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Panopticism in the Blade Runner

Brad Wartman Professor John McGlothlin Eng-W 131 22 October 2011 Microtheme 4 The panoptic schema makes any apparatus of power more intense… It is a way of obtaining from power (Foucault 161). Foucault states that the Panopticon is set up in a way that a prisoner is forced to be self-discipline. The Panopticon is a building set up like a tower in the center with windows. “The Panopticon is a machine for dissociating the see/being seen dyad…one is totally seen, without being ever seen; in the central tower, one sees everything without ever being seen” (156).

A supervisor controls the prisoners’ actions because each cell has a window that is set up so that every move they make is being watched. “The panoptic mechanism arranges spatial unities that make it possible to see constantly and o recognize immediately” (154). In the essay “Panopticism”, Foucault thoroughly expresses how the Panopticon efficiently imposes a type a power that controls the inmates’ actions in a way that assures self-discipline. The movie Blade Runner presents power by dialogue. Bryant is the head of the police department that Deckard used to be a blade runner for.

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After Deckard retired, he was arrested and asked in a life-threatening matter to join the force again and hunt for replicants. Bryant states after Deckard tries to walk out on him, “Stop right where you are. You know the score pal. If you’re not cop, you’re little people” (Blade Runner). Bryant is indirectly stating that if Deckard does not try to help him kill the replicants, eventually the replicants will kill him. The power that the Panopticon in Foucault’s “Panopticism” relates to the power Harry Bryant has in Blade Runner.

Bryant displays power over Deckard as the Panopticon displays power over the inmates. The Panopticon’s major effect is to induce in the prisoner a state of permanent visibility that assures an automatic functioning of power (Foucault 156). In “Panopticism”, Foucault describes how the Panopticon has the power to control an inmate to become self-discipline. The prisoners know that the supervisors could be watching them at any distinct time due to the lighting and the windows the cell provides.

Since the guards distinctively could be watching what they are doing at any particular time, the prisoners have no choice but to discipline themselves at all times. Bryant also leaves Deckard with no choice as well. Deckard realizes that if he does not help Bryant attack all of the replicants, the replicants are eventually going to attack him. Although Foucault states that it does not matter what person exercises power, but he does in fact state that the Panopticon produces homogeneous effects of power (156).

In the movie’s case, Bryant exercises power the same way the Panopticon exercises power. This idea of how the Panopticon exercises power helps the audiences understand how Bryant was using his power against Deckard. Deckard and the inmates can also relate to each other. The inmates are left with no choice but to behave themselves because of the environment they are in. Any wrong move they make, the guards are going to catch them. Deckard is in the same position. Deckard is left with no choice but to help Bryant catch and kill the replicants that have entered Earth.

If Deckard does not help Bryant catch and kill the replicants, the replicants are going to kill him because Deckard is the only blade runner left that could possibly defeat the replicants. Works Cited Blade Runner. Dir. Ridley Scott. Perf. Harrison Ford, M. Emmet Walsh. 1982. Film. Foucault, Michel. “Panopticism. ” Readings for Analytical Writing. Comp. Christine Farris, Christopher Basgier, Harmony Jankowski, Carter Neal, Andy Oler. 3rd ed. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2011. 150-178. Print.


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