Happy Birthday, Ana Stelline.

Blade-Runner-2049-1760-700x291

Happy Birthday Ana.

It's virtual turtles, all the way down, for you. As for us.

 

You were born today, a fictional character in an alternate universe. As with all artistic creations, you and your character's life are resonant with meaning. And most delightfully, your character is about just that--being an artistic creation, or not, which is the essential human question. Did God make us, or are we the product of an unintentional evolution?

In Blade Runner 2049, we have already seen the first part of your life. Like your parents, you do not know who you are. At the end of the film, you appear to be on the verge of learning who your father is, that your mother was a Replicant, and that your father may be one as well. How will you react to this clarity of identity? And what will it mean to you? We do not find out.

Your profession is to create "realistic" memories, so we know you are filled with them and the lives they represent. You are human, but live trapped(?) in a virtual world because of your immunodeficiency. You seem perceptive, innocent and wise. We have seen you cry before, so we know you are capable of strong emotions. And you seem nothing like Replicant K, the emotionless hollow center of the film, who also does not know what he is. He was not born, but you were. Is that the difference--that because you were born, you have a soul? Or are you different at all?

Whether Denis Villeneuve's s artistic depiction is successful or not, we can step back and find a lovely symmetry -- for we do know that every aspect of your character is meaningful, as each attribute was consciously created, just as you consciously create the memories of Replicants. Within a fictional universe, you live in a bubble of virtual environments, work as an artist of virtual life, created by Replicant parents of virtual life, but you think you are human and real, until you discover that .... the turtle's backs that your turtle's backs stand on are virtual as well, all the way down.

 

How can it not know what it is?

But what is it?

Deckard asks this about the Replicant Rachel in the original film; but this is more of a human question.

Rachel can find out what she is. Her innocence can be replaced with knowledge. Humans can never be sure of who we are or what we mean. We've been trying for millennia, and have yet to reach a consensus.

We might have been created by an omnipotent God. Or by the accidents of evolution. Or designed by Aliens. (We also may be figments of alien imaginations moving through a virtual reality, created by them....) While many of us believe one answer or another, Humanity does not have a universal consensus. A Replicant that knows it is a Replicant has perfect clarity on what it is, and who created it, within its fictional universe.

We humans sure would love to know. So we watch movies about this question and wonder through them.

The key power of a fictional universe is that it was entirely created by a human consciousness. Every part of it was put there for a reason by the artist. All lives have five acts and a death that means something. Only a Human who believes in a religion can say this is true of his or her life. As to religion, we turn to fiction for answers and meaning that we cannot find in reality. We turn to fiction because we doubt the apparent meaning of our lives. Do we matter? And to whom and what? What does it mean when a child commits suicide? Or a father abandons a child so that it may live? Why were we even born in the first place?

We love to know that there are answers out there. That maybe life could be like fiction.

 

I want more life, father.

In the first film, Roy Batty has the singular experience of getting to meet his maker.

What would any of us humans do, were we to meet our maker? What would we ask? Roy has the distinct advantage over every human by knowing who his maker is, and his address. I'm not sure humanity would know what to ask, because we mostly don't know who to ask.

Would we want more of the same, as Roy does? Or something better? Or simply an explanation?

In the final scene of Blade Runner 2049, Ana Stelline meets one of her makers, her father. But we do not see what questions she asks him. Perhaps she will ask who or what made her father.

It's the key question of the film.

And the answer is... the credits roll.

Too much like life.

That aspect of this film -- finding voids where we really want answers -- has been criticized. It's terribly unsatisfying. Like never getting to see the monster. But it is the film's core takeaway, poking at our need for meaning and purpose and denying it in a particularly meaningful way.

Replicant K is the expressionless and apparently emotionally hollow protagonist at the center of the movie. We first see him become convinced he was born, and thereby think his life has meaning. Then we see him lose that meaning and become hollow again. A moment with an advertisement for Joi, his truly hollow fiction of a meaningful relationship, he chooses a path to create real meaning and purpose, for himself, by connecting a father and a daughter. K chooses to enable the real love of a father for his daughter over his ephemeral joy. It is no accident that Luv crushes Joi in an earlier scene.

The conscious, intentional choice to fill the voids in our lives and hearts is the meaningful undercurrent of this rather bleak but beautiful film. We may all weave virtual fictions, as Ana does, to give our realities the purpose that their existence asks.

K's sacrifice, so that Rick and Ana can be together, is how he fills his void.

Our voids?

Ana Stelline, the fictional weaver of fictional memories for fictional people, who lives in a virtual bubble, helps us humans, living in meaning-vague reality realize that we all must write our own stories -- if not by choice, then through ignorance of who or what we are.

 

I know what is real.

So the older Deckard claims.


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