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BenjaminJB said on August 17th, 2012 at 6:07 pm

I’m always moved by Leon’s “When’s my birthday?” part, which is a reminder of the Frankensteinian/abandonment issues here: we make them as human as we can and then we kick them out.

That said, I’d like to hear your thoughts on the mood piano that’s in the book but not the movie: is empathy something like a mood (in that it can be turned off momentarily) in your reading of Dick?

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I don’t think I agree with your reading of Do Androids Dream, because I think that you’re making the mistake that the movie has led most everyone to make of thinking that Rick Deckard is the main character. Deckard is just another manifestation of the tomb world that J.R. Isidore and Mercer have to fight against with their quasi-magical powers. Mercerism is the core of the book, and Isidore is the one who Mercer chooses to use as his disciple in the world. I appreciate that this is the part of the book that’s much more turgid and difficult to parse, but I see the final revelation of Deckard’s frog being mechanical is Mercer’s (and Dick’s, although that’s more oblique, because he was always shit at ending his novels) denunciation of Deckard.

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Bryan Rasmussen said on August 17th, 2012 at 6:48 pm

I think Dick dealt very well with the empathy, killing them because their things paradox that you mention.

Not to mention that his world also supposes that a large scale species die-out has given humanity feelings of guilt and highly charged empathy for animals. These feelings are not avoidable by humans in the fictional world because humans there psychologically have always needed ‘animals’

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Bryan Rasmussen said on August 17th, 2012 at 6:53 pm

not sure I agree that the main point was mercerism, but that mercerism exists as a critique of the we kill them if they don’t have empathy thing. Mercerism is one of the important thematic underpinnings of the book.

I think it was a great ending.

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dangermauf said on August 17th, 2012 at 7:22 pm

if you love Republicans, Objectivism, or being a selfish prick.

From the department of redundancy department.

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Deckard in the film is a burnt-out wreck of a man because his empathy withered and died years ago, not because he’s secretly an android himself.

See, I’ve never understood why both couldn’t be the case. For me, thinking that Deckard is a replicant *and* a horrible person who’s been reduced to a tiny shell by working as a slave-catcher both work in the same story. When I first saw it, I thought each of those two themes heightened the other.

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@JPL: I disagree; I think Deckard has to be a human for the dichotomy to work. If Deckard is a replicant, it undercuts the idea that the differences between replicants and humans are useful political fictions, because then the one human who acts like a replicant actually is one, and everyone who says, “Replicants don’t have empathy” are right. And to my mind, the key to the film is in the fact that they’re wrong.

@Bryan Rasmussen, Chalkwhite: I dunno. Don’t want to get too much into authorial intent, especially because I’m explicitly spitting on it by saying that Deckard wasn’t a replicant in the movie despite six billion interviews where Ridley Scott says he was, but Dick seemed to be utterly sincere in his belief that “empathy” was a quality that could be measured and quantified, and that the androids were bad because they didn’t have it. He went much further than the movie to establish their lack of empathy (Pris tortures and kills a spider just for the fun of it, for example, in a world where animals are precious and rare), and he didn’t seem to recognize the irony in his assertions in interviews on the work. He could be playing coy, but I generally find that fans of a book (movie, album, etc) tend to grant authors extraordinary powers of self-awareness and ironic intent rather than acknowledge that the work has inherent problems. (Witness the people who still insist that Cherry Darling is a self-aware parody of faux-feminism in action movies, rather than just a particularly odious example of it.)

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The Voight-Kampff test exists in real life. It’s called the PCL-R or the Hare Psychopathy Checklist. I don’t know how much influence psychopathy had on Dick’s conception of lack of empathy. If memory serves, it’s only in the last few years that we’ve understood that psychopathy is fundamentally based on a lack of cognitive ability to empathize. Interestingly, the science indicates that psychopathy is partly genetic (i.e. nature rather than nurture).

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John: I’m not particularly concerned about whether or not Dick /meant/ for the ending to be an indictment of Deckard and his path, I just read it that way (I have an almost entirely post-modern perspective when it comes to Death of the Author). I agree that the book establishes without any doubt that androids lack empathy, but I think that Deckard’s interactions with Phil Resch also speak to the deterioration of empathy that Deckard himself feels- he had no moral qualms about killing Resch when he thought him to be an android, despite Resch having saved his life. I believe that this, along with his complicated relationship with Rachel Rosen, are meant to evoke a man who has lost his own empathic abilities.
If there’s one uncomfortable othering that I think holds through in any reading of the book, it’s the idea of Isidore as the Noble Retard, the mentally handicapped person who can see what we cannot because he isn’t shackled to reality in the same way that we are. But then, Dick always fetishized mental illnesses and handicaps (See Transmigration of Timothy Archer, Martian Time-Slip, Ubik, etc. etc.)

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Ah, Ayn Rand; I will never understand how the “traditional family values” party can keep a straight face while idolizing an adulteress.

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@Beacon-It becomes easier when you remember that a traditional family value is sweeping family drama under the rug and pretending nothing’s wrong.

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Bryan Rasmussen said on August 18th, 2012 at 2:12 am

” I believe that this, along with his complicated relationship with Rachel Rosen, are meant to evoke a man who has lost his own empathic abilities.”

This is my belief as well. Hence the big point about him not caring about the artificial animals.

various things that support this:

He views it as a social game. That he is obligated to have an artificial animal to keep up appearances.

His empathy is triggered by anything that he thinks is ‘real’, and switched off as soon as he thinks it is ‘fake’ which indicates a quality that is perhaps not so deeply ingrained.

Mercer implies that it doesn’t matter if something is fake, because the image of it is true. Deckard in not having a real thing to be empathetic with should practice empathy with the representations, but he doesn’t. Because he does not practice empathy he has an imperfect empathy.

Of course Deckard lives in a world in which the image is becoming true. Where the animals die out so that artificial animals now are found in the wild doing what real animals would do.

Pris tortures and kills a spider. She is an artificial thing doing what real people have always done, yes in a world where this minor cruelty(for us) is as bad as torturing and killing a child. It calls into question our empathy.

at any rate the issue of empathy has been found in a number of other Dick works. Reading those also seems to argue against him thinking that non-empathetic people were not human, but he certainly did think there was something messed up with people who lacked the quality.

See also: The man in the high castle.

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highlyverbal said on August 18th, 2012 at 2:17 am

“Deckard in the film is a burnt-out wreck of a man because his empathy withered and died years ago”

Doesn’t seem to be any more burnt-out or wrecked then the other citizens of the post-apocalypse. What cheerful character are you using as a baseline that Deckard is falling short of?

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highlyverbal said on August 18th, 2012 at 2:18 am

*than

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I’m not sure how the world of Blade Runner being largely populated by burned-out wrecks does much to argue against the fact that Deckard is also kind of a burned-out wreck.

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DataShade said on August 18th, 2012 at 4:14 am

1/10. Worst trolling attempt I have seen in years.

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DataShade said on August 18th, 2012 at 4:15 am

@Murc said on August 18th, 2012 at 2:22 am

You’re in a room with 10 people whose lips are stained brown. You ask all of them questions. 10/10 use chewing tobacco. 1 is a serial killer. You publish a scientific paper: serial killers develop brown lips.

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DataShade said on August 18th, 2012 at 4:31 am

I cannot articulate how angry it makes me to have read a post where someone says things like “he made a public repudiation of his love of Ayn Rand’s thirty-year old corpse, while still of course admiring all of the bits of his philosophy that let him be a selfish prick,” then goes on for five times as long talking about how a movie failed to fully explore the implications of a thematic choice the director has repeatedly and explicitly disavowed.

I … You just … what is this I don’t even

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DataShade said on August 18th, 2012 at 4:34 am

You could have just titled the post “We need a new adaptation of Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep”

skipped beating the dead Ayn horse

not tried to mesh a 30-year-old-film with a modern-day politician

and your post would have stood on its merits. Now it’s just a confusing welter of self-congratulatory bullshit. The 1/10 was generous, I’m downgrading you to .5/10

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“Fundamentally, Dick is engaging in one of the most classic ways of avoiding one’s conscience and shutting down empathy, by “otherizing” the people you hate instead of understanding them, while claiming that his purge is a pro-empathy action. He deludes himself into thinking that a man can “retire” androids who look like people, talk like people, act like people all day every day for years…and it won’t cost him any of his soul.”

The next time you may an extended post about a novel, you may want to consider reading it beforehand. And no, the cliff notes version will not suffice.

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@John Seavey: If Deckard is a replicant, it undercuts the idea that the differences between replicants and humans are useful political fictions, because then the one human who acts like a replicant actually is one, and everyone who says, “Replicants don’t have empathy” are right. And to my mind, the key to the film is in the fact that they’re wrong.

Personally, when I watched the film, the idea that ‘replicants inherently lack empathy’ seemed to be self-evidently a useful lie that humans told themselves to reassure themselves that slavery is acceptable. If we accept that as a starting point for the story, then a hypothetical replicant-Deckard having the empathy beaten out of him by his job makes it interesting to me; the lack of empathy becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy that justifies further oppression.

But if that’s not a common reading, if that’s not the starting point of the discussion about the movie, I can see how Deckard being an empathy-less human would have to be important in order to make that clear to the audience. So I do have a question; ignoring both the finer details of the existing Blade Runner and Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, could a good story be written about a replicant slave-catcher, their own empathy suppressed by what they have been forced to do?

A side note: It’s sort of surprised me, hearing other people’s thoughts on Blade Runner. The person who originally showed me the movie constantly implied that there was something I should be watching for. At the end of the movie, I said that I thought that Deckard was ‘obviously’ a replicant; which is when he started eagerly talking about what Deckard did in the final fight and I looked at him bizarrely. What an action movie star does or does not survive didn’t strike me as meaningful in the least; what was meaningful was the scene earlier on when Deckard explains to the receptionist that she has manufactured memories. Seeing his cold “I’ve been here before” matter-of-fact nature, with what I thought at the time was a hint of anger covered up under years of exhaustion, made me think that he had false memories in his past explained to him before. I thought he was walking over ground he had already tread, making the subtext of the scene ‘I had empathy once. It didn’t really work out for me. Maybe you should try giving it up.’ Powerful stuff, at least to me.

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@Travesty

That makes sense. I just assumed that “traditional family values” was code for “no queer stuff”

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You should be shot for suggesting a remake of Blade Runner.

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Why don’t we use the Hare Psychopathy Checklist to screen candidates for CEOs and public office?

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@Beacon

It is ALSO code for ‘no queer stuff.’ It means a lot of things, most of them depressing and sordid.

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@Xander77: I have read it. I admit freely to having read it _after_ I read the book about his life and work, and coming to it with the knowledge that Dick really did come at the writing of the novel from the perspective that certain people lack empathy and shouldn’t “count” as human beings, and I also admit freely that this may have informed my reading of the novel…but a different point of view on the book should not be confused with ignorance of it.

@DataShade: Hee. :) You’re funny. I hope you stick around. I’d say, “Why is it that Objectivists, who prize reason and logic and rationality above all things, are the easiest to reduce to sputtering incoherence with even the mildest criticism of their founder?” …but I’ve read Jay Michael Shermer’s ‘Why People Believe Weird Things’, so I know.

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I really disagree that the movie is a (“partial”) failure for the reasons you cite, and in fact I think you inadvertently build a strong case for why it isn’t. It’s all there in the movie, it’s just not hammered home for us. Remember when movies used to do that? To expect us to pick up on the themes without having them overtly spelled out at every turn?

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John: Did you read Divine Invasions, or I Am Alive And You Are Dead? The latter is a really interesting character study, but not actually that great of a biography (in terms of how willing he is to be fictional). I think the two should be read together.

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highlyverbal said on August 18th, 2012 at 7:13 pm

@Murc: If I had been arguing that Deckard was NOT a burned out wreck, you would be making an excellent point. But I wasn’t, so you know, think harder.

(Need a hint? Study the entirety of what I quoted from Mr. Seavey.)

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Seriously? Your problem with the movie is that it makes a point you agree with, but the main character doesn’t dwell on it long enough? I imagine you watching Koyaanisqatsi, screaming, “tell, don’t show!”

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highlyverbal said on August 18th, 2012 at 7:15 pm

@HroflK: “You should be shot for suggesting a remake of Blade Runner.”

Relax. Sure, Blade Runner is decent but it is no Mars Attacks!

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highlyverbal said on August 18th, 2012 at 7:26 pm

@Prankster: “To expect us to pick up on the themes without having them overtly spelled out at every turn?”

Totally agree with your comment. And, given that Mr. Seavey didn’t hesitate to get out the Ouija board for Mars Attacks!, it is a bit surprising to discover such a rigorous textualist, eh?

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“Sure, Blade Runner is an OK movie, but Ridley Scott missed a huge opportunity to weigh in on the ‘is slavery bad?’ question. Of course I’m sure he opposes it, but how is the viewer to know?”

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“I have read it. ”

I really have trouble believing this. The novel ends (among other things) with Deckard realizing that Androids CAN feel empathy and even love, and still carrying out his job because he’s really no longer much of a human being, much less an empathetic person. The whole android police station arc and the other hunter make that subtext really clear.

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Edgar Allan Poe said on August 19th, 2012 at 12:14 am

The secret of Blade Runner is that it doesn’t matter whether Deckard’s a replicant or not.

As a side note, I love the fact that Ridley Scott is certain he is, and Harrison Ford is sure he isn’t.

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Jaelinque said on August 19th, 2012 at 3:43 am

@Xander77: “The novel ends (among other things) with Deckard realizing that Androids CAN feel empathy and even love, and still carrying out his job because he’s really no longer much of a human being, much less an empathetic person. The whole android police station arc and the other hunter make that subtext really clear.”

I haven’t read the novel, but what you are saying doesn’t dispute what John is saying at all.
Essentially, from your summary, it seems like in the novel killing android turns out to be bad, because they have empathy, and Deckard is less of a person than them, because he no longer has it as a result of killing creatures that have empathy.

Which leaves open the question on whether it would still be wrong if the androids were truly empathy-less. It effectively skirts around the issue of whether it is wrong to kill X just because they are not Y by saying ‘X actually is Y’.

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Mark Temporis said on August 19th, 2012 at 4:44 am

I recommend the CD-ROM adventure game based on Blade Runner. It follows the movie quite closely but works in some well-known Dick quirks too, like your love interest having the appearance of an underage brunette (all Replicants technically being underage of course).

That you get to administer Voight-Kampff tests to anyone you meet in-game makes it quite interesting — especially as different characters will be Replicants each playthrough. That and the photo-enhance were my favorite parts of the game. If I was a Blade Runner, though, I’d disable the sound on my laptop — alerting the test subject that he has just failed the VK exam isn’t the most intelligent thing in the world.

It gets bonus coolness in my eyes for your partner being voiced by Lisa Edelstein (House), and your jailbait love interest by Pauley Perrette (NCIS).

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re “It’s a drama about slavery where nobody ever suggests that slavery is a bad thing”: I’m looking forward to Tarantino’s DJANGO UNCHAINED for a variety of reasons, but one is that he reportedly approached the story from a pre-Civil War POV where the concept of slavery is not held to be morally abhorrent nor do the African-American characters see a world around them where they can all be free. It will be interesting to see how that affects the dramatic turns of the story.

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Gareth Wilson said on August 19th, 2012 at 6:27 am

There’s a more basic problem with Dick’s idea – the Nazis weren’t unusually lacking in empathy or all psychopaths. They just had political beliefs that encouraged them to kill certain people. And actual psychopaths are usually just annoying jerks with no particular tendency to violence. So the test would be less useful than he thought.

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Raskolnikov said on August 19th, 2012 at 11:00 am

It is discussions like these that illustrate my joy that we essentially have 2 Blade Runner movies, each with different takes on this theme.

I know that a ton of people hate the narrated version, but I love the unintended consequence of Ford’s emotionless narration of reinforcing the fact that the human character has less emotion and empathy than the replicants. And that Roy’s “gift” of saving Deckard at the end wakes him up emotionally. That and Gaff not really giving a shit about Rachel).

Then there is the Director’s cut, which for me is a far less complex film. For me that’s an examination of what we feel is important, the meaning of memory, in addition to the standard Bladerunner “What makes a human?” question.

I love ‘em both, as completely different movies.

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Jaelinque, actually it stands in pretty clear opposition to the part that Xander77 quoted initially.

John Seavey wrote, in the original post: “He deludes himself into thinking that a man can “retire” androids who look like people, talk like people, act like people all day every day for years…and it won’t cost him any of his soul.”

Xander77 wrote, in his second comment: “The novel ends (among other things) with Deckard realizing that Androids CAN feel empathy and even love, and still carrying out his job because he’s really no longer much of a human being, much less an empathetic person.”

Obviously, you can pick a fight with this, and say that neither being a human being nor having empathy are components of a soul, but if we’re going to do that, then “it won’t cost him any of his soul” is a fundamentally meaningless statement.

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@Prankster, Chris K: There is a time for subtlety, but there is also a time to lay your cards on the table and get to the point. ‘Blade Runner’ is so subtle about so many things that it comes across as bloodless; it needs someone in it who actually gives a damn about something. Everyone’s so busy being opaque and oblique that the movie winds up feeling like an aesthetic in search of an actual story.

If I were to be more specific, I’d say the problem is Batty. Much as I love love love Rutger Hauer’s performance, what’s needed is someone more like Bane in ‘DKR’, a revolutionary who’s not just out to find freedom from his short lifespan, but to find freedom for replicants everywhere. Limiting his scope and his passion diminishes the film.

Or to put it another way, ambiguity, carefully used, can work wonders. Overused, you just get mud.

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I continue to have no idea why this woman’s ideas are worshiped…

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@John Seavey, but all of that is THERE IN THE MOVIE. You pieced it together, we all did. The stuff that needs to be clear is the character motivation and plot; the theme is something you always have to work out for yourself as an audience member. This has been true since forever. It’s only in recent years that we’ve seen the “Pixar-ization” of thematic storytelling. (I love Pixar, but they make kid’s movies, where the themes have to be directly pointed to for the younger audience. For whatever reason, Hollywood has become convinced that this is the proper way to do things for “adult” genre movies too, to the point where genre movies that DON’T do this are sometimes accused of “not being about anything”. Which seems to be sort of like what you’re doing here.)

To me, if the movie’s thematically coherent, and Blade Runner very much is, then the director and writer have done their job. The rest is up to the audience. Show, don’t tell.

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@Prankster: Given that people have spent most of the thirty years since the movie’s initial release arguing about a) whether the ending really is the ‘Tomato in the Mirror’ trope that all the stoners in the audience hope it is, and b) whether or not Harrison Ford tanked the voiceover on purpose, I’m going to stand by my original statement here. :)

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@John: Batty starts out as only wanting to find freedom from his short lifespan to developing the exact sort of empathy that his makers deny is possible. He goes from someone whose only reaction to the deaths of Zhora and Leon is annoyance that this makes his plans more difficult to actual grief when Pris dies, and then – when he knows that his death is inevitable – to choosing to save the life of the man who’s been hunting him not because he believes that there’s any chance that Deckard would save him if their positions were reversed, but just because it’s the human thing to do. “More human than human” is the Tyrell Corporation’s motto, and in Batty they finally managed to succeed at it, if only for a brief, shining moment.

It’s true that Scott ladled on the Christ symbolism in that scene with a trowel, but the movie became a classic as much because of as despite that.

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djangermouse said on August 21st, 2012 at 1:38 am

to the point where genre movies that DON’T do this are sometimes accused of “not being about anything”.

Genre movies have been accused of this since time immemorial.

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Magic Xylophone said on August 21st, 2012 at 9:56 am

Wait… The Klingons are Soviets?

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Kid Kyoto said on August 21st, 2012 at 1:31 pm

TOS Klingons were Space Soviets, TNG Klingons were some kind of noble savage Space Viking types. TNG Cardasians were Space Soviets, but unfortunately created after the cold war ended.

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highlyverbal said on August 21st, 2012 at 1:39 pm

@Prodigal: I agree that Batty’s arc is well-constructed. The replicants’ struggle for survival shows the primal/base side of the human condition, and also illustrates how easy it is to recast an oppressed people as sub-human when they are already at the margins. (Also, historically accurate – and a facet of empathy that strongly relates to the overall theme.)

Further, Mr. Seavey’s myopic suggestion, that Batty become some sort of crusader or Che Guevara, would tear apart other portions of the narrative. A society that ignores such a figure would have issues of denial and credulity, which is a substantively different film.

If Batty is a savior, it becomes his film – a grand morality play – probably with bonus martyrdom (can’t leave that out or the John Seaveys of the alternate universe will be complaining about the unsatisfying ending). Deckard’s story is small, mean, and petty – and is too easy to over-shadow. If Batty is a hero, Deckard is the villian, not an anti-hero.

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@highlyverbal: Yes, that’s all pretty much my point in a nutshell. :) The society depicted in Blade Runner does have issues of denial and credulity, Deckard’s story is small, mean and petty, and Batty’s death is so full of fucking martyrdom that white doves fly past his body when he kicks it. :) But the film ignores all that, because Ridley Scott is more interested in exploring the identity/mortality issues that come from the four-year lifespan and the false memories than he is in exploring the morality issues of creating an entire species purely to do your shit jobs, and then gifting them with enough self-awareness that they fucking know it.

I, personally, think that mortality/identity films are a dime a dozen, and that they always seem more profound than they really are (because they all ask the same question, and the answer always seems to be, “I ‘unno, love and shit?”) So I humbly suggest that someone makes a remake which explores the issues that the original papers over. I’m honestly surprised this is a big deal…it’s not like someone comes and tapes over all your copies of the original when the new one gets made. (For one thing, they’d have to figure out which version is which. I swear, Ridley Scott remade the film three times just by remixing the footage.)

@Kid Kyoto: TNG Klingons were space Japanese. Tokugawa-era, but space Japanese.

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@highlyverbal: It’s not so much a simple hero/villain dichotomy between Batty and Deckard, where each of them has to be one or the other. In the strictest terms they’re both villains: Batty had to murder people in order to get to Earth, and murdered a number of others after his arrival, and Deckard’s a professional executioner. But in the end, each of them refuses to continue the cycle they’ve been locked into by those who made them, and fights to save someone else’s life: Deckard flees north with Rachel, and Batty pulls Deckard from the edge of the roof.

Deckard knows that someone will be sent after Rachel, but he takes up his gun one last time to protect her. Batty knows that there’s no Silion Heaven, that the toasters just die, and there’s no forgiveness for what he’s done, but he saves Deckard from falling. But we never know why – and it’s entirely possible that Batty never does, either. This is why the versions of the movie without the voiceovers are superior, because they may ask the same question that John Seavey’s tired of hearing, but they refused to answer it. They just let it happen, and let the audience decide for themselves.

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highlyverbal said on August 22nd, 2012 at 3:01 am

@John Seavey: “I, personally, think that mortality/identity films are a dime a dozen, and that they always seem more profound than they really are”

Yeah, we totally have to look long and hard to find some preachy, heroic, overly-moralistic movies. If only there were some way to measure or compare how many of each category exist!

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@highlyverbal: So your argument is basically, “Other things in the past have sucked, therefore I am against doing things in the future, as they might suck as well.” Good on that! :)

It’s not impossible to do a good movie about ideas wherein those ideas are actually expressed by the people who hold them. Real people actually do that sometimes. Again, while subtlety is nice, it is just as possible to be too oblique as it is to be too preachy. There are movies out there where nobody ever says anything about anything, and they all just sit around making cryptic statements with forty-seven potential meanings and what action there is all gets crammed into about the last five minutes so that everyone can get in these speeches that sound pretty and profound but that don’t really mean anything, because the director and screenwriter were working so hard to make sure that they could mean whatever anyone wanted them to mean. These films focused so much on the aesthetics and the ambiguity that they forgot that ultimately, you have to fucking communicate your point to the audience or you don’t really have one, because an idea you don’t share is indistinguishable from not having an idea to begin with.

You know, like the original ‘Blade Runner’. :)

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highlyverbal said on August 22nd, 2012 at 2:22 pm

My most recent argument is that your claims about the super-abundance of a certain kind of movie could only be proven by counting or measuring.

Which we know you are allergic to.

So it’s just assertions tainted by confirmation bias at this point, no? I’ll pass. Pointing out the lack of (attempt at) proper evidence is sufficient in my book. I am sure you are smart enough to imagine what the corresponding counter-assertions would be to your assertions, if piling up assertions is the only way you can determine if an empirical statement seems well-supported.

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If your strawperson was an attempt to encapsulate some other portion of this thread, you will have to provide a quote for me to parse it further.

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@highlyverbal: When I said that “films like this are a dime a dozen”, I didn’t literally mean that they represent a percentage of the per annum output of Hollywood that is unacceptable due to its disproportionate ratio to other films that explore different issues, and that this is a discrepancy that must be addressed (possibly through a committee that analyzes desirable representation values for given themes and subtexts, and assigns to different filmmakers the correct scripts needed to bring these up to spec.) Because that would be, y’know…kind of crazy.

I don’t want to be rude, because I’m starting to consider the possibility that you might honestly have some sort of mild autistic spectrum condition that makes you demand quantification on everything, and makes you upset and prone to angry dismissals of the other person’s argument when that can’t be provided, but…well, if that is the case, I hope your therapy is progressing well. If it isn’t the case, maybe you should consider seeing a psychiatrist? I don’t say that to dismiss your opinion, but out of a legitimate concern that you have a mental health condition that’s not being treated, which might make it difficult for you to interact with others. I have good friends who fall in the Asperger’s/autistic spectrum range, and there are a lot of good people out there who can help you learn how to manage your condition.

But on the more basic level of this specific discussion, you’re right. I’m not going to sit down and count out movies like “Moon”, “Vanilla Sky”, “Dark City”, “Total Recall” or “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” to see if there really is too much of an obsession with questions of identity and self in the motion pictures. I’m just going to say that for me, the answers always feel unsatisfying and I’d prefer a different take on the novel in question. I’m sorry if that answer doesn’t make sense to you.

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mygif

@John Seavey: I’m confused, you proclaim you follow Roland Barthe’s Death of the Author in one post only to directly contradict yourself by admitting your reading of Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep being informed by what you have read about Dick in a biography. You can’t do both.

Also your attempts at drawing parallels between political philosophy and a novel fails to illuminating for either subject.

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mygif

@Chus: Sure I can. :) I don’t feel that criticism has to be bound by authorial intent (that way lies Jose Luis Borges’ short story, “Pierre Menard, Author of the Quixote”) but it doesn’t mean that I am never allowed to recognize its existence. Different analyses call for different approaches, and different explorations lead in lots of equally interesting directions. Pointing out Dick’s intent when writing “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?”, and then pointing out ways that the finished work did and did not reflect that work, is meant to be a springboard for further discussion, not the answer to a Venn diagram.

As to whether or not it succeeded…to you, it didn’t. Sorry. Hope other people got something out of it.

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highlyverbal said on August 23rd, 2012 at 1:37 pm

@John Seavey: You most certainly were using the super-abundance of “identity” films as a motivation for exploring other Blade Runner outcomes.

As to the rest of the ad hominems, projection, and strawpersons… I thank you for your concern, but I fear your diagnostic toolkit may be tainted by confirmation bias. I am quite certain you were trying to be rude, since no rational person would believe that this kind of remote diagnosis is valid or helpful. At least own it. For shame, sir.

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mygif

I think that Seavey is hoping to demonstrate how to be decent/empathetic!

Sure, if you disagree with him too often, he’ll dehumanize you. But hey, it’s not a slur because he has black friends! Oops, I mean friends with “your condition.”

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mygif

“I am quite certain you were trying to be rude, since no rational person would believe that this kind of remote diagnosis is valid or helpful.”

Yeah, that was…pretty friggin’ awful. Sickeningly so.

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mygif

“I don’t say that to dismiss your opinion, but out of a legitimate concern that you have a mental health condition that’s not being treated, which might make it difficult for you to interact with others. I have good friends who fall in the Asperger’s/autistic spectrum range, and there are a lot of good people out there who can help you learn how to manage your condition.”

I’ve re-read this to see if there’s anything more to it than barely-veiled viciousness, and I’m not seeing it.

Anyone who would write something like this as a backhanded way of snarking at someone over the internet, in effect making light of a legitimate medical condition (“good friends” notwithstanding) while using said condition as a bludgeon in the name of textbook reductionism, has ZERO right to opine on what does/doesn’t make a “good” or “bad” person.

Snark is snark, and words are words, but anyone who thinks of themselves as some kind of enlightened thinker/debater ought to know that there are lines one ought not cross. Not codified, obviously, but certainly to be considered if one wants to be taken seriously in discussions.

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mygif

@Matt: No, I really was serious when I said there was no snark or rudness intended. I really, legitimately did wonder if there were communications issues that were due to some sort of undisclosed mental health situation, because I’m trying to understand how to communicate with highlyverbal and it always seems to come back to the same issues. And yes, they are issues associated with autistic spectrum disorders, which I feel are underdiagnosed among sci-fi/fantasy enthusiasts (what are commonly called “geeks”.) People ding us for lack of social skills, but I think that more often than people are willing to recognize, that’s not learned so much as innate.

I wouldn’t even try to claim it was a diagnosis, because I’m not a mental health professional and don’t pretend to be one. But I’m not a medical doctor, either, and if I saw someone swaying on their feet, sweating profusely and clutching at their chest, I’d still suggest they go to urgent care. :)

And I didn’t intend for it to be the end of the discussion, either. If highlyverbal had come back and said, “Yes, I am coping with an autistic spectrum disorder, but I think that this benefits me because it forces the people I’m dealing with to deal in terms of solid facts and not abstracts,” then that helps me know how to get my point across in ways he understands…and what terms not to use when discussing things with him because they’ll lead the discussion off on non-useful tangents. Learning how to communicate with someone should never be seen as a bad thing, and I really and sincerely hope that people are never so ashamed of their mental conditions as to avoid mentioning them even when it helps the other person find ways of communicating. It is sad that it happens, and responses that suggest that the topic should never be brought up because it’s “vicious” to suggest it probably don’t help.

A suggestion that someone visit a mental health professional is only stigmatic because we choose to make it so. I tried my absolute hardest not to put it into any kind of pejorative terms, because that wasn’t my intent, and I tried to keep it separate from the specific topic of discussion. But I don’t think that anyone should refrain from encouraging people to do things that would make their lives better, and as I said, I do know many people who have found ways to manage their Asperger’s (for example) in ways that improve their social interaction, while not involving medication or labeling them as “sick”. It’s all about finding the way your brain functions, and finding ways to use that instead of working against it.

I’ve been going back and forth on whether an apology is necessary, here. On the one hand, I do not like the idea of apologizing for suggesting someone might have an autistic spectrum disorder, because that implies that it’s an insult, and it is NOT. It’s saying you think about things differently, and I get very upset at the suggestion that it’s an inherently pejorative term. On the other hand, if highlyverbal did come away feeling that his opinions are being dismissed and that he’s being belittled, that’s something I don’t want either and I would feel sorry for making him feel bad regardless of the intent.

On the third hand, I hate wishy-washy “if you were offended” apologies…but again, given that I feel that apologizing buys into the framing of the situation that it’s inherently demeaning to suggest someone might have an autistic spectrum disorder, that’s all I can offer. I cannot bring myself to suggest that it’s an insult to say someone might have an ASD, and so I can’t apologize for insulting someone by suggesting it. But if I made anyone uncomfortable or upset by discussing it, I will apologize for that.

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mygif

Sorry but thats a crock of sh*t, you cast aspersions on his mental health in order to dismiss his arguments. Thats why its insulting, whats more insulting is your attempt at deflecting the focas on your disrespectful comments and trying to frame it as some sort of noble championing of mental health awareness.

I always thought you were the worse contributor on this site, your half-assed apology vindicates this and then some.

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mygif

@Chus: I know you might not believe this, given your self-avowed opinion of me, but I don’t dismiss anyone’s arguments. I read yours, for example, and while I saw a certain amount of bias in there (it’s hard not to think that maybe someone who “always thought you were the worst contributor on this site” might not be interested in giving you the benefit of the doubt) I still wanted to give your thoughts all due consideration. It’s the right thing to do.

So I talked to my wife. I asked her what she thought. She looked over the thread, and said, “No, you were out of line. No matter what your intent was, and no matter what you thought about the statement in your head, there’s no way to make that suggestion in a public forum without it coming off as hurtful. You might want there to not be a stigma attached to the mental health profession, but what you want and what you think isn’t important. What’s important is what you communicate, and you can’t communicate the idea that someone has a mental health problem without it shutting down the discussion and making the other person feel hurt.” (I condense this slightly here.)

And while I know some of you said much the same thing, I hope you’ll understand when I say that my wife is a much more trustworthy source. :) I have to accept that what I meant is not as important as what I said, and what I said was hurtful, whether I meant it to be or not. I think every writer at some point has to relearn that harsh lesson that communication is in the mind of the listener, not the mind of the speaker, and there’s no such thing as “inadvertently” offending someone. The responsibility is always mine.

And since that is my responsibility, I am sorry to highlyverbal for saying something hurtful. Because it really doesn’t matter if I intended it to hurt or not, and it doesn’t matter if it would or should be hurtful in another context. In this context, it hurt you, and I’m sorry.

I know apologies or explanations only go so far, and you’re not obligated to forgive me. But I also know it’s better to hear an apology than to not hear one.

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bad johnny got out said on August 27th, 2012 at 1:33 am

Anyway.

In short, we don’t have to empathize with them because we passed the empathy test. … ‘Blade Runner’ avoids that paradox for too much of its running length

There are only two kinds of (real) people in 2019 A.D.: cops, and little people.

Cops aren’t going to give themselves the Voight-Kampff. Why would they? The only reason a cop would submit to Voight-Kampff would be to live a few minutes longer, with a gun to his head, during a purge.

Little people don’t take Voight-Kampff either. Who cares what the little people do? They’re little people!

(Okay, that’s not 100% true. Sometimes there are false positives, and humans are retired by mistake. That is a risk.)

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mygif

I’m coming to this really late but I agree with John Seavey when he says that Blade Runner doesn’t explore its themes enough. The movie is frustratingly vague and similar to Prometheus. A bunch of questions asked with no concern for the answers or the implications of the questions themselves. It’s not “intellectual”, or “subtle” or “show don’t tell”, it’s lazy and under-thought. If I asked a mind-bending question and left the room would you call me a genius? No. But that’s exactly what Blade Runner does.

I have no problem praising the movie for its aesthetic and visual design, but its themes are a mess.

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mygif

You know, Seavey struck me as a wrong ‘un from the start because of his damn smilies. His awful misreading of Dick’s novel, smug mental health flame, and fictional wife who gasses on just as badly as he does all add up to a pretty impressively irritating experience.

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mygif

Weird to criticize the film and novel for failing to address the question you focus on, when that question is the WHOLE EFFING POINT OF THE NOVEL, as many have pointed out above.

Having taught this novel and film many times at the university level, I award
@Edgar Allan Poe August 19th, 2012 at 12:14 am

A+ for best, most concise comment in the thread, with

Xander77 said on August 18th, 2012 at 8:41 am

as runner-up.

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