Do Females Dream of a Respectable Representation?
Philip K. Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep (a novel) and Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner (a film) insist comparison: Ridley Scott’s film is based on the story told by Philip K. Dick’s novel. These works were created about ten years apart from one another and therefore had important situational differences influence their creations. Most importantly, Ridley Scott never finished reading the novel and did not allow anyone working on the film to read or refer to the novel. Given these noticeable differences, this essay will explore the difference in the portrayal of women in both works, as well as how many of the missing ideas from the novel are still present through a different representation. This essay will focus on the representation of women and how it communicates the objectification of women, the oppression of women, and the animalistic equivalence of women. The need for women, both android/replicant and human, to be artificial is a theme in both the film and novel, but it is emphasized in the film. The film lacks the presence of Luba Luft, an escaped android now working as an opera singer, because the film is in the genre of film noir and Luba does not fit into the femme fatale character archetype as the other women do; therefore, her omission stresses the importance of the femme fatale representation. Unlike the novel, the film constantly displays propaganda with images of Japanese women. This propaganda objectifies women and signifies the way in which women, both real and replicant, have become both technologically advanced synthetic beings and consumer products. During the time the film was made, Japan was rising in the technological field, and thus the images represent an “advanced” woman, a synthetic woman. More in the novel than in the film, the relationship between Pris and Rachael is stressed by the fact that they look similar, adding to their production line’s consumer product quality. This idea of an artificial female is not only recommended in the film through the propaganda, but almost demanded by the society in the film, as can be interpreted by the fact that all of the female lead roles are of artificial females. The only women seen in the film who are “real” are a senior oriental and a liquor vendor. Additionally, the film places the story in Los Angeles, as opposed to San Francisco, as it is in the novel. This adds to the idea of artificial women as Los Angeles has a reputation for an abundance of celebrities, and celebrities have a reputation of plastic surgery and other forms of visual manipulation. This gives the impression that in the Los Angeles of the future, a woman must be artificial in order to have any sort of significant identity. It is for this reason that all of the android/replicant females are designed to have aesthetically pleasing appearances. This is confirmed when both the novel’s Eldon Rosen and the film’s Eldon Tyrell of the replicant-making Rosen/Tyrrell Corporation describe Pris as a “basic pleasure model.” In the novel, a fellow bounty hunter tells Deckard “if it’s love toward a woman or an android imitation it’s sex” (Dick 141). This quote openly suggests that to a male, a woman and a machine are the same, and should be the same.The novel and film also express the oppression of women. In the first chapter of Dick’s novel, the reader is introduced to Deckard’s wife, Iran, and made aware of her emotional instability as she uses an empathy box to control her emotions. She reinforces the stereotypical gender role of a submissive emotionally distraught housewife. Her submissive nature can be seen when she allows Rick to dial and he dials “594: pleased acknowledgment of husband’s superior wisdom in all matters” for her; for himself he dials “for a creative and fresh attitude toward his job” (Dick 5). In Scott’s film, we see Deckard’s same power and the subservient nature of women toward Deckard. This is specifically seen in the scene between Rachael and him, where he does not hesitate to feed her the lines she must say to him and almost forces her to be involved with him.
Deckard: Say kiss me.
Rachael: I can’t rely on…
Deckard: Say kiss me.
Rachael: Kiss me.
Deckard: I want you.
Rachael: I want you.
Rachael: I want you. Put your hands on me.This scene is disturbing; it could almost be considered rape if it were not for the fact that Rachael is not human. Rachael’s character in the film is quite the opposite of her character in the novel. In the novel, Rachael is deceitful and much more solid in standing her ground, as can be seen in her command to Deckard: “Goddamn it, get into bed” (Dick 193). In the film, Rachael at first seems to be a very confident, independent woman when she has no doubts of not being a human; she is characterized by her quick and precise responses to the Voight-Kampf test. Later in the film, when Deckard informs her of her replicant nature, she becomes the passive subservient female, the femme fatale in a film noir. Pris and Zhora, are also femme fatale characters, using their sexuality in order to obtain some stability. Zhora, a trained assassin replicant, uses her sexuality to work at a strip club performing some sort of sexual act. Pris, a replicant, uses her sexuality to reach Tyrell by persuading Sebastien to help Roy and her. One of the most noticed aspects missing from the film is the theme of real/electric animals. This theme is still found in the film through the representation of women. In the society of today, many women feel that they are hunted by men as pieces of meat. In the novel, Deckard is, as his wife calls him, “a murderer hired by cops” (Dick 7), only continuing his duties with the motivation of buying a real animal. In the film, Deckard hunts down androids with the motivation that it is his job. Ironically, the only replicants Deckard personally retires in the film are Zhora and Pris, making the film a bit of a misogynist work. Once again the novel contradicts this idea through Luba Luft’s character. Deckard feels almost unwilling to retire her because he does not imagine she would be a harm to society, thus contradicting this misogynist idea.In the film, women are animals; they are the pets, the real animals Deckard hunts for in the novel. In the film, Rachael runs to Deckard for unneeded protection. She runs to him because it is he who allows her to discover her true synthetic self, and she therefore feels a bond with him. In contrast, in the novel Rachael undergoes this realization differently, and instead of clinging to Deckard for her own protection, she seduces him to protect her kind. Rachael survives in the film as Deckard’s pet, not his lover, while in the novel she is victorious as she does not get killed by Deckard. Actually, since he ends up retiring the androids, she gets a small revenge by killing his real sheep that he bought with the bounty money. This can be a metaphor for the killing of the oppression of women. This relationship between women and animals is also seen in the scene in the film with Zhora: after performing her sexual act, she appears with a snake wrapped around her, wearing makeup that reflects the scaly qualities of the snake. She has become an animal. Ironically, Deckard is distracted by her beauty and openness and eventually leaves himself open to be attacked, resembling the serpent from Genesis and its corruption of man. Also in the film, when Deckard is about to kill Pris, she runs around attacking him and yelling like an animal fighting for her life. Ironically, one of her defense mechanisms is to choke him with her legs. This symbolizes both her animalistic nature as well as her use of sexuality as a defense mechanism. To conclude, Philip K. Dicks’s novel and Ridley Scott’s film tell similar stories with different yet similar drives and themes that can be interpreted through the representation of women in both works. The demand for women to be synthetic is hinted at in the novel, but it is central to the film. The oppression of women in the novel is not as intense as it is in the film because of the addition of several characters and scenes that are omitted in the film. Lastly, the importance of animals is centered upon in the novel, but it is also represented through female roles in the film.
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