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The Trouble with Joi

Research output: Contribution in Book/Report/Proceedings - With ISBN/ISSNChapter

Publication date5/09/2019
Host publicationBlade Runner 2049 and Philosophy
EditorsRobin Bunce, Trip McCrossin
Place of PublicationChicago
PublisherOpen Court
ISBN (print)9780812694710
<mark>Original language</mark>English

Publication series

NamePopular Culture and Philosophy
PublisherOpen Court


While the character Joi in Blade Runner 2049 may conform to certain negative stereotypes around gender and the role of women, things are far more complex than they first seem. This is because she is not a human being at all, but rather an AI. So, not only is she acting out the role of a woman – much as Judith Butler describes in her famous work Gender Trouble – but she is also acting out the role of a human being as well.

In this case, we cannot separate Joi’s gender from her assumed ‘humanity’. This is because she cannot be ‘female’ without first being recognised as human, and her ‘human-like’ identity requires that she be thought of in gendered terms. It is not then, so much a question of whether Joi is female or even human, but rather how we define the human in the first place, and what her performance reveals about the unstable terms on which our own humanity is defined.
In this chapter, I explore various elements of Joi’s performance, both as a ‘woman’, and as a ‘human being’. This includes looking both at how Joi operates within the film world, and how her character extends into the real world beyond. As I conclude, the ‘trouble with Joi’ is not so much her gender, but the way she blurs the line between the human and the machine, suggesting that we are perhaps just as much like Joi, as she is like us.