The Interiority of Being, Part II (Posthumanism Week 2)
Two scenes from Blade Runner require further examination. The first only makes sense in relation to the second. After Deckard kills Pris, Roy finds the bloody (Do replicants really bleed? (See Note 1)) body and attempts to kiss her goodbye. This is one of the most awkward death scene kisses, but how would a replicant body know how to kiss another, especially one that was dead? We have seen these death scene goodbye kisses in other works but with humans, and while kissing a dead body may be gross, it is certainly comprehensible as a human way of saying goodbye when two humans are in love, either as partners or as parents and children. Earlier, though, Deckard forces his kisses onto Rachael. This, too, seems quite awkward, but there could be two reasons: Rachael as a replicant forced to kiss Deckard has no idea of what to do with her mouth and Deckard as a possible replicant or a human who finds himself attracted to a replicant has no idea what to do with his mouth. Which pair is more humanlike?
As living replicants, Pris and Roy appear to have a more human relationship. They are in a consensual relationship that involves self sacrifice, first as Pris investigates J. F. Sebastian and then as Roy repeats that his time cannot yet be up because Pris will soon expire and he must find a solution to their short lifespans. This is a common literary theme: using one’s resources, even one’s own life, to save another. Upon learning that prior attempts result in even earlier death, Roy kills his creator, Tyrell. Roy no longer has hope for extending their lives because, as Pris had earlier said, if they could not find a solution then they were stupid, or perhaps, only as intelligent as humans. Humans have yet to find a solution to death, so both replicants and humans face similar questions regarding identity in relation to death. For the replicants death comes sooner as it does for any human who faces a fatal illness (J. F. Sebastian’s Methuselah syndrome), a fatal injury, or fatal encounter with a replicant (Why did Deckard not die from all that blunt force trauma he experienced during his fights with replicants?).
Humans, then, are no longer the only ones with interiority. The five replicants we meet (Zhora, Leon, Roy, Pris, and Rachael) become aware of the shortness of their lives (though Rachael may not be quite as aware of how short her life is), and in a human-like way attempt to lengthen their own lives. Six replicants kill to return to earth, to find their creator, and determine how they can lengthen their life spans. Zhora flees imminent death from Deckard for she is aware of the shoot on sight order, Leon attempts to revenge Zhora’s death and remove the immediate threat to the remaining replicants’ lives by attacking Deckard (and perhaps is upset that Deckard was in his apartment amongst his things, especially his photos), Rachael kills Leon to save Deckard, Pris is aware of Deckard’s mission and hides before attacking him, and Roy, in revenge or for lack of hope, attacks Deckard before his systems shut down. Do androids dream of electric sheep is inadequate in dealing with the replicants’ interiorities. Do androids dream of sheep more adequately describes their interiority for it is an interiority similar to humans’ (See Note 2).
1. In Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice, Act 3, scene 1, Shylock, the Jew, says, “If it will feed nothing else, it will feed my revenge. He hath disgraced me and hindered me half a million, laughed at my losses, mocked at my gains, scorned my nation, thwarted my bargains, cooled my friends, heated mine enemies—and what’s his reason? I am a Jew. Hath not a Jew eyes? Hath not a Jew hands, organs, dimensions, senses, affections, passions? Fed with the same food, hurt with the same weapons, subject to the same diseases, healed by the same means, warmed and cooled by the same winter and summer as a Christian is? If you prick us, do we not bleed? If you tickle us, do we not laugh? If you poison us, do we not die? And if you wrong us, shall we not revenge? If we are like you in the rest, we will resemble you in that. If a Jew wrong a Christian, what is his humility? Revenge. If a Christian wrong a Jew, what should his sufferance be by Christian example? Why, revenge. The villainy you teach me I will execute—and it shall go hard but I will better the instruction.”
Shakespeare’s application of Christian humanity to Jewish humanity (the supposedly inhuman ones who killed Christ and so must have no souls) also applies to the interiority of nonhuman subjects.
2. Deckard's humanity is intentionally ambivalent in the film, but he has an ID number (B-263-54), which may be his police ID number or his replicant ID number. He is clearly the best Blade Runner, outsmarting the replicants by being able to identify them (a quality for which he is called back into service) and by surviving their attacks on him. This leads to further questions: How can he be so compelled to return to duty and why is he the only one able to so ably identify replicants? If he is indeed a replicant, then he is a slave to his job because replicants were built for service, indeed unpaid service much like that of a slave. Also, like identifies with like, and Deckard identifies, to some degree, with each of the replicants, fascinated by his own photos as well as by Leon's. Is it more than just "I owe you one" when he leaves with Rachael? And does Gaff allow them to leave because not only will she die soon but so will he?
Blade Runner. Dir. Ridley Scott. Perf. Harrison Ford, Sean Young, Rutger Hauer, Daryl Hannah, Brion James, Joanna Cassidy, William Sanderson, Edward James, Olmos, and Joe Turkel, 1982. Film.