Australian National University
This paper explores the dehumanisation of the people in dystopic societies through a study of law enforcing protagonists in the seminal science-fiction films Blade Runner (1982) and Soylent Green (1973). This paper will argue that it is this dehumanisation which ultimately leads to the protagonists’ downfalls and this process of dehumanisation is illustrative of a broader social phenomenon, such as those seen in 20th century communism.
This paper compares the legal structures put in place by faceless ruling classes and evaluates their failings through reference to works by Joshua Neoh on law and love, and Lon Fuller on anti-positivism. Key to this paper is theme of humanity, which is explored through the ideas of anti-positivism, examining the effect of love as it relates to this idea and how the force of law pushes against that. This paper will argue that through the love for others shown by these protagonists – an illustration of their humanity that ultimately leads to their demise – they demonstrate that without ‘humanity,’ the ‘pillars of society’ will always falter.
Concluding with the real-world example of the fall of Communism in the late 20th century and tying dehumanisation of populations as seen in popular culture to theories such as law and love, and anti-positivism, this paper will show that by removing the elements of humanity, law and society as we know it will inherently fail. There is, after all, probably no stronger sense of dehumanisation provoked in an audience than Agent Thorn’s closing words: “Soylent Green is people!”
Hugh Cullimore completed a Bachelor of Arts with Honours (first-class) in Art History June 2018 and is currently in his penultimate year of a Bachelor of Laws with Honours at the Australian National University (ANU). Hugh’s Honours thesis examined the esoteric ostrich imagery seen in Raphael’s Allegory of Justice (1519-20) – a thesis that led him to receive the ANU’s top Art History prize. Hugh’s interests lie in Italian Renaissance depictions of Justice, the influence of ancient Egypt on Renaissance iconography, and the broader representations of justice and the rule of law in visual culture. Following the completion of his Bachelor of Laws in 2020, he intends to begin a PhD overlapping the Law and Art History disciplines, examining the influence of ancient Egyptian imagery on Renaissance iconography, with a focus on allegories of Justice. Hugh currently works as an Assistant Curator of Private Records at the Australian War Memorial.