Cyborg And Women In The Three Kult Films

cyborg and women

In this study, in which the films Metropolis (1927), Stepford Wives (1975), Blade Runner (1982) are examined, firstly, brief information will be given about the films; then the concepts of culture, gender, cyborg, patriarchial society will be examined considering within the context of the article A Cyborg Manifesto (1985) by Donna Haraway.

Key Words: cyborg, robot, feminism, woman, patriarchial system

Metropolis ( 1927)

The film Metropolis, which was published in 1927, was directed by Fritz Lang.It is a silent scicence fiction film that shared of the leading roles by Brigitte Helm, Gustav Fröhlich, Alfred Abel. The film, which deals with the problems of the working class, is a dystopia with a futuristic perspective. In this film, which had a serious impact on societies after its broadcasting,  through “The mediator between brain and hands must be the heart,” which is featured in many scenes, is emphasized the state figure which will provide the balance between the working class and the class that have the means of production. The social structure is presented by emphasizing the inequality between the working class who lives in the underground and the employer who lives upstair in which had skyscrapers which symbolizing the view from above, cultural activities, and developing industry. The middle class has not been emphasized throughout the film, and the gap between these two classes is clearly demonstrated by the absence of the middle class.

This film, where the concept of machine-human is covered, is based on the fact that Joh Fredersen’s son Freder fell in love with Maria living underground and saw this completely different life. Realizing the difference between the two lives, Freder’s father demanded that Maria, who always tells the workers about peace, be turned into a robot. After that, Robot Maria, made by Rotwag, got inactivate the upper class with her dances; led to workers uprising  by inciting with sentences such as “Who lubricates  the machines with their own blood ?! / Who feeds the machines with their own flesh?! Let the machines starve, you fools! Let them die! ”   After this rebellion that started irregularly without any planning, the society drifted into chaos and the underground city was flooded. Although the emphasis of inequality, anti-capitalism and alienation shows up especially in the first half of the movie exceedingly, it is wanted to explained, which the hands belong to the employees; the brain belongs to the employers; the system which has normal structure is right; state plays the role of heart and strike a balance;  and the rebellions in this matter cause more harm in the last part.

Stepford Wives (1975)

This movie, inspired by Ira Levin’s novel Stepford Wives, was released in 1975. The film, which includes actors such as Katharine Ross, Paula Prentiss, Peter Masterson, Dale Coba, was written by William Goldman and directed by Bryan Forbes. The woman named Joanna, who moved from New York to Stepford with her husband and children, realized that the women who living here are different, and concentrates on this topic.

Joanna, who is interested in photography, tries to get used to her new life and the town she moved to, and realizes that the men who lives in the town are very confident and successful men, and that their wives’ aim is to serve only their husbands and children and to take care of housework.  While it is difficult to adapt to the home environment for Joanna, other women are very happy about this and do not complain about it. It catched her attention.  Thus, they act with Bobbie Marco, a newly moved and modern woman like herself, to find the answer to this question. Despite all their efforts, the dual, meeting each woman one by one, cannot learn anything for a long time.

At the end of the film that is shaped by the emphasis on feminism, Bobbie changes and Joanna is left alone. The woman who goes crazy with the sudden change in Bobbie learns the terrible facts. It is too late for Joanna, who is forced to face the fact that the perfect, satisfactory, non-complaining, slave town women have been killed and was changed with the cyborg replicates by their husbands and the association.

Blade Runner (1982)

Blade Runner is a 1982 science fiction film directed by Ridley Scott. The film, which was adapted from  Philip K. Dick’s novel “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?”, includes names like Harrison Ford, Sean Young, Rutger Hauer. In the movie, which starts and continues in a gloomy atmosphere, the task of Deckard is to catch and destroy the replicants that came to the world by escaping. These replicants are insensitive and indistinguishable from human. The movie takes place in Los Angeles in 2019.

Rick Deckard is a Blade Runner, so, he is a head hunter who fits the hard boiled detective type to detect and to destroy androids, which are indistinguishable from the naked eye in terms of image and behavior, escaped from the place where they are run in extraterrestrial colonies. Androids have a four-year life span and are trying to reach out to their creator, Tyrell, to survive.

In the film, which has a philosophical perspective, the question, which was asked by Rachael, is  the main point of the this view. Rachael is a replicant who didn’t know that she is a replicant. When she learned about the truths, she asked to Deckard that whether he had tried the tests on himself. At the end of this movie, which contains symbols such as eyes, unicorns, the audience is left in a controversial situation about whether the Deckard is real or not.

The concept of cyborg has been presented many times in science fiction type in cinema, which has had a great impact on people since its inception. Science fiction movies, created using  technology and scientific reality, are created with themes such as technology, robots, artificial intelligence, experiments, space and aliens. With the scientific and fictional emphasises, the cyborg concept used especially in such films is presented as both a metaphor and social reality. This concept, created in the context of Marxism, socialism and feminism, is a political discourse made against the existing patriarchal system by including imagination and reality.

Cyborg defined that ‘is a cybernetic organism, a hybrid of machine and organism, a creature of social reality as well as a creature of fiction’ by Donna Harraway. Cyborg, created in a post-gender world, has a structure against heterosexism. The concept of gender refers to the roles and expectations attributed to individuals through femininity and masculinity established in accordance with social norms. This concept, which changes from society to society and is constantly re-established, affects the individual from the moment it is born; shapes according to social and cultural values. With the A Cyborg Manifesto written in 1985,  Harraway’s aim is to create a cyborg figure independent of any belief, value, culture and gender patterns that are dependent on the patriarchal and hierarchical structure formed within the capitalist system and has exploitative effect.

When we look at the science fiction movies published from past to present, it is seen that women are reflected as human, mother, lover, assistant, scientist, as well as by many non-human, radical representations such as aliens, creatures, robots and androids (Kurt, 2019 p.59). Among the women shown in this context in the 3 films mentioned above, Metropolis movie lead actor Maria as a “holy woman and robot”; In the Steadford Wives movie, Joanna is a “mother and wife”; In the film Blade Runner, the characters Rachael and Pris appear as “robot and lover”.

In the Metropolis movie, which has a dystopic and futuristic perspective, the number of men is considerably higher than that of women. The movie presents both real and cyborg characters through Maria. In Steadford Wives, unlike the Metropolis and Blade Runner movies, the number of male and female characters is close to each other, and there are cyborg characters throughout the movie, even if we don’t realize it at first. In the Blade Runner movie, the cyborgs defined by the words “emotionless and human more than human” are shown from the beginning of the movie.

Through the cyborgs created in Blade Runner and Metropolis movies, the bad qualities of women were emphasized. Due to her innocence, Freder fell in love with Maria. But at the request of his father, Robot Maria is produced by Rotwag. The development of this by Rotwag shows that cyborgs do not reproduce by organic reproduction. Also, in this point, it is stated that men have a say in the life of women and emphasized to patriarchial system.  Contrary to Maria, society is driven into chaos with Robot Maria, who emphasizes violence, war, provocation and evil. In this film, where the number of men is much, the charm and bad characteristics of women are explained with cyborg character, which both financially and spiritually harms society. Because Robot Maria seduced the upper class, the brain of society, and made it ineffective with her dances showing her charm. She also dragged the working class, that is, the hands of society, into rebellion with his effective words. Throughout the film, female characters Hel and Maria were shown as the reason why male characters like Rotwag, Freder, Joh Fredersen have problems with each other. But in addition, holiness is brought to the fore with Maria, and it seems that pro-peace Maria has a leadership effect on men. In the movies, religious and cultural explanations are made through the characters. In the Metropolis movie, which is also mentioned in the Tower of Babel and has many religious symbols like this, all sins are loaded into Robot Maria, which is called the ‘witch’. In Blade Runner, Pris deceives Sebastian with her innocence and charm and causes his death because of her own benefit.

Many-headed monsters which represents the horror, the problems in political life,  of opposition by Harraway, were shown in the Metropolis film with this sentence is that “And ı saw a woman sit upon a scarlet colored beast full of names of blasphemy, having seven heads and ten horns. And the who was arrayed in purple and scarlet color, having a golden cup in her hand.”

In the films, objectification is also emphasized. Objectification is felt predominantly in the movies especially Stepford Wives and Blade Runner. It has been shown that women who have cyborgs which have ideal beauty criteria produced under male domination are not subject on their own lives, bodies, sexual lives, daily lives. This issue is explained with the example of Star Wars, even if it is included in different sections of the article.

“Late twentieth-century machines have made thoroughly ambiguous the difference between natural and artificial, mind and body, self-developing and externally designed, and many other distinctions that used to apply to organisms and machines. Our machines are disturbingly lively, and we ourselves frighteningly inert” (Harraway, 1991). These words are supported by scenes in Blade Runner where saying that copies are too real indistinguishably. It is also the cue of these thought that the movie ends without knowing whether Deckard is cyborg or not.

According to Harraway, who argues that there are too many cyborgs in modern science fiction movies, we are all half robot and half human hybrids; so we are cyborgs. According to Harraway, who has explanations on the discourse of “us”, the categorization made by naming takes us away from our aim. She explained her thoughts through Marxist, Socialist, Radical Feminism. For her, “Gender, race, or class consciousness is an achievement forced on us by the terrible historica experience of the contradictory social realities of patriarchy, colonialism, and capitalism. And who counts as ‘us’ in my own rhetoric? Which identities are available to ground such a potent political myth called ‘us’, and what could motivate enlistment in this collectivity? Painful fragmentation among feminists (not to mention among women) along every possible fault line has made the concept of woman elusive, an excuse for the matrix of women’s dominations of each other.” In this context, the emphasis on orientalism in the movie Blade Runner through Abdul Bin Hasan.

As a result, the patriarchial system is highly emphasized in the films studied in the context of the A Cyborg Manifesto, an important work related to the concept of Cyborg. In these films, where women are described in terms of their malevolent features or in the context of gender, it is seen that women are masks or hats that cover some of their faces. Cyborg, described through myths, religious values and cultures, is defined as half human and half robot.


  • Harraway, D. (1985). “A Cyborg Manifesto.”
  • Kurt, E. (2019). “Bilimkurgu Sinemasinda Kadinin Temsili

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Ben, Beyza Yıldırım. Marmara Üniversitesi Sosyoloji Bölümü öğrencisiyim. Ayrıca aynı üniversitede Halkla İlişkiler ve Tanıtım bölümü ile çift anadal yapıyorum. Çalışmalarımı sizlerle paylaşmak için buradayım.

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