Blade Runner 2049 has lots of great technology riffs and visuals of a beautifully (unnuanced) dystopian nearish noir future. I love that stuff—gadgets, technology, future landscapes, urbanscapes, interiors. I am a science fiction loving girl.
But the movie has zero other science fictional world building—that is, social world building that admits of any desires or worldviews of any individuals other than heterosexual, normative, white men. Even the replicant protagonist is a het, white, normative guy—who projects his perfect dream woman onto a sex worker to have sex with her. And, ooh, ahh, what a cool scene. /sarcasm. It made me sad, annoyed, and bored as shit, that scene. Because it’s just an externalized realization of the Same. Old. Story.
High heels, naked women objectified all over the place—where are the beautiful, objectified young men, large women, androgynous individuals? Where are the desires of literally everyone else? Where are the women and people of color who aren’t props and furnishing for the world of straight white men? Every single female character in this movie is a prop or foil for white straight males, either the protagonist, or Deckard, or the Jared Leto character. And do I even need to mention the few PoC minor characters? Yeesh.
If that’s how humanity develops, admitting nothing of the diversity of aims and needs, worldviews, strengths, and desires of anyone but the ones western culture has always served—to say nothing of the visions of all the very intelligent people working on green answers to the issues that become Blade Runner’s environmentally bereft future—humanity may as well be killed off right now. When science fiction does little beyond spinning the worst technologies forward while reifying the oldest, most retro, and tired of male, western, heterosexual angst, desires, and projections onto others—literally mapping them onto others in that one scene, and projecting them hugely into the landscape in others—science fiction is lazy and not doing what it needs to do.
You could say that all this objectification of women was in keeping with the noir aspect of Blade Runner, but I’d say there was cherry picking there, too. And I’d also say I want more, I want better. Given everything going on in our world right now, I think we need better from big budget Hollywood movies, which command so much attention and money. Maybe that’s hopeless, but I think we have to ask, and keep asking, for it.
At the very least, for Blade Runner 2049 to have been truly remarkable and worth doing, for my money anyway, the protagonist should have been a gay man, or a woman, or a PoC—or all of those.