The Fembot Mystique

Annalee Newitz in Popular Science ponders upon the way TV series and movies portray Fembots (also called gynoids). I’m not a specialist of the topic but i found her story interesting, i just wish fembots in animation hadn’t been left out. I made a summary of the article and added links to the movies she mentions and to more information i found while googling around.

ometropolik.jpgA scene from Metropolis

Daniel Wilson, author of How to Survive a Robot Uprising, says that fembots are often presented as the most dangerous robots of all, because feelings of attraction to them could leave their victims vulnerable to attack.

The first fembot was introduced in Metropolis. In Fritz Lang’s masterpiece, a mad scientist who wants to destroy the machinists invents a beautiful, sadistic female robot. The evil creature soon became the template for others fictional bots, though not for several decades. There were few fembots in the mid-20th century, but the desire to connect women and machines was manifest in the pinups painted on fighter planes and curves of 1950s roadsters. Robots, on the other hand, were depicted as clumsy automatons like Robby the Robot. Despite his male name, the ’bot acted like a traditional housewife, bustling around, making clothes, and cooking for the other characters.

0obioncico.jpg“Kill Oscar” The Fembot Conspiracy, an episode from The Bionic Woman (1976)

But as women’s social roles shifted, so did those of their machine counterparts. The 1970s saw a surge of fembot protest movies. The most famous of these is The Stepford Wives, a fable in which men replace their wives with obedient robots who love cooking, cleaning and sex.

However, the fembots of the past two decades have been far from domestic. In the 1980s movie Eve of Destruction, a robot with a nuclear bomb for a heart threatens a city with extinction after a man in a bar calls her a “bitch.� In Blade Runner, Daryl Hannah plays a delicate yet violent robot named Pris who nearly kills the hero. Terminator 3 features a female version of the killer cyborg. And nearly all the powerful cylons in the TV series Battlestar Galactica are played by strong, devastatingly gorgeous women.

Newitz discerns shades of Stepford in today’s fembots. Hiroshi Ishiguro‘s “office androidâ€? Repilee Q1Expo was designed to be your perfect secretary. Her Korean version doesn’t seem eager to follow a different path.

Fembots photo gallery. See also The “Nature” of the Female Cyborg, an essay by Francesca Myman and Technosexuality.

Via Marianna XXX.