Ex Machina, or, How To Make Your Own Sex Doll

Ex Machina boasts bountiful reviews and a stellar writer/director in the way of Alex Garland. It’s also the most romantic film I’ve seen about a sex doll (sorry Lars & The Real Girl), and so confused in its message about women I’m genuinely unsure how this is anymore enlightened than those adverts Don Draper makes suggesting every wife should own a good iron. Screen Shot 2015-02-02 at 15.45.04 The crux of it is, a very smart man who invented Google or some shit invites another very smart man to his home in the middle of nowhere, so he can ‘test’ this amazing new robot he’s made. And by ‘test’ do I mean fuck, you wonder? Yes, I mean fuck. There’s more to it than that, and I’m not trying to suggest there’s not. The film is beautifully shot and the acting is, for the most part, great. Oscar Isaac channels mild psychopathy, and Domhnall Gleeson is naïve yet questioning. And some genuinely interesting questions are posed: what makes god god? Is the test of artificial intelligence no longer being able to tell the difference between human and machine? Just because you CAN create something, SHOULD you?

But the avenue of the film which made me uncomfortable, left me questioning what the takeaway message exactly was, was the fact that every AI created by this inventor, and there were several prototypes, took the female form. Not only that, but they were stored, naked, in his bedroom cupboard. Sound like a horror movie to anyone else? Screen Shot 2015-02-02 at 15.41.36 The latest AI (a fierce performance from Alicia Vikander) is smart, perhaps Isaac’s best creation to date, and is well aware of her wiles. She manipulates men easily and, as everyone knows, an attractive programmer is too much of a loser when it comes to love to get a date with a flesh and blood lady. The best he can hope for is a robot with tits. Or maybe that’s his ideal. He can programme the shit out of her and, until this AI goes awol, get her to make him cups of tea and bend over. But surely these men don’t have sex with robots, do they? These rich and/or super smart, relatively attractive men, that could pay for the company of actual women, right? Wrong. The creator, self-imposed god-like figure in this world, turns one of his prototype AIs into his household servant, makes her mute, forces to walk the halls in ridiculous heels and a skimming mini-dress day after day. And at night, he fucks her.

The robots don’t have hair. The skin is removable but, when worn, each of these women is perfectly thin, the perkiest pair of tits you ever saw. They wear wigs, and are completely free from body hair APART from they all have landing strips. Wait, what? They have to wear a wig on their heads, but they have permanent pubes? Or is it detachable? Is there a cut scene somewhere of one of the AIs selecting their merkin for the day? But the pubic hair they have is groomed within an inch of its life, which begs questioning, why have it there at all? Woman created perfectly from man’s imagination. Screen Shot 2015-02-02 at 15.36.52 And on a truly disgusting note, how do they clean the jizz out of robot vaginas? Do they steam clean a la Gwyneth Paltrow’s spa? And why do these robots have vaginas, anyway? Supposedly, they’re not about to bleed or birth any time soon?

I get that nudity is enticing in a film like this. And I’m the last person to call censorship on art. I think it’s one of our great freedoms. But the nudity here skews the message, so that it’s no longer a film about artificial intelligence evolving above us, but about men creating women, and using said women to satiate their own desires. Obviously, this is presented as morally questionable by the end of the film, but if a man has created each of these female robots, even if they rebel, are they not a piece of him, and modelled after his wants and desires? The lead AI dons virginal white and the highest platforms she can find when she finally gets dressed, clothes selected by her master no doubt. Did he programme her to want to wear the things she wears? Screen Shot 2015-02-02 at 15.39.38 Gleeson even asks Isaac at one point if he stole his porn profile, and based the robot on that, so as to make his seduction all the easier. Drawn from porn and made for porn. Ex Machina? More like psycho sex doll robot ex-girlfriend.

Following films such as Her, relationships with artificial intelligence are prescient, and in some ways how we all live our lives: ever connected to a faceless barrage of messages. And relationships with sex dolls are becoming more noticed, if not common. The subject matter is absolutely relevant. But there’s a question of power in Ex Machina, that makes me uncomfortable. Why are we making robots in the form of a apparent female perfection, and what does this teach people? Surely the only reason to create a robot like this would be for sexual reasons? Otherwise, why not make it like a cute puppy you can take everywhere? It’s another example of women being forced into a mould of someone else’s creation. And I call bullshit on the pubic hair. Give me seventies bush every time. Or the choice of it. Screen Shot 2015-02-02 at 15.42.28

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4 thoughts on “Ex Machina, or, How To Make Your Own Sex Doll

  1. “But the nudity here skews the message, so that it’s no longer a film about artificial intelligence evolving above us, but about men creating women, and using said women to satiate their own desires”

    “It’s another example of women being forced into a mould of someone else’s creation”

    I think the skewing is very much intentional and a big part of the film’s message. The focus isn’t just on the concept and questions raised by Artificial Intelligence, but also (more-so even) about what or who we are trying to re-create and to fulfil what roles.

    Alex Garland’s works have always dealt with the way women are viewed/treated by men. Just remember the whole last act of 28 Days Later with the soldiers’ attitudes towards Selena and Hannah

    • I agree with you here and relating to the author’s issues with the “takeaway message” of the film, my interpretation is that like the best art, whatever their medium, the messages are normally questions as opposed to answers. The main themes I read through this film dealt with philosophy and identity, along with their relation to physiology.

      Those nude scenes for me really highlighted issues with our own human identity of gender and how much it is related to merely our physical bodies or how much it isn’t. I don’t have answers for these and that’s what’s great about this movie. It didn’t hand me a solution but it presented me with a multitude of fascinating questions I’ll continue to think about long after the final scene.

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