Exploring the intersections of ecology, technology, and ideology: Marx, machines, Gibson, and Shanghai.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

This message has been brought to you by the Shimato Dominguez Corporation

Anticipatory contemplations over the forthcoming re-opening of the Tannhauser Gate via the release to DVD of Blade Runner: The Final Cut have prompted me to recall the strain of Corporation-suspicion that appears in a number of the most prominent and definitive Generation-X SF films. The title quote comes, though only introduced in the Director’s Cut version, at the conclusion of the blimp-like public advertisement vehicle floating through the decayed grey skies near the opening of the film as Deckard is securing his Japanese street food: the ad that prompts listeners to continue starting again in the Off-World Colonies. Off-World Colonies, of course, containing a self-reflexive reference to this future-of-LA, in which the mediatronic skyscrapers are advertising either Coke or Japanese nibbles, and in which Gaff, the Latino cop, haunts Deckard. The Shimato Dominguez Corporation in its name, therefore, embodies the global synthesis of a then Japan rising and of Latino population, cultural, trade infusions into the US. But Blade Runner is not a simple case of xenophobia (cyber-orientalism). The Rand Corporation, center of suspicions in this narrative, is fully American and is the corporation explicitly linked with a return to slavery and exploritation of foreign places. Strange how the American corporation and the socially dominant project in which it participates is the one represented as old-school imperialist, while the less violent presences of off-nation corporations articulates more approximately what Hardt and Negri have termed “Empire.”

Then, recall also the Corporate orders in Alien, a corporation with whom the laws regarding mining, travel, and assistance seem to be in collusion, that lead to Ripley’s ship becoming infected. And the far more overt anti-corporatism in Aliens: Weyland-Yutani Group “Building Better Worlds”: again the Japanese connotation. And I must admit that I find it difficult to remember what the mid-80s pov was when corporate insidiousness could be embodied by Paul Reiser! (Why not Gary Shandling?).

Or the broadcasting corporation in Videodrome? The list goes on…

But what piques my interest in this topic is how relevant Blade Runner still seems today. Whereas I’ve expressed difficulties in finding the timeliness of The Invasion, and I’m wondering if similar will be true of the pending Keanu Reeves remake of The Day the Earth Stood Still, Blade Runner’s questions of what makes the human human and can a human be made are still critical. (This is why we still see references to Frankenstein everywhere we turn as well!!). And yet, do films, literature, and tv shows that engage these posthuman questions right now still contain this Corporate-suspicion strain? Whether remaining or disappeared, why? Have these narratives lost that moment in history and morphed into foci on the individual within/against society, and/or suspicion of government?

Addendum: the Five-Disc Ultimate Collector’s Edition of Blade Runner is rumored to contain an alternate full-length version of the film entitled Runner O’ the Blade, in which Conan O’Brien has replaced Rutger Hauer as Roy Baty.

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