Raunch Reviews is a series about profanity. Not real profanity, but speculative swearing. Authors often try to incorporate original, innovative forms of profanity into our own fantastical works as a way to expand the worlds we build. Sometimes we’re successful. Often we’re not. In this series, I examine the faux-profanity from various works of sci-fi and fantasy, judge their effectiveness, and rate them on an unscientific and purely subjective scale. This is Raunch Reviews, welcome.
The Author: Hampton Fancher & David Peoples
Work in Question: Blade Runner
The Profanity: “Skin job”
Dehumanizing or bigoted slurs have been prevalent throughout history. And they’re still with us today. Even in recent dialog, we’ve seen the powerful employing precise language in a manner to strip away someone’s value. It’s not a new phenomenon. I believe the best fiction serves as a mirror forcing those engaging with it to confront some of the uglier sides of humankind.
Blade Runner’s existential questions surrounding life and humanity and its fundamental question of “what makes us human” is why the faux-profanity “skin job” works so well. In concept, it combines that existentialist question with the bigoted language and aims it at the android replicants in the story.
Like “prawn” from District 9, “skin job” is born from fear and designed to dehumanize. This is why we see it wielded by the powerful to imply that replicants are less than human. Language is a powerful factor in creating “the other.” It allows our brains to trigger differently. It’s why we nickname enemies; it’s easier to kill a nickname than it is to kill a human with thoughts, dreams, and desires. By calling replicants “skin jobs,” one can logically make the leap that they’re disposable and easily replaceable.
Abusive language quickly leads to dehumanization, and dehumanization leads to atrocities. We see that in Blade Runner as much as we do in the world at large. It’s why “skin job” works so well, and it’s why it stings to hear it spoken out loud.
🤬 Previous Raunch Reviews
- “Frag” from J. Michael Straczynski’s Babylon 5
- “Gorram” from Joss Whedon’s Firefly
- “Prawn” from Neill Blomkamp & Terri Tatchell’s District 9
- “By the Firsts” from K. M. Alexander’s Bell Forging Cycle
- “Smurf” from Raja Gosnell & Jordan Kerner’s The Smurfs (2011)
- “Dren” from Rockne S. O’Bannon’s Farscape
- “Quiznak” from J. Dos Santos & L. Montgomery’s Voltron: Legendary Defender
- “Smeg” from Rob Grant and Doug Naylor’s Red Dwarf
- “Burn Me” from Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time
- “Slitch” from Robert A. Heinlein’s Friday
- “Yarbles” from Anthony Burgess’ A Clockwork Orange
- “Cuss” from Wes Anderson’s Fantastic Mr. Fox
- “Feth” from Dan Abnett’s Gaunt’s Ghosts from Warhammer 40k
- “Shazbot” from Garry Marshall’s Mork & Mindy and Dynamix’s Starsiege: Tribes
- “Seven Hells” from George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice & Fire/Game of Thrones
- “Mudblood” from J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series
- “Frak” from Glen A. Larson’s, Ronald D. Moore’s, & David Eick’s Battlestar Galactica
- “Jabber” from China Miéville’s Bas-Lag series
- “Storm it”/”Storms”/”Storming” from Brandon Sanderson’s The Stormlight Archives
Have a suggestion for Raunch Reviews? It can be any made-up slang word from a book, television show, or movie. You can email me directly with your recommendation or leave a comment below. I’ll need to spend time with the property before I’ll feel confident reviewing it, so give me a little time. I have a lot of books to read.