Despite being a more or less unsung hero of thematic innovation for the science fiction genre during his lifetime, the premises of Phillip K. Dick’s fiction have become a veritable goldmine for science fiction movies and television series. This has been the case for over 30 decades, although recent projects in this vein have focused less on good story telling, and more on politically correct storytelling, cheating their audiences from the opportunity to experience good story telling, and giving them a tired and repetitive lesson in political correctness instead.
Dick’s rich source material continue to be as relevant as ever. After airing on the British Channel 4 anthology series Electric Dreams premiered in the US on Amazon on December 12. Every episode of the show takes the premise of a Dick short story, though with certain creative liberties. Meanwhile, a long-awaited Blade Runner sequel, which is loosely based on his novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, also came out this year — Blade Runner 2049.
The crux of both Blade Runners focus on the mystery surrounding the titular Blade Runner, or specialized android bounty hunter and protagonist of the initial installment, Rick Dekkard, who may or may not be an android, or “replicant” himself. Fans have theorized and debated whether Dekkard is a human being or a replicant for years, and the sequel offered no definitive answer to this question. I believe it doesn’t matter, because the point of each film is to explore how it may or may not be possible to artificially create the loftiest aspects of the human experience such as love, purpose and agency, and how being able to measure these things does not detract from their significance.
In both installments, other characters claim he is a replicant and that his choices were not the result of his free will. However, he remains convinced — as does the actor who plays him — that he is a real and fully natural human being. Nevertheless, he falls in love with a replicant woman named Rachel, thereby proving the same point either way. If they are both replicants then he knows that replicants think and feel in the same way humans do, and if only Rachel is a replicant then by loving her, he is acknowledging that they have the same value and agency as human beings.
I highly recommend both movies as well as the original novel, in addition to Isaac Asimov’s “Robot” book series if this subject matter appeals to you.
If, on the other hand, you have no time for meaningful philosophy and virtue signaling, and keeping up with the politically correct Joneses is more your cup of tea, then Electric Dreams is more your speed. The stories don’t spend very much time or effort exploring the ideas behind their source material, as they choose instead to hammer away with inter-sectional feminist ideals. Fun, right?
Even though each episode has a different cast, distinct premises and settings, as well as a different director (resulting in unique tones and styles every episode), woven into the story of each is a common thread of misandry. It’s a theme that I admit is more evident in some episodes than others, but that is still markedly absent from the Phillip K. Dick stories on which they are loosely inspired.
I will defend this claim by briefly mentioning the plots of the six episodes that have aired so far at the time of this publication.
Episode 1, “The Hood Maker”; Telepathic protagonist Mary is prohibited from using her abilities on her partner, agent Ross, but eventually is forced to do so due to extenuating circumstances. She discovers that he had lied in order to seduce her, and that he secretly harbors prejudices against telepaths. Men, right? Even if they fall in love with you, they might secretly be bigots. Too bad not every woman is a telepath to keep them safe from evil men.
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Episode 2, “Impossible Planet”; An aging woman is tricked by intergalactic tourists into being taken on a trip to Earth, even though nobody is sure of the location or existence of the ancient human home world. Despite her age, she seduces one of her tour guides and convinces him to die on the surface of an uninhabitable planet rather than stay with his fiancé. You go girl! Committed relationships between people of comparable ages are a patriarchal system of oppression. Emmanuel Macron would be proud.
Episode 3, “The Commuter”; I said some of these were more exemplary of misandry than others. A railway worker finds a gateway to another world where people from our reality hide away from their impossible circumstances, considers dumping his troubled son there in order to regain the love and affection he has lost from his wife.
Episode 4 “Crazy Diamond”; An employee at a human-cloning company is conned into stealing human synthetic embryos by a fugitive woman, who first seduces him and then double-crosses him by revealing their scheme to his wife. I still don’t understand why it’s a given that the wife would be angry with her husband but not at the woman who seduced him, or how it makes any sense for the two women to team up and ruin him, or why I should celebrate this or enjoy seeing it.
Episode 5 “Real Life”; A lesbian police woman, Sarah, gets stuck in a dream world, in which she occupies the role of George, who in her dreams is married to the same woman Sarah is married to in real life. Gender is irrelevant. Gender isn’t real.
Episode 6 “Human is”; A mid-level career military woman Vera Herrick is married to a Colonel who is as mean to her as he is a successful soldier. His unforgivable crimes include wanting credit for his own accomplishments and implying that he suspects his wife of cheating, which she does, at anonymous swinger sex clubs. Her husband is killed on a mission and his body is taken over by an alien life form to Vera’s relief. Her husband’s life shouldn’t matter to the audience, nor should the planet’s security or protocols for dealing with alien invaders. All that matters is that Vera is happy shacking up with her husband’s killer.
The great irony with the stories in the Electric Dreams anthology is that science fiction and speculative fiction are meant to critically examine trends in current events, or to try and spot the dangers or potentially unforeseen ramifications of these modes of thought. It feels gross and inappropriate for my science fiction to preach to me about what is politically correct and fashionable to think and say at the moment.
I’ll stick with Blade Runner 2049, you can keep your Electric Dreams, thank you very much.