Ex-Machina Abuses Women to Show that Abuse is Sick

I saw Ex-Machina a few months ago at a special pre-screening here in Los Angeles. Now that it’s out on video, I’m going to jump right in and address some points critics have made against how women — specifically women of color — are treated in the film. I disagree with many of these views and this is why.

Also, SPOILERS — and expletives — ahead. Consider yourself warned.

Like many critics have pointed out, I also noticed that there were many women of color in Nathan’s arsenal of androids — besides Eva — who were abused robots. The author points out that Kyoko is docile, quiet, etc. but that first scene when Nathan yells at her — and she doesn’t say anything — is when I clued into the fact that she’s a robot and Nathan could be a sick fuck.

Viewers of the film have pointed out how “the treatment of Kyoko keeps spiraling,” which is when the “hero” of the movie, Caleb, REALLY knows that Nathan is, really, just a sick fuck. If the scene disgusts you, that’s exactly what that scene was for: to create a sense of disgust from the audience… not against the entire movie, but pinpointed at Nathan. In other words, the director executed EXACTLY what he intended and succeeded.

I don’t think the critics of the film took a step back to see its intended “purpose.”

The purpose of the many colors of women robots — Asian, Black, and White… not sure if I saw Latino, though — in Nathan’s “failure closets” helped to show that Nathan is fucked up. The reason that Eva is phenotypically White is because that’s what Nathan had determined was Caleb’s type, according to Caleb’s porn and dating site search data. In addition, towards the end of the movie, it’s revealed that Nathan verbally abuses Eva (not sure if he did anything physical, but presumably, that would fuck up her robo-skin)

There’s also that scene towards the end of the movie when Kyoko peels back her robot skin. So, Nathan could easily change any of his robot’s phenotype.

Let’s say for argument’s sake, Nathan had treated all his robots nicely and kindly. I wouldn’t have felt justified when Nathan dies at the end. He’d be a completely different character and it would be a different movie. Imagine if in Titanic, Rose wasn’t engaged to a womanizing abusive asshole, but a really really nice guy. DiCaprio’s Jack would’ve looked like the villain.

Ex-Machina places the audience in a small tiny microcosm, set aside from the rest of the world. We’re in Nathan’s world. And, as such, Nathan was smart, but also a sick-o — as Caleb discovers. Although critics are enraged at the treatment of women of color in this movie, I felt it was a reflection of the character “Nathan” and had a purpose to the science fiction of the film.

7 thoughts on “Ex-Machina Abuses Women to Show that Abuse is Sick

  1. I hadn’t even realized that critics were up in tizzy about the “abuse of colored women” in this movie. In a lot of ways, I’m glad that I don’t keep up with what critics say about movies.

    My point of view toward Nathan is the same as yours. He was a sick-o. Period. I think that his closet of mishaps just showed that he wanted to try a variety of different women and so he made one of every race. Again, huge sick-o. My overall disgust was most definitely directed toward Nathan and not toward the movie as a whole.

    Even the smart ones can go bad.

  2. I have to agree here. The point really was to show that Nathan is an incredibly abusive, manipulative and despicable person. One has to wonder if he act the same way towards a flesh and blood woman; I’m inclined to think he would.

    I think though that there IS something to be said for making abuse a spectacle in entertainment media. I don’t think that it was as bad as Ramsey & Sansa on Game of Thrones in full view of the audience but I can understand how it would turn stomachs for some.

  3. It’s a major fallacy on the part of critics to object to any and all misconduct on the part of fictional characters. How can we talk about racism, sexism, homophobia, classism, and so on if artists are discouraged from ever presenting abusive, racist megalomaniacs? We have to be able to admit that such people exist–and to show them, as you say, as targets for our disgust.

  4. A.I. is separate from a fully mobile human-looking robot. One is a consciousness, the other is a container. Those looking at the container are missing the crux of the A.I. issue.

    Merits of the movie aside, really liked all of the ethical issues this movie touched on. Someday, as A.I. gets closer and closer to reality, we will have to address them in a real and specific way.

  5. Using misogyny and abuse towards women to create a story arc for a male character is actually pretty unimaginative storytelling. It’s played out.

    Also, it reifies misogyny because the only use for the female characters is to move the characterization of the male along. So, while we’re being told that Nathan is a bad dude and he shouldn’t treat women that way, the story is concurrently treating women that way.

    Also, authors of media with depictions of abuse at this point in history get to have it both ways. They get to sicken/delight the audience while at the same time say that there piece is an expose not a glorification. But it’s a thin line. They profit off the audience’s (secret) desire for and (stated) hatred of misogyny.

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