I watched one of my all time favourite movies over the weekend, Blade Runner, set in an apocalyptic 2019 as imagined in 1982. I had dreamed of chartering a helicopter to fly over Los Angeles just to fully live the alternative real version.
There are no offworld colonies, no flying cars, but we do have sex robots. You don’t need a feminist reading to be disturbed by the movie, a reconstructed male view will do just as well.
I always loved Rachael. She was beautiful and doomed, and I wanted to be gritty and tough and rescue her. Now she just seems like a blank for the male characters, or a teenage boy, to project their fantasies on.
Tyrell makes her as an experiment, loading her up with girl memories to make her chaste and uptight, obediently tottering on heels where she’s told to go. Deckard isn’t interested until that identity and her elaborate hair unravel, then he overwrites with his own operating instructions: “say you want me” – “I want you.” Afterwards he leaves her passive in his bed while he works through the rest of the plot, returning at the end of the movie to issue a second set: “do you trust me?” – “I trust you.”
That’s not even getting into details of the love scene where Deckard kicks the door shut so she can’t leave and throws her against the wall. Or that Sean Young’s tears in the scene were real because Harrison Ford actually threw her against the wall. Or the reports of repeated bullying she was subjected to by Ridley Scott.
I often remark on the great and tough female characters of sci fi, Ellen Ripley and Sarah Connor especially. Rachael, sadly, is not one of them.