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I watched Blade Runner 2049 and while it was gorgeous there were a few things that left me scratching my head:

In one scene, K (Ryan Gosling) is walking through Las Vegas and find a dozen apiaries full of bees. The scene is beautiful, but never explained. I can't imagine that such a detailed movie with so much thought given to each shot has this for no reason. What's the meaning of this scene?

  • 2
    Do note that, like the original film, there is a lot of open-ended symbology open to wide interpretation. Both films were left sufficiently vague (much to the chagrin of the original film's ownership, but embraced by the sequel). – DA. Oct 10 '17 at 3:33
  • And that's precisely the point where proper analysis questions and their answers set it. – Napoleon Wilson Oct 11 '17 at 0:56
12

I interpreted this scene two ways, though I'm not sure the writers intended the second.

  1. In the original movie, Deckard asks Rachael what she would do if a wasp landed on her arm. She responds immediately that she would kill it; the desired human response. In the new movie, when a bee lands on K's arm, he doesn't kill. K stares at it fascinated. This to me was the most outright indication that K was not Deckard's kid. Rachael is used as a plot device to blur "what it is to be human." She was a replicant that, by all rights, was indistinguishable from a human: she had empathy, memories, and functioning reproductive organs. She basically was human.

So this scene overwhelmingly tells me that K wasn't the same as Rachael, and isn't her child. This scene takes place at the peak of the script where the audience is supposed to believe he is the child, about to confront his dad, so this scene is a subtle nod to the original and a hint to the audience that he is not the kid.

  1. Bees have been used as air quality control in German airports and have been shown to detect and function as bio-sensor for certain types of radiation. In the book, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, the radiation moves around through radioactive dust, so the bees could be Deckard's way of monitoring air quality and radiation levels
  • 4
    That wouldn't prove that K is not Rachel's child, IMO, since K is fully aware of his replicant heritage, whether he has fake memories, or if they are real. Also, the claim that "I'd kill it" is the "desired response" is totally wrong. The questions were designed to elicit an emotional reaction, physiologically. What words they respond with have nothing to do with the test. They are measuring involuntary biological reactions with that test.- "Capillary dilation of the so-called 'blush response', fluctuation of the pupil, involuntary dilation of the iris." "We call it Voight-Kampff for short." – PoloHoleSet Oct 31 '17 at 18:54
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    But bees are not wasps (K knows it too). Wasps attack aggressively, bees only when provoked. – wip Nov 21 '17 at 16:20
31

I just watched the director's explanation and – as I expected although I've not yet seen the film – he intended it to be a playful sign of hope in the face of climate change and endangered species.

Murphy: How did you decide that he would come across bees?

Villeneuve: There are a lot of problems with bees in the world right now. They are disappearing, so the fact that here you can see those creatures still alive and still present, was for me like a little spark of hope in this dystopian universe.
-New York Times, 2017-10-02, Denis Villeneuve Narrates a Scene From ‘Blade Runner 2049’, by Mekado Murphy

For background, this is one of many articles available about bees in the face of climate change and how they are endangered.

  • This answer is great and the only correct one so far! – Möoz Nov 1 '17 at 23:56
  • Interesting. While watching the film, I 1) assumed they were artificial (like other animals in the film (s) and 2) asked myself what they would be living from in that desert – Arsak Mar 18 '18 at 11:36
4

Although I am sure Livrecache has the right answer, it might be worth mentioning that bees sometimes appear in some of Philip K. Dick's other works so it could also be slight homage.

  • The Hanging Stranger - Is a short story about Bee People replacing humans.

  • Cosmic Puppets (revised from A Glass of Darkness) - Is a novel about people who were part of an erased town, who come to remember and two characters have a small proxy war where both characters can only fight each other by using insects and some animals including bees, moths, cats, goloms, spiders, snakes, etc

  • Valis - Novel about a lot of things pertaining to God and surveillance, but features mechanical floating bee & fly cameras.

  • That's really interesting, @Darth Locke. I'll have to find those books now. – Livrecache Oct 15 '17 at 3:52
  • @Livrecache - Valis should be easy to find, but the other two, because they are short stories/novellas are probably in collective works. Also if you generally like his work or adaptations of his work, Amazon has Man in the High Castle TV series and Amazon is also releasing a Philip K. Dick Anthology series, "Electric Dreams" (it came out in the UK already) based on the short stories--it has a lot of great talent. Here is the NYCC trailer: youtube.com/embed/470TG3AdA1A – Darth Locke Oct 15 '17 at 14:22
3

Livrecache's answer would seem to be definitive, based on the Director's comments.

This technique of integrating current issues is a hallmark of speculative fiction, and mirrored in the use of grubworms as a major food source in 2049. [See: "Starving People Should Eat Bugs", Business Insider] Concerns over human over-population and food scarcity have resulted in speculation that insects will be an important food source in the future.

In terms of inspiration for the inclusion of bees as a symbol of hope:

  • I wouldn't be surprised if this device was inspired by The Road

In Cormac McCarthy's post-apocalyptic allegory, which shares themes relating to humanity, at the end of the book, the Boy notices a living insect. (I believe it was a beetle.) In a world where nearly all life has died-off, the re-emergence of the insect is a sign that that the biosphere is recovering, a symbol of hope.

1

There are excellent answers here, and all I can do is contribute a fragment of one possible interpretation (that surely pales next to those already provided, and might be purely coincidental though I'm not conivinced):

By loose analogy the bees in Blade Runner 2049 may serve as a reference to the standard tune, "A Taste of Honey", which waxes about a love that "awoke [the singer's] heart" with a kiss, and that the singer "will return" one day. This mirrors Deckard's situation, and one of the notable recordings of this song was done by Billy Dee Williams, who played Harrison Ford's character's best friend (from his youth) from the Star Wars films.

As performed by Williams, the lyrics are:

A taste of honey
Tasting much sweeter than wine
I dream of your first kiss
And then I feel upon my lips again
A taste of honey
Tasting much sweeter than wine
I will return, yes I will return
I'll come back for the honey and you
Yours was the kiss that awoke my heart
There lingers still, though we're far apart
That taste of honey
Tasting much sweeter than wine
Oh I will return, yes I will return
I'll come back (He'll come back)
For the honey (For the honey)
And you

Further examination of the "bee" motif throughout literature and movies, and how it is interpreted in psychoanalytical contexts, may shed more light on this metaphor, although even concrete evidence as to why it was chosen for the film may never tell the "whole story" of a creative process.

A letter from C. G. Jung from 1934 to an "Elined Kotschnig" (found here, in Volume I of the Letters of C. G. Jung) explores how the symbol of bees may have had a particular relevance in one person's dream, but some of the themes discussed therein may be broadly applicable. Being a historic document of some note, it is also not inconceivable that this letter itself may have had some direct or indirect influence on the film's use of the metaphor.

1

I would suggest it could be a reference to Sherlock Holmes, another famous literary character whose profession as a consulting detective (not unlike the blade runners who are affiliated with the police) set him on the heels of nefarious evildoers. In his retirement, he became a beekeeper.

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protected by iandotkelly Nov 1 '17 at 21:42

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