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April 1994


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Leigh Charles Goldstein <[log in to unmask]>
Reply To:
Film and TV Studies Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
Tue, 12 Apr 1994 02:39:20 -0600
text/plain (132 lines)
  I thought your reply to my post was pretty accurate; however since you
  took the time to write your thoughtful reply, I figured I would go
  ahead and address some areas where there appears to be minor differences
  in our ideas about utopia/dystopia and film.  I hope this clarifies
  my point of view for you.
  In my effort to get at some subtle points this got sort of long.  Sorry.
  Conversation is much better than e-mail for clarifying subtleties.
>1. Who said anything about a happy ending?
   In fact, the ending was tacked on by the producers who insisted on
   an upbeat ending; which does seem to me to be its main function.
   I address this again, later.
>2. Utopia, as defined by Merriam-Webster in the first definition, is "an
>imaginary and indefinitely remote place. Certainly where Dekard flys off
>to is a remote place and, for the viewer, an imaginary place since we are
>left with an opening-ending that allows us the opportunity to imagine
>potentially ideal possibilities. Further, if you compare this ideal place
>with the society that Deckard has just left, then surely it appears utopian.
 What you say is true, yet a Utopian society requires some kind of society.
 What we get are a few glimpses of trees and mountains in a wilderness.
 (Actually outtakes from The Shining).  One interesting thing is that
 you can see shadows of trees flitting across Ford's and Young's faces
 even though they are supposed to be flying high above the landscape.
 I address this ending yet again, later.
>3. Dystopia, as defined by the 2nd ed. Random House, is "a society
>characterized by human misery, as squalor, oppression, disease, and
>overcrowding." This seems to fit Deckard's society quite well. You may
>also recall that thoughout the film, there are constant reminders of an
>utopian world in the Off-World ad machine that circles about the dystopic
  Well, you certainly are very convincing here; but only for the poor.
  There is a wealthy class that has plenty of money, goods, and more
  than enough room (whole abandoned apartment buildings to themselves).
  We see some people living in great luxury; Deckard himself has a sort
  of typical middle class batchelor's pad.
  It's true this is a society where the best fit have left for the outworlds,
  yet there is still vital big business located on Earth.  The gloom of
  of the city, the darkness, has a mysterious, romantic and beautiful
  quality, too.  It holds promise of adventure.  The suffering of the poor
  is never really pushed in our face, as it is in _Metropolis_; we are
  focused more on the suffering of the affluent but loveless.
>4. I wasn't comparing _Blade Runner_ with _Metropolis_ but since you
>bring it up I'm curious to know how your interpretation varies from
>_Blade Runner_ in terms of character resolutions. In both stories the
>resolution seems to take place in the characters--are you suggesting that
>in order for a utopian move to be valid the "dark world" must see the light?
>You'll need to clarify that for me.
  In _Metropolis_, the oppressive social structure is one of the villains.
  Mechanization of society, the abuse of technology, is another, both
  in terms of the onerous labor of the workers, and the symbol of the robot.
  In _Blade Runner_, we do have an oppressed class, the androids, some of
  whom are rebelling... but they have no intention of changing the society.
  All they want is to extend their own life spans.  This is not a class
  I am not saying there are no utopian/dystopian elements in _Blade Runner_,
  but that the film is not really committed to social commentary.  It
  is hard to take the androids as symbolic of an oppressed minority or
  ethnic group, for example; it just doesn't seem to fit.  (This is
  not to say the film doesn't address racism, as when Deckard says,
  "Skin jobs.  He called them skin jobs.  He was the kind of guy who
   would have called black men niggers a hundred years ago." or something
   to that effect.)
   For me the androids symbolize any man or woman,
   searching for some answer from their Maker for the circumstances of
   their life.  The film suggests this significance of the creator/android
   relationship at several points; this religious/metaphysical theme
   shows up several times as characters confront death, and in the
   symbol of the dove flying upward as Rutger Hauer's character dies.
>5. Finally, comparing _Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep_ with Blade
>Runner_ is pretty risky, since the approach take by both novelist and
>director are wildly different, not to mention that we're discussing two
>different art forms. More importantly, how is the world changed in _Do
>Androids Dream. . ._? it seems pretty clear that the kipplization of the
>world will continue and, unlike _Blade Runner_ there's no utopia in
  Agreed.  I brought the novel up because some themes that are explicit
  in the novel are only hinted at in the film, but still present if you
  tease them out.
>6. Incidentally, from a purely plausible standpoint, I mentioned that
>the ending of _Blade Runner_ doesn't quite work because it appears
>tacked on; perhaps a producer's or studio's demand after a preview, but
>the fact that most everyone is trying to get to the Off-World suggests
>that this place Deckard flys off to simply can not exist.
  In fact, it was added after post-production was otherwise completed, by
  the producers.  I always imagined they were flying off, North of the
  urban sprawl, to some Washington state or Canadian wilderness area to hide
  out from the authorities who wanted to kill Young's character.  Maybe
  that's why I don't see it as a Utopian society type ending.
  Basically, I agree with the substance of what you say.  Perhaps the source of
  whatever disagreement there is between our views lies in my tendancy
  to separate political/social themes from personal/psychological themes.
  While _Metropolis_ does deal with individuals, they are symbolic and
  archtypal.  The evil robot, the mad scientist, the innocent young lover,
  the nobel hero.  This is not an attempt to analyse people, but to
  diagnose a sick society, which is suffering from industrial capitalism.
  Whereas _Blade Runner_ has been criticized because it has no clear cut
  villains or good guys, no sympathetic characters.  It is much more
  focused on the internal dynamics of people who deal with their environment
  as an unchangeable given.  Even though the two films have a similiar feel
  in terms of set design and look, (I believe the set designer for _Blade
  Runner_ was inspired by _Metropolis_), they are examining very different
  issues INMHO.
  In any case, it is certainly fine with me if someone wants to analyse
  _Blade Runner_ as depicting a utopian/dystopian dichotomy.
Leigh Charles Goldstein         [log in to unmask]
voice: 303-478-5292 (USA)       CIS 70304,211