Postmodernism is a maverick approach to view the world; it challenges the traditional notions and contends that realities are subject to change, so there can be no true knowledge. Erasure of boundaries is a key terminology in postmodernism which diminishes the clear distinction between good and evil or positive and negative. In a postmodern world, people fail to distinguish between good and evil because these notions have been merged. This article discusses the erasure of boundaries in the postmodernist, sci-fi movie “Blade Runner” directed by Ridley Scott. In postmodern movies and literature, the boundaries between past, present, and future are effaced; hence, the audience faces confusion to fathom the actual time frame in which the movie is set. Low-brow art and insignificant things are presented simultaneously with high-brow art. In postmodern movies, the boundaries and borders become fluid, real cannot be distinguished from simulation and otherwise evil acts are portrayed as normal and even heroic; it can be said morality is portrayed to be dead since there is no true knowledge. The effacement of boundaries also occurs between different cultures and ethnicities; in the postmodern era, people of different cultures and ethnicities interact and share their own specific culture and language with each other. There is an amalgamation of different styles and genera in order to create something that breaks away from the traditional narrative style.
In the movie “Blade Runner 1982”, the audience is exposed to a futuristic world with flying cars and human cyborgs, but despite being set in a futuristic world, there are remnants of the past in the movie. The effacement of the boundary between past, present, and future is manifested in the nostalgia for past memories or history while living in the future. The movie starts with an image of a city that has huge skyscrapers, flying cars, and spaceships, and the protagonist of the movie Rick Deckard is seen reading a newspaper; the contrast between a newspaper and a technology-laden city is uncanny since a relic of past “newspaper” is being read in a city where machines have taken up all the work. The attire of the protagonist is similar to that of the attire actors wore in old movies; this is also a relic of the past in a futuristic world. As the protagonist reads the paper, an announcement is blaring “a new life awaits you in the off-world colony in a golden land of opportunity”, this line again apprises people of a golden future while living in present. Throughout the movie, there is a certain nostalgia for the past and a constant struggle to know the history or memories. The faded photographs that the protagonist discovers in the Nexus 6 replicant’s room and the photograph that Rachel shows Decard, are all relics from the past which symbolize nostalgia for the past. The last dialogue of the replicant Roy “All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain”, this dialogue and pictures of memories “establish nostalgic humanness which is contrasted by cyborgs which also inhabit the space” (Redmond, 54). The film is also laden with biblical allusions and motifs, which again alludes to beliefs that are now part of the past, and not revered in the futuristic world. The serpent with which the replicant Zohra was dancing alludes to the serpent which beguiled Eve in the heaven “the serpent that once corrupted man”. Through mixing relics of the past in the futuristic world, the writer has effaced the boundaries between the future and past.
There is an erasure of boundaries between different genera and tones in the movie ‘Blade Runner”. Mixing of genera is a trademark of postmodernist movies. In the movie the genera science fiction and film noir have been amalgamated. The setting of the movie is a dystopian future with cyborgs and flying cars; technology has advanced exponentially; the boundary between space and earth has been snuffed out and human can travel freely into off-world colonies; the imagery of this kind makes the movie a sci-fi movie but the elements of film noir are also rampant in the movie: the Raymond Chandler look of the protagonist, the attire of other characters which include trench coats, garments with padded shoulders and spiked heels, the tight-fitting dress and her 1940s inspired hairstyle. Through employing the aforementioned elements the author has effaced the boundary between different genera. Another element of the film noir that pervades the movie is the image of a femme fatale. As Katherine Farrimond noted that contemporary American science fiction films have a propensity to stage female cyborgs "as [both] threatening and sexualized" and thereby resuscitate the femme fatale image of film noir: “these cyborgs are not only half-technological "deadly seductresses", but they are put under male control throughout the movie” (Zeitz 77). The women are fairly objectified in the movie, for example, Pris is portrayed as a pleasure or sex figure; Zohra chooses to be an erotic dancer and Rachel becomes an object of love. Another predominant element of film noir that is visible in the movie under discussion is the lightning; film noirs usually have low-key or subtle lightning just like the subtle lightning employed in the movie Blade Runner, for example, Bryant’s and Deckard’s Offices. Film noirs usually involve some sort of investigation with a brooding and mysterious detective, which is also visible in the movie.
Another boundary that the director has effaced in the movie is the boundary between transformation and deterioration. The image of the city presented in the movie exhibits posh neighborhoods and high-tech business districts alongside abandoned and decaying buildings and districts. The most important aspect of the erasure of boundaries is the amalgamation of different cultures in a way that the culture that is deemed lower is presented side by side with the culture that is deemed to have a higher status in the society. In the movie, Chinese, European, and Egyptian cultures have been harmonized to showcase the effacement of boundaries between cultures in a postmodern world. The audience can see Chinese, Egyptians, and Americans mingling with each other, there is an image of a Chinese girl on a tower, and announcements are blaring both in English and Chinese. The building of the pyramid the Tyrell Corporation evokes the image of the pyramids in Egypt, the inside look of Tyrell’s office rather than being high-tech is a pop Egyptian extravaganza. When the two replicants, Leon and Roy, go after the man who makes the eyes of the replicants, they enter a building on which there was writing in English “Eye Wore” and on the left, there was writing in Chinese. The movie shows China town, with Chinese people wearing traditional Chinese clothes and cooking Chinese food. There is also an image of a hotel “White Dragon” famous for sushi; the neon dragon alludes to the Japanese religion Shinto and sushi is the traditional food of Japanese people. Due to the depiction of a plethora of cultures, the audience stays rather confused as to whether the city is New York, Hong Kong, or Tokyo. The protagonist goes to an Egyptian man who was wearing traditional Egyptian clothes to ask after the replicants. The erasure of boundaries between different cultures is apparent throughout the movie.
The erasure of boundary also entails the absence of a distinction between what is morally wrong and right. Postmodernist movies present evil and inhuman acts as normal and not morally wrong. The established conventions in the society are defied in postmodernist movies. Blade Runner raises certain moral and philosophical questions, if it is challenging to differentiate between a replicant and a human then is it humane to kill them, and is subjecting replicants to slavery justified. As the movie starts the phrase that appears on the screen around which the entire movie revolves “This was not called execution, It was called retirement”, alludes to the erasure of the boundary between good and evil. The heinous act of killing has been downplayed by using a euphemistic term “retirement” for execution. The movie furthers the narrative that once the creation stops being useful then killing them is not actually killing, it is retirement. The cyborgs were so identical to humans that it was almost impossible for authorities to distinguish them from humans as the replicant Roy says “we are not machines…we are physical”, as the cyborgs were exactly like a human so first using them as “manual laborers” in off-world colonies and then executing them once they rebelled is an illegal and inhumane act but the movie portrays the blade runner and the authority as the good guys and the replicants as unreasonable monsters, by doing this the director has blurred the border between right and wrong (Shapiro 91).
In the movie there is also an erasure of the boundary between real and copy, the copies have replaced the original. The snake and the owl shown in the movie are actually not real but are mere cyborgs. When the protagonist first meets Rachel and her owl, he inquires “is it artificial?” to which Rachel replied “of course, it is”, this shows that even the pets were not real but were a simulation of the real living thing. The creating of copies of humans “replicants” made it difficult to distinguish between real humans and humanoids or cyborgs. The real was indistinguishable from the simulation, for example, Rachel inquires Derek “Have you ever retired a human by mistake? this question hints at the disappearance of patterns of difference among fake and authentic.
To conclude, erasure of boundaries is an important aspect of postmodernist films, the movie “Blade Runner” has produced a fusion of two different genera to defy the norms of traditional narration because this is what happens in postmodernist movies. The merger of past in future, effacement of the boundary between good and evil, blurred boundary between real and simulation, and portrayal of different cultures as homogenous mix are the frontiers at which the phenomenon of erasure of boundary comes into play in the movie under discussion.
Redmond, Sean. Liquid Metal: The Science Fiction Film Reader. New York: Coulmbia University Press, 2007.
Shapiro, Michael J. Michael J. Shapiro: Discourse, Culture, Violence. New York: Routledge , 2012.
Zeitz, Christian David. "Dreaming of Electric Femmes Fatales: Ridley Scott’s 'Blade Runner: Final Cut' (2007) and Images of Women in Film Noir." gender forum: An Internet Journal of Gender Studies (2016): 75-87.