Fembots: Female Androids in Mainstream Cinema and Beyond
Zumberge, Marianne Ellen
Science-fiction films of the past century have reflected the societal fears, social dynamics, and utopian desires of the filmgoing public. A staple character in this genre has become the feminized android, a trope composed of male fantasy and racialized hierarchy. From the robo-burlesque performance in Metropolis (1927, dir. Fritz Lang) to the swimsuit-bedecked bots of Dr. Goldfoot and the Bikini Machine (1965, dir. Norman Taurog) to Ex Machina (2014, dir. Alex Garland) and beyond, the trope of the gynoid has persisted, building in its danger through each subsequent permutation. Chronological examination of these characters’ appearances reveals that their evolution has been nonlinear — and, worse, their twenty-first century variants can be all the more damaging as they are passed off as progressive. I lay out a brief overview of how female android depiction has (and has not) developed over the past century, drawing on pioneering theories of gender, media, and techno-orientalism by Marshall McLuhan, Laura Mulvey, Mark Hansen, and others. Ultimately, my analysis shows that the conversation surrounding fembots is overdue for extension and reevaluation in the early twenty-first century.
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