Spoilers ahead for Blade Runner 2049. My girlfriend posted this article on Facebook and it prompted discussion. I spent a while writing a response to the discussion and figured I’d done my daily writing. Here goes.
So I think these are all pretty valid criticisms of the movie. The one conceit that I’m not buying into is that the sequel’s box office performance is tied to its lack of representation. Films with shitty representation go gangbusters at the box office all the time. It sucks and it’d be great if that wasn’t the case. It’s a niche, long and contemplative Sci Fi sequel of a cult film released something like 30 years ago. Also like they said, the original wasn’t a huge hit either. Also how often are people buying tickets to films knowing how effective their representation is? Isn’t that something you learn after watching the film? Using its box office performance issues as a tag for an otherwise pretty decent article seems pretty clickbait-y.
So first off, I’m not positing this as me having some crazy hot take. Unabashedly I really enjoyed the film and kind of just want to have people to talk about it with. I’m also of the opinion that you can both love a piece of art and criticise it without detracting from the fact that it meant something to you. I think that this article’s author had a bunch of pretty salient points and I’m interested in a discussion.
She’s on the money saying that women in this film were primarily relegated to window dressing and signposting. I mean, Robin Wright, in typical Robin Wright fashion, was fantastic. She was certainly a Boss Ass Bitch, but even she was reduced to essentially a gatekeeper making sure to quell the uprising in a very motherly position.
So how would we go about fixing the script? First and foremost, I don’t think the gender of K is super important to the plot. I mean, the commoditization of female bodies is sort of a central idea, whether it’s the corporation mass producing replicants like some kind of big baby factory, or trying to obtain the replicant born child to cheapen the reproduction process. Having K be female could’ve opened avenues for her to navigate these themes as well as the nature of reality, humanity and all that jazz. Then again, it’s not like this movie needed a longer run time.
I don’t know where I sit on the whole JOI aspect of not having agency, because that was kind of the point, right? She was a product created by the corporation to sell to their own products (I mean, grow your own consumers? That’s gotta help your bottom line). The whole “I tell you what you want to hear” idea was central to the plot and eventual twist. I think it would’ve gone some ways to have depicted male JOI units too (because surely the corporation wouldn’t skip out on selling to half their market?). Maybe even including a scene with The Lieutenant using one? Could’ve added a nice layer. Maybe have male sex workers too? Sexy nude dudes on that Vegas planet as well?
I mean, the Vegas planet was a nice backdrop for a film obssessed with the nature of reality and illusion, the holographic performers, etc etc. I did think it was a bit much that we were only seeing female bodies sexualised.
As for the sex scene, it felt more like they were using it to show off impressive SFX than super important narrative pathos. Was JOI organising the sexual encounter an extention of telling K what he wanted to hear? Did it show how much he was tied into the idea of her as real? They had the rain scene, him pouring her a glass, that dumb “buckle up” line. Did it add enough to necessitate its inclusion? I’m not sure. It looked pretty, but felt kind of throwaway to me.
Luv is another matter. I think [my friend in the thread] made a pretty great point about the sociopathic relationship with Wallace. I’m not gonna lie, I was a bit sleepy when I saw the film, especially during the Leto scenes. This strikes me as a pretty astute read on the character. The details were either subtle enough that I missed them entirely or maybe dozed through them. It would’ve been great to have just a little bit of dialogue implying that she had agency in her decisions, or furthering her motivation along those abusive relationship lines. We know she was his tool. Hell, K was just a tool himself after all (and the question of agency was another big part of the film, right?) but the film was built around him. It could’ve done a ton to build her out as an antagonist if her motivations were more apparent.
I kinda want to watch this film again…