It’s been six years since I got my first pair of glasses. That would make me twenty-two at the time, and it’s a lovely realization that the loss of my virginity would coincide with my ability to see. It wasn’t long after getting my glasses that I decided to get a hair-cut (I looked something along the lines of Slash and Cousin It’s love child) and shortly thereafter my wife, who I had known because she sat behind in biology class, accepted a date that eventually became the most significant relationship in my life. The glasses that I bought not only served as my ability to see, they also managed to serve a secondary purpose: aging the individual who compliments them. I post a lot of photos of myself on this blog, and so my reader is able to see I wear thin wire frames in the shape of perfect circles. I’ve noticed that people really seem to like them and I’m used to people offering compliment in the vein of “I love your glasses.” However they don’t just say this. As I said before my glasses “date” the person offering the compliment because one half of them will usually say, “I love your Harry Potter glasses” while the other half says, “I love your John Lennon Glasses.” This second compliment has started to dwindle and so I have to remind people about this second person. It’s because of John Lennon that I picked these glasses in the first place, but I was part of the Harry Potter generation and I’m actually rather terrified of the day when people stop calling them Harry Potter glasses for that would mean I’m becoming a rather old man.
None of this would really explain why, going to the optometrist again recently I was inspired to write about Blade Runner.
Sitting in the chair that offered no lumbar support I looked around the room. There of course wad a chart filled with photos of various eyes suffering from a wide range of disorders and disease. To my left were the binocular machines which would test my vision. And to my right was the doctor who was telling jokes that could only come from a refreshingly dry humor that’s impossible to find in this territory. The thought of eyes though inspired me to think back on the film Blade Runner which I had watched again recently with a group of friends. There was something about eyes that I kept going back to.
This association isn’t unfounded because eyes play a critical role in the film because the way to determine the difference between a Replicant (the name for the humanoid slave robots) and humans was something called a voight-kampff exam which is an eye exam. You also have the fact that the film begins with an eye looking over a wide city-scape. When Batty, the central replicant who wants to extend his life, confronts his maker Tyrell he murders him by digging his thumbs into the man’s eyes before cracking his skull. There’s also the scene in which Batty confronts Hannibal Chew, a genetic engineer who makes eyes, and one of the other replicants slowly places eyes on his bare shoulders and Batty offers up this brief exchange:
Batty: Questions… Morphology? Longevity? Incept dates?
Hannibal Chew: Don’t know, I don’t know such stuff. I just do eyes, ju-, ju-, just eyes… just genetic design, just eyes. You Nexus, huh? I design your eyes.
Batty: Chew, if only you could see what I’ve seen with your eyes!
The examples of this constant eye imagery and association could fill up an entire word document so it’s not necessary to list them all out. I simply want my reader to recognize that it was probably because of this frequent eye imagery that I began to think again about Blade Runner.
The film has, since its release in 1982, become a cult classic and an icon of both science fiction and film noir. It doesn’t hurt that the film was directed by Ridley Scott when the man was in his prime of his carear and riding high off of the success of the film Alien which had been released just three years earlier. On one side note there existed this beautiful period of great science fiction movies that, while I won’t say hasn’t been repeated, just hasn’t been matched in my estimation. Watching Blade Runner is an experience unlike any other because the film creates a new world in which the viewer is left to disappear completely into. The darkness of the city is matched only by the near constant neon lights that seem to illuminate only the figures of the people moving about the place. Advertisements tend to be more real than the human beings walking around because despite their mass-production reality, there’s a human charm to them. The near constant rain becomes not just an atmospheric aesthetic, but part of the landscape of the world. And all of this combines together to establish a place that was labeled as “cyber-punk” that has helped create a new genre in and of itself of science fiction.
Blade Runner takes in the distant future of the year 2019, which is a disappointment in and of itself because humanity has barely managed to acquire workable iPod minis let alone advanced robotics. The Tyrell corporation has created humanoid robots known as “replicants” which serve mainly as payless workers (slaves, let’s call it what it is), and the story begins when four replicants escape the off-world colonies. A former police detective named Rick Deckard is brought back onto the force in his former position of Blade Runner. His job is to hunt down the replicants and terminate them (kill them, let’s call it what it is. The rest of the story follows Deckard as he tracks down the replicants who are themselves trying to sneak into the Tyrell corporation to see if there is a way to extend their lives since Replicants are controlled by a four-year life-span.
Batty is the leader of the replicants, played brilliantly by the elusive Rutger Hauer, and as driven more than any of the group to find some way of extending his life. Throughout the film there are small shots of his hand trembling while looking like dying tissue, and I believe it’s this idea of degeneration that actually inspired me. Going to the eye doctor is repair; it’s a check to make sure the system can still run. While my hand doesn’t regularly crinkle into a trembling fist which is itself a portend for my ultimate death, I have observed the fact that my body is beginning to show some signs of wear. And thinking of such wear I’m immediately reminded of the therapist monologue in the Pickle Rick episode of Rick and Morty:
I have no doubt that you would be bored senseless by therapy, the same way I’m bored when I brush my teeth or wipe my ass. Because the thing about repairing, maintaining, and cleaning is, it’s not an adventure. There’s no way to do it so wrong that you might die. It’s just work. And the bottom line is some people are okay going to work and some people, well, some people would rather die. Each of us get’s to choose.
Choice is everything, and so as I contemplated the degeneration of the body while I sat in the doctor’s office, looking at those eyes on the chart, I thought about Blade Runner and how the idea of choice and time and repair becomes so wrapped up in our ideas of memory. Who I am is built upon my memories, and those in turn shape who I want to be and become. And so as I sat in the chair paying attention to how terribly my eyes had degenerated I wondered about what new glasses I would get, and what famous celebrity or fictional character people think about when they saw my new specks.
All quotes taken from Blade Runner and Rick and Morty were taken from IMBD. The definition of Robot was provided are of the Etymology Online Dictionary
I’ve included here a link to the Pickle Rick episode, specifically the therapist monologue that I’ve quoted here. Unlike the Twitter Troll Bots who seem to rail constantly against the new season and the writing thereof, I can’t help but remind them that Pickle Rick is evidence enough of how amazing this season really is. If the reader would like to hear the monologue in its entirety they can do so by following the link below: