Sunday, July 8, 2018

Summer Movie Miscelleny

I have been away and will be away again soon. My writing has suffered for it, but it seems to me that we all have two choices in life: there is either family or there is everything else. I will choose family for as long as it's needed. In the meantime, I hope you will continue to read Tellers of Weird Tales. There is still plenty to be found here, especially way back in the vault, if you haven't already been following this blog since its beginnings. I hope to devote more time to it before too much longer.

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Last month we were able to take time away from our work to see two movies. Solo: A Star Wars Story came first. We saw it in an old movie theater in Shelbyville, Indiana, and in that, I felt like we had stepped back in time. That's a nice feeling to have when you're seeing a movie that is essentially a return to the past and a work of nostalgia. Unfortunately we came too late in the run of Solo to have had much of a crowd. In fact there were only two other people in the theater, and they seemed to be either all dead or mostly dead. I wondered why they were even there.

I was a little apprehensive about Solo. I hadn't heard a lot of good things about it, and I was especially skeptical of the young actor chosen to play the title character. Now, after having seen it, I can say that there wasn't so much to worry about after all. I liked and enjoyed it, but that's not to say that it's a great movie. I'll tell you why I think that.

First, the whole Star Wars franchise is, in my opinion, pretty well exhausted. There is energy and inventiveness in Solo--having a young cast helps in that way--but it's hard to get excited anymore about a Star Wars movie. Solo is an example of why that is, for there is very little at stake in this film. We know that certain characters will live--there is little suspense as to their fate. As for the other characters--well, they're not very interesting or well developed. I didn't care very much whether they lived or died. They didn't seem to care either. Woody Harrelson's character loses the woman he loves (or at least who loves him) early in Solo. What is his response? Not much of anything. And what kind of lines are these people given to speak? Little that is either expressive or memorable. If anything is going on inside them, we don't know what it might be. They don't seem to have much in the way of feelings, desires, or personalities. Again and again in Solo, someone or something is lost, gained, or striven for, and yet its characters--and we because of it--feel almost nothing. This goes back to my complaint about the whole Star Wars universe, that it's pretty much devoid of love and human emotion. Put another way, the Star Wars universe is stoic. The characters we love the most--Han Solo for example--seem to be interlopers. Perhaps that explains his jadedness and cynicism in the original Star Wars (1977).

Second, and more to the point, Solo is the fifth out of ten Star Wars movies that exist solely to explain the original Star Wars (1977). (1) The problem is that Star Wars doesn't need any explaining. It's a whole story. It stands alone. (It's the only film in the saga to do so.) We all saw, loved, and thoroughly enjoyed it without knowing what came before. (We didn't really need to know what came after it, either. [2]) Yes, Obi-Wan Kenobi mentions the Clone Wars and explains that Darth Vader killed Annikin Skywalker, but that's all we really needed in 1977. We didn't need five more movies--five whole movies running to nearly eleven and a half hours--to tell us what was neatly, economically, and satisfactorily disposed of with a few minutes of dialogue in the original and in its opening scroll.

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The exhaustion we see now in the Star Wars saga is emblematic of our larger popular culture. As I've said before, we are like people picking among the ruins of a once great civilization. There shouldn't be any need to point out that it will never again be 1977. There will never again be a phenomenon like Star Wars. As much fun as it was, we will never have that back, and we should quit trying to get it back. Likewise, we should quit trying to remake the creation. We don't need any more explanations of what went before. The scroll tells us. We don't need any new secret origin stories, nor any reboots. We don't need to know how Han Solo came by his surname or the details of his winning of the Millennium Falcon or how he found out about Jabba the Hutt on Tatooine. These things are minutiae. We all have better versions of how they happened inside our own imaginations. To commit them to film only heads off all other possibilities, which are, truth be told, infinite in number.

* * *

The George Lucas version of the Star Wars saga--what fans call "the canon"--is only one of that infinite number of possibilities. For example, the second trilogy is not really the story of how Annikin Skywalker became Darth Vader. It's only Mr. Lucas' version of that story, just as in his revised version of Star Wars, Greedo shoots first. In our version of that scene, Han Solo shoots first. Is not our version equally as valid as the revised version? Isn't it actually more valid, considering that it's based on the original creation rather than on a revision? In an alternate version of the Star Wars universe (the version shown in the original movie), Darth Vader and Annikin Skywalker are not the same person. Vader is not Luke's father. With that being the case, the events of the second trilogy are rendered invalid. Even if we accept George Lucas' revision and Darth Vader is Luke's father, the events of a second trilogy could have happened in a different way. In my imagination they did. You may have a version sprung from your own imagination. I count your version as valid, too. As for how the Rebels came by the plans for the Death Star: the events shown in Rogue One are only one version of that story. You can see another version in Phineas and Ferb: Star Wars (2014). One, the "canonical" version, concludes with a creepy CGI Princess Leia, in other words an attempt to bring back something from the irretrievable past. The other is extremely funny and in the end perhaps more entertaining. So which version is the "right" one?

* * *

What we're seeing in all of this is a kind of obsessiveness in explaining what came before. By returning again and again to the past, moviemakers (and fans) are merely regurgitating and chewing their cud. I've never chewed it before, but I know enough to say that cud is not fresh.

* * *

I have other complaints about Solo. Again, as in other Star Wars movies, music (and by extension joy and pleasure) is here associated with decadence or evil. Witness the scene of the cocktail party on board the bad guy's spaceship. Also, early on, there is an extended chase scene that--though exciting and well-staged--amounts to a preview and source material for a video game. (Most action movies have these scenes now.) I for one don't want to see a video game while going to the movies.

More seriously: I had read about the supposed "social justice" content of Solo before going to the theater. If there is that kind of thing in Solo, it seems to be toned down. However, it's interesting that there seems to be in this film a kind of turning in the Star Wars universe in that the bad guys are now not strictly governmental (i.e., working for the Empire, in other words for a totalitarian State) but also include criminal syndicates allied with the Empire. In other words, in Solo is introduced an entirely new concept, that of what you might call a quasi-fascistic alliance between an overarching State and nefarious business interests working hand in glove with the State to bring about its ends. In other words, the makers of Solo are saying that Star Wars (1977) had it all wrong: the Empire as a State is not the main villain in the galaxy, for it is aided by and allied with businessmen, and so the bugaboo of the real-world Leftist rears its ugly head here. Never mind that Disney is a multi-gazillion dollar corporation like the mysterious Crimson Dawn. Businessmen--in other words, the middle class, aka Marx's bourgeoisie--are now seemingly the ultimate bad guys in the Star Wars universe.

There is other "social justice" content in Solo, for it turns out that the Cloud Riders are not marauders but warriors against the Empire and its businessmen partners. I guess we're supposed to sympathize with them because they have been exploited and abused. They are the underdogs, and we all love underdogs. The class warfare aspect of this part of the story is hard to ignore, though. And if there is any doubt that membership in the underclass intersects with the other sympathies of the real-world Leftist, the leader of the Cloud Riders turns out to be not just a woman but a bi-racial woman. Grrl Power, yeah! The only way it could have been better is if she were a transgender Muslim. (3) And in case you missed it, she seems to be a kind of Founding Mother of the Rebellion, for it is she who provides the Rebels with what they will need to power their fleet. (If only she had known that that same fleet would be wiped out by the end of The Last Jedi, she might have let Han Solo have it for the Millennium Falcon, which survives.)

One more bit before I move on the second movie we have seen recently. There was talk that Lando Calrissian would turn out to be "pansexual" in Solo. Yeah, whatever, Disney. But he does seem to have a thing for his robot, although their relationship, whatever it might be, seems to be one in which the distaff side--the robot--bullies and abuses her opposite--Lando himself. Anyway, I'm not sure what objection people might have to this relationship when right now (or at least very soon) real people are having (or will soon have) "sex" with robots. If it isn't wrong in real life, how can it be wrong in a movie? Beyond that, millions if not billions of people, instead of living their lives in the real world and in relationship with real human beings, are now living, mostly or exclusively, by vicarious means, that is, through machines. (And if they're not, they aspire to live that way.) The most obvious example of this way of "life" is the obsessive playing of computer games and video games. So are the same people who are having these digital or virtual "experiences" or "relationships"--the same people who report having digital "friends"--really complaining about a character in the movies having a "sexual" relationship with a robot? Isn't that a case of the pot calling the kettle black? (No pun intended.) Isn't there really only one kind of experience, one that takes place in the real world, without a digital intermediary? And isn't there really only one kind of relationship, one in which a real person relates only to another real person and not to a machine or through a machine? Why should anyone who lives his life through a machine complain about another person doing the very same thing? (4, 5)

* * *

So a few days after we saw Solo, we went to see Avengers: Infinity War in a different movie theater. There were more people this time and we had more fun. It struck me that here are two movies, each made by a separate division of Disney, and yet one--Avengers: Infinity War--is so vastly superior to the other. It's much more entertaining and exciting in my opinion, but there is obviously so much more at stake in this film than in Solo. The characters are human and likable. They have feelings and desires and personalities. There is also a great deal of humor and some very funny dialogue. There is even music. (Wherever Star-Lord goes, there is music.) I guess my question is, how did it come to be that the Marvel movies are so much better than the Star Wars movies? And how has Marvel so successfully mined the past for material while the makers of the Star Wars movies have so often failed in that task?

One last thing. In Avengers: Infinity War, the villain is Thanos and he has, of course, his world-destroying scheme. This is to wipe out half of the life in the universe because he thinks the place is overpopulated. In a movie, that's a perfectly fine goal for a villain. We easily find ourselves rooting against the villain and for the men and women who oppose him. But do the people watching this film realize that Thanos' goal is one shared by millions of their fellows, some of whom are probably sitting right next to them in the theater? What I mean is this: If you believe in zero-population growth--if you believe that our planet is overpopulated and that our numbers should be controlled--that there should be only two billion people or five hundred million people or whatever arbitrary number of people you have come up with--that we are destroying our planet and should be reduced, or, in the words of a prominent writer and editor of fantasy, lessened or diminished--if you believe any of these things, then you are Thanos. You are not one of us. You are not one of the Avengers or the Guardians of the Galaxy or the Wakandans or the people of Earth or of any other planet in the universe. You are a villain and a monster. Just admit that to yourself. You are a monster. And you should begin as soon as possible to cease being a monster and to come over to the side of humanity. Take this message to heart: Don't be Thanos. Be a human being. Be one of us instead of against us.

Notes
(1) Those movies are: The Phantom Menace (1999), Attack of the Clones (2002), Revenge of the Sith (2005), Rogue One (2016), and now Solo (2018).
(2) Just as five of the Star Wars movies explain what came before the original, four, soon to be five, explain what came after. You could make an argument that they are also unnecessary. In the end, don't we really just need the original Star Wars? (Or maybe Star Wars and a little of The Empire Strikes Back?)
(3) We are led to believe at first that her character is male and are allowed to see only near the end that she is actually female. Is that a figurative transition from one sex to the other? Is she then figuratively "transgender"? Maybe. It's more likely that this is just a continuation of the trend in our popular culture to remake traditionally male roles or characters (Mad Max, Dr. Who, Colonel Sanders, Luke Skywalker) into female roles or characters (with Imperator Furiosa being the female Mad Max and Rey being the female Luke).
(4) "Sexual" relationships between human beings and robots go way back in science fiction. I'm not sure how far back, but they're at least as old as the Barbarella comic strip of the 1960s. See also the movie Westworld, from 1973. And if you look at the robot in Metropolis as sexual in some way (I think we're supposed to), then sex and robots have been a thing since 1927.
(5) By the way, Avengers: Infinity War also depicts a relationship between a human being and a robot. I think there's a big difference here, though. In Solo, the human-robot relationship is overtly sexualized. I guess we're supposed to think that it's cute and funny. (Maybe we're being softened up--no pun intended--for further moves planned by the social justice warriors behind the Star Wars movies.) In Avengers: Infinity War, however, the human-robot relationship is not overtly sexualized. In fact, the relationship between Scarlet Witch and the Vision seems to be one of love. The Vision aspires to be human. Scarlet Witch loves him and tries to save his life. Meanwhile Lando Calrissian is dragged down into mechanized sex with a robot that isn't and can never be human. Maybe that as much as anything explains why the Marvel movies are better than the Star Wars movies.
In any case, it shouldn't come as a surprise that Disney would create a "pansexual" character for one of its movies, for there has been sexual perversion in Disney movies at least since the 1960s. If you doubt that, watch the scene in The Parent Trap (1961), an otherwise enjoyable movie in which Disney's dirty old men had Hayley Mills suck on a pale, plastic popsicle for endless minutes. Worse yet is The Misadventures of Merlin Jones (1964), in which there isn't anything that is not weird, creepy, perverted, or disturbing except for Annette Funicello. 

Revised July 11, 2018
Copyright 2018 Terence E. Hanley

16 comments:

  1. Probably the very first of the fembots is the automaton Olimpia in E.T.A. Hoffmann's story The Sand-man (1816). However, the first real science fiction treatment of the idea is probably Helen O'Loy by Lester Del Rey (Astounding Science Fiction, Dec. 1938) and edited by John Campbell. As far as I can tell this is probably the first serious treatment of the theme. Two scientists create the perfect female robot and both proceed to fall in love with her. It is the story of Pygmalion in science fiction terms. In fact, I always refer to the fembot as Helen O'Loy as a generic term. And she will probably be with us earlier than you think, artificial uterus and all. The Japanese are certainly trying hard to accomplish her. Maybe they think she will be the solution to the Western and Japanese population busts.

    There is also Zora of the Zoromes(Amazing, March 1935) in the Neil R. Jones story of that name, but she is a cyborg, not a robot.

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    1. Dear Anonymous,

      Your comment reminded me that I have written before about a female robot or android, so I looked into the vault and found that Villiers de l'Isle-Adam (1838-1889) authored a novel (more properly a romance) called L'Ève future, published in 1886, which features just such a creation. (That pushes the sex-robot idea back to the nineteenth century.) Part of the appeal of this robot or android is that she isn't a woman. Here's a quote from the novel, used as an epigraph in--surprise!--a Japanese film:

      "If our gods and hopes are nothing but scientific phenomena, then it must be said that our love is scientific as well."

      That seems to be the belief and the aim of countless millions of people, from Japanese sex-doll manufacturers to Western atheists and materialists to makers of Star Wars movies. It seems to me that these people, intentionally or not, envision a future that the rest of us might only describe as a nightmare and a true dystopia.

      Thanks for writing. Everyone should read the article mentioned in the comment below.

      TH

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  2. Cf. The article "Explosion In Sex Dolls Threatens Japanese Race With "Extinction"" by Tyler Durden, July 24, 2018! Helen O'Loy with a vengeance! They will only get more sophisticated with time.

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  3. Hadaly the android of The Future Eve made her appearance in 1886, but was long predated by Olimpia in The Sand-man (1816). In fact, it predates Frankenstein (1818). As far as the sex dolls go, it is only a matter of time, and sooner rather than later, that they will be fitted with an artificial uterus and stocked with ova engineered from men's epithelial cells. If nothing else, this will give men the reproductive freedom that women have exclusively enjoyed since the passage of Roe v. Wade (1973).

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    1. Dear Anonymous,

      I haven't read either "The Sandman" by E.T.A. Hoffmann (1816) or The Future Eve by Villiers de l'Isle-Adam (1886), so I can't say whether either of these automatons is specifically a sex-robot. It seems to me that there would be implications within the stories themselves, but I'm not the one to judge. However, it seems to me that a robot-woman would be intended to function or be used just like a real woman would be, including for sex. So maybe Olimpia is it. I suspect there are precedents in folklore, fairy tales, and mythology. The story of Pygmalion from classical mythology comes to mind.

      Thanks for the contribution.

      TH

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    2. Oh, and I think you're right that sex dolls will be fitted with all of the necessary equipment to incubate and birth an infant. I just wonder whether any man who would rather go with a sex doll than with a real human being would also be so willing and eager to have a little human baby to take care of. That would only mean more demands placed on a person who is, almost (or entirely) by definition, wrapped up in himself and his own needs, in other words an inverted person, like a worm swallowing its own tale in Camille Paglia's construction.

      TH

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    3. I see that I typed "tale" instead of "tail." You might call that a Freudian slip. ("Either that or a boo boo.") In thinking of the worm uroburos, I also wrote "worm" instead of "snake" in referring to Camille Paglia's concept of the inverted person. Here is a quote from Sexual Personae (1990):

      "Zeus too is hermaphrodite: he has the power of self-insemination and procreation or conception, which in English as in Latin has a double meaning of pregnancy and comprehension. Egyptian Khepera, the masturbatory First Mover, is shown coiled in an uroboros-like circle, feet touching head, from which leaps a tiny human figure. So perhaps Zeus too is a primal masturbator, loving himself as he would next love his sister Hera. Amazon Athena is a brazen spume of divine self-love. Gregory Zilboorg compares Athena's birth to the ritual couvade, where a father, after delivery of a baby, jealously takes to bed and is attended as if he were in labor. Citing schizophrenic fantasies of a baby issuing from head or penis, Zilboorg concludes that the myths of Athena's and Dionysus' birth come from 'woman-envy,' male envy of female powers, which he thinks earlier and 'psychogenetically older and therefore more fundamental' than Freud's penis-envy."

      I think of the sex-doll as essentially a masturbation tool, like the gadget the psycho killer uses in The First Deadly Sin (1980), starring Frank Sinatra and Faye Dunaway. We might think that a sex-doll that can also be a nurturing mother-doll is an innovation, but as Ms. Paglia points out, the impulse of self-directed love--that is, love that involves only the self and no other person--to conceive of and give birth to a new person is as old as time. The liberal- or progressive-minded person would say that this is an innovation and that there isn't any reason why we shouldn't do it. The atheist or materialist would not see any moral or ethical command against it. The conservative-minded person would simply point out that all things have been tried before, that there is nothing new under the sun, and that only those things that have been tried and found true have survived. In the evolution of ideas, they have proved the fittest. I would add that sex-dolls and customized offspring grown in and raised by robot-mothers are just another dead-end--and deadly--road. We already know it won't work, yet people are going to try it anyway. Sigh.

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  4. Neither Olimpia nor Hadaly were sex robots per se. Rather, the emphasis was on their grace and beauty. The authors were interested in talking about other things and the points of the stories lay elsewhere. Given the 19th century dates of the stories that is to be expected. With Helen O'Loy, on the other hand, the story specifically states that she cannot have children but can do everything else. The story is intended seriously, so as far as I can tell this is the first serious treatment of this subject. As far as taking care of babies is concerned, that is exactly what Helen is for. She isn't just for sex, she is a silicon-based female instead of a carbon-based female. She isn't of much use until she can do everything a carbon-based female can do. As far as trusting a robot to take care of babies, I don't see why not; if car manufacturers have their way, we are going to be trusting our lives to robot-driven cars, and it is more dangerous to drive a car than to take care of a baby. As far as whether men will go for this, from what I have read the manufacturers can't keep up with demand for even their current crude models. Look at it this way: in the U.S., more than 50% of first-time marriages end in divorce, the results of which are generally a disaster for the man. You never have that problem with Helen. She won't even complain about the toilet bowl seat. As far as being inverted goes, that is exactly what one would expect to think of a woman who goes down to her friendly neighborhood sperm bank to get the job done, and there are plenty of those. The world is crazy and men are adapting as best they may.

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    1. Dear Anonymous,

      I agree with you that people will entrust their babies to robots. It's going to happen. And if it isn't already happening, old people in Japan will soon be tended to by robot nurses and other caregivers. Whether these things should happen is another story.

      As for men: I wonder how much overlap there is between men who want a sex-doll only for sex vs. those who also want it as a "mother" to their offspring. I would hazard a guess that there is little overlap, but you never know. I have found that there aren't any limits to human depravity, especially when it comes to what the selfish, self-centered, self-interested self wants.

      You make a good point that a woman who wants to bear and bring up a child on her own with the use of technology (sperm banks) are not very much different than are men who might want the same thing, only using a different and more complicated technology. There are shades of difference, though, one of which is that women have been bringing up children on their own since the beginning of time.

      Again, the conservative-minded person would say that these things have come about because we have thrown off custom and tradition, in other words, thousands of years of what has proved itself true. I guess people prefer what they call "innovation," no matter what kind of unhappiness and misery it might bring, to the things of the past, which, though they might not be perfect, have shown themselves to work as well as anything can. Sigh again.

      TH

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    2. Darn it. Again, I didn't write quite what I wanted to write. It's not that I think there is little overlap between men who want sex dolls for sex and those who want them for something more. What I meant to say is that I doubt that there are very many men (or any at all) who want a robot to give birth to and bring up their children.* The purpose of these robots seems to me to be what the Atlanta Rhythm Section was looking for in the song "Imaginary Lovers":

      Imaginary lovers never turn you down
      When all the others turn you away, they're around
      . . .
      When ordinary lovers don't feel what you feel
      And real life situations lose their thrill
      . . .
      Imaginary lovers never disagree
      They always care
      They're always there when
      You need satisfaction guaranteed . . .

      A sex-doll is no lover at all--it's simply an extension of a person's imagination--of a person's own ego and self-centered and ultimately infantile self.* It's a person making love with himself, something that used to be possible only in his own mind but that can now be done in the real world with a real, physical object. To me it's horrifying, but when has the prospect of horror ever stayed the hand of humanity?

      *A double-duty note: An infantile man wants to be the infant in all of his relationships. Why would he want a real infant, borne of a robot-mother, to take his place? Then again, a man could have more than one doll: two or three for sex, another as a "mother" to his child, a couple more to clean house, make him a sammich, and fetch him a cold one from the refrigerator.

      Anyway, Camille Paglia mentions couvade, in which a new father expresses envy of his child. It's pertinent here to say that couvade may be more common in societies--like our own--in which traditional sex roles are loosened and women become more dominant. That is exactly the situation, I think, that has brought about a demand for sex-dolls. Anyway again, you're right that the world is crazy, but it has ever been so.

      TH

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  5. I think there has always been a demand for sex dolls. That is what prostitutes are for. But the same man who will go to a prostitute on a business trip will then go home to his wife and children. If men did not want to be husbands and fathers, marriage would never have existed in the first place. Helen O'Loy exists for the men who want a family, not just sex. Men are driven by instinct to form families just like women are. Statistically the number of marriages to carbon-based females in the U.S. has been declining for years but men retain the same drives they always have. If men were as selfish as Camille Paglia seems to think, families would not exist and national cemeteries would not be filled with dead soldiers. This is just a technological fix to the problem. Helen comes in because the divorce rate exceeds 50% and because men were deprived of all their paternal rights by Roe v. Wade. The world is always crazy but technology has amplified our ability to be crazy just as it has amplified all our other abilities. By the way, probably the first robot nurse was in a story by David H. Keller, "The Psychophonic Nurse," (Amazing Stories, Nov. 1929). This is a story about a liberated career woman who has a baby by mistake and turns over child care to a robot nursemaid. Keller is one of my favorite authors. He was a very sharp social prognosticator. He pulled no punches and probably would not be published now. He also had a good many appearances in Weird Tales (cf. the stories in The Last Magician)and his stuff can get very weird indeed. He was probably the first person to use the term "robot" for a mechanical man (in The Threat of the Robot (Science Wonder Stories, June 1929)). Prior to that time, as in R.U.R., the term was used for biologically constructed men.

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    1. Dear Anonymous,

      I was not aware that David H. Keller (a medical doctor, psychiatrist, and occasional sexologist) wrote what you call "probably the first robot nurse" story, nor that, as you say, "[h]e was probably the first person to use the term 'robot' for a mechanical man." (I have wondered when the term "robot" passed into common usage, or at least common among writers and readers of science fiction.) Thanks for pointing out these things. This is the kind of research that I like to see, and it's what I shoot for in writing my blog.

      I agree with you that men have drives towards family and children, just as women do, also that men are or can be unselfish. If there weren't such drives or if they weren't strong, we would have died out a long time ago, especially considering that we appear to have a death wish or death drive that works against the drive towards life (Thanatos vs. Eros). I'm not sure that the Helen O'Loy-type robot is a technological fix to our current problem, though. I see it more as a result of that problem, i.e., the breakdown of relationships between men and women and the destruction of the traditional institutions of marriage and family. I also see the Helen O'Loy-type robot as an initiator of a negative-feedback loop: men are not able to form relationships with women, so they turn to robots, which turning makes them less able to form relationships with women. At the same time, women's anger and frustration with men because they are not able to form relationships only drives men further away. (Women alone also end up rearing boys who don't know how to be men and are taught that men are somehow defective and that only women are to be emulated. We have a lot of that now. We see it in the weak, feminized, and de-masculinized men of today. I would guess that there is a lot of overlap between weak, feminized, de-masculinized men and those men who are in the market for a robot sex-doll.)

      I'm still skeptical of the idea that men will want children by a robot "mother." Time will tell, I guess. All I can say is that it looks to me like a recipe for further disaster. Technology is not and can't be a fix to this problem. On the contrary, technology will only make it worse. (Just wait until non-GMO women have to compete with custom-made GMO women.)

      Finally, you use the term "carbon-based female." I would say that there isn't any other kind: a robot is by definition not a female because it isn't human and doesn't have a soul. Also, a robot can be programmed to do what you want it to do. Ain't no woman so programmed or programmable.

      Thanks for writing.

      TH

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  6. The question is whether loving Helen O'Loy amounts to self-love. I do not think that is per se the case.

    Let us take the case of Mr. X, Miss Y and Helen O'Loy. Mr. X does not actually know Miss Y; he only knows the mental image that he has created of her in his mind and which he call Miss Y and with whom he interacts. Generally, I think that the mental image a man constructs of his beloved bears little relationship to reality; he remakes her in accordance with his desires. Is this reimagined beloved with whom he interacts really just self-love? I do not think it is. I think we all do it. That is the way our minds are programmed to operate. Don't women contribute to this situation by spending billions of dollars to change their appearance? If we and they did not do these things then there probably be no marriages at all. We love something and it is not us but it is something we have created. That is not self-love. Nature makes us trick ourselves so that the business of reproduction occurs.

    Likewise with the situation between Mr. X and Helen O'Loy. He knows no more of the real Helen than he does of the real Miss Y, all he is dealing with is his mental image of Helen. That is neither more nor less self-love than it is when he deals with the mental image he has created of Miss Y. If you say that it is self-love when we custom-make Helen O'Loy to suit our needs, well don't we spend our lives trying to get what we want from others regardless of whether it is Miss Y or Helen? I rather think we do. If that is self-love then it is no more self-love when we do it with Helen than when we do it with Miss Y.

    Not too long ago I saw a video of a programmed fembot. She had been programmed to respond to sexual overtures by saying that she did not want to do it until she knew you better! Further, we may expect that as Helen accumulates memories, her programmed personality will tend to shift over time in unexpected directions. If we are really dealing with Helen O'Loy, an accurate representation of a woman rather than a mere sex doll, she will be programmed to act like a carbon-based woman as well, including giving you problems. You just won't wind up in divorce court. If men did not like to solve problems, crossword puzzles and moon rockets would not exist.

    In summary, it is my opinion that it is neither more nor less self-love to love a silicon-based female than it is to love a carbon-based female since in both cases they are not us but are our mental constructs. In both cases they are not us but are a representation of what we want.

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    1. Dear Anonymous,

      I guess I should clarify that when I wrote "self-love" I was using a euphemism for masturbation. But in a larger sense, I also mean it as an inversion, a turning into the self, a being wrapped up in the self. If a man uses his own epithelial cells, as you propose, to grow an embryo into a fetus into an infant, then isn't he just creating another of himself? Is he so wrapped up in himself that he wants only a clone of himself as his child? And if a robot is the "mother," then isn't the robot also only another version of himself? After all, he can program it to be anything he wants it to be, in other words, to fit the perfect image of a "woman" he has formed in his own head. (Never mind how the robot is programmed by the manufacturer--the customer will demand complete control and will not settle for anything less.) I read once that the people in our dreams are only ourselves in disguise. I don't know whether that's true or not, but the sex-wife-mother-family robot is only a dream or fantasy come to "life" (remember the song "Imaginary Lovers"). It is wish fulfillment in the image of the wisher. No other person need be involved.

      All of this reminds me of Robert A. Heinlein's story "'--All You Zombies--'", perhaps the most solipsistic story ever written or imagined. The protagonist is the worm (or snake) Ouroboros, swallowing his own tail. He is his own fetus, curled like the worm, inverted upon himself, enclosed in himself, self-creating, self-absorbed, self-enwrapped. It also reminds me of a quote: "A man wrapped up in himself makes a pretty small package." A man who takes a robot "wife" makes one even smaller. It's a kind of blotting out of his own being or existence. A man might equally aspire to living forever in a virtual reality, hung like a fetus in its amnion, fed all of its life through an umbilical, living completely within himself and his own fantasies. Robots are hardware. Hardware is so yesterday. The future is in a collapse into the black hole of the self. Robots are only a stopgap towards a future of rows and shelves of people hung in virtual reality, perhaps drugged but also sedated, eased from life and living, sunk into their own fantasies forever.

      The difference between our images of other people and the people themselves is the difference between seeing them as things in our environment vs. recognizing them as real, ensouled human beings. It's the difference between what Martin Buber called an "I-it" relationship and an "I-Thou" relationship. For as long as we look at other people as things, there are troubles. Only when we open our eyes and recognize others as human beings can there be a breakthrough. It's nice to think of robots as potential lovers, friends, companions, caregivers, etc., but robots are things. They are material objects. They do not have souls. They are not and cannot be a solution to the problem of troubled relationships among human beings. Trying to use robots to solve this problem only puts off the problem. It's like using drugs because you have an empty place inside of you. The drugs don't fill the empty place. They only put off the problem for another day.

      Again, there is only one kind of woman and that's a real woman. There can be no such thing as a silicon-based "female." Likewise, there can only be love between and among human beings. If there's a robot involved, it isn't love. Finally, a robot is or can be, like you say, a kind of mental construct because it can be made at your pleasure. It is a thing. Another human being is not a construct, though. She is real. She is herself, no matter what you might want, and she has a soul--is a soul, an embodied soul. There isn't any substitute for that. Wanting anything else is just going down a rabbit hole.

      Thanks for writing.

      TH

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  7. It used to be that the battle of the sexes was limited. Now it is unlimited, and the laws (the laws men themselves made!) have placed them on the losing side. Hence Helen O'Loy.

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    1. Dear Anonymous,

      There used to be limits on everything, but in our rush to meet the glorious future, we decided to get rid of limits. Now we have chaos. It's obvious that men are losing in these things, but things with men usually are direct and obvious. What's less obvious is that women are losing, too. We chose all of this, though. I guess now we've got to live with it. I still don't see robots as an option, however.

      TH

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