A Robot? Doesn’t Look Like Anything to Me…

Did you watch Westworld? Enjoy all the twists, and the accompanying guesswork about who might secretly be a…. host? I wanted to write robot there, but a few episodes into the series I noticed that none of the characters seemed to have used the word robot, and I guessed that over the course of the season none of them would (I wasn’t paying very close attention to see if anyone did or not, but I don’t recall noticing the word). Which might seem a little odd, because it’s a series all about robots. Cowboy robots. Most of the characters we see are robots. And they meet the criteria according to the two definitions in the OED:

  • A machine capable of carrying out a complex series of actions automatically, especially one programmable by a computer
  • (especially in science fiction) a machine resembling a human being and able to replicate certain human movements and functions automatically

But they’re always referred to as hosts. But then, that doesn’t really seem that odd. Because it’s prestige television, and robot isn’t really a prestige word, is it? And I don’t mean to be critical of the producers’ attitude, because I understand their aversion to the word. Because robot just sounds a bit silly, doesn’t it?

It shouldn’t, because it’s a perfectly legitimate word that describes real-life machines that make a lot of our favourite products. But when you hear the word robot, you probably don’t picture this: Continue reading

Exploitation

Lately, I’ve been watching the Marvel TV programme Luke Cage on Netflix, when I can find a spare moment. One thing that’s quite apparent early on is that it’s heavily indebted to, and deliberately homages, the blaxploitation genre of movies. In the 1970s, these films were cheaply-made, stylised (and stylish) films featuring African-American protagonists, usually fighting back against oppression from The Man, and looking quite cool while they did it.

This genre was a sub-genre of the exploitation film. In a way the exploitation film had been around since the birth of cinema: cheaply-made films with risque topics aimed at teenagers. What we now recognise as the archetypal exploitation film (cheap production values, questionable acting, sexy young people, violence, more sexy young people) came to prominence in the 70s. Continue reading