At boingboing they currently have ‘a ↑series of essays about movies that have had a profound effect on our invited essayists.’ The day before yesterday it was ↑Gareth Branwyn’s turn. From his ‘Like Tears in the Rain:’
I can’t really say what made such a fundamental impact on me. The dark noir mood of the film, certainly, and the questions it raises about the nature of life, memory, what constitutes humanity, and whether “androids dream of electric sheep…” What I didn’t know I was looking at was a cyberpunk aesthetic that I would soon become completely immersed in, through the work of William Gibson, John Shirley, and others — dystopian worlds, fifteen minutes into the future, where mega-corporations run the show, where personal and planetary technologies permeate society, and where the street finds its own uses for things.
By all means, go and read ↑the whole essay—warning: it has a bitter tragic twist at the end. For now, here are the corresponding paragraphs from ‘maxmod: an ethnography of cyberculture’ (2009), my unpublished ↑Habilitationsschrift:
Besides playing, collecting and trading computer games, or turning into wiz kids destined to become millionaires, we ’80s teen kids of course are digesting popular culture by the ton—comic books, television, and the cinema are on our daily diet.
At the cinema we are not watching the likes of ‘Earth vs. The Flying Saucers,’ as Stephen King did, when he was of our age. We are reading Stephen King, and are watching the next generation—pun maybe intended. Unlike with 50s and 60s science fiction movies, computers now no more simply are funky set props, but are at the core of the plot.
In ‘Tron’ (Lisberger 1982) a hacker is split up into his molecules and then transported inside a computer. There he teams up with ‘good’ programs and fights against ‘bad’ programs. But computers do not only feature in the movie—vast portions of it were made by the aid of computers. ‘Tron’ is one of the first movie employing computer-generated graphics on a grand scale, which has the according effect on us.
The following year sees ‘WarGames’ (Badham 1983). Again a computer is at the centre of the story—and a hacker, who saves the world. We wholeheartedly embrace these stories, because they have an integral relationship with ourselves. It is us who, before we enter the cinema late afternoon, hang around at the department store, having our fingers on the keyboards of the very machines we then see on the silver screen.
Of course we do love ‘Star Wars’ (Lucas 1977, 1980, 1983), and for our lifetime will never cease to do so, but the mellow fairy tale mythology of this space operas disguised as science fiction is not enough. We are teenagers, no more ‘li’l kiddies.’ We hit adolescence, are high on testosterones, and it is the ‘harder stuff’ that fascinates us and drags us along.
‘Escape from New York’ (Carpenter 1981) is fine, but there are too less computers in it. James Cameron’s ‘The Terminator’ (1984), the breakthrough for Arnold Alois Schwarzenegger (*1947), satisfies our appetite for action in the right setting.
But what really touches us in a strange way, unsettles us within, is Ridley Scott’s ‘Blade Runner’ (1982), dealing with some profound philosophical questions which are right within anthropology’s core. E.g. ‘What is human?’ Remember: ‘Anthropology. A discourse on human nature.’ (Encyclopædia Britannica 1771: I, 327)