Simon H. Scott
Ridley Scott's Blade Runner (1982) has been probably one of the most talked about Science Fiction films for many years. The film portraying a cast of retched characters lost in an environment devoid of order and short on justice has been lauded for its approach to science fiction as a genre (mixed with Film Noir, and practically creating the cyberpunk genre, at least within cinema). It is discussed in great detail in terms of its post modernist aspects, and the debate as to whether the film is post-modern in its presentation, or if it is about post modernism itself. The recent release of the Director's Cut rejuvenated discussion of the film by bringing to a wider audience the ambiguity of Deckard's reality, i.e. the possibility that Deckard is a Replicant. However, an aspect which is most commonly overlooked when examining Blade Runner is that of the misogyny which is so apparent throughout the film. When a film is so rich in detail, so convoluted and ambiguous in plot, such things may often be overlooked. In this essay, however, it is this possible misogyny I wish to address, examine its roots, and whether the misogyny present makes the text as a whole misogynist, or whether the misogyny is there for some other purpose more in line with the films key paradigm.
Throughout the essay the version referred to is the Director's Cut. This means that some of the sources, such as Neale (1989), are slightly inaccurate as they pertain to the original release, where it is not so clear that Deckard is a Replicant. However, the way that they have been applied does not negate what the sources are arguing, it merely develops their line of reasoning.
In order to place the various arguments about the misogyny in context it is necessary at first to discuss the concerns of the film in detail. The plot concerns Rick Deckard, a 'Blade Runner' whose job it is to hunt and destroy (retire) Replicants, genetically engineered humans used as slave labour in the Off World Colonies. These Replicants are outlawed on Earth due to a group of the androids who rebelled, going on a psychotic rampage. The key test in determining whether or not someone is a Replicant is the Voight-Kompf test, which monitors blush response and pupil dilation. Emotional responses are created by means of questions, and then monitored. The androids lack of empathy is the one weakness that gives them away.
Thus, with this plot Scott sets out to examine the human condition from a variety of angles. Chiefly he asks 'What makes us human?' The answer is at first clear cut. According to the humans of Blade Runner it is our unique ability to feel for other things that makes us what we are. However this does not hold true. The Replicants grieve when their android friends are killed, they collect photographs of their 'family' be they the product of false memories, or the family of Replicants they themselves form. Also, the city-dwelling humans portrayed in the film seem to be cold, defensive and decidedly unempathic, a complete reversal of what is expected. In the conclusion of the film Batty finally empathises with Deckard and saves his life, realising its sacredness even though Roy will soon die. This is doubly significant because Batty is empathising for a human, and not just the other Replicants as before, something that Deckard cannot do.
Also, by having a race created by man, Scott can portray a confrontation between creator and created, or to place it in a more human context, a confrontation between God and Mankind. Roy is seeking longevity, and finds Tyrell, the designer who masterminded the Nexus 6 Replicants. Expecting answers, he gains nothing, the four year life span is unchangeable due to the way in which genetic engineering works. Roy confesses that he has done "questionable things", and Tyrell views him as the prodigal son.
In a similar way that Man rejects God for having made him sinful, so too does Batty reject Tyrell, when Tyrell cannot offer him salvation. However, Batty is in some way saved by the end when he saves Deckard's life, and the symbol of the dove released into the heavens, and the nail through Roy's palm, are quite clear in representing him as a Christ figure making his ascension.
Thus Scott is using this scene to portray the question from a different angle, and ask not only what it is to be human, but what it means to be human. How, then, do women fit into this narrative?
A simple way of starting an analysis of misogyny in any given text is to look at the way the women in that text are represented, the depth of their characters, what happens to the characters, and how the characters function within the narrative.
The portrayal of women in Blade Runner seems to be particularly limited. The female characters are placed in awkward and oppressive places by the men that surround them. Zhora is a trained assassin who, on reaching Earth, finds work at a strip club, performing lewd acts with an artificial snake. Pris is described by Bryant, Deckard's boss, as a "basic pleasure model", effectively a prostitute. Rachel performs an unspecified function within the Tyrell pyramid, although seemingly she is an assistant or secretary to Eldon Tyrell.
Also, none of the lead female roles in the film are "real". The only genuine human females in the film that have speaking status are an aged oriental and a one eyed, frumpish liquor vendor. It would appear that in order for a female to be attractive, or to have a sexual identity at least, in the LA of the future she must be artificial.
Blade Runner, however, is a Film Noir, and this should not be forgotten. The female characters within Blade Runner are all archetypal Film Noir characters. The events that transpire between Rachel and Deckard are described clearly in the passage Cowie quotes from Vernet, when discussing a common Film Noir plot concern.
"the young hero desires and conquers a rich woman who is quite often tied to an older man or some other representative of patriarchal authority... However, in most of these films the woman is made guilty..." (Qtd. in Crowie, 1993)Pris is blatantly a femme fatale, who ensnares JF Sebastian in order to get what she wants. The scene where Pris and Roy are attempting to get JF to take them to see Tyrell goes so far as to show this visually, as Pris wraps herself around him, trapping him in her limbs. As Crowie states "The male hero often knowingly submits himself to the 'spider-woman'... for it is precisely her dangerous sexuality that he desires, so that it is ultimately his own perverse desire that is his downfall." (Crowie, 1993)
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. Spiders have a special meaning within Blade Runner as it is, something which will be discussed later.
Zhora also fulfils a Film Noir position, although her role is some what more complex. She is the duplicitous woman, of open and dangerous sexuality, that may drag the hero down. Deckard, when talking to her in her dressing room, is repeatedly, visually thrown by what he is doing. He seems to be trying hard to cope with Zhora's openness and frankness, and it is finally his desire to dry her after her shower that proves his immediate downfall, as she uses this as a cover to attack him.
When Zhora first appears she is covered in sequins, mirroring the scales of the snake that she uses in her act. This makes sense when considering that the act is based on the idea of taking pleasure from the serpent that "once corrupted man". To this end Zhora becomes that serpent, and corrupts Deckard. Again the male's desire proves his downfall.
Another important observation is the fact that out of the four Replicants Deckard is chasing, the only ones he retires himself are Pris and Zhora. Leon is shot by Rachel, and Batty dies of natural causes. This, too, would seem to suggest that Blade Runner is misogynist.
It has been argued that the portrayal of women in Film Noir was due largely to the change in women's roles during and directly after the war. For the first time in history women became a threat in the job market to men. Ironically this period also has some of the strongest female roles in cinematic history, although such strong women characters usually do not win through. However, it is arguable that the portrayal of the women in Blade Runner is genuinely limited. Due to the way in which Film Noir seems to be a key focus of the film, it is difficult to see whether the film's misogyny reflects attitudes towards women, or attitudes to Film Noir's portrayal of women. This conflict becomes increasingly relevant later on when discussing the film in terms of post modernism.
Various scenes within Blade Runner also seem to suggest that the film is misogynist, and it is necessary to examine some of these more closely. Perhaps the most frequently criticised sequence within the film is the scene where Zhora is chased and eventually shot in the back. Thus it is relevant to concentrate on this scene, and to what effect it is used.
Deckard appears at a strip-joint on finding out that a snake scale found in the bath of the Replicants' apartment was bought by the proprietor. He recognises Zhora on stage and decides to speak with her in her dressing room.
The Zhora character from the outset appears as a fetish object of the male gaze. Deckard, when searching the 3d pictures from Leon's apartment, finds, reflected in the mirror, the sleeping Zhora naked in bed. He also takes a hard copy, although apparently without purpose, as he already is aware of what the Replicants look like. It is Zhora who performs with the snake at the strip-joint, although off camera.
The fact that the act occurs off camera may have some significance. Evidently, the audience should be more concerned with Deckard's reaction to the act rather than the act itself. Deckard does not seem to know how to react to what he is seeing, and turns back to his drink. It is not until Deckard goes back stage that we catch a glimpse of Zhora at all. Furthermore, we cannot be absolutely positive that she is Zhora until she is dead, and the snake tattoo is revealed.
Deckard returns back stage posing as a representative from a performing arts union, and asks her whether she had been taken advantage of by the club. He proceeds to check the dressing room for the "dirty little holes" people may have drilled in the walls to watch Zhora undress. 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.
The chase that ensues results in Zhora being shot repeatedly in the back, and crashing through five panes of glass. The way this part of the sequence is portrayed has been described by some as pornographic, with a seductive soundtrack and the action occurring in slow motion. However the reading of this scene is arguable. It is uncomfortable a scene to watch, and the slow motion makes it even more unbearable. Also the Vangelis soundtrack is as much mournful as it is seductive. Added to this is Deckard's reaction. He seems sickened by the turn of events, and cannot bare to be at the scene longer than absolutely necessary.
Scott wants the viewer to be sympathetic with the Replicants. The scene with Batty on the roof top at the end clearly indicates this. Such a sympathy is also created when Zhora is shot. In order for the audience to be sympathetic with Replicant it is not enough for them to be quickly, cleanly and humanely dispatched. Audiences are extremely desensitised to screen violence. To illustrate this, compare Zhora's death with the death of Leon. Leon dies very suddenly and the viewer feels little for him, even though he was avenging Zhora's death. Audiences are used to seeing men being shot, even as graphically as Leon. However, audiences are not prepared to see the hero shoot a defenceless woman in the back. Thus the death is uncomfortable for the audience, and the empathy is created. In effect the scene can be viewed as a Voight Kompf test for the audience.
One of the other factors that leads critics to believe the text is misogynist is the way in which, if Pris and Zhora are viewed as strong, independent and non-subservient women, and Rachel is viewed as a vulnerable, almost childlike and subservient female, it seems rather negative that out of these three it is Rachel who survives, and escapes with Deckard as his "love-object". It would appear that Deckard is rejecting in the most extreme manner possible the strong female characters, and escapes in the elevator at the end with the weaker willed Rachel, not only as her lover but also as her protector.
Various options other than that of the characterisation and narrative are available when examining such a text for misogyny. Creed, in her book Monstrous-Feminine - Film, Feminism and Psychoanalysis (1993) uses a psychoanalytical approach to evaluate the misogyny present in a variety of horror films. She highlights a number of recurring motifs, largely derived from Freudian analysis, within the horror film, and although Blade Runner is not a horror film in itself, such analysis still proves fruitful in uncovering any misogyny within the text. To begin with there is a definite, if subtle, presence of the archaic mother within Los Angeles of 2019.
Dadoun describes the archaic mother as "A mother-thing situated beyond good and evil, beyond all organised forms and all events. This is totalizing and oceanic mother, a 'shadowy and deep unity', evoking in the subject the anxiety of fusion and of dissolution: a mother who comes before the discovery of the essential beance, that of the phallus. This mother is nothing but a fantasy inasmuch as she is only ever established as an omnipresent and all-powerful totality, and absolute being, by the very intuition - she has no phallus - that deposes her" (Qtd. Creed, 1993)
Thus the archaic mother poses a threat due to her lacking a phallus, but what evidence is there of the presence (or, indeed, the non-presence) of an archaic mother figure within Blade Runner? Firstly, the Replicants themselves do not have mothers, merely a father figure in the form of Eldon Tyrell. When Dave Holden interviews Leon at the beginning of the film he is punished for asking about Leon's mother. "My mother? Let me tell you about my mother?" Rachel provides a photograph of her mother to prove her existence as a "real" human. The emphasis on the mother, however, seems not to deny the mother's existence, but instead changes it. Leon never states he has no mother, neither does Rachel. Instead the mother figure becomes a mysterious and absent force, and the Replicants almost become her tools, perhaps seeking revenge against Tyrell.
Neale pays specific attention to the two memories that Deckard discusses with Rachel, that of playing Doctor with her brother, and that of the spider. Both seem to be significant in the sense that the Replicants, on one level, can be viewed as the product of immaculate conception, something which makes sense when considering the Christian symbolism in reference to both Tyrell and Batty. The tale of the spider is perhaps the more useful, as it explains the nature of the archaic mother within Blade Runner:
"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."
The imagery involved, the garishly coloured spider, the hundred crawling, devouring spiders, seems to be a clear reference to the city portrayed in the text, the Los Angeles of 2019. Whenever we see the city, it is crowded by people, and every image seems to be an idol to consumerism, be they adverts for the Off World Colonies, or Coca-Cola. On the few occasions the city is barren, it is also burnt out and spent. Thus the mother figure of the spider, evidently a reference to the archaic mother, shows that this figure is also represented by the city.
The archaic mother and her children are mutually uncaring, the city proving a hazardous place for anyone, and the citizens proving to be destructive to the city. But effective ruler of this city is Eldon Tyrell, who lives above LA in the Tyrell pyramid. He is father to the city as mother. To this end the Replicants can also be viewed as children of the city, especially when considering Pris' costume at JF's apartment.
Symbols of the archaic mother often go hand in hand with birth or primal scene imagery. Although never explicit, there is such symbolism here. The Replicants are banned from Earth, and should only exist in the Off World Colonies, although they are manufactured by Tyrell, on Earth. This can be viewed very clearly as a representation of the incest taboo, and the Oedipus complex. It is seemingly the mother the Replicants return to, to find the answers to their questions, the "facts of life" as Tyrell puts it. Eventually the Oedipal plot line is complete, as Batty kills Tyrell.
A further possible indication of incest occurs between Deckard and Rachel. If both are Replicants then the incest taboo becomes blurred as Deckard and Rachel share the same mother, in Los Angeles, and the same father, in Tyrell, and thus are effectively brother and sister. What occurs between them seems to reflect the first of Rachel's tales, where she recalls sneaking into a basement with her brother to play doctor, and chickening out when it came to her turn. When Deckard attempts to kiss Rachel she again tries to leave, but this time is blocked by Deckard.
What this confusion of incest taboos signifies is complicated, however. Creed states that it is the confusion of social boundaries that drives most horror films, and in a similar way here it is the confusion between boundaries that drives Blade Runner. Firstly is the confusion between what is human and what is not human. Secondly is the confusion of family roles (which is in many ways created by the first confusion).
A further role of the incestuous confusion comes back to the workings of the Film Noir. Crowie discusses Gilda in reference to Oedipus in Film Noir. She states that "Freud connects this type of object-choice [i.e. Deckard's choice of Rachel, who is Tyrell's 'property'] to the man's oedipal desires, so that the duplicitous woman is a mother surrogate" (Crowie, 1993). It can be seen clearly that the Replicants (especially Deckard, Rachel, Roy and Leon) are in desperate need of a mother figure, Deckard finds one in Rachel, and Roy finds one in Pris, and possibly Leon had found one in Zhora.
The scene where Pris is retired also holds a great deal of meaning in terms of the surrogate mother roles of the female Replicants. Pris is killed when she is shot in the stomach. As Pris gets her strength from her sexuality, being shot in the uterus is symbolically. 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. Pris may also, to some extent, reflect the spider imagery used to signify the archaic mother. When at JF's apartment she dramatically changes her identity, becoming a long limbed, black and white, literal spider-woman.
This incestuous sub-text has a relevance to misogyny in the way that the taboo is broken. The Replicants return to Earth through violence, the "questionable things" that Batty speaks of. Thus the return to Earth, if viewed as sex with the mother takes on the traits of rape. The Replicants have been outlawed on Earth, rejected from the maternal womb in their maturity. It is a forcible and bloody return that they make.
The scene which occurs between Deckard and Rachel can also be seen as violent misogynist incest. When Rachel attempts to leave Deckard's apartment he rushes to the door, and bars her exit. Then he forces her against a venetian blind and kisses her. She protests that she cannot rely on the false memories she has been given, but Deckard ignores this, and forces her to say that she loves him, until she finally submits. This is perhaps one of the most outwardly misogynist moments in the movie. It outlines again how subservient Rachel is, especially when compared to the other, more self-aware Replicants.
A defence of this scene is that both Deckard and Rachel, as Replicants, are inexperienced when it comes to emotion, and what the scene represents are two people trying hard to cope in a new situation. This does seem to be corroborated by the way in which Deckard is constantly surprised whenever he experiences emotion. An example of this is the point in the film where Zhora is shot. Here Deckard seems shocked by the events, and does not appear to know how to deal with what he has done. However, in the scene, Deckard appears motivated mainly by anger. This is, after all, the second time that Rachel has walked out on him. Whether anger is the emotion which he is trying to deal with seems uncertain.
To complicate matters further, when Rachel 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. As there seems to be some 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. The relationship between the Replicant characters become more and more convoluted, the more closely they are observed.
Another of Scott's films, Alien, uses archaic mother symbolism. The archaic mother is shown in the strange shapes of the distressed ship, the leathery eggs and the dark dank places within the Nostromo. The computer aboard the Nostromo, named Mother, who is also representative of the Company, is equally uncaring of her children, placing the alien, as a phallic fetish object of the mother, above the crew of the ship. In Blade Runner the Replicants face similar maternal rejection. However, there appears to be no form of fetish object beyond the real humans themselves, who after all are quite welcome to stay on Earth, i.e. with the mother, eating away at the Spider's back of the city.
Creed also examines closely one of the key elements of male anxiety; castration fear. Freud believed that the very common male castration anxiety develops in the human male from misunderstanding the differences between the male and female sex, viewing his mother as somehow a castrated version of his father. Creed in Monstrous Feminine states that "castration anxiety has given rise to two of the most powerful representations of the monstrous-feminine...: woman as castrator and woman as castrated." (Creed, 1993) She believes that Freud's understanding of the father as castrator was presumptuous, and that much of the anxiety comes from fear of castration by the mother. To back this up she quotes Rheingold's The Fear of Being a Woman.
"Classical theory has it that the boy fears castration by the father as punishment for his sexual interest in the mother. This is not verified by my clinical experience... Throughout life, the man fears woman a castrator, not the man" (Qtd. Creed, 1993)
Thus the female castrator image occurs again and again through the genres that lie closest to the human subconscious, those of fantasy and horror. The mother figure in Psycho is perhaps one of the clearest examples, although literally absent from the plot. Misery and Alien can also be cited as an example of the femme castratrice with Kathy Bates brilliant portrayal as the overbearing, sledgehammer wielding, "Number 1 fan" and the toothed vagina of the zenomorph.
Throughout Blade Runner Deckard is symbolically castrated many times by the Replicants he chases. He loses his laser tube more often than he uses it, when encountering both Leon and Batty. The clearest castration imagery is to be found in the scene with Pris at JF's apartment. Here Pris masquerades as one of JF's toys, which are perhaps more obscene in their existence than the Replicants themselves. Deckard unveils her, and she strikes, attempting to crush his neck between her thighs.
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 sites a rich number of mythical and folklore examples of this castrating force, that of the toothed vagina. She goes on to state 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)
Creed discusses one of the explanations for the vagina dentata in terms of the "all encompassing maternal figure of the pre-Oedipal period, who threatens symbolically to engulf the infant thus posing a threat of psychic obliteration." (Creed, 1993) The viewer must remember that at this point in the text Deckard is still perhaps wondering if he himself is a Replicant. If this is so then the femme castratrice imagery makes a great deal of narrative sense. If "Deckard" is merely a set of false memories, then that which he knows as his personality comes into question. Deckard risks losing his personality to that of the Replicants, as much as he risks losing it to his mother. This idea is also backed up by the importance of the (absent/archaic) mother figure in the lives of the Replicants, from Leon to Rachel. Thus Pris as castrator goes beyond being a femme castratrice, and becomes a castrating Replicant. What this means outside the narrative is that Deckard is in danger of losing his humanity, by attempting to destroy the Replicants, i.e. he will lose his empathy, that which makes us human.
However, to site this example of the female castrator would be unjust to the film. Stephen Neale lists a number of castration signifiers in the text: "Roy breaks Deckard's fingers, Roy pierces his own hand with a nail; the neon dragon outside the night-club has a phallic tongue which constantly flicks in and out." Added to this is the way in which Deckard repeatedly loses his weapon (It is possible to view such a weapon as a second phallus, a way in which men may allay fears of castration), but at the hands of his male assailants. Again, we must consider that the difference being battled here is not the difference between the male and the female, but the difference between the human and the non-human, the empathic and the non-empathic.
Perhaps one of the most perplexing arguments about misogyny in Blade Runner comes from its fascination with post modernism. The film has been cited as a strong example for post modernism on a number of counts, chiefly the variety of architecture (stone cladding in the lifts), the variety of cultures within the city dwellers (from punk to Krishna), the concept of the Replicant as a "human signifier", and the usage of Film Noir. Post modernism itself has become more and more useful in both assessing and creating works, as can be seen by the success of Quentin Tarantino as a director, who has become ridiculously sought after considering he has directed a mere 2 and a quarter films.
Tarantino came under a great deal of criticism for the levels of violence in his films, but was defended by many stating that the films weren't violent in themselves, but were about screen violence. In a similar way it is possible to see Blade Runner functioning in a similar way with reference to Film Noir, and cinema in general.
If the Replicants are viewed as "human signifiers" then they can be seen to function in a similar way to characters within a film. This is backed up by a number of similarities between the Replicants and cinematic characters. Firstly is the way in which the Replicants are slaves, designed for specific purposes, in the same way that characters are created to perform specific functions, in effect slaves to the films narrative. Secondly is the way in which the Replicants display superhuman abilities, such as Pris' retrieving the egg from the boiling water. This mirrors the superhuman abilities displayed by even the mortal characters within films. Lastly is the way the Replicants emotions are so powerful when compared to their human counterparts, which is similar to the melodramatic nature of the films. This is also carried through into the dialogue of the Replicants, from Rachel's bitter one-liners, "I'm not in the business, I am the business", to Batty's philosophy. The fact that Blade Runner is set in Los Angeles is no accident, as it means that the Replicants are created in the very place that films are made.
This seems to be backed up by the "real" women, and indeed men, in the film. Instead of the gracious, beautiful, occidental characters the Replicants present, the real characters take the form of the aged oriental geneticist, the one eyed shop assistant, the sickened JF Sebastian, etc.
How this affects the plot is intriguing. Deckard is suddenly chasing a series of film stereotypes across the futuristic landscape, and thus becomes a stereotype himself, that of the hard boiled detective, hence the Deckard as Replicant plot twist. The film ceases to exist as a Film Noir, but instead becomes a film very much about Film Noir. Thus the misogyny that is present only exists in terms of the post modern representation. It could be argued that it is not women that Deckard is destroying, but the very stereotypes that critics claim the film is creating. Blade Runner seems to be a reaction to, and not a celebration of, Film Noir.
Neale points out that one of the differences between the Replicants and the humans seems to be that of race. The Replicants are all occidental, whereas the "real people" are a mix of occidental, and oriental. This helps to further define what Blade Runner is examining. The films it refers to are definitely the white American, the films of Hollywood.
The post modernist concept within Blade Runner tends to alter the emphasis of the film considerably, and also allows various parts of the film to make a great deal of sense. The way in which Deckard is repeatedly castrated by both male and female Replicants seems to suggest that the key battle is, as stated before, not between male and female, but between that which is human, and that which is non-human, or to put it more simply, that which is real and that which is not real. The archaic mother imagery signifies his battle against the Film Noir archetype he is in danger of becoming, and not any genuine maternal figure. As Neale states, often in fantasy films the commonplace differences between male and female or black and white often become negligible within themselves, and are effectively transformed into more considerable differences. Blade Runner provides a prime example of this, in that it is the difference between real and unreal, in fact the difference between cinema and real life, that is the focus.
In conclusion then, Blade Runner seems not to be as misogynist as it at first appears. Instead, what the film does is use abjection in relation to the archaic mother, and the fear of losing one's identity to the archaic mother, to examine the relationship, conflict and fascination the real have with the unreal, or the cinematic.