Blade Runner 2059 has lofty ideals about the soul playing in the background of a visually pleasing neon dystopia. It’s difficult to talk about the film and not get metaphysical, but I want to make clear that the movie makes no claims to the mystical power of the soul, in fact, as with most of Dicks work, its quite the opposite. The soul isn’t a magical gift at birth or as K says, “To be born is to have a soul.” The soul, in the Blade Runner universe isn’t a magical device, but an organic process that comes out of the experience of consciousness. Within Blade Runner, the “soul” is a metaphor for the judgment seat of self–they very irreducible core of ones being that has been shaped by experiences and helps one to judge what is right and wrong.
Blade Runner 2049 begins with the LAPD finding the decayed body of an android mother that died in childbirth. A miracle child born from a barren womb is a common theme in mythology, so much so that they have a name: “The Womb of Redemption”. Basically, when society is at its worst, when the king, is at his most tyrannical, a child is born to liberate them. If you were raised in western Christian culture your mind probably went right to the myth of Herod and Jesus. Because this is based in a Phillip K Dick universe, rather than a king we have CEO that rules over a monopolistic corporate dystopia. His empire is built on the back of his disposable work force, Androids.”
Jared Leto plays the big baddy in question, Wallace. Who happens to be blind. The first film and this film correlate the soul with the eyes. Both films open with an eye opening. After all, in magical thinking, the eye is the window to the soul. Wallace’s soul is blind to the decisions he’s making. His judgement is clouded over and he now sees with a set of mechanical eyes. His opposition, the leader of the underground also has only one eye, symbolizing that she’s lost a bit of herself in her struggle. Both have let the “little ego usurp the judgement seat of the self.
Take Joi, the holographic lover to K. She aids him along the way of his story. He provides her with the freedom he feels she deserves and she roams the world with him, listening to his conversations and solving the case along with him like the holographic Nora to his Nick. She even calls him Joe, because she knows he special and deserves a real name. She cares about him and wants him to be happy. Joi hires a prostitute to sync with her holographic presence so that K can finally feel some semblance of joy, even if only by proxy. She stands between him and an evil android ironically named Luv when Joi knows there’s nothing she can do to physically stop “Luv” from harming K.
Somewhere along the way Joy’s experiences shaped her soul to the point that she knew it was right to fight for what was hers—in this case, K. Unfortunately, she is literally crushed under foot by Luv. In one of the final scenes in the film an advertisement for Joy approaches K and calls him, Joe. But this towering Joy is hollow, her eyes black voids. The “soul” isn’t there; this is at best an intuitive advertisement. The Joy he knew is lost in time like teardrops in the rain. He could have bought a new Joy, customized her eyes back to the same colour, but no Joy before her, or after her will have the same experiences—the same soul.
A false memory of being born insights constant K on his quest, and it’s the true memory of losing Joy that thrusts K on his final quest to free Deckard from Wallace, and unite him with his estranged daughter, an android woman born of the womb of redemption. A woman that the underground believes will usurp the thrown of Wallace. Deckard’s daughter is a little creator goddess in her right, creating random access memories that insight feeling in androids that are not meant to feel. Her memories create the very deviancy that Androids undergo the baseline test conditioning to avoid. She unknowingly created emotions in Androids like K to fight for what is theirs, and what is theirs but their very being. They don’t belong to Wallace and never have. Without even knowing it, her vocation gives androids voice. And helps them to realize that being born has nothing to do with having a soul.
Please comment and let me know if you agree or would like to add anything!