Fictional Characters, Fictional World

To viewers, the world presented in the opening scenes of Blade Runner is a chaotic future, technology-infested but also run-down, hyper-corporatized and desensitized, and populated by a heterogeneous mix of cultures, languages, people, and images. There is some text to help us make sense of this foreign world, and later on Deckard receives instructions to retire the remaining Replicants that serve to orient us in the plot that unfolds. By the time we meet Rachel’s character, we are acquainted enough with the logic of Blade Runner’s world to understand where she fits within it.
The process of sense-making that the viewer undergoes to become familiarized with the fictional world feels natural, but in reality is the direct and calculated product of a methodically constructed system that the movie builds. As recurring symbols (ex: origami) and images (the geisha ad) prompt viewers to recall earlier scenes, or voiceovers reiterate words to convey Deckard’s recollection, the film ingrains a class of “memories” for the viewers in relation to the fictional world.
When Rachel discovers that Tyrell implanted her memories, she begins to question herself and all of the preexisting knowledge she holds. At the movie’s final scene, the viewers find themselves in a similar position, implanted strategically with memories of a distinct world, and disoriented by the sudden collapse of this epistemology through the film’s abrupt ending. In truth I am not quite sure what to make sense of this haunting mimetic structure, just as I am not quite sure what to make of what I just watched…


  1. I think this is a really cool point, and that it also ties in extremely well to the questions we had in class about the humanity test – if our memories orient us in the world and provide a coherent complex for meaning, is this what makes the addition of memory to these “fake” characters significant? Why are we so (almost) instinctively obsessed with personal history and its relation to interiority? Maybe the idea that memory/history makes a character understand a world and communicate in it in a way that we can understand is the key to that.

  2. This sort of thought process really makes us question ourselves; how can we sure of who we really are? Is it enough to be able to verify yourself through your own thoughts and your own memories, or do we need the memories of friends and family to really confirm it? How can we be sure that the knowledge we believe to hold is actually that of our own, and that our memory has been carved from the first stone? Blade Runner shows us that we cannot necessarily confirm and truly know, but only assume.

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