In the 1960’s, London tourists were bused around San Fransisco, gawking and snapping pictures of flower children living on the streets and reaping the consequences of doing what feels good.
A generation prior to this, parents lived vicariously through their children, enforcing impossible standards and holding love hostage.
That’s what I’ve heard, anyway. I’ve watched documentaries and read articles about generational sin and the influences that shape our culture. I’ve had a few talks with family members on the subject of how things were in their time. But my generation defined itself most with its pop culture, in a year when Time Magazine’s person of the year was the computer.
Among several classic films released in 1982, one in particular offered a film-noir slant on the sci-fi genre. Blade Runner, based on the novel, “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?”, questions what makes us human.
What I find interesting about this film is the androids, called “replicants”, are designed with the desire to be more than they are, but in the film’s setting, mankind is devoid of such aspirations.
Roy Batty (pictured above), along with a band of replicants escapes to Earth, seeking to live a life of his own choosing. This is impossible, Roy discovers. Every replicant has just a few years to live. There is no way for them to live any longer than their designer predetermined. Overwhelmed with grief and rage over the fickle purpose and short term of his life, Roy destroys his pitiless maker.
I can only imagine how dismal it must feel to suddenly realize your life’s purpose is to please another. I can understand why that would drive a generation to “free love”.
My generation is too far removed from the struggles of living to appreciate that life is more than a spectacle. It’s as though we’ve forgotten ourselves in our addiction to stimulus, a sort of cold-war raging against our will to thrive. In an era of wealth bereft of sacrifice, materialism defines us. Our American culture today is just as synthetic in its heart as it is in its treasures.
The real cruelty Roy suffered, is that he had been made to hope. Hope is most often misplaced in our aspirations and it is something, I think, most hated by those who believe the lies of their generation. Many hope “not to be” like their parents.
This is why I’m captivated by Roy’s final scene. He’s seen all the spectacles and accomplished the greatest of the dreams of men, and he comes back to dingy earth so that he can be more human.
Harrison Ford’s character, Rick Deckard, watches with remorse as the life fades from Roy after his monologue about memories. It’s as if the last of mankind’s will to live life to the fullest had just died with one of its own creations.
In a culture of glowing, vibrant entertainment full of immediate rewards, it seems to me the filmmakers were spot on in their estimation of the future from their perspective. Generations leap from one end of the spectrum to the other, never actually attaining contentment, only knowing what to defy.
Who are we? Do we have transcendent purpose? Or are we little more than our own handiwork?
Roy understood the burden of living under the imposed will of humans. “Quite an experience to live in fear, isn’t it? …That’s what it is to be a slave.”
Purpose is not imposed, but bestowed.