I'm Sarah and things that I like include feminism, video games, television, (web)comics and having excessively fervent emotions about fictional characters. Mostly that last one.
June 10th
11:58 PM

a message from talythiastarseeker

In return, who are your favourite computer/cyborg ladies? =D

oh gurl, you sure know the way to my heart!

Talkin ‘bout robot ladies is where my feminism and the transhumanist in me have a filthy threeway with my past as an english major and the result is a bloated self-indulgent word baby. Wow that is a weird metaphor, let’s all agree to ignore that and move on to these, my favourite female synthetic beings:

  • GLaDOS from the Portal series - oh man do I ever love GLaDOS. She is so cold and passive aggressive and manipulative and unintentionally hilarious. Literally my favourite thing about her is that she is a liar. She lies CONSTANTLY and it is THE BEST because at first you don’t realize she’s lying to you, you don’t even realize she’s anything other than an automated voice, but then her lies get more sinister and you start to realize the extent of her manipulations. And she doesn’t just manipulate you (well, Chell, but same diff) because it’s necessary to get you to keep testing, often she tells lies just to fuck with you. She just likes to fuck with your head, and that fact is so surprising and unexpected that it manages to be straight-up DELIGHTFUL. Lying and manipulation are her only real means of control. And then in the second game her manipulations are motivated more by revenge/spite, but the reveal about her formerly being Caroline adds yet another layer to her, and I could go on and on and ON about her arc throughout the second game and her relationship with Chell but I will restrain myself. GLaDOS is the villain (the most perfect villain of all time!!) but she is by no means evil. She was just programmed that way.
  • Rachael and Pris from Blade Runner - Blade Runner is one of my favourite sci fi movies, but woooow do the female replicants have a bummer of a time. Both Rachael and Pris are so tragic. Neither of them have ever had control over any part of their lives, and when they do gain some measure of control they are so lost that they immediately find someone who can tell them what to do. For Pris that person is Roy, but Rachael has no one to turn to but Deckard. She is part of a system that is so adept at stripping her autonomy away that she literally cannot handle having power over her own life and her own choices so she finds Deckard and gives that power to him. Aaaand I think we all remember what happens then. :( This movie is not exactly happy but it is a really awesome examination of the consequences of social control, particularly as it applies to women.
  • Number Six from Battlestar Galactica - primarily Caprica Six, but I love basically all iterations of Six. Actually I really like all the Cylons (BSG was great at creating complex and three dimensional antagonists, that’s for damn sure), but Six is my favourite. I mean yeah, she is basically responsible for genocide. But she is also heartbroken and isolated and trying to figure out which parts of her are real. Man, I’m due for a re-watch of this show.
  • Major Motoko Kusanagi from Ghost in the Shell - I’ve written like 700 words on this before, but my favourite thing about Motoko is how she resolves her identity crisis: she doesn’t know who she is, so decides to make herself into something totally new. I really really love that she (the movie version of her anyways) isn’t sexualized—which is SUPER RARE for literally all cyborg/robot women—but is really brawny and has a fairly masculine face, and then in the end becomes a completely androgynous transcended being. The anime version is completely different, but in an equally excellent way; there’s (kind of, the metaphysics gets dense) less of a Cartesian mind/body duality in the show, and the Major specifically says she inhabits the body she does because she likes being female, because that specific model lines up with her innate sense of self. Her feminine exterior is a reflection of her feminine interior, and that’s not biological determinism, it’s a very specific choice she has made. In both cases Motoko refuses to be defined by outside forces and I love her for it. <3

Wow that is a lot of words. Is it obvious I like talking about fictional ladies? Now you know never to ask me questions (IM KIDDING I LOVE YOUR QUESTIONS TALY MORE QUESTIONS ALWAYS <3).  

March 19th
5:14 PM
March 14th
9:55 PM

Lady Robots I Have Loved: Motoko Kusanagi

Oooh, the Major. I love Ghost in the Shell’s complex philosophical musings on technology and transhumanism and consciousness as much as the next person, but what I really love about this movie is that it’s about a brilliant, tough, impatient, broody, brawny woman who, while surrounded by political intrigue and gunfights and car chases has a quiet internal identity crisis.

This scene that always stuck with me was the one in which the Major goes scuba diving. Before then I had kept the film at arm’s length, trying to figure it out, interpret it. It was the diving scene that drew me in close, made me really start to… well, empathize with Motoko. It’s the point at which the movie started to make me feel, rather than just think.

Kusanagi’s body is hardware, heavy, but underwater she floats, weightless. She constantly feels the weight of what she is: cyborg, woman, military officer.  But despite all of this, she has no idea WHO she is. Underwater is a different world, where she imagines she is a different person. As she rises to the surface you can see her reflection as she starts to merge with it. Up there, in the real world, she is an illusion of herself. A mirror. It’s the same with her thermoptic camo; she shimmers in and out of reality, wavering in-between visible and invisible. It’s almost as if she slips into the cracks between dimensions.

Cyborgs like Kusanagi are all about in-betweens. They occupy the liminal spaces between cybernetic/organic, human/machine, male/female, physical/virtual. These dualities don’t mean shit to Kusanagi. On the boat after her swim she flat out tells Batou that her physical body, her memories, and her responsibilities all lend her a sense of self, yet at the same time confine her. Later, the Puppetmaster tells her, “it is your effort  to remain what you are that limits you.” So she, BAMF that she is, basically says “fuck limits, fuck binaries, I’m a cyborg” and becomes a networked, androgynous, queer, ascended transhuman entity.

What makes this even more coco bananas to me is that up to this point Kusanagi has spent the entire movie trying to find out who she is, find out if she’s “human”. She never finds out. SHE NEVER FINDS OUT. Just…god. When does that ever happen in movies? She doesn’t find the answers she was looking for. Instead she transcends the need for answers.

That’s what gets me, why I identify with her so strongly. I am ex-religious. I have been for years, but the hardest thing about that entire drawn-out process was accepting that I didn’t have the answers to all of the Big Questions. When you’re religious, you have all those answers ready-made. You know what the truth is. It’s a good feeling.

But when I rejected a religious system that told me I had all the answers, I had to come to terms with the fact that now I didn’t have any answers at all. So I did. I became okay with not knowing everything, with not being sure. I’m sure that some people, reading that, think that that’s awful, so sad, to go from knowing the truth to not being sure truth even exists at all. But when I think about what it felt like then, and what it feels like now…this is freedom. This in-between space is a place of expansion, not confinement. “The net is vast and infinite,” yo.

That is why I love Motoko Kusanagi. She teaches me that it’s okay to let go of knowing. We don’t have to be defined by outside forces. We can exist in those vast spaces in-between monolithic cultural constructions like Woman and Man and Straight and Gay and Good and Bad. Our responses to the Big Questions can shift. We can create our own identities, decide for ourselves what is important to us. Can seek un-stunted knowledge and find a strange comfort in meaninglessness. We can make that meaning for ourselves.

Because fuck limits, and fuck binaries. I’m a cyborg.

March 13th
9:26 PM