Sexbot

Holographic love: 

I wanted to start out my post this time with a video. On one of my favorite shows, Archer, the scientist has a hologram girlfriend who he is off and on with throughout the series. Though he has a few trists with other characters (see the male version of the sexbot that he creates for his lover)  

There are just too many of the same type of alien, young and desirable women in the science fiction that we’ve read so far to not bring it up. First, in HG Wells, the young and childlike love interest of our intrepid time traveler. Second, in the hyper erotic alien in Tiptree’s “And I awoke…”. And now, in Dick’s Rachael Rosen. In the previous works there has been only admiration of the creature, or a base line animalistic desire that has fueled the men who are recounting these women.

In Rachael Rosen character, there still isn’t any interiority (where we get inside the android’s head and hear what she’s really thinking and feeling) but through her speech the reader is granted a little bit of access to her inner thoughts, or her projections, if they aren’t real emotions.

When Rachael and Rick agree to meet up the motivations seem to be sexual, “About situations involving human men and android women. Come down here to San Francisco tonight I’ll give up on the remaining andys. We’ll do something else” (182).  Then they meet up at the St. Francis (another San Francisco landmark I’m glad survived the ruin that seems to plague the rest of the city). As he’s driving to his robotic rendezvous he has his first real meditation in the text about the existence of android “life” and aspiration. They meet up and discuss her android double and her existence. “‘If I die,’ she murmured, ‘maybe I’ll be born again when the Rosen Association stamps out its next unit of my subtype'” (190). Her mediations on her own existence, her soul, her mirrored android all seem too deep for the characterization of the android that Rick was first giving the reader.

She continues to lure him to bed, though it doesn’t seem hard to lure the willing. After she give Rick what he thinks is the trump card for taking down the remaining androids she continues in her deep and very un-android (as far as it’s been relayed to the reader thus far) meditation on childbearing. Again we have a creature, like Frankenstein’s monster, who is unable to reproduce. She questions if reproduction is important or not, but her focus on it shows the emotions that seem to be outside the realm android emotions up to this point. She says she loves him with reference to how she would score high on the Voigt-Kampff test if he were involved. She agrees to kill Pris if he’ll sleep with her. At this point she no longer seems robotic, but instead a passionate and desperate woman giving up her morals to sleep with the man that she wants.

Then the post-coital switch happens. She accuses him of taking advantage of her because she can’t control her desires. He says he’d marry her if he could. Then she says that none of the bounty hunters that she’s slept with have been able to continue with their jobs after sleeping with her.

He’s crestfallen. All of a sudden she’s changed, but I’m not sure I buy it. Speaking about the sex at the hotel, she says she did it for the association, “‘to reach the bounty hunters here and in the Soviet Union. This seemed to work… for reasons which we do not fully understand. Our limitation I guess'”(199). Maybe a reading of this passage is that she is just a great pretender, but I think there is something else going on here, a revelation of the inner feelings of the android. After he goes on to kill the rest of her android friends she pushes his goat off the roof. Like Frankenstein’s monster, Rachael seeks to destroy all the things that Rick loves in order for him to feel her pain. That is the act of a vengeful lover, not a rational robot.

There are two pieces to this narrative that I can’t quite figure out. What is going on with the universal appeal of the alien/android/young girl? And how can you make the claim that androids aren’t as emotionally sophisticated when they seem to have complex emotions welling up and spilling over, especially through the character of Rachael Rosen? There is also the marriage of the two androids, which would be a blog post all in itself. Maybe for another time.

Another Scene with Krieger going on a mission with his co-workers… and his girlfriend. 

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7 Responses to Sexbot

  1. teithabess says:

    Oh, no, the links aren’t working! Luckily, “Archer” is a favorite of mine, so I know exactly what you’re talking about. But I am not quite sure why you started your post with his girlfriend. While the examples of the alluring “other” you give, from Rachel to aliens, are merely encountered by the men who become attracted to them, Krieger design his girlfriend with his personal needs in mind. I was under the impression that not only does he tailor-make a woman because he can make a “perfect” woman, but this is his way of dealing with the fact that no real woman would date him for an extended period of time. (I know there are, let’s just say, some weird office flings, but seriously, he is by far the creepiest guy anyone could meet in the “Archer” universe.) As you go on to discuss, Rachel appears to have an interiority, something which Rick has no control over. Though in all fairness, Krieger’s girlfriend does, too, enough to cause friction in their relationship — but why Krieger would program such a woman is quite another question. My point is that his girlfriend is his creation that (unlike Frankenstein’s monster) he has complete control over, while the differences of “others” which possibly make them alluring are out of the control of those they attract.

    In regards to your main point, I feel like the reader is left to speculate about the nature of the older android types that inspired the need for an empathy test. We can only imagine that they were not nearly as complex as the Nexuses. If consumers have demanded from android-makers that their products be more human, then it is no surprise that the developers have come to the point of going all-out, as it were, to try to fool them into thinking they’re not alone in the wasteland of Mars. Your comparisons to Frankenstein are, I’d argue, particularly valid, for the passages you quote indicating Rachel’s emotional complexity reveal the need for a question that Deckard worries about, somewhat indirectly: what responsibility do we have for the life we create? But when will the humans of Dick’s world call it life, if androids have such emotional complexity now?

  2. ebbwilliams says:

    Thank you so much for your insight. I guess the reason I pulled out Krieger was because 1. I love “Archer” 2. I had just watched the trailer for the movie that was posted a few days ago, “Her”.

    I think there is a theme here of man made creations taking on a life of their own and maybe not doing what they were originally designed for. I think Krieger’s girlfriend fits into this paradigm (should have posted the clip of Degrasse-Tyson san). 😉

    Your thoughts further develop Rachael as a Frankenstein monstrosity. Though Rick didn’t design Rachael, she was designed to fit this need. The need of loneliness maybe, or just something sexually different. (I’m still stuck on this theme of the “other” woman. Is this just a function of consumerism? Would the Rosen Association’s excuse, “If we didn’t someone else would” work to justify creating these androids that, if we can believe Rachael, have a very deep need for sensual passion? I’m not sure.

    I would argue that it’s the androids that seem to have the deep emotional connections in this novel. The married couple band together to fend off the bounty hunters, Rachael’s rage either at being a rejected lover, or at the death of her friends… maybe both. Iran is so muted and Rick so distant, it’s makes me as the reader question who is really alive. The androids are the travelers with hopes and dreams, the passionate people with loves and connections. None of the humans seem to be doing anything besides going through the motions. Thank you again for bringing some more depth to this conversation and for reading my ramblings.

  3. ebbwilliams says:

    Fixed the links. Thanks for the heads up!

  4. fearthefin says:

    Hey, I figured I would address the comment you made at the bottom, about the marriage between the two androids. That was definitely something that struck me, and something I thought about addressing myself in my post about the empathic response (but, like you, I realized I definitely didn’t have enough room to fully address it).

    I feel like, the more I read the book, the more I came to realize that Dick isn’t presenting readers with a clear-cut dichotomy. I can’t tell if it’s erractic storytelling (don’t get me started on the introspection…) or if it’s slyly intentional — that is, does Dick offer so many nuances to such things as empathy or even romance to provoke thought? I’m inclined to think it’s the latter; I think Dick offers examples that seem to contradict wide-sweeping and accepted theories (ie: Androids don’t possess empathy) to pose a question or theory that isn’t easily solved.

    Anyway, to the question of the android marriage. The Batys don’t seem to be merely projecting a marriage for convenience or cover story. As Rick notes after he kills Irmgard, Roy Baty “let out a cry of anguish” — that is, he experiences real emotion over the loss of his wife (223). Rick then has that weird and anticlimactic speech where he notes that Roy “loved her .. And I loved Rachael. And the special loved the other Rachael” (223); Rick at least recognizes, through this scene and the previous one with Phil Resch, that androids and humans can feel similar levels of empathy (or a lack thereof). Roy and Irmgard Baty, though androids, also presented a much more stable marriage than Rick and Iran . I just can’t seem to figure out how an android marriage would even be allowed in this universe, since common knowledge holds that androids don’t possess the emotional capacity or status (or life span, even) for such an institution. It’s a nuance, but it almost feels like a slip-up on Dick’s part. For someone who wrote about the extensive planning that goes into creating a universe that doesn’t fall apart two days later, this marriage doesn’t quite hold up.

    Also, one last note: I think that T’Gatoi from “Bloodchild” is a similar example of the alien as an exotic sex symbol. Gan realizes in the end that he’s attracted to the alien, and hints of it are glimpsed even earlier in how fascinated he is with her movements. T’Gatoi is a non-traditional sex symbol in the story, since she’s not this come-hither alien type; she employs power, not seduction. But she’s still the inherently alien creature to which a human finds himself attracted.

    • ebbwilliams says:

      Thank you so much for taking on the subject that I was far too lazy to tackle. I find the android marriage v. human marriage so interesting that I might end up writing on it for paper 2. Thank you also for bringing Bloodchild into the conversation. I think you’re completely right that Gan is attracted to T’Gatoi on the basis of her power. I would also say that he is interested and attracted to her foreignness. So, though she doesn’t fit into the non-human sex pot role, there is still the uncanny difference of her movements from the human that seems to be attracting him.

      In terms of android marriage, I wonder if these marriages are not legally sanctioned. When Rachael and Rick are in their very temporary post-cotial bliss Rick says that he would marry her if it was legal. Though you’re completely right, Dick doesn’t delineate or expand upon the laws that are created around android unions (both android/android and android/human) there seems to be an effort to further, what I believe is the myth, of androids not having empathy. There seems to be more affection and care in the marriage between the androids than in the human marriage. If this marriage is in fact an unsanctioned marriage, and a spiritual marriage instead, that implies that androids do in fact have empathy and a spirit. Maybe the marriage plot ( also the title of a good book by Jeffrey Eugenides) serves only to continue to call into question android’s lack of empathy? Especially when the only other marriage we get in the human sphere is the incredibly non-empathetic connection between Iran and Rick.

  5. writinginmy says:

    You ask about the implications of the appeal of the alien/android/young girl, and Tiptree does seem to suggest in one of her short stories that it’s the human tendency to want to conquer/colonize/subdue the other, the unknown. In the case of Deckard, sex seems to be the closest he can get to understanding the other (you know, physical intimacy and all).

    Teithabess also brings up a great point about Krieger and his GF – he made his GF, her identity is completely known to him, she is a direct result of all his decisions and manufacturings. There is no real hint of the “other” here (though the fact that she objects to Krieger sometimes and the fact that they have tension in their relationship suggests that she operates somewhat outside of his control), but I do believe there remains a fascination with this kind of relationship and a fascination with the creators’ inclusion of her.

    Android marriage is interesting because we don’t really get more details as to how that was established – did they marry themselves? Is it a self-given definition, or were they created somehow simultaneously to fulfill that projected relationship?

    • ebbwilliams says:

      Like I said above, I think that if the marriage isn’t legal, and is a spiritual this serves to call into question the validity of the idea that androids lack empathy. I think the android marriage is more empathic and ultimately tragic than the human marriage of Rick and Iran.

      Krieger does create his own girlfriend in the image of what he thinks that he wants (not unlike how the Rosen associate claims to create androids to meet the desired market needs). If this analogy doesn’t hold for you because it’s different from the non-creator relationship between Rachael and Rick (I think I used the Krieger example in light of the Frankenstein implications that are also present in Krieger’s creation), then I can offer up another “Archer” related example. Krieger creates a cyborg Kayta for Archer after she is killed by Barry (or other Barry). I can’t imagine that these plot ideas within “Archer” aren’t influenced heavily by the works that we’re reading in this class. She has the same body (minus her eyes and apparently a removable vagina) and the same voice, same care for Archer and yet there is something different. Cyborg Kayta eventually runs off with Cyborg Barry because she thinks that he understands her better. This might fit the larger themes of Dick better, but maybe not. What do you think?

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