Blade Runner 2049: A Quick Meditation on the Nature of Humanity

"Dying for the right cause is the most human thing we can do."

The fact that The Wallace Corporation chose Peter's theme from Sergei Prokofiev's "Peter and the Wolf" for their little jingle is no mere coincidence. The entire raison d'ĂȘtre of the Blade Runner films is to examine the nature of humanity, and this musical theme is yet another in a series of various different symbolic representations of humanity. The tune is a symbolic representation of Peter in the same way that Ana de Armas as a hologram is a symbolic representation of humanity, the same way replicants are symbolic representations of humanity.

But what is the difference between symbolic humanity and non-symbolic, "real" humanity? Where is the line separating real from symbolic? Who gets to draw it? Who decides who gets a soul? When Robin Wright and Ryan Gosling talk about the possibility for a replicant to have a child, she says that there's a wall separating authentic humanity from artificial humanity, but she knows that it's not real, that really there is no wall, that the wall is a fiction invented to make people feel safe and secure in their identity.

"The world is built in a wall that separates kind. Tell either side there's no wall, you've bought a war. Or a slaughter. Am I the only one who can see the fucking sunrise here? This breaks the world, K!"

Humanity is not a binary, it's a spectrum. Does a melody that symbolizes a boy named Peter count as humanity? Does a hologram representing a woman named Joi count as humanity? Does a bioengineered robotic being named Joe count as humanity? Does a fleshy sack of organs and nerves and blood vessels count as humanity? What makes these squishy "humans" more special than their "artificial" counterparts? What if the "artificial" humans can give birth to more "artificial" humans? (As Robin Wright says, "We're all just looking out for something real")

The "I want to be real for you" love scene is still one of the most phenomenally interesting scenes in modern cinema for all these reasons and more. It's simultaneously touching and unsettling, heartwarming and eerie, tender and cold. Both of these symbolic representations of humanity are insecure about their own reality; Ryan Gosling tells Ana de Armas "You are real for me," but she's afraid that it's not enough. She thinks that what makes someone real is the ability to give life or the ability to lose it, but what actually makes her real is that he treats her as real, that he asks her if she wants a coffee even though they both know she can't drink it.

2017 | Denis Villeneuve


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