Ex Machina and Her: Gender, Sexuality, and Artificial Intelligence

What do our representations of AI say about gender and sexuality? Recent films, like Her and Ex Machina, portray specifically female AI. Her presents Samantha as a questing mind with emotional needs similar to those of humans. Samantha has true consciousness in her ability to love Theo. Yet, because she is non-corporeal, she is not quite human. She is "post-lingual" as she says and not limited by space and time as humans are. She is a non-human person. Ex Machina’s Ava seems to pass the Turing Test when she proves herself capable of manipulation, deceit, and long-term planning. Unlike Theo, who desires a meaningful relationship with Samantha, Nathan uses Ava’s predecessors as sex-objects. Why do these films focus on female AI interacting with men?

  • Interesting to compare these two films together since they present such distinctly different takes on the 'fem-bot' trope, with 'Her' being an exploration of how genuine feelings can be derived from such a seemingly 'mechanical' relationship to the A.I., whereas 'Ex Machina' focuses conversely on how such feelings can be 'manufactured' into this. – CalvinLaw 4 years ago
  • I think it's a great idea to compare the treatment of AI in these two films. Both are fantastic, in different ways. For research on the topic, I would say it would be wise to keep a few things in mind. As to why are they female?, where both written and directed by men? Probably, because most are in the industry. Perhaps its easier for a male writer to come from that perspective. Maybe there is a correlation between the way women are viewed in media that makes them easier to be seen as a robot? I think there are a few different ways you can take this, and it's going to require a lot of research. Good luck! – kaliveach 4 years ago
  • I think, especially when exploring what it means to be sentient or have agency, discussing how robots that are coded female (assigning genders to robots is intriguing in itself) are treated would be fascinating. To go off what kaliveach said, could making the main female presence robotic dehumanize women, especially if the robot's programming is dependent on a male character's plans and instructions? There are a lot of approaches to this topic in terms of gender and sexuality. – emilydeibler 4 years ago
  • To answer kaliveach's question, yes, both films were written/directed by men (Spike Jonze in the case of Her and Alex Garland in the case of Ex Machina). Ex Machina explicitly focuses on the problems of male geniuses creating "female" robots, whereas Her focuses more on the (in)compatibility between human and AI. – JLaurenceCohen 4 years ago
  • Blade Runner should definitely get a mention, at least. Deckard has a similar sexual attraction to the replicant Rachael in the film as well as that love/rape scene in between the two. The replicants do seem to have some sort of sense of morality in the film and they are capable of emotion (anger, fear, love(?)). Also, there's the Voight-Kampf test which is fairly similar to the Turing test but deals with provoking emotion. – Jamie White 4 years ago
  • A topic of great potential: the vastly differing portrayals of AI in both films present a wealth of possible approaches. Looking forward to reading this! – Matchbox 4 years ago

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