Why you need to watch Bladerunner again…

In what is becoming a weekend ritual I spent much of Saturday and Sunday screaming at my iPhone as the news of kneeling NFL players and reaction to same spread across the Internet. For reasons which at the time were past understanding I was reminded of Ridley Scott’s BladeRunner, a film adapted from Philip K. Dick’s, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep. At the pivotal conclusion of that film is the short speech delivered by the main antagonist, Roy Batty, an artificial human called a ‘replicant’ played in the film by Rutger Hauer.

I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe, attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I watched C-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhäuser Gate. All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain. Time to die.

It is a striking and evocative speech. But what is often lost in discussions of the film and its characters is starkly revealed by the words Hauer’s character utters immediately prior to the “Tears in the Rain” Soliloquy. After a murderous game of cat and mouse in an abandoned building protagonist Deckard, played by Harrison Ford, is barely holding on to a beam high above the ground as the physically superior Hauer stands over him about to deliver, we assume, the final deadly blow, killing the state sanctioned assassin.

“Quite an experience to live in fear isn’t it? That’s what it is to be a slave.”

This is the critical moment in the film. As Batty utters the words he is forced to acknowledge his own humanity and perversely Deckard’s enslavement. Through-out the film Ridley Scott has left hints for the audience that Deckard might be a Replicant himself and there is no way for Batty to know that but at some level he realizes Deckard is as deeply enmeshed in a system outside his control as he is. Considering that we have watched the pair hunting each other through an abandoned building this ambiguity is not that far fetched.

But, in Batty’s last deliberate living action he breaks that pattern. The question of who is hunter and who is hunted in the film is unresolved as we are left to consider their conflict, something which moments earlier seemed inevitable, now rendered irrelevant.

And that is the salient point of this post. Humans don’t have to naturally kill each other to resolve conflicts. With our capacities, our intellect and our emotions we have the ability to transcend systems which place us in opposition to those around us. This doesn’t mean that conflict shouldn’t happen but any system which demands a blood sacrifice however veiled in rhetoric and dogma, doesn’t warrant our allegiance.

We as librarians can provide the information necessary to avoid some of these conflicts but a system which tries to turn people into slaves will inevitably create conflict.

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