Blade Runner’s Hong Kong (Or, How to Read Those Dull Academic Papers)

Blade-Runner-posterIt’s so frustrating to run across an academic paper about your favorite comic or movie or TV show. Academics always say one or two smart things and then spend the rest of a 20-page paper gabbling about incomprehensible theories we ordinary people don’t have time for.

It’s kind of cute, really. I picture a tenure-seeking associate professor of film or cultural studies (like the authors of 90% of these papers) tapping away on her trusty laptop — until she’s brought up short! She realizes she’s gone three whole paragraphs without citing Slavoj Žižek and she’s in danger of failing the intellectual Voight-Kampff test! TIME TO GET THEORY’D UP!!

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For a normal person, the only way to read one of these articles is according to the following rule:

If a paragraph has a lot of scholarly references, skip it.

Take this neat paper I found about how Blade Runner and other movies with a grunge-tech vibe (Ghost in the Shell, Johnny Mnemonic, Akira, Hackers) all used one particular area of Hong Kong as their template. What makes a scruffy Asian urban neighborhood more “futuristic” than a scruffy American urban neighborhood? Answers after the jump.

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