In Bright Lights, Raymond De Luca on Jane Bennet, thing-power and Blade Runner 2049
This ontological levelling, however, does not necessarily devalue the significance of human beings. “The fear is that failing to affirm human uniqueness,” Bennet writes, would “authorize the treatment of people as mere things.” Yet such a biotic and material equalization is achieved not through a demotion of the human, but by a promotion of the very elements from which humans are constituted. In Blade Runner 2049, the shared materiality of all (non-)living beings is elevated. The film advocates for the properties of light, metals, and minerals, and, in the process, reminds us of our own thingliness. In doing so, Blade Runner 2049 doesn’t demote humans to the level of things so much as it tries to promote things to the level of humans, establishing our connection to the physical world not by difference but by similarity. Per Bennet, “there is no necessity to describe these differences in a way that places humans at the ontological center or hierarchical apex” of any social order. The film thus proffers an ontological equality.