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.