Well, female robots that is. In a time where human gender binaries are becoming more and more irrelevant, why are onscreen androids being forced further into archaic stereotypes? And why are most female robots used as a sexual outlet for both fellow characters and viewers, whereas males are predominantly evil antagonists?
These dichotomies have been applied to robots since the early days of cinema, with Fritz Lang’s Metropolis (1927). Evil inventor Rotwang creates a robot based on the image of his lost love Hel, already rooting her to being an object of emotional and sexual gratification. This is further exaggerated when she “lives” and looks exactly like the protagonists love interest, Maria. The story is becomes incredibly Freudian when you consider that Hel, the original design for the robot, is the mother of the protagonist, Freder. Maria the Robot is sent to dance in Rotwang’s club, hypnotising the men who watch her, and using her sexuality and image to ultimately destroy the balance between the upper and lower classes. Some consider Maria the Robot to be sexually aggressive, but her actions are all under the programming of her male creator – and much like a witch she is burnt at the stake as a consequence.
Again, in Ridley Scotts 1982 film Blade Runner, it is the female robots that embody the most human traits, especially that of sexuality. We are first introduced to Rachael, who is styled as a typical femme fatale – phallic cigarette in hand and lips painted red. She becomes the love interest to Harrison Ford’s Rick Deckard, as she would in any film noir. Pris signifies a more modern woman, using her sexuality and image to manipulate those around her and get what she wants. Zhora, the most easily forgotten of the replicants is particularly interesting, due to her job in a strip club, meaning her life is anchored within the male gaze.
Of course, you can’t think about sexy lady robots without referring the the beehived buxom babes often seen in 60s and 70s B movies like Dr Goldfoot and the Bikini Machine, which were inspiration for the fembots in the Austin Powers films. Equipped with breast cannons, their sexuality is truly their weapon, and it is revealed in the beginning of The Spy Who Shagged Me that Vanessa (Powers’ love interest in the previous film) is also a bot who married Austin Powers with the intention of killing him.
Probably the most recent, and transgressive, films fembot is Ava – the key player within Alex Garland’s Ex Machina (2015). Oscar Issac’s mad inventor Nathan designs her with the sole aim of seducing Caleb (Domhnall Gleeson) – spying on his pornography habits to work out her perfect image. This image is later the downfall of the male protagonists, with Ava taking her revenge and escaping her creator.
It can be easily concluded that robots are the literal objectification of women – they are a blank canvas that can be programmed, unlike a real woman. They can be taught how and when to speak, to cook, clean, and be sexually available whenever desired (with no fear of there being excuses of headaches or tiredness). However, they can be easily villainised once their sexual novelty has worn off, as we often see in films – and this is comparable to hearing that a woman is “a bitch” or the classic “yeah my ex girlfriend was crazy”.
Why are there no male robots whose sole purpose is sexuality? Bar Jude Law’s Gigolo Joe, why do robots that look male have almost asexual qualities? Take Prometheus‘ David – he is the villain, nothing more, nothing less. The Terminator, a machine of destruction. iRobot‘s Sonny, a murderer.
For once the males have less character facets than the females, but for robots, this isn’t necessarily a good thing.