Is there a redemptive power in this reunion? Or should we read the fascination with it against the background of the film’s symptomatic silence about the antagonisms among humans in the society it depicts? Where do human “lower classes” stand? However, the movie does render nicely the antagonism that cuts across the ruling elite itself in our global capitalism: the antagonism between State and its apparatuses (personified in Joshi) and big corporations (personified in Wallace) pursuing progress to its self-destructive end. “While the state political-legal position of the LAPD is one of potential conflict, Wallace sees only the revolutionary productive potentials of self-reproducing replicants, which he hopes could give him a leg up in his business. His perspective is one of the market; and it is worth looking at these contradictory perspectives of Joshi and Wallace, for they are indicative of the contradictions that do exist between the political and the economic; or, put differently, they oddly indicate the intersection of the class state mechanism and the tensions in the economic mode of production.”7

Although Wallace is a real human, he already acts as nonhuman, an android blinded by excessive desire, while Joshi stands for apartheid, for the strict separation of humans and replicants. Her standpoint is that, if this separation is not upheld, there will be war and disintegration: “If a child is born from a replicant mother (or parents), does he remain a replicant? If he has produced his own memories, is he still a replicant? What is now the dividing line between humans and replicants if the latter can self-reproduce? What marks our humanity?”8

So should we not, with regard to Blade Runner 49, supplement the famous description from The Communist Manifesto [ed.: pdf, on Amazon], adding that also sexual “one-sidedness and narrow-mindedness has become more and more impossible”; that also in the domain of sexual practices, “all that is solid melts into air, all that is holy is profaned,” so that capitalism tends to replace the standard normative heterosexuality with a proliferation of unstable shifting identities and/or orientations? Today’s celebration of “minorities” and “marginals” is the predominant majority position, and even the alt-rightists who complain about the terror of liberal Political Correctness present themselves as the protectors of an endangered minority. Or, take those critics of patriarchy who attack it as if it were still a hegemonic position, ignoring what Marx and Engels wrote more than 150 years ago, in the first chapter of The Communist Manifesto: “The bourgeoisie, wherever it has got the upper hand, has put an end to all feudal, patriarchal, idyllic relations.” This statement is still ignored by those Leftist cultural theorists who focus their critique on patriarchal ideology and practice. Not to mention the prospect of new forms of the android (genetically or biochemically manipulated) post-humanity, which will shatter the very separation between the human and the nonhuman.

Why does the new generation of replicants not rebel? “Unlike the replicants in the original, the newer replicants never revolt, though it is not clearly explained why, other than they are programmed not to. The film, however, hints at the explanation: the fundamental difference between the new and old replicants involves their relation to their false memories. The older replicants revolted because they believed their memories to be real and thus could experience the alienation of recognizing that they weren’t. The new replicants know from the beginning that their memories are faked, so they are never deceived. The point is thus that fetishistic disavowal of ideology renders subjects more enslaved to the ideology than simple ignorance of its functioning.”9 The new generation of replicants is deprived of the illusion of authentic memories, of all the substantial content of their being, and thereby reduced to the void of subjectivity, i.e., to the pure proletarian status of substanzlose Subjektivitaet. So, does the fact that they don’t rebel mean that rebellion has to be sustained by some minimal substantial content threatened by the oppressive power?

K stages a fake accident to make Deckard disappear not only from the sight of state and capital (Wallace) but also from the sight of the replicant rebels who are led by a woman, Freysa — a name which, of course, echoes freedom, Freiheitin German. Both the state apparatus, embodied in Joshi, and the revolutionaries, embodied in Freysa, want Deckard dead. Although one can justify his decision by the fact that Freysa also wants Deckard dead (so that Wallace would not be able to discover the secret of the replicant reproduction), K’s decision nonetheless gives to the story a conservative-humanist twist: it tries to exempt the domain of family from key social conflict, presenting both sides as equally brutal. This not-taking-sides betrays the falsity of the film: it is all too humanist, in the sense that everything circulates around humans and those who want to be (or to be taken as) humans or those who don’t know they are not humans. (Is the result of biogenetics not that we, ”ordinary” humans, effectively are that — humans who don’t know they are not humans, i.e., neuronal machines with self-awareness?) The film’s implicit humanist message is that of liberal tolerance: we should give androids with human feelings (love, etc.) human rights, treat them like humans, incorporate them into our universe… But, upon their arrival, will our universe still be ours? Will it remain the same human universe? What is missing is any consideration of the change that the arrival of androids with awareness will mean for the status of the humans themselves. We, humans, will no longer be humans in the usual sense, so will something new emerge? And how to define it? Furthermore, with regard to the distinction between androids with a “real” body and hologram androids, how far should our recognition extend? Should also hologram replicants with emotions and awareness (like Joi who was created to serve and satisfy K) be recognized as entities that act as humans? We should bear in mind that Joi, ontologically a mere hologram replicant with no actual body of its own, commits in the film the radical act of sacrificing herself for K, an act for which it (or, rather, she) was not programmed.10

Footnotes

  1. Todd MacGowan, personal communication.
  2. The film just extrapolates the tendency, which is already booming, of more and more perfect silicon dolls. See Bryan Appleyard, “Falling In Love With Sexbots,” The Sunday Times, October 22 2017, p. 24-25: “Sex robots may soon be here and up to 40% of men are interested in buying one. One-way love may be the only romance of the future.” The reason for the power of this tendency is that it really brings nothing new: it merely actualizes the typical male procedure of reducing the real partner to a support of his fantasy.
  3. Matthew Flisfeder, “Beyond Heaven and Hell, This World is All We’ve Got: Blade Runner 2049 in Perspective,” Red Wedge. October 25, 2017.
  4. Flisfeder, op.cit.
  5. Todd MacGowan, personal communication.
  6. I owe this point to Peter Strokin, Moscow.
  7. Matthew Flisfeder, “Beyond Heaven and Hell, This World is All We’ve Got: Blade Runner 2049 in Perspective,” Red Wedge. October 25, 2017.
  8. Flisfeder, op.cit.
  9. Todd MacGowan, personal communication.
  10. I owe this point to Peter Strokin, Moscow.

Ippolit Belinski

Ippolit Belinski is the admin of Zizek.uk. He is an independent scholar working on Carl Schmitt and Hannah Arendt. Belinski has yet to publish his manuscript, though he often justifies the lack of publications by proclaiming to be a poet instead.

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