Blade Runner and the Good Life | Week 21

By: Taf Matika

Posted in Program Updates on January 24, 2017 | View all posts

“Too bad she won’t live, but then again who does?”

This week was a Research and Cultural Engagement week with Dr Laura Kenna. Most of our time was spent writing and reviewing our thesis projects, but in typical Kenna style, Tuesday night was set aside for movie-watching. What better way to engage with culture than to engage with the products of its mass production?

We watched Blade Runnera classic that leaves the viewer with more questions than Shutter Island or Inception. Is Harrison Ford’s Rick Deckard an android or a human being? What about Rachel? Can androids be in love? Perhaps these are questions best reserved for fan theories and the audience ought to be concerned with the movie’s messages on “accelerated decrepitude” or humanity’s responsibility to take care of the Earth. More important than any of these issues, however, is the movie’s unequivocal message about the need to live life well.

Blade Runner’s world of 2019 is a dull concrete jungle on the verge of chaos. While the feigned modernity and the “advanced” technology are in line with the futuristic themes of a typical Sci-Fi movie, the film is set is a labyrinth of boredom and gloom. The sun has presumably been blocked out by thick layers of smog that set an apocalyptic mood. An aerial view of the city of Los Angeles is lined with repulsive, towering buildings that look like steel volcanoes. They are reminiscent of nuclear reactors. Perhaps this world is what would have been had the Cold War escalated.

The city itself is portrayed as a cosmopolitan descendent of the tower of Babel. Who can forget the first scene when Deckard tries to order dumplings and the shop attendant can’t understand what he is saying? Language is a barrier in this movie and it impedes Deckard at several points throughout the film, the first telltale sign of the kind of society that the movie is portraying. There is no sense of intimacy, connection and community. None of the human actors seem to have close ties to each other. While Deckard was once married, he is alone now. Everyone in this movie is alone.

It is not a surprise then that Gaff, another Blade Runner, utters his iconic line, “Too bad she won’t live, but then again who does?” In a world this isolated, unimaginative and despondent, who really gets to live? The question haunted me until the end of the week, when Fellow Lauren Alfieri led our Friday morning prayer service with a focus on mystery, and later that day, Fellow Andrew Collins led us in a discussion about the basic human desire for adventure.

My fellow Fellows reminded me that the world is a mysterious place laced with beauty. Among the many things that occupy my mind, this idea is often buried in the endless lists of things I need to do. The banality of my day and constant preoccupation with advancement tempts me to turn my life into the world depicted in Blade Runner. The antidote, Lauren tells me, is the need for imagination and mystery. The world is bigger, more colorful, more beautiful and more interesting than the regimented schedule I have built for myself.  It is very easy to fall in the cracks between one bullet-point and the next on my to-do list. But Andrew reminds me of the need to live life as if it were an adventure.  If the world is all of these things, then the least I can do is to go out and explore. To take a walk in the forest or to discover something new about the Fellow beside me. Adventure is what unlocks the beauty God designed.

Thankfully, life at Trinity Fellows Academy is full of safeguards that prevent me from completely becoming an android. We have days of Silence of Solitude, community meals, board game nights and long walks down the pier (among other things). But even with these reminders to enjoy the simple joys of life right in front of us, this has been a busy season as most of us Fellows grapple with the “what next” question. Job applications and grad school deadlines are beginning to loom over us, and our theses are as demanding as they have ever been. The Fellows here remind me that even in such busyness, I should seek out mystery and adventure. That is the only way to truly live.