Injury as an equalizer in Blade Runner

In a narrative centered around what characters can or cannot do defining who they are and who they cannot be, the decision to have Deckard’s fingers immobilized in his final escape from Roy (although using physical disability as a steak-raiser in final battle is not unique to this movie) carries the additional implication of lack of physical expertise being linked to humanity. While the replicants’ heightened physical ability is one of their tell-tale signs of inhumanity, Deckard remains human in our eyes even with the open question (at this point in the film) of whether he is human partially because he displays weakness. However when Roy’s hand gives out in the same sequence, he responds to his own weakness with his “inhuman” fix of self harm, stabbing a nail through his flesh. Even though he gives the human reaction to this pain, his will and ability to even perform such an act on himself makes him suspect – even though that’s what heros like Deckard must display in the film for survival. We are trained to see strength and self mastery as heroic, but the rules of the Blade Runner break those down – if the character of the hero is our lens into the world of the film, and the hero is given that role by his perseverance and strength, how can we balance that with strength being a sign of lack of character at all?


  1. I think the best way to answer some of the questions in this post is to address the extent to which viewers are made to understand the world of the story. Understanding the role that pain plays in this movie is essential to establishing the images of each character as separate from our own world. So, if not being as reactive to pain is a characteristic that is meant to show inhumanity, it would be counterproductive to mix that with our standards for heroism. However, this does lead to my personal dissatisfaction with Deckard as the hero, as he does not embody the “human” qualities that the film pursues and reveres throughout the length of the plot. Ultimately, I find it unclear when the film is expecting us to adhere to its standards, and when it calls for an application of our own values.

  2. I think the concept of pain in Blade Runner corresponds with the portrayal of fear. In the final battle scene between Deckard and Roy, Deckard (who at this point we assume is human) seems terrified of the crazily capable Roy. Roy, on the other hand, seems to exhibit zero fear of Deckard, but rather he actively charges after him. Deckard knows he is way outmatched, so he tries to run because he cannot use the only weapon he had because of his broken fingers. Roy seems to be like some kind of horror movie monster since he does not exhibit fear or pain. I think this makes Roy’s speech at the end so shocking because the fight scene almost made him seem godlike, but now we see that he is terrified of dying. His speech completely flips our perception of him from machine to human.

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