Why Blade Runner? Your Thoughts and Memories Are Not Your Own

Deckard: “How can it not know what it is?”

Tyrell: “Commerce is our goal here at Tyrell. More human than human is our motto. Rachael is an experiment, nothing more. We began to recognize in them, a strange obsession. After all they are emotionally inexperienced, with only a few years in which to store up the experiences which you and I take for granted. If we gift them Past, we create a cushion, a pillow for their emotions and consequently we can control them better.”

“By the skillful and sustained use of propaganda, one can make a people see even heaven as hell or an extremely wretched life as paradise.” –Adolf Hitler

“The thrust is no longer for “change” or “progress” or “revolution,” but merely to escape, to live on the far perimeter of a world that might have been.” –Hunter S. Thompson

Memories, thoughts, dreams, the stuff of which profit is made.

In Blade Runner the replicants cherished their photographs, documents verifying their memories, their very existence. Yet those memories were implanted  by the Tyrell Corporation–a control mechanism. It’s a delicious metaphor, given recent acknowledgements that consumerism is ecologically unsustainable, but ironic. Blade Runner is widely recognized as a pioneer in film product placement, featuring images from Coca-Cola, Pan Am, Koss, Cuisinart, Atari, Budweiser, and Bulova.

Indeed, marketing people speak in hushed tones about a  “Blade Runner Curse.” Atari, Bell and Pan Am are among the high-profile companies which have gone out of business or plummeted in market share since 1982.

As a marketing tool and in its theme, Blade Runner recognizes our “strange obsession.”

The cushion of consumerism and its negative effects on our environment and our collective psyche has been well documented. “Our primary identity has become that of being consumers – not mothers, teachers, or farmers, but of consumers. We shop and shop and shop.” The Story of Stuff, Annie Leonard.

The Worldwatch Institute report, The State of Consumption Today:

Today’s human economies are designed with little attention to the residuals of production and consumption. Among the most visible unintended byproducts of the current economic system are environmental problems like air and water pollution and landscape degradation.

Individuals often face personal costs associated with heavy levels of consumption: the financial debt; the time and stress associated with working to support high consumption; the time required to clean, upgrade, store, or otherwise maintain possessions; and the ways in which consumption replaces time with family and friends.

It is clear that desire to consume is reinforced on a second by second basis through advertising (the pop-up ads on the videos in this post), art and plain old envy, all to the benefit of the corporate state. The costs of consumer items increase the gross national product; the costs of debts increase the GNP; the costs of cleaning up the pollution and the costs of treating depression (think drugs) caused by the stress also increase the GNP. Commerce.

The implanted myth that anything is possible, attainable if only we work a little harder, a little smarter, is the implicit fuel of consumerism and a passive acceptance of corporate control.

Chris Hedges, in his wonderful book, The Death of the Liberal Class, points out that the belief that anything is possible is nothing more than magical thinking:

The belief that we can makes things happen through positive thoughts, by visualizing, by wanting them, by tapping into our inner strength, or by understanding that we are truly exceptional, is peddled to us by all aspects of our culture, from Oprah to the Christian Right. It is magical thinking. We can always make more money, meet new quotas, consume more products, and advance our careers. This magical thinking, this idea that human and personal progress is somehow inevitable, leads to political passivity. It permits societies to transfer their emotional allegiance to the absurd–whether embodied in professional sports or in celebrity culture–and ignore real problems. It exacerbates despair. It keeps us in a state of mass delusion. Once we are drawn into this form of magical thinking, the purpose, structure and goals of the corporate state are not questioned.

In other words, we should be talking about rope-a-dope not hope. In The Death of the Liberal Class, Mr. Hedges also states that the election of Mr. Obama, the greatest purveyor of hope in the new millennium, was one more triumph of illusion over substance:

It was a skilled manipulation and betrayal of the public by a corporate power elite. We mistook style and ethnicity–an advertising tactic pioneered by Calvin Klein and Benetton–for progressive politics and genuine change. The goal of a branded Obama, as with all brands, was to make passive consumers mistake a brand for an experience. And that is why Obama was named Advertising Age’s marketer of the year in 2008, beating out Apple and Zappos.

And what did we get? More commerce. Think “individual mandate.”

While we may not have been directly implanted with Eldon Tyrell’s niece’s memories, our DNA reeks of Horatio Alger and our own bootstraps. Chris Hedges, like Rick Deckard, may break our hearts but he gives us the truth to begin to mend them.

One Response to Why Blade Runner? Your Thoughts and Memories Are Not Your Own

  1. Whilst the bankers lawmakers and politicians control the distribution of Land around the world, the taxes and markets of Slavery will continue in its current dynamic form.

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