daughter/half-niece of Herod Antipas. She threw a princess-fit at Herod Antipas birthday celebration and he promised her anything if she would stop ruining the party. Like a good spoiled princess, she demanded the head of John the Baptist…paving the way for John’s martyrdom and the fulfillment of a messianic prophecy where the messiah would rise from the dead.
    * Leon Kowalski (Polish-Jewish patronymic name — ‘kowal’ = ‘Smith’)
    * twinned miracle babies/Rachel’s surrogate = Leah
    * Roy Batty – the “prodigal son”, Batty is a shortened version of Bartholomew, which was Aramaic for “son of Talmay”–Talmay was one of three sons of Anak described in Numbers 13:
    “22 And they ascended by the south, and came unto Hebron; where Ahiman, Sheshai, and Talmai, the children of Anak, were…
    28 Nevertheless the people be strong that dwell in the land, and the cities are walled, and very great: and moreover we saw the children of Anak there…
    31 But the men that went up with him said, We be not able to go up against the people; for they are stronger than we.
    32 And they brought up an evil report of the land which they had searched unto the children of Israel, saying, The land, through which we have gone to search it, is a land that eateth up the inhabitants thereof; and all the people that we saw in it are men of a great stature.
    33 And there we saw the giants, the sons of Anak, which come of the giants: and we were in our own sight as grasshoppers, and so we were in their sight.”
    So, Roy is a son of Talmay, which suggests that Eldon Tyrell/Rosen, is a son of Anak, a biblical “giant”. Rosen, by the way… a good Ashkenazi Jewish name that means “Rose’s”, mainly originating in Westphalian Germany, a Prussian region where many Ashkenazic Jews established themselves centuries before, thriving and ascending among the Russo-German/Prussian aristocracy.
    Europe’s Ashkenazic Jews are considered to be part of the 10 lost tribes of Israel lost after the Assyrians and Babylonian exiles and accounted for over 90% of the world’s Jewish population prior to World War 2 (14.4 million).
    Chief Bryant might be an example of irony, since “Bryant” is derived from Old Breton-Irish for “brigh” or “Strong”. Bryant is just a regular human, maybe at the top of the human food chain, but compared to a Nexus-6…kinda weak.
    The product line series naming convention of “Nexus” is interesting. A nexus is defined as a connection or series of connections linking two or more things. Perhaps the hint here is that the androids are the bridge between humanity and superhumanity–a very strong transhumanist/posthumanist statement. Read up on guys like Raymond Kurzweil. Interestingly, there is a literary sense of the circle coming round fully, as the Epic of Gilgamesh (Mesopotamian/Assyrian/Babylonian/Semitic) is noted for the principal hero’s preoccupation with attainment of immortality and superhuman/posthuman/transhuman qualities. Sound like Roy Batty’s (superhuman) quest for longevity?
    “I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe: attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I’ve watched C-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhäuser Gate. All those moments will be lost in time like tears in rain.”
    Shoulder of Orion? Orion = Nimrod = Gilgamesh, the great hunter before the Lord.
    Lastly, 6-10-21. Maybe a reference to Ephesians 6, verses 10 through 21:
    Ephesians 6:10-21
    “The Armor of God
    10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
    18 And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people. 19 Pray also for me, that whenever I speak, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, 20 for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should.
    Final Greetings
    21 Tychicus, the dear brother and faithful servant in the Lord, will tell you everything, so that you also may know how I am and what I am doing…”
    BR 2049 definitely had a whole messianic movement thingy going for it, and that may be an Easter Egg (haha Easter. see what i did there?) hinting at the gospel revolution of the android army’s quasi-spiritual movement. Like Paul of Tarsus in his letter to Tychicus of Ephesus–both cities were in 1st century Turkey. Tarsus still exists to this day. This Biblical passage marks a time and place in human history where the order of the known (Roman) world began down a paradigm shifting path that would flip Rome on its head, going from pagan pantheism to Semitic monotheism…at any rate–a revolution.

  2. Very, very bad take.

    >There were no female characters in OG Blade Runner who weren’t fake

    You obviously missed the entire point of the movie then, because it was to blur the line between what is “human” and what is “robot” in a world where technology has advanced towards singularity. The replicants are meant to, by the end of the movie, seem MORE real and human than the “human” characters; remorseful, compassionate, etc, where the humans are supposed to seem cold, one-dimensional, and morally repugnant. And, as you said, those are all men. Obviously you understand this by your other points, so obviously you can see what a moot point this was. First strike.

    >the holographic women and statues

    If you paid attention, you’d notice this is a manifestation of a theme in the movie. And you’d have realized that it is not intended to be shown in a positive light at all; there’s a reason this is called a dystopian science fiction film. Blade Runner 2049 depicts a world where human compassion has become such a rare commodity that corporations can sell cheap imitations of it to fill demand. This is already a phenomenon in modern culture — it’s called sex. BR shows a LV where the world has descended into such hypersexuality that it’s acceptable to allow such gratuitous depictions of sex as giant nude women squarely in the public sphere. There’s also scenes where brothels with transparent walls are on public streets. Prostitutes are omnipresent. Sex is seen used throughout the film to market products. It’s Weimarian.

    It should be side-noted that this contamination of sex into culture and the commodification of sex (and, therefore, women, as sex marketing has always been predominantly targetted at men) can be traced back to the “sexual liberation” movement. There’s quotes on this in the movie, where K prefers a “traditional”, “domestic” wife to “real” girls, even if they’re fake, as it feels like a last vestige where true companionship and love can be found protected from the acidity of a hypersexual, emotionally vapid culture.

    >the sex scene

    Seems like you missed the entire meaning of this scene, and even besides, it’s a bad argument. He wasn’t trying to have sex with “both of them at once”, he was trying to have sex with his wife; the prostitute was just a tool to allow her to find manifestation in a physical form. Joi even treats her like one, telling her “I’m done with you” the morning after. The scene shows the lengths the lovers would go to overcome boundaries between each other and achieve true intimacy. It shows Joi becoming more “real”, as the “robot” characters are constantly being shown to do throughout both movies.

    And even so, do you have a problem with a consensual threesome? I didn’t take you as the type.

    >nude replicant

    Yes, this was absolutely shown in a negative light. Also served a vital plot purpose, as it was a replication (pun intended) of Rachael.

    >none of the male characters die, females do in graphic ways

    K dies at the end, from a stab wound. And he maintains injury after injury through the entire movie, most of them graphic. So does Decker, and others. A male dies within the first 5 minutes in a rather violent way. (And we know by the end he was essentially a good guy and a vital character.) If there’s some sort of sympathetic cringe that your friends were experiencing through the movie that’s rooted in sex-identification, I’d expect you’d have phantom pain all throughout your body by the end by your own logic.

    I don’t see this issue. It’s an R-rated action movie. People get hurt and die. Because it’s in the past been a male-dominated genre, it’s been mostly men. But when women are introduced, they need to be protected and treated like glass dolls throughout the movie? Sounds pretty misogynistic, if I’m being entirely honest.

    I thought the female characters in this movie were great. Far and away better than the women from contemporary action movies like the new Star Wars and others. It treated them like complex people instead of one-dimensional caricatures of the “strong independent woman” archetype. I wish some people could look beyond shallow ideological criticisms and warped perspectives to appreciate that.

    • You liked the movie. I did not like the movie. And that’s okay. I am not wrong about how I feel about the movie and neither are you. I have good friends who outright loved 2049 and hated Last Jedi. (I feel exactly the opposite.) Comments like ‘if you paid attention’ are a bit insulting and do nothing to help your argument. I paid attention to the movie. I even saw it twice in the theater. It’s very beautiful, very well done, and from my perspective totally misogynistic on a level that makes it irredeemable in my eyes. But the last thing I’m going to do is tell someone who enjoyed a movie that they shouldn’t enjoy a movie. I wanted to like 2049 and didn’t. Oh well. Thanks for your thorough critique.

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