Death of the Cyberpunk genre?

This piece is going to be more of a personal anecdote. With the recent hype coming from the introduction of a long-awaited rebirth of a nostalgic ’80s video game, the craze of the hoped-messiah that would inevitably resurrect a dead genre intrigued me to explore the roots of the futuristic, dystopian setting itself. This was my search towards uncovering the lost jewels of the Cyberpunk era.

The anticipated revival of the genre, Cyberpunk 2077 (2020)

So I began with watching the typical Western classic Cyberpunk film, those that my friends were quite accustomed to and were lovingly offering scathing reviews on a piece I thought was a timeless masterpiece. Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner had captured a contemporary notion of the traits define who we are as humans, something existential that could be questioned by the experiences of individuals today. The movie had served as a nuanced commentary for the responses of my friends that had disregarded the film’s messages, and had simply left it reduced to an out-dated relic that had encompassed a boring compilation of fight scenes and a vulgar world absent of the beauties of the current world. They questioned; how could this movie be representative of humans? How could technology drive us towards such a corrupted future that neglected the morals we so upheld in today’s society? How are we ever going to lead down such a degraded path for the future?

The cityscape of Scott’s 1982 film, Blade Runner

Now, obviously, with traits of being typically bored and often lacking with little patience, this combines to create the teenage angst that defines us as high schoolers, where the acknowledgement of a dystopian society is so neglected because it simply does not register the complexities of the Blade Runner world that mirrors a future that is so indicative of where we are at the moment, as a society.

Why?

Because it’s scary. To consider that our world, ruled by a capitalistic culture that overwhelms the quality of living through the utilisation of technological advancements, is something we do not associate with the degradation of living standards. After all, technology is created to ease a burden and simplify living, right? But Blade Runner’s advancements make it exclusive to the upper class that can afford it, which creates a segregation that is representative of one’s monetary capacity and influence.

The illustrious company of the Blade Runner world, Tyrell Corporation

Isn’t that the same with billionaires and the destitute of today? Those that are able to afford luxuries others cannot, tend to live a life that is unparalleled to?

And this understanding is from a singular film. What about the genre’s contemporary message itself?

I also read Do Android’s Dream of Electric Sheep?, the basis of Blade Runner, and the novel’s perception of possessiveness and consumerism is based upon society’s social structures, given that a richer social class is able to obtain an item that manifests their wealth and power. The 1988 film Akira also establishes the notion of power and its impacts that subsequently lead to a loss of humanity. While it quite literally shows the ability of supernatural powers in corrupting our morals and ideals, Blade Runner and Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? imply that the power obtained through the influence associated with wealth inherently creates an amoral city, built on the fundamental value of the wealthy’s obsession of power assertion.

Akira (1988)

So given the Cyberpunk genre’s embodiment of society’s loss of humanity, why is it something that is being so dismissed and forgotten by the youth today? Is it because it confronts the apathetic nature of those that are unwilling to see the uncanny contrasts between a dystopia and the path society is currently leading towards, given that divisiveness in wealth is only becoming more apparent today?

Or is it because, perhaps, we ourselves are becoming consumed by our need to obtain and possess in order to have greater wealth, that our morals and humanity stand in our grand pursuit in doing so?

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? (1968)

Is this pursuit something we are subjugated to, given society’s growing need to further develop wealth through technology, or is it a consumerist culture that defines an adapted understanding of humanity that is free from the binds of morals and ideals? Perhaps this itself is, ‘more human than human’ (Blade Runner), and maybe we are required to ‘do wrong no matter where [we] go’ in order to fulfil ‘the basic condition of life’ (Do Android’s Dream of Electric Sheep?) of survival.

Is the death of the Cyberpunk genre indicative of society’s own loss of humanity?

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