At the beginning of the movie “I, Robot” (2004) there was a scene where Det. Spooner makes way for the main female character Susan Calvin. This is the common display of good manners towards the women let me recall the origins of this behavior. In ancient times when the people lived in caves there was the possibility of dangerous animals coming to their places. That’s why men always let women go first to the cave, being less strong a woman hasn’t been as important as a man. So if there was an animal inside, it would definitely attack female first. We are living now in 21st century, what had changed with gender policy and what remained the same?
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Since the beginning of the days women and men haven’t been equally treated, the masculinity of our world, with fundamental changes off course, remains almost the same. The template idea that men’s spheres of interests are techniques, science, global problems, and women’s are humanitarian sector, human relationship etc. came from discrimination. Men always take important decisions, society put a man on more profitable positions. Nowadays we still have the issue with female on leading position, woman as a driver, woman isn’t trusted in the various jobs. The quantity of women in science isn’t big and sometimes one can hear unpleasant comments that a man has higher intelligence than a woman does. The history of female functioning in science sphere we can explore by science fiction films which aren’t rare among the movies.
As far as I remember the idea of super computer and higher artificial intelligence is not new. A lot of fiction writers were shaping it in various books, directors reviving the idea of computers possible rising against their creators. At the end humanity mostly win against cold logic and unemotional computers.
The same cold atmosphere one can feel in “2001 Space Odyssey” (1968) by Stanly Kubrick. Frosty classic music, accurate visual effects, unemotional and seems sometimes indifferent main heroes of the story make this film lifeless. The issue of the film was the idea of computer HAL went out of control and kills people in the outer space. The movie begins with the novel called “The Dawn of Man” where the director produces the idea of the first step of people becoming what they are right now. The monkeys who have found out how to use a bone for the weapon and the tool makes parallels with nowadays humanity creating new technologies. If we look at the science fiction movies and books we can see how masculine and patriarchal it is. So the “Space Odyssey” is. The main characters of the film are men, there are no women in action. At the beginning we see professor making a trip and female attendants on the space ship. Then we can observe women only on service positions. The super computer HAL has male voice as well. HAL itself shows more emotional empathy than two scientists who work around it. The message came to the outer space workers, it happens that HAL computers have the defects in them. With that knowledge super computer HAL realizes that it would be destroyed and decides to kill the human beings on the ship. The instinct of self-preservation which is the essence drives which let us live is implemented into the artificial mind in the likeness of a human being. At the very moment of understanding that HAL can be dangerous two scientists decide to deactivate it immediately. If we imagine that somebody has the intent to kill us, we will be fighting and make everything to destroy the enemy. The computer logic is absolute, so is logical the decision to kill the object who threatens to destroy you.
“I, Robot” movie is dealng practically with the same idea of computer rise against the humanity. The difference is the purpose of rebellion. 2035 year, robots help people in everything, they became the part of people lives. Soon the robots of new generation will arrive to the markets, everybody are excited and willing to buy new model as soon as possible. We can see only one old school skeptic policeman Det. Spooner who doesn’t trust in new technologies. After the death of robot’s developer detective became more suspicious about robots. Again the main hero of the story is a tough man, who will find help with women scientist and robot psychologist Susan Calvin. What the canvas do we see here? 2004 year women are a scientist, but again, psychologist, humanitarian sphere. What is more remarkable is that the super computer and the main enemy has female voice and face. The thing that high intelligent technology has female voice displays the fact of improvement attitude to the women. At the same time it pushed me to think one more option about this issue. I can recall that recent films with similar scenario have the same feature. All leading computers mostly with bad intentions have female voice. Let’s recall “Terminator: Salvation” (2009), SkyNet core computer has the voice and the face of female scientist created it. The third part of “Terminator” has antagonist character of female robot. “Sunshine” by Danny Boyle has such computer called “Icarus” which also operates by woman’s voice and cold logic. In “Resident Evil” series a female child embody the evil and high intellectual technology which kills people in the name of restraining the disease. One of the newest “Eagle Eye” has the identical peculiarity, artificial intellect speaks with female tongue. Doesn’t it look weird? Evil forces with female face is not the innovation in the history. Witch hunting in the middle ages, in fact the Christianity was and still is the origin of discrimination. Masculine church was always oppose feminized nature, and made a woman the resident of seducing demons and primordial chaos. In fact Danny Boyle’s “Sunshine” has religious content inside. So what we see in “I, Robot” that is different from “2001”?
As it is 40 years between these films the role of woman in society has changed a lot. Now females have more power, they work in almost more spheres of business, at the same time the woman has to double her efforts to gain the same positions as the man. A man remains the leading role character and a woman is supporting, weak, intelligent, but at the same time can’t see the whole picture of events as Det. Spooner does. One more difference between the movies is in treating of defective computer. We observe Sonny a slightly different robot who has human emotions and help main heroes to find real enemy. Susan being a woman and let her emotions overwhelm her couldn’t deactivate the robot. The main antagonist of the story is V.I.K.I. higher computer intellect which decides to destroy the part of human being as they cause the danger to themselves and the environment around them. Again the decision of super computer is cruel but logical, we are poisoning the planet and in general we are dangerous and aggressive species, so when a person creates completely logical and intellectual computer it is obvious it would strike in one moment. I consider that the reason all these super computers have female voices is not because the feminists won but because the humanity is still obsessed with the fact that prime evil is the woman especially a woman with higher intellect. If we take into account so called “exorcist’s” films which are extreme popular now we can see the proving that somebody is incarnating the idea of womann is concentration of chaotic spirits and so as evil forces themselves.
“Odyssey” concentrates on the science question and the nearest future of computer age while “I, Robot” gives the perspective of our robotized future. There is also the idea of rebellion against the system and the corporation within the context of “I, Robot”. Gender in both films plays different roles. In “2001” female as a character is neglecting, in “Robot” it obtains both positive and negative positions. As we go into the core of the meaning we can find an inner fear of a woman hidden power she has against a man. We can observe it in the fact that V.I.K.I. operates and gives orders to all robots in the system. While HAL is acting due to its self preservation, V.I.K.I. perverts the rules of non attacking a human being and makes the decision of destroying disturbing elements of the society. The idea of dangerous humanity goes to the radical environmentalists who truly believe humans overpopulate the Earth and damages their own nature. The cruel idea of the people destruction seems logical for the first instant but we have to realize it is the logic which a human being creates, it is how one understand the solving of the problem.
Let’s go within main characters of the stories. David Bowman is cold, unemotional person who doesn’t get exited even when the message from his parents arrive, Det. Spooner is on the contrary too emotional and brutal. He hates technology innovations due to the accident he had in past. He denies the power of logical thinking which the robots operate. In “Odyssey” the main hero and the other characters are excited by the abilities of HAL to operate the space ship automatically and do everyday routine things, like, for example, to create monthly psychological reports on the space crew. In this position HAL has the advantage over the human beings. It can be understandable as 1960s is the time when technologies were highly anticipated and it obtained optimistic characteristics. In 21st century society began to think of the future innovations and where do they bring us? As the computer operates only by the numbers, mathematical logic it can’t be moved by the power of compassion or moral values the humanity has. It is a bit weird how the notions of innovations, unclear perspectives can be paralleled to the fear of chaotic nature which leads to feminine origin. How come even sci fi films contain the idea of human fear against nature, women and chaos? The majority of these films are thrillers or horrors, we can recall “Alien” series, which is different example because the main heroine of the story is a woman, but at the same time the most frightening alien in the movie is queen of the alien’s species. The attitude towards a woman as dangerous nature is still surprising in the age of new technologies and new generations.
To summarize the topic we can say that the echo of our predecessors is still strong enough. Men afraid to give to women more power in two reasons, one is uncertainty in female’s abilities, the second is the simple fear that woman will destroy our world because of its unstable and overemotional nature. If we look on the problem of our world now we can see that the nature is damaged and partially killed because of the rush for the innovation. The result of the society psychology towards feminine representatives in many spheres of life is abusive discrimination and misunderstanding the nature of woman and the nature of world around us. To overcome the template ideas of a woman who is less intelligent or incapable of making important decisions we have to look in the heart of a problem and overcome own wrong ideas within ourselves.