Sunday, October 1, 2023

How the public fell in love with cyborgs (literally)


  • Cyborg-themed movies, TV shows, and cartoons explore the desire to upgrade our carbon-based limbs with something better, often delving into the realm of fetishism.
  • Superhero movies and cyberpunk genres identify the hope and fear of humanity becoming too reliant on machines and technology.
  • Films like Robocop, The Empire Strikes Back, and Star Trek: The Next Generation raise existential questions about dehumanization and the loss of individuality in a technologically advanced world.

Taking the form of escapism and existential horror before veering into fetish territory, humans have a difficult relationship with machines. (This may sound strange. You have been warned.) A recurring and inevitable theme in all cyborg-themed movies, TV shows, and anime is the need or desire to upgrade our carbon-based lower or defective limbs with something better. That’s where it all begins, but where the writers have taken this idea, they are limited to their most feverish nightmares, as evidenced by the fact that there are three iconic half-man, half-machine characters called “Iron Man” in 20th century pop. .culture The Black Sabbath song of the same name, interestingly, has nothing to do with Marvel’s favorite billionaire other than his appearance on the soundtrack.

Sometimes the most poignant philosophical riff on the idea of ​​cybernetic modification comes from the least likely guy: the guy who sells a line of toys. Most of it is just fantasy, like we see in superhero movies. Others criticize the way we rely on machines to the point of being paralyzed by our dependence on them. No genre says more about the hopes and fears of humanity than a good cyborg movie. But maybe don’t look for the fan art.

We’ve divided cyborg movies into three broad categories to make them easier to explore. Whether it’s steampunk, biopunk, nanopunk, or any other genre that ends in “punk,” we could study the classification all day, but it makes more sense to focus on the characters and not the decorations.

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Fun and games

Iron Man, yes, Iron Man, is a fun movie that we clearly shouldn’t take seriously, largely because of the actor who plays the lead role, Robert Downey Jr. Its dry humor hides the body horror of having a synthetic heart. . And yet these kinds of cutting-edge technological stories are part of a very old tradition. Edgar Allan Poe strongly alluded to similar themes regarding technology taking over our lives in his short story “The Man Who Was Used,” where a once handsome general is reduced to a shell with artificial limbs and prosthetics.

The ’70s television hit The Six Million Dollar Man, originally a novel by Martin Caidin called Cyborg, could easily have been an homage or reworking of Poe’s tale. This simple concept – the need to rethink a “better… stronger… faster” bionic soldier as in the case of Steve Austin – is universal. Masamune Shirow’s Ghost in the Shell originally hit shelves as a cyberpunk manga in Japan in the ’80s, then became an animated series and eventually a live-action film starring Scarlett Johansson. This series goes beyond the idea of ​​further augmentation, as its entire physical presence is nothing more than metal and wires, vulnerable to hacking and not bullets or punches. The kryptonite version of him predicts a whole new type of security risk for law enforcement and counterterrorism in the future.

Ghost in the Shell is noteworthy as she is possibly the first widely popular female cyborg character; Although aimed at male readers, seinen manga is essentially the Japanese equivalent of American “airport fiction” for middle-aged businessmen traveling alone.

Man or monstrosity?

Despite some over-the-top effects sequences, funny one-liners, and fast-paced ’80s music, Robocop is deeply existential. It is a commercially licensed weapon of mass destruction with emotional trauma. Our hero, former officer Alex Murphy, accepts his new identity and destiny, and Robocop recognizes his real name and past with a single word, “Murphy,” at the end of the film. A lot of emotion and catharsis concentrated in two syllables. However, Paul Verhoeven’s subversive action film remains one of the darkest subgenres of the gory shoot-em-up genre. The sequels didn’t really know what to do with the character, but that’s typical of sequels and highlights how much of the character’s arc was completed in the first film, making him appealing to viewers.

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Likewise, we have the iconic scene of Luke Skywalker receiving a new prosthetic hand in The Empire Strikes Back. Once again, it is difficult to talk about cyborgs without entering into the debate about dehumanization. If you go too far, you will become Anakin Skywalker, or should we say, Darth Vader. Luke’s hand is one thing, but Darth Vader could hardly be considered “real” beneath all the wires, tubes, transistors, dials, and respirators. When he removes Vader’s hand, it doesn’t even bleed, just sparks as the plastic insulators burn, Luke stares at his own prosthetic robotic hand, contemplating the difference between an autonomous human and a mechanical pawn. It’s one of the most subtle but profound moments in any sci-fi movie.

Few sci-fi villains are as disturbing as Star Trek: The Next Generation’s Borg, who infiltrate the bodies of a species using invasive nanoprobes to assimilate them and turn them into mindless servants of a techno-organic collective of space fanatics. Think of them, Genghis Khan’s Horde, but instead of simply attacking your village, they take over your brain and replace your hand with a circular saw. A colonized specimen is assimilated or placed in a Borg maturation chamber, where emotions are anesthetized, individuality is sucked out, and memories are undone for the greater social good. If there were a better metaphor for social conditioning under a totalitarian regime, it is hard to find. This is one of the most accurate social critiques in all of Trek history. Although fans are more interested in Seven of Nine’s tight bodysuit.

Things you shouldn’t watch with your grandmother

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Speaking of power tools placed in strange places, the Borg seem wholesome compared to Shinya Tsukamoto’s dark horror comedy Tetsuo. Usually subtitled “The Iron Man” (no, it’s not Iron Man), Tetsuo is the least sexy exploitation film ever made. Tsukamoto depicts the revenge story in bold black and white, back when that look was authentically punk and not hopelessly pretentious.

It’s difficult to pin down a precise moral from the 16mm Japanese cult classic, with our antihero’s final words threatening to “rust the world.” Although depression and depersonalization in the Japanese era of technological growth and consumer madness took their toll, this film was intended to comment on the AIDS epidemic, with humans reduced to gears in the midst of our armies of machines, transformed into an abomination by a “virus.” technological”. » Today it makes more sense as a comment on e-waste. But hey, great movies work on several levels.

A worthy companion in the mechanical, sexual, and body horror category is Videodrome, David Cronenberg’s 1983 technological thriller. Shot on a low budget, the film remains visceral and disturbing thanks to Rick Baker’s gorgeous practical effects. The film manages to be amazing, erotic, but above all paranoid. The special effects sell the film, but despite some gorgeous visual images, the film is more heavy-handed in its message, another typical Cronenberg plot centering on outrageous conspiracies involving technology.

A funny thing happened between 1983 and today, and you can guess what it is because you probably have a smartphone in your hand right now. As we become more dependent on technology, our fear of becoming machines has faded as we have shifted our fixation toward artificial intelligence. If 2014’s Ex Machina is to be believed, we now fear that AI could wipe us out entirely, without needing our meager organs. Today we feel obsolete and abandoned, without persecution. For modern filmmakers, a human being losing consciousness is not as terrifying as a machine losing consciousness.

Times of National
Times of National
Times of National To give more information about the latest happenings, news related to happenings in the country and abroad a casual understanding of the latest technology products and gadgets, celebrity news and gossip, latest movie news, sports, and cricket scores all you need Always ready to fulfill whatever else is becoming a part of our life nowadays.
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