Change Many Can See

“‘The winds of change are blowing. We are change. You will see'” (Okorafor 112).

In Act I of Lagoon, one of the most prominent uses of visual and digital media is the video message that Ayodele spreads throughout Lagos. This particular scene presents readers with a modern take on invasion suggesting the interconnectivity that the internet provides for people now can potentially be both harmful and helpful. The inevitable change is coming, but one is ignorant to what that might mean. When Ayodele states “You will see,” she hints at the inevitability of it while also admitting that because of the technology the people have they can now all be witness to this change. Instead of the few that experience the androids’ message, for example in Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick, in hopes of change, Okorafor allows many to hear Ayodele’s message which provides a broader spectrum of reaction. Richard Deckard may go back to his life like nothing ever happened, but Lagos will be forever changed by Ayodele whether for good or bad.

Butler & Dick Comparison : Numb & Mechanical

As Rye sits in Obsidian’s car, the mentally crippling emotions of “growing hopelessness, purposelessness” and “jealousy” remind the reader of the enslaved android’s dilemma (99). Rye’s “powerful urge to kill another person” stems not only from her own personal issues, but from the idea that someone could have more ability and access to knowledge and expression (99). Rye nearly snaps when she realizes how she is inferior to Obsidian due to her illiteracy and how easily he may or may not take the ability for granted. The scale of the complaint seems arbitrary, but one more issue is enough to nearly set her over the edge. Her gun has the same killing power of a determined Android like Roy before his father & creator. The text places the smoking gun in the hands of a mentally polarizing character and seems to ask the reader whether or not he or she empathizes with her.  Butler seems to be forcing the reader into deciding whether or not one cares if Rye hurts herself, or someone else, or both.  Separately, Butler establishes a hyper-focalization on Rye and Rye’s thoughts, whereas Dick spreads some of the world-building into the thought-experiments and androids themselves. Not to hammer the nail too much, but an emotionally numb and unpredictable narrator has the qualities of an insensitive android, but reads as more real and possible. So although the decision remains on how one values the needs of a troubled human vs. a programmed android, the reader response effect develops similarly from a close narration of the darkest of emotional lows.

Human adaptability in Dick and Butler

“He gestured obscenely and several other men laughed. Loss of verbal language  had spawned a whole new set of obscene gestures. The man, with stark simplicity, had accused her of sex with the bearded man and had suggested she accommodate the other men present – beginning with him” – “Speech Sounds”

“The clerk said, “For a toad I’d suggest also a perpetually renewing puddle…I suggest you let our service department make a periodic tongue adjustment” – Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? (244)

One of the major similarities between Butler and Dick is the implicit capacity for human ingenuity and reinvention of normality in response to fundamental changes in the composition of the ‘normal’ world. In “Speech Sounds,” the inability to speak produces immediate challenges and tensions (as seen in the opening fistfight on the bus) but it also showcases the ability of the human race to install a new order and system for ‘normal’ affairs of life. The quoted passage above is frankly brutal and loathsome, but there is also a strange admission of the ingenuity and adaptability required to implement a widespread, generic code of hand signals among strangers. Rye does not think of the complexity of the process required for dissemination of hand signals but rather notes the ‘stark simplicity’ of the action; in a world challenged by muteness, humans still maintain an ability to communicate and invent new methods of interpersonal connection. Likewise, the remarkable inventiveness of electronic animals in DADoES? speaks to the ability of humans to react to a challenging situation, in this case mediated through commercial forces. In the true spirit of capitalism, Dick’s world strives to produce the most satisfactory correction to its problems and demonstrates a certain (albeit limited) capacity to dull the pain of extinction. Both stories retain a clear sense of pain/tension in the loss of crucial details of reality but mitigate (or modify) the oppression of the world through the ability of humanity to evolve in response to conflict and difficulty.

Visuals Create Tension

In the film, Blade Runner directed by Ridley Scottthe scene where Rick Deckard first meets Rachael Rosen (16:57) is one the of the few scenes taken directly from the book. Set design plays a key role in this film, the stark contrast between Dr. Eldon Tyrell’s opulent pyramid-like home with the gritty city showcases the extreme difference in class in Philip K. Dick’s novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?  However, Scott’s use of the two-shot creates more of a tension in the film between Rachael and Rick than Dick creates with words. The fast cuts back and forth create a sense that Rachael is completely sure of herself staring Deckard down and having a response to each question, all the while acting very stiff and robotic. A cigarette cloud forms in front of her face (20:37) which creates the sense that Rachael is beginning to doubt herself and needs to hide her reaction from Deckard. Also, the use of an interposed dissolve into an establishing long shot (20:41) accompanied by Deckard and Rachael’s echoing voices creates a feeling of a long passage of time whereas in contrast to the novel which seems to move at a much faster pace during this point of the story. The visuals allow the audience to see how an android would supposedly act in such a setting when with words there can be several interpretations depending on the reader.

Do Androids Dream of Harrison Ford?

It’s very difficult for me to pick a specific scene from the film because to be completely honest, I was pretty disappointed with it. As much as I would like to say it was a good film, I do not see it as an accurate adaptation of the novel. So much of the original content of the novel had been stripped down, perhaps for the sake of production costs and the time it was filmed in, but there was just too much missing. From the very beginning, there is a complete re-imagination of what I thought was quintessential to the story. Rick Deckard is not the down-on-his-luck cop depicted in early pulps, but he is more of a suave, grizzled freelancer. Harrison Ford would not have been my first choice to play Rick Deckard, as he just appears to be too much of the “action hero” arch type that I never imagined Deckard as while reading the novel. He has no wife and no electric sheep (it’s in the title of the novel, come on Ridley). This lack of authentic novel content continues throughout the film, where I believe it affects some of the themes that Dick was trying to draw upon, such as the relationship between man and the natural world with the absence of animals in the film, along with the role of the androids in this world. In the film, they are not trying to avoid capture, they instead want to discover their life span and whether or not it can be altered. In my opinion, it is just too much of a deviation to be considered as a retelling of the novel.

Deckard’s Moral Questioning

1:27:45 – Deckard being apprehended by another policeman just after being told to go to The Bradbury.

Police: “This sector is closed to ground traffic. What are you doing here?”
Deckard: “I’m working, what are you doing?”
P: “Arresting you.”
D: “I’m Blade Runner…I’m filed and monitored.”
P: …”Okay, checked and cleared.”

This scene caught me a little off-guard as I was fully expecting something akin to when Deckard is apprehended by Officer Crams in Do Androids Dream in chapter 9. Though in different contexts, this scene in the film could have been a gateway to the moment where Deckard is taken to the parallel San Francisco police department run by androids. While this scene in the novel is more or less available to provide a way to introduce Phil Resch into the story (who is not introduced in the movie), it is also important in the development of Deckard’s moral questioning. The scene in the novel encouraged a lot of questioning and speculation regarding the differences between “humans” and androids (especially pertaining to false memories) and set the tone for much of the moral questioning for the rest of the novel. The film focused this issue of morality more onto Rachael’s character than on Deckard’s, which caused a difference in motivation. With this questioning now focused on a love interest, rather than on himself, Deckard’s character doesn’t undergo this questioning that is so embedded into the novel’s design.

Roy Baty’s Rage

1:26:20: This scene depicts Roy Baty’s murder of Tyrell, with heavy emphasis on the bloody gouging out of Tyrell’s eyes and the complicated emotions which cross Baty’s face during the killing.

Why does Roy Baty express so much rage and perhaps grief in the killing of Tyrell? Why the deliberate mutilation? Isn’t this an expression of emotion? Watching this scene, I felt a confirmation of both Roy’s villainy and his definite interiority and perhaps even empathy. The murder of a person described as one’s ‘father’ in such a deliberate and torturous way carries enormous emotional resonance and seems unlikely for an android. If androids have the capacity to kill easily, isn’t it because they do not view it as hugely significant or in relation to themselves? The murder of Tyrell to represent the death of the father or creator – particularly as Roy has knowledge of his own impending death – seems to point conclusively to androids as having ‘real’ emotions. As these emotions pass across Roy’s face, the viewer has the ability to attempt to empathically connect, to put themselves in his position and try to guess his range of emotions. Yet this ability to connect seems out of the grasp of androids…the whole scene is very confusing and provocative but (as in other parts of the movie) lacks certain subtleties of the book. It seems too obvious that androids really CAN develop ‘real’ feelings, in contrast with the strange, eerie ambiguity with which Dick ends his novel.

Elevation in Blade Runner and Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?

Though I began to analyze particular differences from Dick’s book to Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner, one quality shared by the book and the film was a somewhat fascination with heights and an aerial perspective. One scene in particular from the film is when Rick is traveling via aircraft to the Tyrell Corporation building within the city itself (about 11-12 minutes in.) Even in the first image of the film (immediately following the logo) is an aerial view of Los Angeles- something that even reminded me of the cover of my copy of We by Zamyatin. In the book, the animals reside on the rooftops- something that didn’t provoke my interest until the aerial shots of the film, and this scene in particular as Rick takes in the sights of the sight along with us. This concept of seeing things from a birds-eye view, both through the images in the film as well as the concept of having the animals above everything else in the novel, elicits a particular capitalization on subjectivity and objectivity, something that I feel is among some of the main dilemmas within this narrative in particular. From this view, is one able to see things as they are, just as when encountering someone and not knowing the truth of their identity? Or perhaps it serves many purposes, all having to do with authenticity, perspective, and awareness.

Suspicion and Appearance in “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?”

“‘But almost. You feel the same doing it; you have to keep your eye on it exactly as you did when it was really alive. Because they break down and then everyone in the building knows. I’ve had it at the repair shop six times, mostly little malfunctions, but if anyone saw them- for instance one time the voice tape broke or anyhow got fouled and it wouldn’t stop baaing- they’d recognize it as a mechanical breakdown.” He added, “The repair outfit’s truck is of course marked ‘animal hospital something.’ And the driver dresses like a vet, completely in white.” (Dick 12).

While this passage is incredibly early on in the book, and thus before a lot of the groudwork of suspicion is really solified in the novel, I found it incredible provocative and pertinent to the discussion of doubt and suspicion. It believe it inspires a lot of questions, particularly concerning the situation we are to encounter in the rest of the novel. Rick communicates, “then everyone in the building knows.” This raises the idea that one is always under suspicion of their neighbors- that it is important to conceal certain things from those around you, because their judgment has a direct effect. “Mechanical” being italicized further offers that it is judged differently than that of some other malfunction- in this context, biologically. Similarly, Rick establishes that the mechanics themeselves are disguised when they come to fix an animal, further suggesting this importance of concealment.

I think this passage establishes several important … that allow the reader to become situated in this world and understand the environment under which these characters operate. First, that there are many things hidden between those that you know best. The very suggestion that things should be hidden offers that shame inspires action among the population, and that there is more truth residing behind what you see. The very fact that Rick’s sheep is so life-like, and that the mechanic comes dressed as a vet, reveals the depth to which one must now question what they encounter. I simiarly find it intersting that Dick has now opened up a conversation concerning the relationship between what is living and what is mechanical. Throughout the introductory chapters, it is established that biology is favored over a mechanical existence- but what movtivates this, and what problems now arise? What can we know about what we see if what we see conceals a hidden truth?

Philip Dick : 2 Agencies, 1 Confused “Android”?

His cephalic pattern taken, he found himself being led off to an equally familiar room; reflexively he began assembling his valuables for transfer. It makes no sense, he said to himself.  Who are these people? If this place has always existed, why didn’t we know about it? And why don’t they know about us? Two parallel police agencies, he said to himself; ours and this one. but never coming in contact–as far as I know–until now. Hard to believe, he thought, that this wouldn’t have happened long ago. If this is a police apparatus here; if it’s what it asserts itself to be (Dick 113)

As Rick Deckard has the inner workings of his head examined, he loses control of his surroundings and is led into the Mission Street Hall of Justice.  The narrator dives into Deckard’s thoughts through free, indirect discourse and calls to mind how nothing and no one makes sense about where he is, who he is with, and why he is just finding out about another police apparatus. Oddly enough, the room he enters is “equally familiar,” but all of its contents are foreign. He mentions how the “new” agency may not have even know about him and the other police agency, but questions even more so if he has been the only one left in the dark. He finds himself groping for questions he cannot know the answers to, which leaves the reader even more estranged to the expository setting. Also, the narrative estrangement is exciting because we can pinpoint how easily a character can snap and lose control of their reality and wonder what will happen next. The passage seems conspiratorial, but also has a near comedic sense of how limited Deckard’s worldview has been if a whole other police agency exists and he is just finding out. He finishes the passage with the conditional statement, “if it’s what it asserts itself to be” to remind one of Deckard’s deceptive and suspicious interpretation of an organization seemingly popping out of nowhere. Moreover, we are not sure if Deckard is just representing the narrative mind of a possible android with a false memory as Officer Crams jokingly says earlier.

Is Deckard Really Human?

“Then,” Miss Luft said, “you must be an android.”

That stopped him; he stared at her.

“Because,” she continued, “your job is to kill them, isn’t it?  You’re what they call-”  She tried to remember.

“A bounty hunter,” Rick said.  “But I’m not an android.”

…”Maybe there was once a human who looked like you, and somewhere along the line you killed him and took his place.  And your superiors don’t know.”  She smiled.  As if inviting him to agree.

“Let’s get on with the test,” he said, getting out the sheets of questions.

Dick, 101-102

The conversation that Deckard has with Luba Luft at this point in the novel is particularly interesting due to the fact that she so cavalierly brings to the forefront the idea that Deckard could very well be an android himself.  With this, an important question can be asked: would Deckard in fact be able to pass the empathy test even if he was not an android?  Compared to the other humans and androids we have met thus far in the novel, he truly does not seem to possess a remarkable deal of empathy, and the fact that some humans with low empathy scores can be killed in the place of an android is indeed brought up when Deckard is interrogating Rachael.  Does he recognize that he, as human, is not a particularly exemplary example of one?

Further, although his contempt for andys is made quite clear, given the dense aura of paranoia and suspicion that Dick has already so beautifully executed by the time Luft and Deckard converse, it would be foolish for us as readers to ignore the possibility that Deckard may not be what he seems, either- even though it truly does not seem to be the case.  However, through the suspicion of Deckard’s questionable status as human, we can further examine what it means to be human–both as readers today and as people living in a post-World War Terminus San Francisco–and why exactly we choose these certain characteristics to determine whether or not others are deemed worthy of being labeled as “human”.

The Empathy Box

“How long that part of the cycle lasted he did not know; nothing had happened, generally, so it had been measureless. But at last the bones had regained flesh; the empty eyepits had filled up and the new eyes had seen, while meantime the restored beaks and mouths had cackled, barked, and caterwauled. Possibly he had done it; perhaps the extrasensory node of his brain had finally grown back. Or maybe he hadn’t accomplished it; very likely it could have been a natural process.”

At this point, Isadore is connected to something called an empathy box and is climbing a hill all alone and with countless others at the same time.  The way this passage is written is completely disorienting.  The narrator and the characters have, at times, no sense of what is happening to them, which makes understanding the narration difficult.  Isadore, who is alone in the beginning of his chapter, is then surrounded by people who have some apparent mental connection with him, other “specials” with abilities similar to his perhaps, or he’s insane. This special connection is doubtful because Isadore, in scattered flashbacks that make little to no sense, suggests that his abilities were somehow taken away.  He was able to bring animals back to life which is against the law.  Something that is interesting in this book is that it seems to surround a single important sentence or half sentence in delirium so that the important sentence is ignored or misread.   “Possibly he had done it; perhaps the extrasensory node of his brain had finally grown back” is a sentence that suggests someone had forcibly taken his abilities away from him, but it is easily missed because the surrounding sentences are contradictions and random animal noises.  Maybe the author is trying to distract and disorient his readers.

Hint of Doubt

“In addition, no one today remembered why the war had come about or who, if anyone, had won” (Dick 15).

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick immerses the reader into a typical day in Rick Deckard’s life from the beginning of the story which may distract the reader from subtle hints of doubt. One such hint is evident in the above passage in which Rick mentions WWT. To begin with “In addition” suggests that this may be an afterthought of Rick’s which in turn can become an afterthought for the reader that can easily be forgotten. This creates a sense that this “addition” may not be that important which allows the sentence to creep in one’s mind and become just a subtle hint of doubt. Then, the narrator inserts his own thought with “if anyone” which casts the doubt that can be easily overlooked. The passage suggests that everyone, except the narrator, has accepted the fact that there was a war and that there is no need to know anything further.

Pris Stratton’s Identity

“I’m Rachael Rosen.”
“Of the Rosen Association?” [John] asked.
…”No…I never heard of them; I don’t know anything about it…My name…is Pris Stratton. That’s my married name; I always use it. I never use any other name but Pris.”

(Dick, 67-8).

Suspicion and doubt is immediately cast onto this scene as we are given little indication of what the truth is regarding Pris’ real identity. There are a few factors at play here regarding the doubt. The more obvious factor is her swift disregard that she had ever used the name Rachael Rosen before, or even knew the implications of using that name. This can only lead us to speculate that she’s hiding something regarding the Rosen Association (particularly as she says, “I don’t know anything about it. More of your chickenhead imagination, I suppose” [68]–using John’s “special” status as a way to divert the conversation away from her) and her association with it. Is she really Rachael Rosen, on the run now that she knows she’s an android? Or is this a different person (android?), and what is she hiding from?

The other factor at play here is John himself, as he takes on the role as narrator in this chapter. While he is perceptive to Pris’ strange nature (not knowing about Buster Friendly, being nonchalant about the empathy box, etc.), he doesn’t immediately question these qualities. He does say that she’s “out of touch” (69) and “may need help” (70), but he otherwise seems unbothered by her strangeness, even offering to teach her how to cook. This can be in part due to his “special” designation, which in turn leaves him to be much by his lonesome and without the example of other human beings to compare Pris to. It seems to be a matter of how much we can trust his perception and insight, as well as what we can gain from his observations in order to come to our own conclusions.