"In feminist film theory's attempt to explain how sexual difference is represented in the cinema, costuming has been a surprisingly neglected factor." -- Gaylyn Studlar

"Skirting the Edge":
Costume, Masquerade, and the Plastic Body in
Blade Runner

By Francesca Myman

In Blade Runner, costume both encases and exposes the body, and becomes a tool of self-examination and revelation. Costume and masquerade have traditionally been the outlet for the vague artistic longings of women denied "real" art, and it is reassuring to see these "feminine" arenas achieve stature. "Such decorative concerns were of course more usually associated with the middle-class woman, who, while being denied the possibility of creating great art, was encouraged to exercise her aesthetic sense in the decoration of herself and the intimate interior of the bourgeois household." (Felski 96) This feminine focus on the artifice of personal appearance has been associated with the "unnatural" body of women. The artificial or prosthetic qualities of costuming can be paralleled with the artificial or cyborg body presented in Blade Runner. "Natural" human identity is under scrutiny in Blade Runner, and costume at times becomes the interrogator of this elusive self. The long history of "aestheticization of women", marked by "elaborate regimes of grooming", has resulted in the creation of the modern woman as a fashion cyborg. (Felski 94) "In becoming identified with such conventionalized [costume] signifiers, femininity loosened itself from its moorings in the natural body. . ." (Felski 94-95) This new cyborg of fashion may prove liberating to women, insofar as it represents awareness of the self and the ability to define the boundaries of the natural body, or, potentially, confining insofar as it requires divorce from the "natural" or biological body.

We first see Pris in the rain, metal dog collar around her neck, frizzy blonde hair obviously bleached. A black shirt barely covers her, and her nylons, held up by garters, show half-circles of her upper thighs. She is the classic image of a waif-whore. This image is a disguise which she has donned to lure J.F. Sebastian into the Replicant's trap. At the same time as she is a lure for J.F., chosen for her harmless and appealing looks, she is also dangerous bait. The smile is wiped off her face as easily as the makeup which the rain washes off her cheeks. Faint traces of mascara make dark bruises around her eyes. She anticipates Sebastian's salvage route and allows herself to be "picked up", burying herself underneath shifting mounds of garbage, which momentarily disguise her and become a second costume. She, like La Femme Nikita, is born out of the garbage, only she chooses her dumpster destination. The only weapon which she uses upon J.F. is her looks, yet J.F. needs little convincing. Her beauty, in striking contrast to the flotsam she is "born" from, functions as a kind of universal permit. J.F. himself is unremarkably clad, like most of the men in the film, and his prematurely aging face, which functions as a kind of mask hiding his own youth, clearly does not preclude the hormonal fascinations of youths in their twenties. Although he may already have a vague inkling that she is "too perfect", a Nexus 6 Replicant, he cannot resist the lure of bringing a "drop-dead" (literally) gorgeous woman into his lonely bachelor's apartment, which is littered with semi-lifeless toys performing meaningless tasks of greeting.

When Pris reaches his apartment, she begins to look like one of the toys which he has made. She blends in well in the macabre carnival of toys. This semblance is heightened when, the next morning, Pris undergoes a transformation. She wanders through his toys, looking around her with her illicit and uninvited gaze after checking to make certain that he is asleep. He is the only human drab enough to be fully "real" in that setting. Her very beauty creates her as an unreal being. She has been playing with his makeups, and has caked her face with clownish white makeup. She closes her eyes to spray them with a black jar of spraypaint which may or may not be intended as makeup. Her Replicant eyes do not water or tear in response, and she admires the garish raccoon-mask of black shading her eyes. She asks Sebastian what he thinks of how she looks this morning. He says hoarsely, "You look beautiful." Yet the makeup is unnatural and her full-body suit makes her look like a typical dress-mannikin covered by featureless tan burlap. The makeup across her eyes only heightens this "created" look. Her movements throughout the course of the scene become increasingly more animalistic. She crouches with animal grace near the floor, dangling a small Barbie figure by its blonde hair, an artifact to be examined. The doll is a truncated torso, but the two mirror each other like sisters.

"Show me something," says Sebastian, asking Pris to perform for him, to do a "trick". "Anything." "I think, therefore I am," Pris says in reply. She denies the perception of her as a doll by thrusting her hand into primordial, boiling water, grabbing a brown breakfast egg. At the same time as she proves the superhuman plasticity and durability of her Barbie-doll skin, she throws the egg, symbol of birth and motherhood, to Sebastian, who breaks the egg instantly. "[Dorian Grey's] yearning to retain the flawless and ageless qualities of his own portrait [which] uncannily pre-empts the narcissistic fantasies inspired by the dream world of contemporary advertising," is like the yearning shared by Pris and Roy. (Felski 97) Pris reminds Sebastian that he is her creator, and also that he is unable to handle what he has created. At the same time she reminds him both of his own mortality and of her impending premature death. She becomes synonymous with the egg, an unhatched embryo of potential, boiled in the water of her own white-hot activity, and crushed in the hand of her creator. However, her creator does not escape unharmed -- his human hands feel the heat.

She uses her ability to fit in amongst J.F.'s circus toys to her advantage when Deckard comes hunting. Her first resort is to her looks. Like Zhora, she does not instantly attack. Instead, she undergoes a further transformation into stillness. Her eyes flutter and roll up, becoming fully white, as if she is entering a faint. This action seems to indicate a transformation which occurs at the bodily level. She is not merely "keeping still", she is entering into a hyper-human state of disguise which will allow her to stay perfectly still, mannikin-like, without discomfort. She recognizes that her best chance, given her mannikin appearance, is to "hide" out in the open. The only covering which she assumes is a long white veil which shrouds her but does not conceal or obscure; rather it functions merely as a mist to blur her reality.

At this moment, her third transformation occurs. She transforms visually into a kind of ghostly bridal doll. At the same time as she waits for Roy to arrive as her bridegroom, death too lurks as her second groom. The innocence of the bridal imagery is in stark contrast with the fate which she awaits. She seems protected by the thin veil, but when Deckard removes the fine tulle, drawing it away in a move reminiscent of Salome and the dance of the seven veils, she is naked under his gaze, although he still is uncertain as to her identity. He probes at the veil with his black gun -- it is, in fact, almost a symbolic rape scene. The unwilling bride erupts out of her pose and kicks him across the room. She brings Deckard into the deadly embrace of her legs, just as she trapped Sebastian.

While she remains under the veil, she can be seen as a kind of crouching poisonous spider, simultaneously trapped and protected under her web. Her animalistic movement are likened to the spider's: "Pris' status as spider-woman seems to go beyond purely an abstract form. She paints herself black and white, virtually becoming the spider she so clearly resembles, and hides beneath a white veil, the spider waiting in her web." (Scott) In the cluttered room, which is not in the least home-like and is actually more like an old antique and novelty shop or props warehouse, the veil takes on the appearance of cobwebs draped over her with age. She has lost the mobility associated with the spider and is trapped in her own sticky web. The "body of the dominatrix frequently blurs into the image of a white statue made of marble or stone, offering a clear example of what Christine Buci-Glucksmann describes as 'the masculine desire to immobilize, to petrify the female body'."(Felski 110) The veil of petrifaction also resembles a dust cover, which might be draped over furniture to prevent its destruction by the onslaught of time and wear. Whether she is a spider trapped in her own web, a bride doll modeling a veil, or a precious item of furniture carefully preserved, Pris is immobilized. Like the mother spider of Rachael's dream, she helplessly waits to be consumed. "You remember the spider that lived in a bush outside your window? Orange body. Green legs. Watched her build a web all summer. Then one day there was a big egg in it. The egg hatched... And a hundred baby spiders came out and ate her." (Scott) Yet once the veil is removed, her reactive power is unleashed, and the "bush" in which her power "lives" becomes the female genitalia.

Pris has been, throughout the film, portrayed as an attractive spider-woman, luring JF into taking Batty to see Tyrell. Here, however, she becomes a grotesque clown, who grimaces in her conflict with the Blade Runner. The threat to Deckard clearly comes from the source of Pris' power, i.e. her sex, and the mixture of images between Deckard being crushed and the toothy grimace of his assailant seems to suggest a vagina dentata. Creed. . .[states] that 'the myth about woman as castrator clearly points to male fears and phantasies about the female genitals as a trap, a black hole which threatens to swallow them up and cut them into pieces. The vagina dentata is the mouth of hell...' (Creed, 1993) (Scott)

This moment, in which Deckard grimaces helplessly between her legs, is reminiscent of a birth at the same time as it evokes the vagina dentata myth. Pris takes on the persona of a grotesque clown, her makeup distorting her face into wild warpaint-like swatches of color. A distortion, she becomes hyper-violent, all beauty erased from her face. Once this beauty is erased and the facade of the veil destroyed, Deckard is able to identify and shoot her. The frantic electric writhing of her death is orgasmic in intensity, but associated with pain rather then pleasure. Her release from beauty is freeing in some way for the viewer -- almost a relief after her visual perfection. In the moment of her ugliness, she becomes hyper-human, more so than when she was beautiful -- she is now raw emotional need. Deckard "puts her out of her misery" by shooting her in the belly -- she cannot exist, having shown her other, "ugly" face to the world.

Pris is killed when she is shot in the stomach. As Pris gets her strength from her sexuality, being shot in the uterus is symbolic. Also, as Pris is the surrogate mother of Batty, the nature of her death forms a violent and bloody birthing sequence for Roy Batty, which may explain why Batty is virtually naked for the final scenes. (Scott)

Batty's nakedness seems to exemplify him as an ideal specimen of the male form, while Zhora's nakedness occurs in an exploitative context. Zhora , when first seen "in the flesh", is naked as far as the camera shows, except for a body makeup consisting of glittering sequin "scales" which make her skin look inhuman and starry, and a large manufactured snake wrapped around her neck. The snake is both her costume and her signifier. It identifies her. In fact, it was the snake scale which led Deckard to her in the first place. The scale, like the snake itself, and like Zhora, is identified and chained at the molecular level by a collar of ownership which states "finest quality" and gives a serial number. This collar resembles Pris's dog collar. Although we know that her genes are owned when under magnification, and that the snake is a replicant, the archaic resonance of her costuming endows her with power.

Zhora's archaic costume emerges from a crowd of women dressed in old Film-Noir style -- with a twist. To refer to a classic Film Noir: "Gilda's clothes further sustain this dialectic [of the interrogation of sexuality]. They are cut to accentuate the contours of her body to the point of distortion, while their stiff fabrics, paddings, stays, gems, and zippers preclude the touch solicited by her bared skin. Such excess of the feminine encodes difference-- not only gender difference, but also the radical separation between the seen and the known." (Dittmar 12) If Gilda exaggerated the body of the Film Noir heroine, then Blade Runner takes the distortion a step further, distorting Gilda's contortion of style. The fashions are heightened and exaggerated, the cigarette holders lengthened, the pomade stiffer, the animalistic opium-poppy-colored feathers larger than life, and all is permeated by smoky decadence and lush color. Unnatural proturbences do not attempt to appear like a natural part of the human form; a black woman in a pearl silk top flirts ravishingly, endowed with strange hoopskirt-like forms extending from her arms. Most importantly, the dynamics of the clothing are exposed. In countless costumes of flamboyant passersby, sheer fabric allows the viewer to see into the ribs of sleeves, which are visible like archaic bones of strange distorted beasts. The sleeve itself becomes deconstructed and dissected for the public gaze, appearing almost like a mechanical wing or extension of the body. The body becomes merely a starting-point for prosthetics and additions which, if unearthed in a future archeological site, would give little clue as to the anatomy of the wearer. This literal dissection of costume is accompanied by costume's figurative use as a means to dissect the identity and humanity of its wearer. Historicity is also called into question. A woman flashes replete with a square neckline, long skirt, and huge puffed sleeves coated with decadent mushroom-like ruffles; the effect is almost Elizabethan in its stylistic references; at the same time a crowd passes like a collage, adorned with outlandish eighteen-century style hats in techno-punk style with patent leather. Time blurs. Futuristic and ancient fashion are one and the same thing. Mesh veils make the eyes a mystery. This mechanically and historically uncertain background is Zhora's backdrop, from which she emerges, the only woman who is unclad. She completes the historic panorama with an almost prehistoric reference to Eve and the snake. Introduced offscreen by a hawker who cries "Miss Salome and the Snake! Watch her take the pleasure from the serpent that once corrupted men!", she hurries along, eager to be done with her act and out of her costume, or least in a hurry to get to her dressing-room.

It is ironic that Deckard poses as a member of the "variety artist's moral abuses committee". He asks her if she "felt [herself] to be exploited in any way", or if she was asked to do anything "lewd or unsavory to [her] person." Deckard assures her he will "look for those dirty little holes" that men drill into walls, telling her "you'd be surprised what men would do for the sight of a beautiful body." She wouldn't be at all surprised, or so she says, and indeed it is unlikely that she would be, seeing as her body and her state of dress or undress are continually on exhibit as product or "meat" whether or not she is recognized as a Replicant. For her employers, it is enough that she is a beautiful woman.

The serpent around her neck becomes an autoerotic boa as well as a phallic symbol which gives her far more stature than Deckard, whose voice changes to a nerd's wheeze when he sees her. Ostensibly the change in his voice is a disguise to set her off guard and make him sound harmless, but it ultimately appears as a kind of self-castration in her presence. The phallic image of the snake accompanies Zhora long after she washes off her metallic "scales". Deckard examines a sequin off of her gauzy costume as if it might hold as many answers as the snake scale itself. Both scale and sequin appear as pieces of tinsel, precious bits of Zhora's own extended body. This animalistic, poisonous potential of the serpent is foreshadowed when Zhora is first introduced by the police reports and we are told that she was created to fill a role on a homicide/murder squad. "Talk about Beauty and the Beast. She's both," drawls the policeman. Zhora's apparent transformation from beauty to beast is accomplished through costuming. Zhora as the snake is a pleasure goddess. When she dons cyberpunk garb, she becomes a hard-edged animalistic beast-woman.

Her transformation is drawn out to the tempo of the strip-tease reversed. "Evil on the part of the woman is only a discardable garment -- her threatening aspects can be detached, peeled away like layers. . ." (Doane 107) Character becomes caught up in feminine rituals such as hair-drying. The drying machine for her hair resembles a space helmet or transmogrifying device. For a moment the feminine activity of hair-drying under a bulb, associated with old ladies in beauty parlors, becomes suffused with a sense of menace. Zhora's face is in shadow and her hair whips around her head, as for a moment we see her with no disguise at all. She proceeds to don S&M style thigh-high boots, a front-clasp bra and briefs, and a silicon raincoat which seems to serve little purpose, as it does little to conceal her or keep her dry. Her changing seems to be a calculated attempt to get herself clothed enough to run, as she won't get far in bare feet, and her assessment of the situation apparently leads her to believe she can afford to stall and catch Deckard by surprise, gaining an advantage. But the second her dressing is complete she erupts into violence. The dressing room, like the strip-joint, is in itself a feminine space which is alien to Deckard. The moment she leaves it and goes outside into the world of the streets, she becomes horribly vulnerable.

The sheer plastic raincoat is a particularly evocative item of costuming. "She seems to assume that he is one of the perverts that he is talking about and attacks him, before fleeing into the night, wearing a bizarre, cumbersome, almost fetishist, costume." (Scott) At the same time as it clearly presents her body to be devoured by the male gaze and makes her vulnerable, it represents an almost invisible technological protection -- a kind of second skin. The plastic raincoat also serves to highlight her android nature. When she falls beneath Deckard's bullets, the coat flies up stiffly around her, like the wings of an insect, which is then crushed. The coat is bloodied and torn, and when she finally comes to a rest, it settles around her body and lends her skin a plastic look. Her back is shiny, but we are able to see the human skin beneath, and that is part of the horror of her death. Fittingly enough, the Salome figure, associated with the orientalist imagery of the dance of the seven veils, is exposed as a violent, exhibitionist myth. The sense of her bursting through layers of veils becomes violent as she crashes through five sheets of glass. Instead of revealing herself, she finds herself fleeing further and further into an endless sequence of glass. It is an ice palace, a hallway lined with plastic handmaidens adorned in swimwear which pathetically advertise their clothing and bodies as product. There is even a bit of fake snow in the final display she penetrates, making her the one living mannikin amongst countless Snow Queens. This department store death shows the futility of a figure such as Zhora attempting to break through the barriers of display which surround her. The department store is a glass cage, and her jacket becomes aesthetically similar to the shards around her. Her clothing, and especially her raincoat, is exposed as a kind of portable department store display, hawking her ribs and skin and belly button to passers-by as stock.

Our last sight of her is of a tattoo of a snake. The tattoo in and of itself is a "punk" construct, and also represents permanence and decoration.

Science fiction films, from Robocop to the recent Japanese cult film Tetsuo: The Iron Man, imprint our imaginations with images of the new, increasingly adaptable human-cum-cyborg who can exfoliate one body and instantly construct another. One might even speculate a link between the surprising popularity of modern primitivism (piercing, tattooing, body modification) and the emerging techno-mythology of "morphing" the human body to the demands and opportunities of a post-human age. The human body is becoming a hack site, the mythology goes, a nexus where humanity and technology are forging a new and powerful relationship. (Branwym)

In a literal sense, Zhora has had a "skin job" performed on the most vulnerable part of her -- her face. Memory becomes inscribed on her unlined neck. She is instantly identifiable by a kind of "skin-clothing" which transcends mere cloth and becomes in effect another onion-layer of costume, so that the skin itself is no longer part of the "natural" self, but rather another external representation.

Unfortunately, the barriers she breaks through and the memories she inks on her skin are not enough to let her break through into a utopia where her body is not "meat". "As Pimentel and Teixeira describe it in Virtual Reality: Through the New Looking Glass, 'the. . .[graphical interface] that has kept us outside the screen looking in has dissolved, and we can step through the glass -- replacing the desktop metaphor with a complete environment.'" (Ierardi) Zhora does not make this transition from a real world into a "better" virtual world or utopia, although what is real and what is not begin to blend in Blade Runner. "One could imagine the 'new world' created by VR [Virtual Reality] as a 'utopian space for feminists'. It is quite possible to envision the 'other side of the looking glass' as a gender-fluid zone constructed without the limitations of the physical body, defying biology and corporeality, abandoning the classification of gender allowing the subject unlimited ability to 'take pleasure in the confusion of boundaries.'" (Ierardi) Boundaries, whether of clothing or of identity, offer no pleasure to Zhora, and a "gender-fluid zone" is nowhere in sight.

"Rachael's exquisite clothing mixes the styles of yesteryear with a look toward tomorrow. Each stripe of her suit, designed by Charles Knode and Michael Kaplan, is a separate piece of silk."

Rachael, unlike Pris and Zhora, is not labeled with a definition which precludes her screen appearance. It is unclear what kind of a "model" she is, or exactly what "function" she is supposed to perform. Her costuming, however, gives clear hints into her character and how she is "designed" to be perceived. As a "Skin Job", she emerges out of an entirely different space than Zhora's crowded bar-cum-theater. She lives at the top of the world in Tyrell's pyramid-throne, surrounded by wide open empty spaces which are sterile and grand, and Greek columns which look like standing stones, casting stripes of shadow in the setting sun. Her clothing is undeniably sculptural. Costume is used to monumentalize her and create her as an android. Shoulder padding, stark straight lines, and lacquered hair make her proportions too perfect and slightly extreme. At the same time, they evoke the historicity which neither Pris nor Zhora can claim -- her clothing is closely based on a forties Film Noir model, and it evokes a sense of nostalgia and grandeur and richness which comes from the lush historical background the shapes tap into. Her clothing instantaneously places her in relationship to history -- she is not purely modern, instead, she is classic. Her high heels click on the floor, and her icy perfection, muted behind layers of smoke, blends with both past and present, making her a more flexible character temporally than Zhora and Pris, and lending her a weight of authenticity and social class. At the same time, the costume style is heightened to the point where it becomes a parody of its origins. In this sense, even her costume questions Rachael's relationship to the female stereotypes endemic to film noir. The forties' style has become rigid and mechanized.

Later, her costuming is used to soften her. She undergoes a gradual transformation -- beginning first in her voluminous fake fur coat, which has a stiff, almost Elizabethan collar which frames her face and increases her stature, much as a cat's fur blows up the size of the frightened cat. Her face peeps out of the top of her huge coat, which seems well-designed to protect her against heart-freezing cold, and again evokes richness. She kills Leon in this bearish but tailored coat, which suddenly takes on an animalistic look. The next time we see her, she has removed the coat, and the colors of her costume have softened. She is in a more prosaic, girlish dress which paints broad stripes of dun, tan, and cream across her body and has a Victorian high collar fastened with a modified bow. While sitting at Deckard's piano, she removes her outer coat, mirroring Deckard's earlier action, and slowly proceeds to effect her most significant change as a character, which is manifested in the external action of "the letting down of her hair".

At this point, her harsh older look softens to a wistful Pre-Rafaelite one. Once she has let down her hair, Deckard can approach her, and does. This appropriation of a softer aesthetic parallels the beginning of her acceptance of herself as a cyborg. Her ability to play the piano in some way validates her memories and their veracity, whether or not they are manufactured. At the same time as she accepts herself as machine, part of her mechanical aesthetic sloughs off and she becomes in fact more human.

When "Rachel [sic] is at the piano she alters her hair from the artificial looking style she wore previously, to a bushy, and more natural style, seemingly mimicking one of the photos in Deckard's possession, a sepia print of a woman that he spends time looking at, when sitting at the piano. . . [Due to the] connection between family history and photographs, it could be argued that this represents a further Oedipal rape, where Rachel in effect becomes at least the image of what Deckard views as his mother." (Scott)

Although I find this theory extreme, the idea that Rachael is mimicking the archaic photo bears discussion. Whether or not the letting down of her hair is an act of imitation, it is certainly a visual representation of her vulnerability in the face of memory. She is, in a sense, facing a symbol of her manufactured nature whenever she picks up a photograph. Deckard's collection of photos is particularly interesting in that it bears reference to a broad number of costume styles, ranging from ancient daguerreotype photos to more modern color prints. It is significant that the image which Rachael picks up is a daguerreotype of a woman which has become sepia-toned with age, in a color that matches Rachael's faded dress. Rachael is confronting memory. Every memory she has originates in her masculine creator, Tyrell, to whom she is "related" on an intimate level, in that the memories implanted in her did once belong to a "real" girl, Tyrell's niece. These memories were initially constructed by a woman, although their transference was accomplished by a man. The image of a woman which Rachael picks up is not recent, but instead centuries removed, which therefore expands her personal internal conflict and search for a missing maternal figure. The conflict is displaced out of her time, and into a broader dialogue, in much the same way as the dialogue invoked by the potpourri historicity of the masquerade at Zhora's bar. If in fact Rachael lets down her hair in imitation, trying to approximate an "ancestress's" appearance, then she is trying to locate herself within history.

For Rachael, memory becomes a costume. "As Claire Sponsler explains, 'the sensations and experiences unique to one human being -- what would seem to define that person-- are transformed and projected via technology... In this world one's own experiences are no longer just one's own and offer no mechanism for self-determination or self-definition.'" (Ierardi) In a very literal way, Rachael's experiences and memories, projected into her by technology, are no longer her own and cannot be trusted for self-definition in even the same way that the clothes on her back can be relied upon to define her. A false memory is tattooed on her unlined skin, forcing her to act in certain discrete ways. Keller mentions Foucalt's definition of the "the body [as] the inscribed surface of events. . . and a volume in perpetual disintegration." Rachael, exposed to her own artificiality, proceeds to undergo a reserved and hidden process of what might be regarded as a striptease, if "striptease presupposes, on the part of the spectator, an immersion in the very process of peeling away accretions of layers." (Doane 106) Revelation of the body is presented here as revelation of a deeper adult self -- as Rachael peels off cloth layers, she interrogates herself and her identity.

At the end of the movie, she is still in the same costume, but her hair is down, representing her humanization and liberation, although she is still dressed in her high heels and is accompanied by their characteristic rhythm on the floor. Yet her high heels, rather than representing a tired icon of feminine suppression, becomes a phallic symbol of power as she treads on the menacing unicorn. At the same time as this represents her "loss of purity" or virginity, insofar as the unicorn represents Gaff's threat to follow them her destruction of it creates some hope that she will be able to survive both Gaff's woman-hunt and her own existence as a cyborg.

The fascination in popular culture with the "unnatural" cyborg woman is exemplified in the well-known figure of the artist Soyarama, whose slick images of metallic babes have hit the mainstream. One of his books is entitled Sexy Robot (Genko-Sha, 1983). In response to questioning on the name, Sorayama replies,

"After my first book of illustrations, Sexy Robot, was published, my works began to be well-known internationally. I was somewhat disappointed by the title, as it did not seem to quite catch the image of the erotic female cyborg that I was trying to express. . . The term "Gynoid"[title of his second book] was created by the female British SF writer, Gwyneth Jones, and developed by another British SF writer, Richard Calder who lives in Thailand. The word is derived from "Android" which denotes a cyborg with male attributes. 'Gynoid' expresses the image of the female cyborg which I had long sought in that it tactfully combines both the human and the mechanical." (Sorayama -- excerpt from Gynoids)

Yet Sorayama's Gynoids are unabashedly commercial, and are based on the exploitation of female flesh. Perhaps Rachael, who represents the "business" of the traffic in flesh, begins to interrogate her own circumstances, and the ease with which female and mechanical aesthetics are combined:

Somehow the cold steel where there should be warm flesh isn't as disquieting as it should be [in Sorayama's works]. The unfamiliar body is not hard to accept, perhaps owing to the way that perfection of the female form in advertising and pinup style is so greatly emphasized, even to the point of retouching any imperfections. Likewise, the surface treatments and proportions of the robots are highly polished and idealized. (Jonas 14)

Insofar as the cinema represents a space of "visual manipulation" and play with "surface treatments", imagery has the power to create alternate realities. (Ierardi) In Blade Runner, this is especially true due to the recurring themes of sight and eyes which interrogate our process of looking. Ultimately, Blade Runner "skirts the edges" of a breakthrough in perceptions of the feminine by toying with the feminine aesthetics of body and costume.


Benjamin, Andrew, "At Home with Replicants: The Architecture of Blade Runner", basilisk:ecrits, http://swerve.basilisk.com/A/A_Benjamin_BRunner_110.html

Branwyn, Gareth, "The Desire to Be Wired", http://www.hotwired.com/wired/1.4/features/desire.to.be.wired.html

Dittmar, Linda, "From Fascism to the Cold War: Gilda's Fantastic Politics"

Doane, Mary Ann, "Gilda, Epistemology as Striptease", Chapter 5

Felski, Rita; "The Gender of Modernity"; Harvard University Press; Cambridge, Massachusetts & London, England; 1995

Fraiberg, Allison, "OF AIDS, CYBORGS, AND OTHER INDISCRETIONS: RESURFACING THE BODY IN THE POSTMODERN", Postmodern Culture, University of Washington, v.1 n.3, May, 1991

Haraway, Donna, "The Ironic Dream of a Common Language for Women in the Integrated Circuit: Science, Technology, and Socialist Feminism in the 1980s or A Socialist Feminist Manifesto for Cyborgs", History of Consciousness Board, University of California at Santa Cruz, October, 1983

Ierardi, Michele L. "The Polychromatic Girl Confronts the Virtual Boy: Questioning the Construction of Gender in Virtual Reality", http://faraday.clas.virginia.edu/~mli5e/thesis.html

Jonas, Bill, "Sorayama", Airbrush Action, Jan-Feb 1992 9-20

Keller, Ed, "CINEMATIC THRESHOLDS: Instrumentality, Time & Memory in the Virtual", 1995, http://att2.cs.mankato.msus.edu/%7Ekens/HS/collect/books/

Kobler, Tristan, "SYNCHRONICITY: The City as a Cyborg. Influence of Digital Technologies on Architecture and the City", http://a77.ethz.ch/~tristan/Texte/Cyborg.html

Scott, Simon H., "Is Blade Runner a Misogynist Text?", 2019: Off-World, 1996, http://kzsu.stanford.edu/uwi/br/br-misog.html

Stone, Allucqu?re Rosanne, "Will the Real Body Please Stand Up?", Cyberspace: First Steps, ed. Michael Benedikt (Cambridge: MIT Press, 1991): 81-118.

Studlar, Gaylyn, "Masochism, Masquerade, and the Erotic Metamorphoses of Marlene Dietrich", Fabrications: Costume and the Female Body, Routledge, New York & London

Copyright Francesca Myman 1996.


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