Panopticism in the Blade Runner

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Brad Wartman
Professor John McGlothlin
Eng-W 131
22 October 2011
Microtheme 4
The panoptic schema makes any apparatus of power more intense… It is a way of obtaining from power (Foucault 161). Foucault states that the Panopticon is set up in a way that a prisoner is forced to be self-discipline. The Panopticon is a building set up like a tower in the center with windows. “The Panopticon is a machine for dissociating the see/being seen dyad…one is totally seen, without being ever seen; in the central tower, one sees everything without ever being seen” (156). A supervisor controls the prisoners’ actions because each cell has a window that is set up so that every move they make is being watched. “The panoptic mechanism arranges spatial unities that make it possible to see constantly and o recognize immediately” (154). In the essay “Panopticism”, Foucault thoroughly expresses how the Panopticon efficiently imposes a type a power that controls the inmates’ actions in a way that assures self-discipline.

The movie Blade Runner presents power by dialogue. Bryant is the head of the police department that Deckard used to be a blade runner for. After Deckard retired, he was arrested and asked in a life-threatening matter to join the force again and hunt for replicants. Bryant states after Deckard tries to walk out on him, “Stop right where you are. You know the score pal. If you're not cop, you're little people” (Blade Runner). Bryant is indirectly stating that if Deckard does not try to help him kill the replicants, eventually the replicants will kill him.

The power that the Panopticon in Foucault’s “Panopticism” relates to the power Harry Bryant has in Blade Runner. Bryant displays power over Deckard as the Panopticon displays power over the inmates. The Panopticon’s major effect is to induce in the prisoner a state of permanent visibility that assures an automatic functioning of power (Foucault 156). In “Panopticism”, Foucault describes how the...
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