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Critiques of Society Through Technology in Thx 1138 and Blade Runner

In: Film and Music

Submitted By allisonmargolis
Words 1776
Pages 8
Allison Margolis
Authors and Genres
Professor Griffith
3/13/2013
Critiques of Society Through Technology in THX 1138 and Blade Runner
The threat of overdeveloping technology has been portrayed in film throughout time as a negative influence on society. As shown in THX 1138 and Blade Runner, made by George Lucas and Ridley Scott respectively, society is overturned by the use of technology and these films can therefore be seen as a warning against the cultural changes to come. The dystopic societies shown in THX 1138 and Blade Runner are the direct result of the technological development of society, therefore each film proves to be a critique of what is to come if these technologies become overdeveloped.
In both THX 1138 and Blade Runner, the cities created by Lucas and Scott respectively appear as central characters that further the plot. The city created in Blade Runner helps to display the hierarchies within the society and who controls whom. In the year 2019, Los Angeles is an acid-rain drizzling space crowded with punk gangs, physically disabled and many Hispanic and Asian people (Galagher 170). The streets are populated yet deserted, those who live there are those left behind and unable, physically and financially, to escape to the new colonies in space (Tiltsman 32). Therefore, these people that remain in the city are either of poorer-class or of upper class that have established themselves through their residences or commercial corporations. This is shown by those in the upper class of this society who live in massive high-rise buildings, while those of poorer classes live in run-down remnants of abandoned buildings (Clapp 8). The first time the audience sees the Tyrell Corporation, it is shot through wide-angle lenses and is shown to be very luxurious and bright in contrast with the over-crowded dark and dirty streets below. The class divide seen in this city created helps to portray who is in control of the environment and who is not.
All of the everyday citizens in the subterranean dystopia of THX 1138 have no control over their surroundings, as they are in a “Big Brother” type of domain. The world that Lucas created in THX 1138 is “visually claustrophobic that matches that of the social world portrayed in the film” (Clapp 7). The underground city is filled with drone-like humans doing mundane tasks in contrast to the emptiness of the white space he is imprisoned in and the upper ground that he escapes to in the final scene. The subterranean space is extremely simplistic, bare walls, single cubicles for the workstations and rectangular rooms confining the subjects, giving them no place to go (Telotte 48). In contrast, when THX is imprisoned in the futuristic white prison-without-walls, the horizon-less nature of it diminishes the subjects in this limbo-like prison where there is no clear perception of space (Telotte 49). Therefore, the city that is created in the film shows the complex technology that was instilled in order to create this dystopia and hierarchy, leaving the characters without control of their surroundings.
The dystopic city that Lucas creates in THX 1138, where the people are reduced to a number, drugged-out, and are constantly monitored and controlled by supervisors, assists to create the hierarchy of the controlled and the controller (Telotte 48). The workplace especially shows the hierarchy of this society; as the drones are all mindlessly working with the assistance of technology and the supervisors watch their every move. This reinforces their two-class society: those who control the technology and those who do not, leaving the drones vulnerable to the dominance of the supervisors’ control. According to Telotte, “individuality and individuation simply have no place in that society of THX 1138” (49). Because of the lack of individualism, the drones have very little personality as a result of the suppressive drugs they are forced to take and the constant monitoring of their every move. There is limited conversation throughout the film, so the announcements on the job substitute for human conversation, “comparing productivity for different sectors and encouraging laborers to ‘keep up the good work’” (Telotte 50). These announcements assist to constantly remind the workers that the supervisors are watching them in order to exert their supremacy and display the control that they have over them.
In Blade Runner, there is a very unclear distinction of who controls the Los Angeles society. Tyrell ultimately is in control of the Replicants as he created them and controls when they are meant to ‘retire’ and he designed each for a specific purpose. For example, Pris was the “pleasure model” and Roy is the “warrior model,” made to be physically superior to all others (Clapp 9). Because of the superiority of the Replicants to humans, the humans have lost their natural dominance over their own creations, especially considering that the Replicants are almost virtually indistinguishable from them (Galagher 170). Therefore, the power struggle comes into play when Roy takes control of his own life and goes searching for his maker. As he continues throughout his journey, he only wishes for an extended life; he gains control through his strength. Yet, the strength that was given by Tyrell to Roy in the end is what destroys him; thus the power is then transferred to Roy as he defeated his “father figure” in the battle for control and dominance. Because of his creations, Tyrell is seen as a man with a God Complex or as “an isolated, half-blind man who has taken on the role of a creator, but takes no responsibility for his actions” (Galagher 172). Therefore, the struggle for dominance between the Replicants, mainly Roy, and their creator becomes complex because of the omnipotence of both the creator and the Replicants.
Through the eyes of Tyrell, to create omnipotent Replicants would help lead to a more perfect society. Although at first, the Replicants existed simply to serve humans as slaves, they were still created in an attempt to strive to create the perfect individual (Galagher 170). To simply create an android was not enough, the Replicants must contain emotions such as compassion, wit, rage and courage in order to make them more realistic (Galagher 170). To humanize Replicants while simultaneously making them better, faster and stronger than all humans would only create a more perfect human, therefore contribute to a creating a more perfect society. However, it is very interesting that the Nexus 6 Replicants must be retired, almost implying that their perfection would negatively impact society. Yet, their lives are not perfect; they are born with a six-year expiration date. Therefore, the film Blade Runner attempts to create a perfect society through the use of technology, yet fails because of the dystopia created in its place.
The over-controlling nature of the dystopic subterranean city in THX 1138 helps portray the intention of the supervisors to make a more perfect society through control and chemicals. The city created by Lucas condemns any act of sexual behavior and enforces the use of mind-altering drugs to suppress any emotions or individuality. By enforcing these rules, the supervisors are attempting to create diligent workers in order to increase production to its highest capabilities to make a more perfect capitalist society. This society pushes production, yet has no regards towards the actual workers. When two laborers die while on the job, it is seen as unfortunate because it “interferes with productivity” (Clapp 7). When the police officer is chasing THX in the ending scene of the film, the cost-benefit ratio was calculated to be is over-budget for the one worker, so the officer gives up as he is within reach of THX. This shows the true nature of the importance of production, which they believe creates a more perfect society. Therefore, the controlling nature of the subterranean city of THX 1138 strives to create perfection in society by attempting to create diligent laborers through the means of over-monitoring by supervisors and enforced suppressive drugs.
The film, THX 1138 is seen as a direct critique of society through the negative portrayal of supervisors and the importance of mass production. According to Clapp, the “working conditions, use of drugs, numbing use of media, exploitation and dehumanization of minorities and loss of privacy shown the film are not implausible futuristic extensions of conditions which could be found in contemporary society” (8). Therefore, this film was what Lucas how believed the future would be like: no sense of self-expression or privacy. This film portrays the concerns, fears and anxieties about the “human power of technology” as well as the distrust of human nature (Clapp 16). Therefore, this film critiques future societies by showing the fear of technology over-developing and controlling citizen’s lives. The “cybernetics and perverse pharmacology of the urban netherworld” do not create THX’s claustrophobic existence, but the supervisor power’s and dominance gone out of control (Clapp 16). Therefore, this film represents not only the fear of the growth of technology, but also the fear of the overpowered dominant ruler.
In Blade Runner, the portrayal of technology throughout the film is a critique of the social, cultural and historical concerns of the time period. According to Galagher, the “director’s cut raises philosophical questions about the worth of humanity and human’s control of the world which they have created” and there is no escape from the totalitarian state (170). The film questions faith in humanity by the questioning of who is a Replicant and who is not as the audience questions Deckard’s status. The Replicant’s humanity is so easily manufactured and programmed, it questions what humans do with the technology that they have created, instead of what technology allows them to do (Clapp 16). Although the Replicants are seen as a threat to society, the film is more of a critique of the power of corporate domination in a world of scarcity through the structural and class divide of the city created.
In conclusion, THX 1138 and Blade Runner are seen as a critique of what is to come of society if technological development gets out of hand. Throughout each dystopic society, technology attempts to create perfect societies, reinforce dominance, and distinguish hierarchies within cultural city structures. These warnings are still relevant today with the constant development of technology in order to become a more perfect society with overdevelopment as a possibility, which can eventually lead to a dystopia as shown in both films. Therefore, Scott and Lucas each built distinct dystopias as a warning about the overdevelopment technology throughout contemporary societies that can lead to overpowering dominant hierarchical control.

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