All Said And Dine: Films To Throw Popcorn At
By Genevieve Pardoe
I’m famously late to the party—it’s kind of my thing.
I am the person who comes up with the best comeback, like, six months later. Often, I don’t ‘get’ what someone really meant until weeks go by. My aha moments usually have a super slow boil, I’ll admit it. Now, am I thoughtful and good at processing, or just kind of obtuse? That’s a blog for another time.
But in that vein, I am unsurprisingly late when it comes to watching movies. I watched the critically acclaimed, Oscar-winning film Ex-Machina from 2015 last night. Basically it’s about two dorky male coders and their sexy robot slaves.
This movie came out over two years ago so I’m not doing a review here, because, right, I know, I am late to the party… but I would like to talk about the implications for this reductive, misogynistic (Is there a stronger word? Because that’s the word we should be using.) and wildly dangerous message.
Oooh I was riled up!
If you are like me, you are not an expert in the world of online gaming and/or computer programing, but you are at least aware of it. Still, you don’t need to be an expert to feel that something is off when gamers are able to hide behind their computers in anonymity and create avatars (big strong men) who, in some games, are able to hit, rape and murder women.
Again, insert lady growl. This movie hyper-sexualizes women (sorry, this movie hyper-sexualizes fembots), and the twist at the end has the lady robot gaining the upper hand to which critics exalted, “See? You just can’t trust those evil, manipulative women!”
Yes, this movie is fiction. But women and tech have not had an easy relationship. It was barely three months ago that Google urged that women be considered separate but equal, and we all know that separate never means equal. On top of that, female game critics being threatened with rape and murder for their blogs and game reviews.
I know, I know, not every male coder is a misogynist and not every male gamer has rape-fantasies, but it’s pretty freaking pervasive. Let’s at least admit that.
So what is this all about?
Yiannis Gabriel, a brilliant writer on the topic of “Othering,” explains that it is the process of casting a group, an individual or an object into the role of the 'other' and establishing one's own identity through opposition to and, frequently, vilification of this Other. Edward Said also wrote about the idea of reducing a counterpart or group of people until they become the “lesser”.
Ex-Machina does this by showing how the men in the story can de-program the women robots at their convenience. The chief villain even has a closet where earlier, unsatisfactory versions of the women are stored, naked, obviously.
Reducing others places space between us, and it’s a dangerous practice. But it’s also a massive topic, and it’s one that I’m not qualified to summarize in a blog. Nevertheless, we need to start somewhere.
So, whether we are talking about misogyny in tech industries, reductive imagery in a movie, or even the language that we use without thinking… we need to stop acting as if we’re not connected. What we say and do matters.
It’s hard and it’s frustrating, especially when you are the person being reduced and made to feel like the lesser, but try to ask, why? Why do you feel that way? Where does that view come from?
Either that or throw popcorn at the screen.