Race in the Blade Runner cycle and demographic dystopia

Edward K. Chan*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)


This article surveys the existing scholarship that treats racial representation in the original Blade Runner (1982) in order to trace its continuation into Blade Runner 2049 (2017) as well as the three short film intertexts: Blade Runner: Black Out 2022 (directed by Shinichiro Watanabe), 2036: Nexus Dawn (Luke Scott) and 2048: Nowhere to Run (Luke Scott). While the shorts Black Out 2022 and 2036: Nexus Dawn feature black and Asian characters, the dominant racial logic of Hollywood continues the focus on whiteness in Blade Runner 2049. At the same time, the newer films seem to show a response - however muted - to criticisms of the original in relation to race with an attempt to at least show that black people do in fact exist in its future, and half-Filipino and Latina actors (Dave Bautista and Ana de Armas, respectively) are featured in Blade Runner 2049. Nevertheless, I argue that the overriding racial sentiment of the series thus far is the imagination of what Steven Gardiner identifies as a fear of 'demographic dystopia', a core logic of white supremacy; indeed, it is precisely the imagination of dystopia as whiteness being overwhelmed by non-whiteness that pervades the Blade Runner diegetic universe. My own argument about the Blade Runner series will focus on it as an exemplar of Hollywood's racial logic and its attempts to fit its vision of the future of race into both the fears and aspirations of racial multiculturalism in the US.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)59-76
Number of pages18
JournalScience Fiction Film and Television
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2020 Feb 1


  • Blade Runner
  • Blade Runner 2049
  • Dystopia
  • Immigration
  • Multiculturalism
  • Orientalism
  • Race
  • White nationalism
  • Xenophobia

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Communication
  • Visual Arts and Performing Arts


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