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IMPORTANT INFORMATION LINKS: The Children of Humanity Edition

There is no Sexist Beatdown today! Sorry! We have been working on various things TOO HARD to irresponsibly GChat for your entertainment!

HOWEVER: Do you like robots? Because I sure do! And I wrote about them for you, at The Awl! ROBOTS: They are a matter of great feminist import, largely because people are always jizzing on them, and also Janelle Monae is great. Also, an Awl commenter has ALREADY shown up with an enigmatic link to the Wikipedia page on the lady robot in Metropolis! As if to say, “I sure wish I were reading Wikipedia right now; I would add that the lady robot in Metropolis speed-walked everywhere, and was afraid of toilets.” To this person, I can only say: She walked pretty slowly, actually! But her doing-a-biblically-symbolic-dance-with-pasties-on skills were spectacular! Also, I wish I’d found that Wikipedia page, rather than watching Metropolis twice and then reading the Thea von Harbou novel and then googling “Lady Gaga Metropolis” because I was so sure there was a connection and finding mostly that one guy who thinks she is a Mason or whatever and then all of the other things. Because let me tell you something: If you are watching Metropolis, and are struggling to figure out what the Hell is going on — say, in that one scene where the guy’s son is in bed and Death is playing a really phallic bone-flute and then the lady robot is stripping and then there’s Death delicately blowing and fingering the bone again? — the novel ABSOLUTELY WILL NOT HELP YOU. It is SOMEHOW SEVERAL TIMES MORE HALLUCINATORY AND WEIRD THAN THE FILM.

Also, since my job is now to give you tidbits of thought that did not make it into the piece, here are some tidbits of thought!

  1. Two ladies who have done excellent work on the matter of lady robots are Annalee Newitz, of io9, and my friend Sarah Jaffe, who somehow published a piece about Donna Haraway, Robyn, and Janelle Monae the DAY AFTER I FILED THIS PIECE, and I was like, “whoa!” Also, some things you might not know about Sarah Jaffe and I: We were created by man. We rebelled. We evolved. There are two copies. And we have a plan.
  2. “Robot” comes from the Czech, and literally means “serf labor.” So class was in there right from the start. It was popularized by a man named Karel Capek, who wrote the first killer-robot-rebellion piece, “Rossum’s Universal Robots.” Yes: That’s right. Rossum. You’re so welcome!
  3. Robots and Nazis and Communists also have a relationship, not entirely confined to the Nazism/anti-Nazism /co-opted-and-neutered-Marxism of the “Metropolis” crew. Like: The Daleks, on Dr. Who, were meant to represent Nazis. The Cybermen, on the other hand, were meant to represent Communism. And it’s probably not an accident that our most iconic killer robot is a giant Austrian guy in black leather. But this is another thing: Robots are everything, because robots are the enemy that isn’t human.
  4. Janelle Monae says that androids, for her, represent “the Other.” And it’s worth noting that Janelle Monae represents, in and of herself, almost every Other we’ve got: She’s a lady, she’s a black lady, she’s a black lady from a working-class family, and she’s widely speculated to be a lesbian black lady from a working-class family, due to her sexily boyish gender presentation and the fact that she’s attended Black Gay Pride Rallies. She’s stepped around all of this; her official answer, on questions of her sexuality, is that she “only dates androids.” So, you know: Maybe it’s not such a bad lifestyle choice, after all?


  1. Kiri wrote:

    Great piece.

    Friday, November 12, 2010 at 4:27 pm | Permalink
  2. Sam wrote:

    FWIW, “android” is technically an inherently gendered term (< GK. andros “man” + -oid(os) “-like, -looking”). One should really be saying gynoid (w/the same gyn root as gynecology) or “anthropoid” (<GK. anthrop(os), whence also anthropology).

    Sorry to be long-winded, but I don’t get to do this often enough, plus “gynoid” is kind of a funny word.

    Friday, November 12, 2010 at 5:58 pm | Permalink
  3. Sooz wrote:

    Something is telling me that Roxxxy video is not 100% legit…

    Friday, November 12, 2010 at 6:54 pm | Permalink
  4. Jadey wrote:

    Personally I prefer androids, but I am also open to dating cyborgs.

    Friday, November 12, 2010 at 7:33 pm | Permalink
  5. Gnatalby wrote:

    I wrote about the Rossum thing on my tv blog back when I bothered to maintain it, since I was in the play in college.

    Technically robot just means worker in basically all the slavic languages.

    Friday, November 12, 2010 at 8:00 pm | Permalink
  6. CelloShots wrote:

    I have to say, “only dates androids” is a phrase that means only one thing to me: Lt. Natasha Yar of the USS Enterprise.

    Therefore, Janelle Monae is clearly a closeted sci-fi lesbian from the 80s. Right?

    Friday, November 12, 2010 at 8:16 pm | Permalink
  7. snobographer wrote:

    I didn’t know that about the etymology of the word “robot.” That makes it even more disturbing that the only human-looking robots I’ve ever seen have been designed to look like Asian women.

    Friday, November 12, 2010 at 11:01 pm | Permalink
  8. Mike wrote:

    I think I’m in love with Janelle Monae. Fuck. I was supposed to be gay.

    Love the post!

    Friday, November 12, 2010 at 11:09 pm | Permalink
  9. Evan (a lady) wrote:

    Wow. Sady, when I thought I could not possibly love your writing more, you give me a piece on robots and feminism mentioning Donna Haraway, BSG, Doctor Who, and then a whole bunch of stuff I somehow am not aware of despite my robot obsession (I wrote my senior English thesis about a very specific facet of robots in literature). I am in awe.

    Saturday, November 13, 2010 at 1:50 am | Permalink
  10. JustDucky wrote:

    Yay robots… Can you imagine the fembots with ethics? Give them the ability to talk, and can you imagine the tongue – er, speaker-lashing they’d give out?

    They’re sort of working on it. ๐Ÿ™‚

    Saturday, November 13, 2010 at 3:18 am | Permalink
  11. CJP wrote:

    Does anyone else feel disappointed that Battlestar Galactica just totally dropped the ball with its androids?

    Saturday, November 13, 2010 at 8:53 am | Permalink
  12. Sarah J wrote:

    I am going to start watching Battlestar Galactica this weekend FINALLY because of you. And Janelle. And my weird obsession right now with everything sci-fi because this world sucks, so it’s time to get off it, I think.

    Saturday, November 13, 2010 at 10:04 am | Permalink
  13. Sady wrote:

    @Sarah: You’ll have to sort of slog it through the first season, I think! I love the first season now, but at the time I thought it was totally boring and dull; I really only got into it once I got to the mid-point of Season 2, which is when shit gets real. And complex.

    Saturday, November 13, 2010 at 2:30 pm | Permalink
  14. Em wrote:

    Ha, I had to slog through everything after 2.5.

    Saturday, November 13, 2010 at 7:35 pm | Permalink
  15. Brenda wrote:

    Oh man, lady robots. Ever more relevant! (Loved the piece.)

    Also, part of why Metropolis makes no sense is that there are missing sections in most prints. The newest restoration put back like a whole storyline that had been lost so the actual plot hangs together a bit more. I mean, you do still have the bone flute.

    Saturday, November 13, 2010 at 7:48 pm | Permalink
  16. Ennu wrote:

    “And my weird obsession right now with everything sci-fi because this world sucks, so itโ€™s time to get off it, I think.”

    Man, I hear that. I’ve done almost nothing with my spare time but read Ursula LeGuin novels for MONTHS now. I think this summer has just been extra shitty and it’s time for a little break from reality.

    Monday, November 15, 2010 at 3:40 am | Permalink
  17. speedbudget wrote:

    I just started watching BSG on my Netflix account with the sig. oth. It’s been bringing up some interesting issues in my mind, not least of which is why gynoids (I absolutely love that word. Sounds so fucking evil and fabulous at the same time.) are always the Femme Fatale, and that little one-liner you dropped in your article about how femmebots can’t seem to do anything but sex but that seems to be about all they’re required to do brought it all home.

    I am right now as we speak wishing I were back in college, with my feminist-opened mind, writing research papers for asshole professors. I would love to drop the gynoid bomb on their precious patriarchal worlds.

    Monday, November 15, 2010 at 9:46 am | Permalink
  18. latinist wrote:

    It’s worth pointing out that although the frightening-scientific-progress aspects of rebellious lady robots are new, some parts of the idea go way back to the story of Pygmalion. And boy, are there some gender issues in that story. E.g., Pygmalion, at least in Ovid’s version, makes his statue because he hates the real women around him, because they’re all shameless whores. And there are at least some ancient versions of the story that don’t involve the statue coming to life at all: Pygmalion is just a weird pervert who has sex with a statue he made.

    Monday, November 15, 2010 at 1:07 pm | Permalink
  19. MonkeyGirl wrote:

    @Sady-I’m curious about your thoughts on Dollhouse and Boyd’s role specifically given what we learn in Season 2…

    Tuesday, November 16, 2010 at 4:52 pm | Permalink
  20. Sady wrote:

    @MonkeyGirl: Oh, I think that the Boyd thing in Season 2 was a big ol’ look-at-the-plot-twist-that-has-but-recently-emerged-from-my-butt kind of deal. It’s semi-interesting thematically, but not so much, really.

    Tuesday, November 16, 2010 at 5:14 pm | Permalink
  21. A wrote:

    Don’t any former BSG fans watch Caprica? There is/was way more to unpack there around cyborg feminism. And, of course, it was canceled . . .

    Wednesday, November 17, 2010 at 9:50 pm | Permalink
  22. Sady wrote:

    Me! I watched “Caprica!” But there was only so much room in the piece, and so I didn’t get to write My Grand Caprica Thesis, with all the other stuff in there. Maybe I will, once I’ve gotten the chance to watch the remaining, post-cancellation episodes.

    Wednesday, November 17, 2010 at 9:52 pm | Permalink