“Tyranny of an Object” in Do Androids…


I’m interested in comparing the idea of consumerism within Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep and a work called You Are What You Buy: Postmodern Consumerism and the Construction of Self by Danielle Todd. The link for the second article I will be referring to can be found here: http://hilo.hawaii.edu/academics/hohonu/documents/Vol10x12YouAreWhatYouBuy-PostmodernConsumerismandtheConstructionofSelf.pdf

I wanted to look at these two works together since both deal with technology being pushed to meet consumer expectations and the backlash that comes with advancement.

Technology becomes more elaborate to meet customer demand in Do Androids. The androids become harder to distinguish from the humans because there is a call for technological advancement for human convenience. This brings to mind the relationship between material items and symbols of status/life.

In some sense we are the materials we own; we inherently understand the taboo of touching things that belong to another because there is character imbued into the material. On top of that, the details of the material correspond to a person. For example, a simple band t-shirt gives insight into the physical shape of a person (their size), what music preference they have, and perhaps gesture to other connected aspects of their personality. The substance of a person can be translated into a tangible item as consumerism becomes correlated to consumer identity. But can this relationship be reversed? This is why I find the concept of realistic androids so interesting in the novel. The Rosen company believed, “if our firm hadn’t made these progressively more human types, other firms in the field would have” (54). But what does it mean to own a material item that has its own identity separate from the owner? And Why would there ever be a need for this kind of material? Todd touches upon the answer to this question in her article You Are What You Buy. She explains that modern French sociologist Jean Badrillard believes that “everything in our daily world is a simulation of reality. The simulation is completed through the production and consumption of goods.” Thinking about Do Androids with this thought in mind brings forth the idea that humanity calls for realistic androids because life in itself is a simulation in the novel (the entire world is in decline in comparison to the past), and to incorporate human-like things completes the illusion of authenticity (AKA everything being okay like it was in the past). This line of thinking brings up even more complications when one starts to realize that consumerism in the world of Do Androids leads to the replication of humanity through technology; the two become homologous and attempting to separate the two is futile. Therefore, the problem within Do Androids is not just concerned with identity, but as Deckard would put it, the “the tyranny of an object” as well (42). 

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1 Response to “Tyranny of an Object” in Do Androids…

  1. Ahhcoffee brings up a multitude of great points; particularly, I’m interested in this notion of the “illusion of authenticity” as it relates to consumer demand. The idea that artificial life fills a niche so as to create the simulacrum of a world of “everything being okay, like it was in the past,” in my mind, is a reflection of the fact that everything is NOT okay in Rick’s world. A world in which even artificial flies are in demand so as to compliment one’s artificial toad’s “illusion of authenticity” is bleak. Moreover, Rick’s wife’s reaction to the artificial toad presents an interesting point of reflection upon the notion of an object oriented conception of self-identity.
    As addressed in class today, Rick’s wife, Iran, speaks to the notion of objects relating identity when she states of the toad: “I want it to work perfectly. My husband is devoted to it” (244). The phrase “to work perfectly,” as it relates to the cosmetic/ environmental details surrounding the electronic toad, promotes the sense that functionality is dependent principally on appearance. Furthermore, Iran’s statement, “My husband is devoted to it,” indicates that one’s devotion to an object behooves the necessity of fine-tuning that object’s illusion to perfection so as to remove any uncomfortable reminders of its inauthenticity. Identity, then, formed through objects is a product contingent on the plausibility of authenticity. Yet, what remains fundamentally problematic is that this replication of reality, this “illusion of authenticity” is just that—an illusion. It’s clearly absurd for the basis of one’s identity to be an appearance that is necessitated upon a service department’s periodic adjustments (or for that matter on a market’s supply chain). Iran’s order highlights the notion that the need for the Deckard household to appear to own an animal is no longer a matter of social importance, “keeping up with the Barbours,” but rather has become a need to deceive oneself. Do Androids offers consumerist society a potentially enlightening revelation—a society founded on collective external-deception is bound to buy its own illusions.

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