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In Blade Runner, they have enough knowledge of genetics to be able to create replicants, life forms nearly identical to humans. They then have trouble identifying them among humans.

Why can't (or don't) they create them with some distinctive feature that would make them easily distinguishable from humans, like purple skin or orange eyes?

To be clear, I'm talking about the film.

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    Because if they were created with markings they'd be really easy to find and deal with and we wouldn't have a Blade Runner movie? – DisturbedNeo May 9 '17 at 15:24
  • Well, yeah, for having the movie it's the best explanation. But an in-universe reason for that could always have been done, so it's not just "we use that for having the movie, even though it goes against what people would likely do", but it's "there's a good in-universe reason for doing that". I'm exactly asking about which is that in-universe reason, if it exists – user2638180 May 9 '17 at 15:47
  • Not really an answer, but I recall there being no small amount of hub-bub in the critical analysis of the film over the idea that Deckard himself might be a replicant. If HE had easily identifiable markings it would give away his true nature and thus probably undermine his desire to hunt down other replicants. – Steve-O May 9 '17 at 15:47
  • On a related note, Clifford Simak wrote a novel (Time and Again) where exactly that had been done; to quote: The sign upon the forehead, the brand of manufacture. The telltale mark that said, "This man is not a human, although he looks like one." Android: An artificial human. A human made in the laboratory out of Man's own deep knowledge of chemicals and atomic and molecular structure and the strange reaction that is known as life. Human in all but two respects—the mark upon the forehead and the inability to reproduce biologically. – K-H-W Jan 4 '18 at 23:24
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The intent of replicants is to be, a human replication, to the point the best replicants don't even know they are one. This would be subverted if replicants could be easily told apart. The 4 year safeguard is to avoid the Replicants to develop human cognition to the point they can't be detected.

So what is the point of replicants in the first place? The 4 escaped replicants in the movie serve as a soldier, an assassin, a nuclear material handler and a prostitute (so dangerous and undesirable jobs).

Why would they want them to be indistinguishable? Well in some jobs (like prostitution and assassination) looking like a real human would make all the difference. Some people might distrust replicants (like Ripley distrusts Androids in Aliens), if they were identifiable. And finally, there is the uncanny valley phenomenon, where humans are unsettled looking at near life-like imitation of life (for example, a 3d render of a human, or a high end sex doll). So a perfect human would leave people at ease in many ways.

There is no reason given in the movie for the replicants being so human like, so the best we can do is guess.

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    The uncanny valley issue doesn't preclude them having some unobtrusive but distinctive feature like, I dunno, red toes. – MissMonicaE May 9 '17 at 17:45
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    There are foot fetishists, and red toes on a prostitute might not fly for them. Same goes for any physical marker really. Orange eyes. Elf ears. Upside down nose. Besides, the moment people could make some distinguishing feature, like orange eyes, young people would use them, just out of fashion, further confusing the distinction. – CyberClaw May 9 '17 at 17:51
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    Three more points to throw in: They are only illegal on Earth; Tyrell corporation is not the government; Tyrell has competitors. – Yorik May 12 '17 at 14:55
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    Just a precision. My memory is a bit blurry for the movie, but the time limitation is a technological limitation in the novel. Not a wanted feature – Edelk May 12 '17 at 15:49
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    @CyberClaw An interesting tidbit: I'm reading Future Noir: The Making of Blade Runner, written by a films journalist who was present from start to finish and interviewed cast and crew, and he says Daryl Hannah (who plays Pris) claimed she was told "[the replicants had] been basically manufactured like a car, to last only a short time so that people would have to buy a new one". Now, this is not stated in the movie (in fact, the reasons given are different) but it definitely shows at least at some point the scriptwriters thought the limited lifespan was intentional. – Andres F. Oct 14 '17 at 0:15
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If Replicants are obviously identifiable then they might realise exactly how many of them they are and be tempted into a rebellion. Similar to how Ancient Rome had no uniform for slaves, lest the slaves realise by how much they outnumbered free Romans.

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    Good explanation. Can you expand on this though? Is there any commentary you can find that addresses this, anything in the movies or even the books? – Möoz Oct 9 '17 at 1:55
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I was wondering the same before I watched first Bladerunner. Now I am 25 min. in the movie and learned that the motto of Tyrell Corporation is "more human than human". I guess it's answering the question, because otherwise they wont be humanlike as much as possible.

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  • Agreed. Tyrell's relationship with Earth's authorities seems to be slightly adversarial as well: he doesn't seem interested in getting his replicants easily identified by the law, so why would he build them with clear markers? Tyrell seems to be making seemingly human replicas, he doesn't necessarily want them to be different from humans -- only "better". It's the authorities of the Earth who, after mutinies, want to be able to tell replicants apart from humans. – Andres F. Oct 29 '20 at 19:29
  • @Andres F. There is much wisdom in your comment. There must be nothing in it for Tyrell to make them identifiable. – lucasbachmann Oct 31 '20 at 3:47
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As Tyrell actually says to Deckard in the film

"our goal is commerce" meaning there is money to be made from having the replicants look indistinguishable from a real human. He goes on to state the Tyrell corporation moto as "more human than human" implying they make the perfect product. If you are looking for an in universe explanation as to why the replicants have no distinguishing feature commerce or profit if you like, is it. Replicants only become hunted after they are banned on earth after a series of murders. As Deckard says "if they are a benefit" meaning they are not rogue like Batty or Pris or leon "they are not my problem".

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If replicants were given distinctive appearances, such as a certain skin color, nose or ear shape this would probably result in some very unavoidable controversy. The very existence of these replicants appears to be controversial enough. And to give them certain features that distinguish them from humans would definitely have people looking to history to provide reasons why this is not such a good idea. All of the replicants seen on screen so far have been White. But are there replicants that appear as other ethnic groups? If so, what are their roles? Do we even want to go there? And trying to avoid those questions by creating an ethnic look exclusively for replicants might be the worst move that Tyrell or Wallace could make.

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  • Out of sight, out of mind. – DKNguyen Oct 29 '20 at 16:27

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