Gendering the Posthuman:

The Intersection of Gender, Technology, and Control on the Cyborg Body in Garland’s Ex Machina


  • Ariella Ruby McMaster University


This paper traces the causes, consequences, and implications of, and more optimistically, the subversive possibilities afforded by, the female-gendered post-human—whether she be presented as a cyborg, embodied AI, or female android—as exemplified by Ava in Alex Garland’s 2014 film, Ex Machina. A brief summary of Donna Haraway’s A Cyborg Manifesto, with special focus on her argument for the cyborg as a politically subversive, boundary-eroding “creature [of] a post-gender world,” will serve as a the guiding framework for this paper’s consideration of how Ex Machina succeeds in evoking some of these possibilities, and alternately, how it fails (101). The first part of this paper, drawing from the work of Judith Butler and Eleanor Beal, examines the four dimensions that have shaped (gendered) Ava, and that indefinitely hold her captive, in a literal and metaphorical sense: gender, sex, and desire (interrelated and conflated as they are), and, more broadly, control (patriarchal control, control by the male human inventor). The second part of this paper re-examines the film’s treatment of the female cyborg from a more optimistic lens (using Giorgio Agamben’s theory of “bare life” and subsequently, Ana Oancea’s intertextual study of Ex Machina, “Bluebeard”, and AI/machine creativity) to uncover the female cyborg’s dynamism and potential to realize some of Haraway’s idealizations—despite her many-layered entrapment, and by very virtue of her machine otherness.


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