Blade Runner Rape?

A few weeks ago, I saw Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner for the first time. It was the director’s cut, and from reading the back of the box, I’m glad I saw this version and not the theatrical release, which supposedly had narration and other things that would have made it cheesy.

I was really impressed with it. Most movies of this type are tyrannical. Right at the beginning they tell you “These characters are good. You will cheer for them,” and “These characters are bad. You will hate them.” Blade Runner didn’t do that. It was morally indifferent and Naturalistic. I watched it twice in two days, and I never do that, so I must have liked it a lot.

I am, however, puzzled by a few things. Mostly the “love scene” between Harrison Ford and Sean Young. Here’s the sequence of events I saw, and you can tell me if I’m reading the scene wrong:

She tries to leave his apartment. She opens the door to leave, but he overtakes her and slams it shut with a menacing, teeth-clenched look on his face. He puts his arms around her and tells her “I need you to kiss me.” She starts to say something in protest, but he interrupts her and growls “Say ‘Kiss me’”. Obviously afraid, she complies, and tells him to kiss her. He whispers something else I couldn’t quite make out, to which she reluctantly responds “I want you to… put your hands on me,” in a tone of voice that sounds like she’s afraid for her life. Then he kisses her, hard, and they cut away, the implication being that they then had something resembling sex, I guess.

Then at the end of the movie, he creeps back into his apartment, she’s still there, he kisses her and asks him if she loves him and if she trusts him, and she responds “I love you,” and “I trust you” (What the hell is she going to say? She’s a hunted woman and he might be her only hope for survival). Then they leave, and I guess we’re supposed to assume he spirits her away to relative safety.

Like I said, morality has no meaning in this film. It seems like the replicants are the only ones with a sense of right and wrong, warped though it may or may not have been (I was totally rooting for them by the end, incidentally). But am I wrong in thinking that the relationship between Deckard and Rachel is exploitive and unequal, and that the “love scene” was more like a “rape scene”?

Boy, did you just ask a mouthful.



Many people, myself and Ridley Scott included, believe Decker is a replicant. Remember the unicorn dream he had? The guy at the end put the little silver unicorn on the ground to signify he knows what Decker dreams(i.e., he’s a replicant).[/spoiler]

“Exploitative”, not “exploitive”. I don’t think it is, though.

The Director’s Cut is definitely better. The original theatrical release has both an unnecessary voice-over narration and a tacked-on “happy ending.” The story I’ve read is that Harrison Ford deliberately did the voice-over in a near-monotone, hoping that it wouldn’t be used.

I’d better use a spoiler box for those who haven’t seen the film.

[spoiler]As you know, Rachel is actually a replicant. It is established early on that an expert such as Deckard can tell a replicant from a human by administering tests to gauge emotional reactions; a replicant’s don’t match a human’s. Rachel is special, in that she has artificially implanted memories that a) make her think she’s human and b) give her, supposedly, the necessary mental background for “normal” emotional responses.

This procedure seems to have been a mixed success. She’s harder to detect than an ordinary replicant, requiring more extensive testing, yet she seems emotionally distant, and doesn’t seem terribly surprised to find out that she’s not human, and that the life she remembers never actually happened to her. When Deckard kisses her, he’s trying to force her to open up emotionally. Okay, maybe this wouldn’t work anywhere but in a movie.

Actually, they both seem emotionally dysfunctional. There’s the underlying implication that Deckard himself may be a replicant. Perhaps he was created specifically for the job of being a blade runner, and has no previous life. At the end of the movie, he and Rachel have nothing but each other to cling to.

Throughout the movie, there’s the irony that the only characters who seem to act from strong emotions are the fugitive replicants. Roy Batty (one of Rutger Hauer’s best performances) shows wrath, sorrow, shame and finally, perhaps, compassion.[/spoiler]

Now I feel like watching the movie again. It was very influential on later movie images of the future (though most of those movies imitated Blade Runner’s style without having anything like the same depth). You can easily pick the movie apart logically, but it works so well on other levels that I think it deserves a pass on a lot of stuff. It’s more of a fable in science fiction form than hard sf.

At least as important as the aspects already covered in this thread, to me anyway, is the notion that any of us are slaves to our memories, and that we have very little evidence that they’re really our own memories.

When I try to recall early moments in my own life, I have to rely on things I’ve been told, photographs, etc., in the attempt to validate them.

Blade Runner ranks very highly with me in my all-time favorite movies. It gets to me on many levels as few movies have. And why Roger Ebert seems to have disregarded so much of it remains a true mystery to me.

Oh, well…

I like the voice-over and I didn’t find the happy ending all that happy. The alternative was to end the movie with them getting into the elevator and… then what?

The love scene was borderline violent, but I can’t say I find it worse then any number of scenes from the various James Bond flicks, when Bond holds the woman down, she resists, he gets a liplock on her, she melts and slides her arms around him and we fade to the post-coital scene.

Compared to that hooey, Deckard is a charmer.

Re: the love/rape angle, Harrison Ford can get away with anything. It’s a very tricky subject, because real rape isn’t romantic & shouldn’t be a form of entertainment. Ever. No means no & that’s that. But on the other hand, male power is very sexy, at least in the fantasy world of movies. So while I rail against films that exploit women & treat them as objects (“David Gale” was really offensive - saw parts of it on an airplane!), it’s nonetheless true that there’s something very erotic about those scenes in “Blade Runner”. As with similar scenes in “Gone With the Wind” (ca 1939!). Note do NOT try it at home!!! YMMV and you could wind up in jail!!! Just chalk it up to another confusing contradiction in our perplexing world & leave the sexy forcefulness to Harrison Ford.

Very well said, fessie. Thank you.

The scene in question bothered me in the same way as the OP suggests, until I learned a bit more about dominant/submissive relationships. It’s pretty clear to me that what is set up in that scene, and in the “I love you, I trust you” scene at the end, is a sort of d/s dynamic between Deckard and Rachael.

With that in mind, it’s not a rape at all… just a love realtionship to which the “normal” standards of Hollywood romance do not apply. Note that I don’t particularly mind Hollywood romance, just pointing out the distinction.

Oh, and I agree about The Life of David Gale… yuck.

Further note: some people (ahem) have tried this sort of thing at home and have enjoyed it a great deal. Some people even want it, in the right mood.

cauhtemoc and anyone else who hasn’t, read the short story by Philip K. Dick on which the the film is based. It is called Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep*.

I should warn you that the plot is very different in what happens but similar in theme, especially the moral ambiguity.

Okay, I didn’t get that idea at all, and I am familiar with the dynamics of d/s relationships, although not from personal experience. But I guess it’s open to varied interpretation.

I found Deckard’s character totally unsympathetic, but also compelling. I read that Harrison Ford doesn’t like Blade Runner, one reason being that “…the audience needs someone to cheer for.” I emphatically disagree. If Deckard had been presented as someone we were supposed to “cheer for”, the (possible) rape would not have sat well at all. As it is, he’s a deeply flawed character - a professional murderer, for God’s sake! - who one could believe is perfectly capable of (maybe) raping somebody.

[spoiler]It never occurred to me that Decker could be a replicant until I read the back of the box, and the idea doesn’t particularly appeal to me. It seems unnecessary to the plot, and throws the rest of the film out of whack. Replicants are illegal on Earth - except him?

Although I agree with Baldwin that it’s probably missing the point to make it into a logic exercise.[/spoiler]

Sidenote: The soundtrack by Vangelis was one of many great things about this film. A sappy string ensemble would have been totally uninteresting by comparison. Vangelis took me there. I hardly ever notice the soundtrack in films, but this one was extraordinary.

What’s really funny about this is, for many years after Blade Runner came out, the only version of the soundtrack you could by was a sappy string version of Vangelis’ music. It was terrible. Finally, when I was in college, some licesing deal got freed up and the Vangelis version of the score could finally be released.

Mind you, I like orchestral scores for most movies, but Vangelis’ use of electronic instruments for Blade Runner is one of many elements that really made the film unique. Playing the same music on standard orchestral instruments just didn’t cut it at all.

[spoiler]Regarding Deckard as replicant: I’m going to contradict what director Ridley Scott has said, and go strictly by what’s in the film. It’s more interesting that way, I think.

I don’t believe Deckard is a replicant, but I believe that, thematically speaking, he might as well be. Note the discovery of the packet of photographs in the drawer in that fleabag hotel room they investigate. The replicant is collecting a fictional history to make himself feel more like an actual person.

Then, after the unicorn dream (in the IMHO far superior director’s cut), Deckard finds himself sitting in front of the piano. There’s a long, slow shot where he gazes at the row of framed photographs in front of him. Obviously, we can’t read the character’s mind, but it’s an ambiguous moment that can be interpreted as Deckard wondering about the legitimacy of those photographs. Not that he’s thinking he’s a replicant and they’re fake, but he’s thinking, If they were, how would I know?

And as observed above by Baldwin, the most dynamic character in the film — the one who’s the most alive — is, ironically, the head replicant.

So while it’s possible for people to argue about it — he is! he isn’t! — I think that misses the point. The movie gives us characters who believe there’s a hard dividing line between their identities, and then, in its story, it blurs and eventually erases that line. In other words, not only can we not definitely answer the question of whether he is or isn’t, the movie tells us it’s a meaningless thing to ask. Most viewers, though, don’t like this kind of ambiguity; they prefer their movies to be, to borrow cuauhtemoc’s word in the OP, “tyrannical.” Here’s the good guy, here’s the bad guy, here’s what they’re fighting about, now sit back and watch the fireworks. Blade Runner doesn’t do that, which is why, in my opinion, it’s been relegated to the “cult” ghetto.[/spoiler]

Regarding the love scene, I agree that it’s troubling, but that’s part and parcel with the film as a whole. It lives in the gray area; it isn’t exactly rape, but it isn’t exactly healthy, either.

Cervaise Most viewers, though, don’t like this kind of ambiguity

Certainly I know people who are similarly very unsatisfied with Total Recall because the film doesn’t provide a definitive conclusion as to whether the events are real or not.

I agree with your summary of Blade Runner. In any case, it’s a perfectly valid (postmodern) critical view that “the author is dead”; the author’s or director’s view is not necessarily the definitive ‘meaning’ of a work. I’d say this movie is a good example: Deckard could either be a replicant or a human with similar problems of emotion and identity. The conclusion ultimately is that there’s not much difference. Assuming we’re talking Director’s Cut and not the happy-ending version where we find Rachael has no time limit, that’s the point of the “It’s a pity she won’t live; but then again, who does?” line. Any of us could have a drastically shortened lifespan - maybe by getting ill or falling under a bus - but it doesn’t stop us having relationships.

I remember reading an interview with Sean Young about that scene where she was talking about how much she disliked it. Apparently getting thrown against the wall hurt quite a bit, and she had to do it more than once.

I prefer the ending of the director’s cut, but think the voiceover is vital and the film simply doesn’t work without it.

I think she also said Ford was a lousy kisser, and she got horrible whisker burn.

I have to go agin’ the grain and profess that I much prefer the theatrical version and I am damned pissed that I can’t seem to find it on DVD.

Supposedly, Sir Ridley (he just got knighted, BTW) is going to be releasing an “uberdirector’s cut” that’s going to have both versions on it, plus a shit load of goodys that never made it to any version.

[spoiler]On the is he/isn’t he thing - I have real doubts whether Scott intended him to be a replicant. And even though he says now that that was what he was saying, Harrison has come out in public and stated that no, he was never a replicant, and if that was what Scott intended he never told Harrison.

The whole argument seems to revolve over the ‘How many replicants are there?’ debate. (Deckard is told by Bryant that there are Six escaped replicants, one of whom was killed before Deckard gets involved, but we only see him take out four, which leaves one unaccounted for. Is it Rachael? Is it Deckard himself? No, just a case of sloppy editing)


Man, I can just imagine some of the reactions Straw Dogs would get here (very good movie btw, but not for the lighthearted).

This thread makes me want to see Blade Runner again. This movie has so much, great story, visuals that I don’t think have ever been matched (isn’t the opening so beautiful?). I can’t wait for the uberDVD to come out.

I completely missed the discrepancy between the number of “skinjobs” Bryant says there are and the number we see Deckard kill. But I agree that it’s not important.

I can’t comment on the studio release, because I haven’t seen it (maybe I should check it out, just for comparison’s sake) but what exactly is the voiceover narration supposed to accomplish? Does it flesh out some of the details? Unnecessary, to my way of thinking. Does it make Deckard more likeable? Because I was perfectly happy being compelled, yet mildly disgusted by him. I don’t want to like him.

I think Roy was the most classically “heroic” character. He’s scary as all fuck, but… [spoiler]He obviously loves his friends and feels loyalty toward them. The sorrow in his eyes each time Deckard blows one of them is simply heartbreaking.

He has a definite moral compass (“I’ve done… questionable things”).

And all he wants is freedom from slavery and a natural life. Of course the film forces you to ask “What is a natural life?” and wonder if he’s really that much worse off than any of us. But still, how can you not sympathize with a guy who’s just fighting for his own survival, and maybe seeking revenge on those who enslaved him and set a time limit on his life?[/spoiler]
By the way, is the Phillip K. Dick story worth checking out?