Within dystopic fiction, there is often a kind of way out to the dilemmas the society creates or enforces. What do you see as the principal “way out” suggested in each movie, and how does one differ from another? How, as well, do these visions of “wrongness” suggest what is wrong with our own culture, or at least as our culture was in the 1980’s?
Blade Runner depicts life in Los Angeles in November 2019, where human beings are manufactured genetically to carry out risky and undignified work in planet earth’s “off-world colonies”. In this urbanized society of chaos, fear is used as a way of coercing the collective will of its citizenry. Some of these fears include globalization, fear of aliens (earthly and otherwise), fear of immigrants, and a fear of loss of cultural identity. Other elements that contribute to the dystopic state are: widespread acts of violence within the working classes, and a dummy government that is utterly incapable of restoring any law and order. The escalating anarchy is related to the densely populated urban settings, the predominant of which is Los Angeles. The above mentioned characteristics of urban life in 2019 America may not have all elements of a dystopian state manifest in it. But, there is enough chaos, anarchy, disorder and violence to classify this environment s a dystopian one.
On the other hand, the dystopia depicted in the movie Brazil is not so much an anarchic one as it a totalitarian one. It has resonances with the George Orwell’s dystopia of 1984 – an impotent bureaucracy, prompt action against dissenters and a highly commercialized culture where elevated human values are of no positive consequence. To top this state of civil decay, the totalitarian government is also inhuman and inefficient. The people feel hopeless and have no option other than subordinating themselves for the interests of the state. The constant surveillance of people keeps the whole society on an edge, making violent civil outbreaks a frequent occurrence. The violations against basic rights are so profound that protestation as a concept does not even arises among the people.
In both the cases of fiction, the natural conditions for a psychologically healthy living are not provided to the people by the state. Hence, they resort to violent and unethical ways of finding some respite. In both the movies, terrorism is shown as a ever growing phenomenon. More disturbingly, its prevalence is so profound that the people have accepted it as part of their lives. The domination of Multi-national business corporations over the working classes (which form the majority) makes them more powerful than governments. With their increased power, multi-national corporations exploit the desperate sections of the populace across geo-political boundaries, which is quite similar to the globalization of the 1980’s. As a result, the disparities between the rich and the poor reach extreme proportions. The only way people subject to this oppression can break free, is by embracing the rules of the dytopian society. In Blade Runner, the repression finds compensation from sadistic, violent and anti-social attitudes and beliefs. In Brazil, the compensation (the “way out”) is found by joining the forces of oppression. By doing so, people can escape from the subordinate working class misery to the privileges and comforts of the ruling classes of the dystopic society. While the solutions adopted by people in this situation might not meet ethical standards of human conduct, they are also the only means of survival. So, in the final analysis, the moral decadence manifest in the dystopic societies depicted in the Blade Runner and Brazil are justifiable given the context. Hence, a label of “wrong doings” will be an inappropriate and unjust imposition on the members of these societies. If anything, it is a statement on the societal conditions prevailing in the 1980’s, which would not even allow well-meaning individuals in living a virtuous life.