Personal History, Emotion, and Interiority in The Blade Runner

Blade Runner sets up a world where humans live alongside replicants—AIs almost identical to humans and lacking only in emotional response and personal history. These beings are therefore considered distinctly not-human, though in every-day life they function in much the same way humans do. When replicant-hunter Deckard meets Rachael, an advanced replicant who believes she is human, his concept of what is and isn’t human is thrown into question. Though Rachael fails the Voigt-Kampff test, she is by no means devoid of emotions, and though her memories are transplanted, she truly believes that she has a personal history. When she confronts Deckard about whether or not she is truly a replicant, and he callously recites a few of her transplanted memories for her, we see genuine pain in her eyes, and she even begins to cry. This begs the question of what make a person human — and whether the delusion of memory is really all that different from real personal history. I find it especially interesting that we are given almost no backstory for Deckard himself, and he is never portrayed as having deeper emotions than any of the replicants he is hired to kill. For me, this called to attention the position that we, the viewers/readers of media, are placed in when it comes to judging the interiority of fictional characters. There is really no tangible difference, in the eyes of the viewer, between characters like Rachael and characters who are presented to us as human in Blade Runner. Both have constructed memories/personal histories, and we can interpret the true interiority of neither, because we only see portrayals of interiority through exterior expression of emotion.

1 Comment

  1. We certainly receive no backstory for Deckard and Rachel brings to our attention our unawareness as viewers on whether Deckard is a replicant and it makes us aware of how little we as viewers care about whether he is or isnt a replicant for the premise of the story. I think the fact that we see no constructive difference between the replicants and Deckard and still concern ourselves with the truth of interiority of the invaders only says more about what objects we concern ourselves with interiority than it does about Deckard’s differences. The world itself is structured so we never have to consider the interiority of Deckard.

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