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In Ridley Scott’s 1982 film “Blade Runner” a strong element of oppressive slavery pervades throughout the film. The people of earth, set in the year 2019, have developed a human like species in which they refer to as ‘Replicants’. These creations are primarily used for manual labor and are seen as inferior to the earthly human population. In this analysis, I will show the similarities between civil rights era discrimination and the replicants that this futuristic society has created.
According to IMBD.com, they refer to replicants as,” Primarily used as manual laborers in the ‘off world’ colonies in space. Because of their advanced nature and violent behavior, replicants have been outlawed on Earth” (paragraph one). During the 1960s, in which this dramatic film was written, our nation was in turmoil regarding the rights of African Americans. There are some distinct similarities between this film and the time period in which it was written. As represented in the film, the replicants were primarily used as manual laborers working to build this “off-world” colony. This is precisely the stereotype that our nation’s African American population was trying to escape from. They were pushing harder than ever before to gain their rights as Americans and establish an acceptable level of equality for their race. As a part of their movement, protesting became a popular way of voicing their opinions and they sometimes became violent. The replicants were seen to be violent in nature and subsequently were outlawed from earth. The African Americans of the time were fearful that if they were not granted genuine Constitutional equality, then they would never be viewed as true Americans. Similar to being outlawed from earth, the newly freed African Americans were fearful of their past treatment and wanted to establish a new identity for their race and equal and responsible Americans.
Rick Deckard is a Police Officer who is called upon to eradicate replicants. He says this in one of his earlier quotes 1Replicants are like any other machine, are either a benefit or a hazard. If they’re a benefit it’s not my problem. As you can see Rick Deckard is a disgruntled police officer and does not have respect nor appreciation for the replicant race, namely because of their violent behavior and recent criminal acts. He views them as machines and explains that if they are beneficial, he has no problem with them. In comparison to the events of the era, African Americans sadly enough are trying to erase the exact same image from their social identities. Prior to, the African Americans were largely enslaved and are now pushing to reform their place in society. Viewing the replicants as either a benefit or a hazard is a very polar way of expressing his opinion towards the replicants. Deckard is an officer of the law and his civic duty is to uphold law and order. The replicants recent bout of criminal violence has led him to view this group of creatures as either compliant or on his kill list. Much to the kind of views police officers had towards African Americans of the time, they were either compliant and kept to their place in society, or were protesters and deserved to be punished. This common view of police officers in the 1960s came to be primarily because of the rising disorder and the civil disturbances that the violent protesters caused. Although much undeserved, this stereotype breaks through into the film regarding the replicants as problem makers and that unless they were keeping to their labor in the “off-world” colony, they were to be killed.
Roy Batty says to Deckard in a later quote, “Quite an experience to live in fear, isn’t it? That’s what it is to be a slave.” Roy Batty, whom is the leader of the Nexus-6 replicants, expresses the struggle that he faces of always living in fear of being killed for his acts of non-compliance. In this quote, Deckard is fearful for his life, and Roy mouths off a remark trying to force Deckard to see the struggles that he endures. The African Americans in the civil rights era did much of the same, protesting and openly voicing the daily struggles that they endure in their everyday lives, in hopes of change. Roy goes on to even compare himself to a slave, and expresses the similarities between their treatment. In fearful moments, some people are awakened to their conscious moral code and finally see what the right thing is to do. I believe this is exactly what Roy was hoping for in his remark to Deckard. By taking advantage of the situation and the fearful emotions that Deckard was having, Roy chose to voice his feelings to him in hopes of a conscious breakthrough and a positive reaction. Although unsuccessful, the point was driven home to the audience that to be a slave is to always be living in fear. I can see this film as a voice for African Americans of the era, hoping to deliver the message to the American people that they live in fear and deserve equality.
Ridley Scott’s 1982 film “Blade Runner” has a powerful message in regard to the events that were taking place in the era in which the film was written. The civil rights movement was a historical event that forever changed American culture. Subsequently, this film embodies elements of the African American struggle for equality in comparison to the struggles that the Nexus-6 replicants endure. The quotations from the film and outside sources corroborate my analysis and offer and clear correlation between the two groups of people and the hardships that they face.
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