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In the beginning of his work, Ways of Seeing, John Berger goes into depth regarding the juxtaposition between the cultural presences and representations of man and woman. A man’s presence serves as an embodiment of ability, power, and influence on the society around them while more importantly, a woman’s representation is one of self-perception and what can be done upon to her; that being, her presence is distinctly related to only herself, disregarding altogether that which encompasses the world around her. Applied to the realm of Blade Runner, the first women shown on screen are not even afforded the dignity of a tangible, mortal body — they are relegated to being mere voices, present only to pass on information to the men who may need it.
They are simply inorganic, computerized objects acting as subservients to the men of the society. This reflects, at its core, the juxtaposition Berger offered between the dominance men hold in cultural presence, and the subservience, malleability imbued within the women. Furthering upon this concept is the displays of the shops throughout the environment, littered with multitudes of mannequins. Distinctly, they are mannequins of women figures.
While this particular instance is more partisan towards the representative aspect of Berger’s analysis, it still holds true the key concept of women serving as objects to the dominant, male, members of their culture. Both of these issues, yet more so the mannequins illustrate Berger’s observation of “surveying”; One might simplify this by saying: men act and women appear. Men look at women. Women watch themselves being looked at. This determines not only most relations between men and women but also the relation of women to themselves. The surveyor of woman in herself is male: the surveyed female. Thus she turns herself into an object – and most particularly an object of vision: a sight. The mannequins, in this particular instance, illustrate the representation of a woman posing herself as a beacon of aesthetic for men to gaze upon and admire.
Further expounding upon the idea of surveying, Berger notes that the self value of a woman is represented by her portrayal of mannerisms, in her on view, society’s view, and most of all — men’s view. So, women are little more than objects, women as men see. In terms of dominance within the film, Rachel and Pris are the only women to be considered as such; however, they can only be framed as dominant with respect to the length of screen time they receive. This is antiparallel as to their influence upon the plot or other characters. Even more so illustrating this injustice, both Rachel and Pris are portrayed as no more than versions of each other from the beginnings of Blade Runner. Scott gives them the same introduction; a long shot out of the darkness as they walk into the camera followed by a medium shot. However this similarity is, of course, offset by costume design. The mannerisms offered by these two are reflections of their cultural presence as objects meant to appease men and their cultural position as figures of authority and power.
So, all women in Blade Runner are objects, given that they have been molded and created by the ideals of Tyrell and Sebastian. This act of creation leads to the heart of the matter; mothers. At the core of women’s position in the text is the fact that mothers are now obsolete, men now create it all. All the replicants have memories of their mothers, have photographs of their mothers, photographs they are willing to kill for. Yet they all are aware they are not from natural creation, for men had developed them. Women are no longer necessary; not for reproduction, that is. Nothing can be studied without consideration to the omnipresence of masculinity.
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