Androids in Love

Lyla Fujiwara '10, English 65, The Cyborg Self, Brown University (Fall 2006)

The idea of machine love is inherently confusing because love is so deeply entangled with desire, a fundamentally human thing, attributed to the body and hormones. Its function, reproduction, has no defined parallel in the world of machines. This ambiguity about how love would be translated to the mechanical makes for an interesting exploration of love itself. Let's examine the portrayal of android love in Max Headroom, Blade Runner, and Ghost in the Shell.

Out of the three films Blade Runner is comparatively banal in its exploration of love. Deckard and Rachael express their love in a very physical, human manner. If anything their love scene functions not as a departure from our conceptions of love, but a reaffirmation of Rachael's humanity. On the other hand the replicants express their love in a more unique manner. We can tell that Roy obviously cares about Priss, but his expression of the love, kissing Priss's dead corpse, is so macabre that is serves to alienate him more than cause us to sympathize.

The Max Headroom episode, Security Systems, looks at love in a more light hearted manner. In this episode Max seduces the main computer AI of a huge security cooperation. The computer, who is notably female in voice and speech, ends up saving Max's friends from annihilation. Although the question of how AI's express love is posed, it is not throughly examined. The AI's serve mostly as a comical counterparts to the serious human affairs, trivializing the idea of machine love with corny lines such as "...Max has shown me a whole new way to access these things... called feelings. I can respond only to him". This seems to say that love for machines would some how be an imperfect, and ridiculous mimicking of real human love.

Ghost in The Shell does not does not begin as a love story in any sense of the term. After showing the viewer how cold and calculating Kusanagi is, the viewer watches as she obsessively searches to find out the identity of the Puppet Master. This drive is not based so much on love, but instead her curiosity about her own origins. When she eventually merges with the Puppet Master, the story becomes more scientific, not exploring love so much as how a machine would procreate. Obliviously the fused Kusanagi/Puppet Master does not adhere to the standard idea of a newborn for she still has memories of her former self.

In dissecting the film's display on love one should also examine the significance of Kusanagi's final words as herself. Was her calling out for Bato a confession of a love that was never explored in the film? Was it a last second nostalgic reminder of a more traditional conception of love?

Website cyborg Body 
& Self

Last modified 3 November 2006