10 May 2010
Synthetic vs. Natural:
An Analysis of Costuming Used in Blade Runner
Blade Runner written by Scott Bukatman and published in 1997 discusses the making of, and larger issues addressed, in Ridley Scott’s film Blade Runner (1982). Bukatman, an Associate Professor of Film and Media Studies at Stanford University, has written several books on film. His book takes a look at the film formally, ideologically, and even historically. He addresses the film formally by talking about the production of the film. He briefly discusses the process of refining the film’s script which is loosely based on the book Do Androids dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick. Bukatman talks of Blade Runner’s design, touching on the narration, the production of the props and set, special effects, and cinematography of the film. In his ideological analysis of the film he touches on larger social issues in the film such as urbanization, immigration, racism, and post modernism. On age 19 Bukatman says “With its city that resembles nothing so much as a vast boundless refinery and its world that no longer contains any traces of nature” This discussion of the set and props hint at the problems of urbanization as shown in the film. Bukatman uses the androids as examples for how the film can be viewed as addressing racism and immigration. The paranoia against the androids could represent the racism against Asians which was growing at that time in American history due to Asian’s expanding economic influence (Bukatman 74). Racism against blacks is shown by the androids classification of non-human because during the time of slavery in America, blacks were also not viewed as human (Bukatman 75). One way post-modernism is addressed, according to Bukatman, is by begging the question what does it mean to be human? This question is a major theme throughout Bukatman’s book. In this paper I will discuss the issues of the environment and industrialization. I plan on doing this through the use of costuming in the film. I will analyze the use of synthetic versus natural costuming. This paper will cover the wardrobes worn by Rick Deckard, Pris, and Rachael.
Rick Deckard, played by Harrison Ford, is the protagonist in Scott’s Blade Runner. Known as a “blade runner”, Deckard is a member of the Los Angeles police department who is employed to “retire” genetically designed humanoids known as “replicants”. These replicants were designed by the Tyrell Corporation to do work in off-world colonies. Because of their superior strength and comparable intelligence, the replicants were viewed as a threat to the human race. After a bloody uprising on an off-world colony they were deemed illegal on earth. In response, Rick Deckard and his group of blade runners are put in place to hunt down and retire these humanoids. Deckard lives in futuristic Los Angeles set in 2019. The city described by Bukatman is a “vast, boundless refinery,” which “no longer contains any trace of nature” (19). Deckard’s costuming throughout the film differs greatly from the rest of the characters. He wears a large brown sport coat with patch pockets for most of the film. The coat’s color is very earthy and natural looking in comparison to other characters’ costumes. It looks unpressed and wrinkled as if nothing has been done to modify its look. Underneath he wears several different dress shirts all with basic patterns and muted colors, along with a plaid styled tie. His pants appear to be dark gray, possibly flannel but nothing remarkable. It is almost as if Deckard is your typical working class male found on any large city’s street during the 1980’s. I believe he can be viewed as representing the past, a time where a natural environment existed and urban landscape did not completely dominate the planet. By dressing the film’s “good guy” in natural and earthy attire I believe Scott could be voicing his opposition to urbanization and the...
Cited: Blade Runner. Dir. Ridley Scott. Perf. Harrison Ford, Rutger Hauer, Sean Young. Warner Brothers, 1982. Film.
Bukatman, Scott. Blade Runner. London: British Film Institute, 1997. Print.
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