Ex Machina: Men, Women, Robots & Love

So I watched Ex Machina last weekend. Haven't stopped thinking about it since. And I love that. There are so many layers to this movie, so many ways to dissect and discuss it.  (Please don't ask me about this movie at lunch because I will be talking for an hour.)

But the aspect that jumped out at me was the feminist angle. I consider myself a feminist, but I'm not one of those people constantly looking around for patriarchal boogeymen to jump out of the bushes. To me, most of our problems around this place called earth are not problems of patriarchy, but just human nature, male or female.

But the feminist layer of this movie is just so strong. Women are so clearly objectified in this movie - although the movie is self-aware, using it to make a point, so it's not mindless objectification. It's not meant to merely titillate or enrage, but invites dialogue.

Okay, spoilers ahead if you haven't seen the movie. so I'm warning you. If you haven't seen the movie yet and you plan to, well, don't read this!


Nathan, creates a female AI (Artifical Intelligence), named Ava. Later you learn he's created other prototypes before her, also sexy females. One of his creations is Kyoko, essentially a mute servant whose sole job is to look pretty - well, let's face it, sexy - and do house chores, but never to argue, never to interact, never to talk. It's also implied that she serves as a sexual companion to Nathan.


Oh Man, did this get my goat! As it was designed to, I think. Because if you could create truly sophisticated lifelike "robots" these would be some of the first uses - sexual gratification and menial labor. The cynic in me says that men would create women that would be objects, to be used, without complications, without problems, without souls.

Honestly, watching the movie it stirs up all these FEELINGS. Is that all we're good for as women - to be beautiful, sexy, to be sycophantic servants to men? Is that all they want us for? We're human beings! With needs and feelings and thoughts and talents and personalities. We're not pretty sexy dummies!

This might be a good place to interject that my husband does not make me feel that in any way. He's awesome! And I know many many other respectful amazing men out there. But it's more about general messages from society that women are valued the most for being beautiful and attractive, young and nubile.

It is the ultimate male fantasy, a woman who is attractive, sexually available at all times, graceful, perfect, domestic, quiet, no drama, no feelings, no interests of her own, she is completely centered around the man in her life. She worships him.  She is his slave.

It's easy for me to get my feminist panties in a twist at this point. But wait, but wait. Hmmm. Let's be fair here. Okay?

What is the ultimate female fantasy? Well, if you read popular romance novels or watch chick flicks, it's pretty obvious. It is getting the ungettable man.

*Ewan McGregor in Down With Love

He's handsome, he's rich, he's powerful. Often he's a bad boy with commitment issues. Every woman wants him. But no other woman has been able to get him until YOU. Because you're just so unique and amazing and special and gorgeous and he adores you. Now suddenly he's willing to commit. He's all in. He's all yours. You're all he can think about all day and night. The wild man has been tamed. He worships you. He is your slave.

(Wanna know exactly what I'm talking about? See my Chick Flicks list for movies featuring Bad Boys and Good Girls.)

I have to admit, even my beloved Pride and Prejudice (helllloooo Mr. Darcy) and North & South (helllloooo Mr. Thornton) uses the fantasy of the ungettable man - a noble man, perhaps, but still ungettable, unless the right woman comes along, at which point he promptly turns into jello.

So wait. Hmm. This female fantasy sounds a lot like the male fantasy, doesn't it? It's a little different, but in the end it comes down to another human being worshipping you - their whole life centers around you,  for them, no one else exists but you.

And uh, that's not really love, is it? That's not a healthy equal relationship with another flawed human being. That's not love, that's a fantasy that's all about self-gratification and ego.

So while this movie made me want to shake my feminist fist at the sky in protest, in the end it just reminded me that male, female, none of us are perfect. We all want to be loved. And maybe we all want to be worshipped, just a little bit.

But that doesn't leave room for love - being part of someone else's life, with all the imperfections, sharing life that includes hurts, problems, inconveniences, forgiveness, self-sacrifice. To love you have to set aside self-gratification and ego, and it's the same, whether you're a man or a woman.