Robot Rom Com: Could it Happen?

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 I tweeted about the BBC article The Rise of the Romantic Robot earlier in the week. I found it to be very pertinent to debates we have been having on the Generation Dead course about the humanised vampire and the sympathetic zombie of YA gothic romance. It also made me think about the question Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? It is very hard to make robots sexy and I am not sure being loved by a robot will ever have the same appeal as being adored by a sparkling Godlike vampire. The article discusses whether robots could one day think for themselves and the how this would affect humans’ relationships with them. This is a common subject in science fiction but novelists are increasingly investigating another burning issue: could robots love a human?

I have been wondering if this concept could inspire a new sub genre of Scientific Gothic Romance? Funnier things have happened it was not long ago that Zombies were dismissed as never being able to enter the arena of Romance (‘Zombies are not sexy, romances don’t feature zombies […] zombies are rotting dead flesh who eat brains’ (Gwenda Bond, publisher, 2009). Texts such as Generation Dead and Warm Bodies have completely disproved this theory and shown that the zomb rom com can emerge despite the odds supposedly weighted against it. I wonder if romantic robots could be next? There is something deeply unsettling in loving a robot  of course but maybe Robot Rom Com can  challenge this in interesting new ways. Loving beyond boundaries has always been part of the appeal of paranormal romance.  If our imaginations can persuade us that love is a good disease that can cure even death aka Warm Bodies or convince us that puppets like Pinnochio can become real boys maybe just maybe one day we’ll believe that we can be romanced by a robot that can actually feel love and we’ll like it!

 

 

About Lucy Northenra

Senior Lecturer in Literature, University of Hertfordshire
This entry was posted in Critical thoughts, Generation Dead: YA Fiction and the Gothic news and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Robot Rom Com: Could it Happen?

  1. William the Bloody says:

    Marissa Meyer’s Cinder, in her clever transposition of fairy tales into SF paranormal romance, The Lunar Chronicles, is a cyborg and object of love; not quite a robot, but her humanity is placed into question by her half-mechanical nature.

    Then there is Brian Aldiss’s moving short story ‘Super-Toys Last All Summer Long’ (1969); this is about maternal rather than romantic love, and involves robots/androids in a way that I won’t reveal for fear of spoiling the plot. This story became the basis of Stanley Kubrick’s uncompleted project AI, filmed by Steven Spielberg and loaded with allusions to Pinnochio (mentioned by Sam above).

    And we mustn’t forget the Buffybot, the robotic copy of Buffy Summers who first appears in ‘Intervention’ (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, 5.18), created as a sex doll for Spike.

  2. Lucy Northenra says:

    Yes, AI is very powerful and it does reference Pinnochio and the Blue Fairy but this is love for one’s ‘parent’ as opposed to romantic love. There is a robot gigalo in there too I remember. Relationships with robots or machines tend to turn sinister apart from the comic ones like Robbie from ‘Forbidden Planet’ or Wall-E. Edward Scissorhands is an exception he is interesting because he is an artificial human left unfinished and is quite tragic and humanised. Fun list of top 50 robots in film here….
    http://www.denofgeek.com/movies/19030/the-top-50-robots-and-ai-computers-in-the-movies

    • firekrank says:

      I wonder whether the romantic robot is not only an exploration of what it means to be human in regards to romantic love but also the fear that our love can never really be returned. The robot stands in for the unloving partner, or the unloving world, and makes explicit the belief that perhaps the subject of the text is the only person capable of love. I think the BuffyBot is brilliant example of questioning whether love is something that can be simulated: is it behaviours or three little words or unquantifiable emotions. Science sometimes suggests that romantic love is just hormones and chemicals helping us find an ‘ideal’ partner but the arts are suffused with images that suggest that is a spiritual, almost religious, experience.

      • Lucy Northenra says:

        yes, it is very interesting…in most romance or fairy stories love can transform (all beasts) and transcend even death but robots are different – they seem to suggest a lack but if they can achieve conciousness this is challenged. The sex toy robot also suggests a failure rather than anything positive and yes this is a very one sided relationship!! Pinnochio is saved or transformed by finally achieving compassion the question is whether this is something that can ever be part of robotics. There are some ridiculous sexy ‘fembots’ in Austin Powers than confirm your fears…..Stepford Wives is of course a wonderful feminist spin on this.

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