aNewDomain — Angela Watercutter’s excellent review of “Ex Machina” complains about the sexualization of the fembots in the movie.
Take the fembot Ava. In the film, her problem is simply that she is a female robot being evaluated for intelligence by male humans, and she has to please them to survive. If she fails the so-called Turing test for sentience, she’ll be dismantled – just as all her predecessors were. So, to pass the test, she uses feminine wiles.
Watercutter’s problem with the film is that bots in other films never need such wiles. They can be strong or confused or whatever their creators want them to be, really.
But Ava, she’s different. She has gender and she has sex. And because she has access to all the information on the Internet, she knows what that is worth.
Plus, she can learn, and she must know what a female is. And she must know what the value of a female is. Which she does.
Now, when you’re talking racism, all bullshit aside, black lives don’t matter. That’s why we need a black lives matter movement. In America, people of color are murdered with impunity, exploited when poorest and kept out of the political system. #Blacklivesmatter is a thing because it needs to be a thing. It’s a contradiction of the prevailing trend, battling racism that does in fact exist.
And so it goes with sexism. This is the world Ava can see when she accesses all the Google searches ever done: It’s a world in which females are sexualized, paid less than men, not allowed in combat, overrepresented in caring positions, and markedly underrepresented in government and other leadership roles. When allowed to work construction, for instance, it’s women who hold the sign and men who work the heavy equipment. Women, when they’re raped, are blamed for being raped just like the year is Year 8 and we’re using Old Testament or Hammurabic rules of engagement.
Okay, we won’t literally lapidate you for being assaulted. But we’ll get your whole sexual history to parade before the jury, find out what you were wearing, ask what you were doing on that street at that hour, as if being raped is your own fault.
The point of all this — and it’s a point that Watercutter may be missing — is that Ava isn’t stupid.
She knows what she’s worth.
And the end of the film answers all the questions of exploitation. You’ll have to see it. I totally recommend this film.
In this film, what you get is a world — a world of women made to entertain men. Not an ideal world, especially when they catch on so fast.
And there’s a moral here, which has has much to do with the eventual cost of all those naked ladies.
The question the Wired reviewer should be asking, really is a meta-question: We’re asking whether Ava is intelligent, fine. But we should also be asking whether the movie industry – and specifically the team who made this movie – are intelligent.
Ava knows what she needs to do to survive, and she does it.
The makers of any film know what they need to do to succeed, to survive: and they do it, too.
Yeah, this movie could have been just as sharp, just as cutting, without any female nudity in it at all. The writers and directors could have implied it, or written a film with no sex, where Ava didn’t have to all but seduce her captors in order to survive.
Then nobody would have gone to see it. That’s a steep price to pay for political correctness.
See, in this setup, the film is the AI, and you’re the one assessing it through the screen. Be careful what assessments you make, though. As with any psychological inquiry, your answers and even your questions might say more about you than they do about the subject.
In other words, Ava played her inventors. And she used sex to … well, you’ll have to see what she managed. I won’t ruin it for you. As for the people who made this film, they used sex on you. In the same way she used sex on them.
We can sure make the point that this is immoral and exploitive.
And if Wired’s Watercutter is right, we’re all indicted, too.
For aNewDomain, I’m Jason Dias.
Image one: io9.com, All Rights Reserved; image two/cover: via “Ex Machina” by Jason Dias.