Wednesday, January 30, 2008

23 Shevaṭ 5768: Inane Answering Machine Day

Hello. You have reached the “Weird thing of the day” blog. Aaron cannot come to the blog right now. Here are today’s news and commentary:Today’s weird thing has been contributed by guest ranter Malcolm NC-17 and is included below. Enjoy and share the weirdness.

Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles: An Elaborate Setup for Human-Robot Sex

In the wasteland left by the current writer’s strike, folks will watch anything that isn’t a rerun. Lo and behold, into this empty desert proudly strides a robot monster from the future out to kill your time and sell you worthless crap.

This is Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, a continuation of the first two Terminator movies. Thankfully this pretends the atrocious Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines did not happen and picks up after the first two movies. Those of you who spent four hours of you lives more productively than watching these movies will be confused as they give only brief and haphazard information about what happened before the series. Some tidbits you should know:

  • In the future, the machines do a mass genocide using nuclear weapons and take over. The surviving humans resist, lead by John Connor.
  • In the two previous movies the machines sent back “terminators,” killer machines which look like people, to kill Sarah Connor (John’s mother) and John himself. They failed.
  • Sarah and John have tinkered with events which, in turn, should have kept the machines from taking over. Nevertheless, despite the fact that they should never take over, the future evil machines somehow keep on existing anyway and send back terminators to alter the past in their favor. Go figure.
  • If you travel through time, you will show up at your destination naked.

In the series, John is befriended by Cameron (named after James Cameron, ha ha, not) Phillips, who is weird and turns out to be terminator sent from the future to protect John. Which is all well and good, because there’s one badass evil terminator also from the future who is also out to kill him. Cameron outsmarts everyone by using a hidden time machine to take the Connors forward eight years where no one is looking for them. And so they keep on the run, trying to stay ahead of everyone possibly looking for them.

Let’s be clear, this isn’t a half-baked atrocity like Sci-Fi channel’s Flash Gordon. There is some attempt to be halfway weighty and the setup allows for them to introduce serious ethical problems and character development. The series is closer kin then to the same channel’s Battlestar Galactica remake in this way, and they could get into nasty dilemmas in the manner of Philip K. Dick (Paycheck, Minority Report).

The annoying part is what they’re going to do with Cameron. Unlike Arnold Schwarzenegger but more like Kristanna Loken, Cameron looks like a pretty girl roughly John’s age. And Cameron has been awkward and inconsistent in acting like a human being, and she’s going to be in constant contact with the Connors. It doesn’t take a genius to see where this is going. She’s going to have to learn how to act like a person, of the value of human life, of emotions, etc. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing except it’s been done already. Back in 1883 Carlo Collodi did it in The Adventures of Pinocchio and we’ve seen it a lot ever since. It was the central obsession of Lt. Commander Data on Star Trek: The Next Generation and reached pathological proportions in Bicentennial Man. They are constantly kept together by circumstances which will make outside relationships difficult and he’s already seen her naked. Once her feelings and his hormones kick in, is there any doubt what they’re going to do? Cameron, killer robot from the future, geisha for a horny teenager.

Their only out from this would be to write against the cliché. What if they make Cameron the anti-Data and she actively fights becoming more human? She might learn to act human in public but become disdainful when just around the Connors and drive them both crazy. Perhaps she might even become distressed and be driven to self-destruction? What if she notes the horrible things humans do and seriously questions if there’s any benefit to becoming more human? She might even be conflicted, secretly longing to be one way and publicly trying to be another for any of a number of plausible reasons.

Or maybe she’s incapable of real emotion. John could fall in love with her, but what happens when she can’t love him? If she’s supposed to protect him, how will she react if being around hurts him? Would she conclude that she has to pretend around him for as long as she’s around, or would she let him down early so he would not suffer so much later? Or maybe she might be conflicted over his future relationships, being obligated to see to his needs in the present but knowing he will have an important relationship in the future this might screw up. And so on.

I could go into Sarah’s probable reactions, which range from being violently opposed to her son loving a robot wearing a meat suit to being disgustingly pragmatic about his sexual outlets. And then Cameron could be interested in Sarah, Cameron could get into odd conflicts over a new form of persuasion she discovers, and other possibilities with a little too much potential for humor for such a grim program. But we know Cameron and John will fall in love, Sarah will initially be opposed but eventually relent.

There are numerous possibilities beyond simply “robot learns humanity,” and if they have any sense they will fully exploit them for as much angst and drama as they can wring from them. I hope, but, almost as certainly as the Connors can’t wipe out the threat of killer robots from the future as this would end the series, I doubt they will take the real opportunities they set up.

Maybe we’ll get lucky and find a few interesting organs among the pieces of meat wrapped around Cameron. Then at least the resulting child will be an interesting change from the expected.

—Malcolm NC-17

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