Ex Machina: Humans vs A.I… of course

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Ava in Ex Machina

Ava, the robot featured in Ex Machina

I had the chance to see the new movie Ex Machina (pronounced: Ex Ma-Khi-na) in a sort of “boutique” theater, the ArcLight Theater in Bethesda.  The ArcLight presents a more upscale theater-going experience, which turned out to be perfect for Ex Machina, as it’s an upscale telling of the “humans vs A.I.” theme that is usually represented (crudely) by the Terminator franchise, (genocidally) by Galactica or (lightly) by Star Trek.

And for “upscale,” how did it do?  Masterfully.  Overall, a five-star experience—if you’re okay with science fiction movies that don’t feature space ships and ‘splosions and ask you to use more than five brain cells at a time.  (Oh, yeah, there’s a bit of sexual language and nudity, so leave the kids at home.)

Read on; no spoilers ahead.

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Robots as female fetishes and voodoo dolls

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Eva_Ex_Machina01In a Den of Geek article, filmmaker Alex Garland discussed his latest film, Ex Machina.  He had some interesting things to say about the story and the robotic main character, Ava, that caught my attention:

It’s partly an argument about the objectification of women in a particular way. In this sense, it’s a literal objectification.

Ava’s not actually a woman. She’s a machine that does not have a gender. So the question is, why is she presented as a girl in her early 20s? It’s because we fetishise girls in their early 20s. In a particular kind of way. Sometimes you read about that being shunted onto the media: advertising does it, film does it. It’s bullshit. It’s passing the buck. We all do it. Men do it and women do it. Right?

The reasons we do that are complicated, and I could make guesses as to why it is. But what seems to be beyond debate is that it does actually happen.

Women (in many countries, like the US) intentionally dress, use makeup and style their hair to fetishize themselves, even in socially- and politically-non-sexual situations (like office environments)—even as they demand to be seen as something more than fetish objects—and men, claiming to indeed see women as more than fetish objects, don’t actively discourage women from fetishizing themselves.  And science fiction goes the extra mile:  Objectifying women by robotizing them, as shown in Ex Machina, is as old as the first movies, and has become a rather tired trope of the genre that we cannot get away from, even today. Continue reading