Reproductive Futurism and the Politics of the Sequel

The video essay is an apt vehicle for Kathleen Loock’s theories about the form and function of contemporary sequels. As Loock’s subject is how Blade Runner 2049 reproduces the “already seen” from the original Blade Runner, but with a difference, her work usefully places images from the original alongside images from the sequel, and sometimes, right on top of each other.

After establishing clear definitions of terms like “sequel” AND “reproductive futurism,” Loock establishes the parallels between Blade Runner 2049’s depiction of reproductive futurism and the text’s own status as “offspring” of the originary film. Her argument, that the sequel ultimately normalizes “stereotypical gender scripts” family and reproduction, are usefully highlighted by the string of images featuring female characters in highly gendered costuming and tableaux.

Loock also notes that the Blade Runner sequel plays out its inner conflict between original and copy within the text but also outside of it, between “old and young on screen.” But interestingly, the sequel, in many instances, contradicts the premise of the original film. For example, the original Blade Runner argues that replicants are products that are made, used, and discarded, but the sequel implies that they also contain the power to reproduce. The original film focuses on the replicants’ desire to live longer but in sequel, the focus shifts to the replicants’ capacity for reproduction. Loock highlights this contradiction, and also sets up how this internal structure parallels the relationship between original film and sequel. The most powerful moment in the video essay occurs when Loock calls out why this shift between original and sequel might also be troubling, namely how the sequel recasts the original film’s violent sexual encounter between Deckard and Rachael as somehow consensual and even as important and positive, since it resulted in the creation of a “miracle “child. Viewers of the sequel, who are primed to view the relationship between Deckard and Rachael nostalgically, are encouraged to see the older version of the character this way. But Loock replays the original scene alongside audio from the sequel to illustrate how different the way we remember things can be from how they “really” were. This scene, which plays out as a rape, is transformed , within the sequel, as almost “holy” occurrence. Indeed, in these moments of juxtaposition the value of video essays becomes crystal clear. I found the essay to be quite powerful and convincing.