Male and Female in “Blade Runner 2049”
I’m going to generalize wildly in this post so please bear with me. Many exceptions could be cited legitimately to the principle I’m about to put forward (and maybe the principle itself is completely wrong). But it’s thought-provoking and its exploration, I hope, will give us all something to chew on.
If, as we have proposed in earlier posts in this series,
The female carries the mystery,
then what is the male’s role?
(Bear in mind that the “male” in our story could be a female, e.g. Diana in Wonder Woman or Sara Paretsky’s tough private eye V.I. Warshawski or any of the powerful female leads in Game of Thrones, etc.)
The male’s role is to uncover the mystery.
The inciting incident of any story (remember, I’m generalizing shamelessly) is the introduction of the mystery.
We, the reader/audience, get hooked by this. As does the “male” lead.
Act Two becomes the male lead’s quest to get to the bottom of the mystery.
In Act Three, he succeeds. But, if the story is a good one, this revelation only leads to a deeper mystery—a mystery that sheds light on some profound aspect of life or love or the human condition.
In Blade Runner 2049, the male principle is embodied by “K” (Ryan Gosling). K is a blade runner—a professional operative whose job is to hunt down and kill the manufactured humans called replicants. K is a replicant himself, and he knows it. He accepts his role and has no aspiration to defy or overthrow it.
The mystery is introduced, i.e. the story’s inciting incident, when K (and his human superior, Lt. Joshi [Robin Wright]) learn that somehow, against all logic and design, a replicant (we don’t know who) has conceived and given birth to a child. That’s an earth-shaking event in the futuristic world of the story because it means that manufactured entities have the potential for becoming human, for actually possessing souls.
That’s also a pretty cool mystery.
K is assigned by Joshi to find and, in the name of world order and stability, to kill this child.
Act Two consists of K’s odyssey attempting to fulfill this assignment.
If our principle holds true, the story’s mystery will be carried by a female.
Sure enough, it is.
After many a twist and turn (during which K comes to believe that he himself is that mysterious child), he encounters Dr. Ana Stelline (Carla Juri), a “memory designer,” who herself, we believe, is a replicant and whose job is to create the artificial memories that will be implanted in other newly-manufactured replicants.
Dr. Stelline is by far the most empathetic (and human) character that K has encountered. She cares. She is kind. K gets a feeling about her.
By Act Three, K has tracked down the fugitive blade runner Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford) from the original 1982 movie. Deckard himself is a replicant. From Deckard K learns that Dr. Stelline is indeed the miraculous child he had been hunting.
In other words, K has uncovered the mystery … and this mystery is embodied in a female.
When a story works, as I would say this one does, the superficial mystery—Who is the replicant child?—is reinforced and made profound by the deeper levels of meaning that this mystery implies.
What is “soul?” Where does it come from? Is it “divine?” What does “divine” mean? Does soul possess a life-imperative of its own, that is, will it find its way into any and every life-form?
How should we feel about despised and outcasted groups in society? Dare we dismiss them, as the culture in Blade Runner dismisses replicants, as “soul-less” or subhuman? What if we ourselves are members of such a group?
In Blade Runner 2049, the male has found and identified the female-borne mystery. But this discovery only leads to deeper and more profound levels of mystery.
I know you said there were exceptions, and these were wild generalizations,
but I feel drawn to say anyway that because a woman is powerful, that’s not the
“male” in her. That is the strong woman! I do like your focus on deeper and
deeper mystery and perhaps anythng we say just touches on mystery.
Some deep truths are here, which might get obscured by our human affection for categorization. This and that. Here and there. Male and female. Just like the villian and the hero embody different aspects of the theme (ie, underlying deep truth), aren’t the apparent polarities of “carrying the mystery” and “uncovering the mystery” a function of our human minds trying to grasp what our consciousness perceives as duality? Maybe “male” and “female” are THEMSELVES metaphors for the yin and yang of “the deep truth” — which is maybe: “There IS a mystery.”
Do we get ourselves into trouble when we go too far down the road of literal interpretation? “No, really, dude… the the world was created in seven days. It was in a book I read.” Men can be nurturing and women can be strong, and can this understanding help us perceive the deeper truth of “there is a mystery, and the game is to discover what it is?” Without being distracted by polarities, which themselves are only metaphor?
A friend pointed me to the Stoics recently. In this morning’s reading, I came across a quote by Marcus Aurelius:
“Alexander the Great and his mule driver both died and the same thing happened to both.”
Great or humble, rich or poor, light or dark… aren’t they all the same? Or reflections of the underlying same thing?
Y’all always make me think. Thanks. Hope I didn’t just dump out my mental junk drawer…
Back to reading, this other quote by Marcus Aurelius showed up, and seems a good postscript:
“How beautifully Plato put it. Whenever you want to talk about people, it’s best to take a bird’s- eye view and see everything all at once— of gatherings, armies, farms, weddings and divorces, births and deaths, noisy courtrooms or silent spaces, every foreign people, holidays, memorials, markets— all blended together and arranged in a pairing of opposites.”
Steve, I’d like to enlarge this idea a bit. I’d suggest the idea that “the female” is a force of chaos and “the male” is the force of order. Mystery/certainty is one way order tames chaos, but there might be other ways as well. For instance, the monstrous in old tales is typically wild female energy which requires a pure male energy to tame/kill.
There are plenty of chaotic females that keep order!! Just saying! What of the pyramids? I’ve heard them called female…
Another good read. Definitely something to chew on. The male’s role is to uncover the mystery – who knew? I get it, and that’s a shift in my perspective.
I’ve been enjoying this series and recently came across this tangent I thought you might like. If a rom-com is a detective stories, then the starcrossed lovers are the literal male and female of the mystery.
Steve, as much as I admire you, I did not like this movie.
“Deckard himself is a replicant!” Wait. What?!
Okay. I am done.
I guess I just didn’t get it.
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