The Orientalist Buddy Film and the “New Niggers”: Blade Runner (1982, 1992, and 2007)

  • Brian Locke


In Sir Ridley Scott’s immensely popular science fiction film Blade Runner (1982; rereleased in 1992 as The Director’s Cut and in 2007 as The Final Cut), Los Angeles in the year 2019 is an Asian city that has gone to hell. The opening aerial shot tracks across a dark industrial wasteland, punctuated by large smokestacks that shoot roiling bursts of orange flame high into the air. A giant Times Square-like video screen fills the side of one skyscraper. The screen runs a Coca-Cola advertisement on a loop, featuring a close-up of the powder-white face of a Japanese geisha popping a little red pill. A loud and menacing kabuki soundtrack accentuates the image. Hot neon business signs written in a jumble of kanji (Japanese characters based on Chinese ideograms) and kana (Japanese syllabary) are everywhere. Asian people crowd the sidewalks. Most are dressed in stereotypical rice-picker straw hats and black pajama suits, caught by the camera in the midst of running errands. Some run small street stands, selling things like noodles. In the street, they ride their bicycles in droves, just as in Beijing. The rain-drenched postapocalyptic scene conveys “the feeling that everything is contaminated and everyone will soon die from radiation poisoning,” as Danny Peary writes in a 1982 review.


Black Body Black People White Supremacy Slave Labor Blade Runner 
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© Brian Locke 2009

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  • Brian Locke

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