The Current

Ex Machina's portrayal of gendered robot perpetuates stereotypes

From the Terminator to the most recent 'lady robot' Ava in the film, Ex Machina, our robots tend to follow such formulaic gender roles. Critics say it's a problem in pop culture we need to take care, before the robots are really living among us.
Critics say Ava, the robot in Ex Machina is the latest "lady robot" to be cast in a rather formulaic and all-too-well-worn mold. (Ex Machina, Universal Pictures)

The new sci-fi film Ex Machina is currently a critical darling on the festival circuit. It tells the story of a young, male computer programmer, who falls in love with a vulnerable and beautiful heroine named Ava. The only glitch is that Ava is a robot.... one he's supposed to be testing.

Clearly, Ava is one alluring robot, which as some critics have noted, makes her just the latest "lady robot" to be cast in a rather formulaic ... and all-too-well-worn mold. 

From "female" robots Priss in Blade Runner, Lisa from Weird Science, and Samantha from Her... They're all "female" robots, they are all vulnerable, sexy and more often than not sexualized figures. And examples of "male" robots like HAL from a Space Odyssey, Star Trek's Data and, course, the Terminator are all brain and brawn... guts, guile and genius.

Which is all to suggest that even if you've never paused to compute it before it seems the robots among us are "gendered" along some rigid and traditional lines.

What are your thoughts on our discussion on gendered robots perpetuating stereotypes? Do robots even need a gender?

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This segment was produced by The Current's Marc Apollonio and Sujata Berry.