Undergraduate Honors Theses

Thesis Defended

Spring 2019

Document Type

Thesis

Type of Thesis

Departmental Honors

Department

English

First Advisor

Karen Jacobs

Second Advisor

Mary Klages

Third Advisor

Sigman Byrd

Abstract

This paper seeks to find an explanation for why artificial intelligence is consistently gendered as female in contemporary science fiction. I will analyze two cornerstone science fiction narratives—Philip K. Dick's 1968 novel, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, and Alex Garland's 2014 film, Ex Machina—though a feminist perspective. Fundamentally, I will argue that the resurgence of fembots in science fiction has more to do with the dominant culture’s reaction to social progressivism than it does about the burgeoning field of artificial intelligence technology. Said in another way, these narratives, generated by and produced for white heterosexual males, reveal the cultural contradictions of the moment as experienced by them, the members of the dominant majority. I will situate my findings within the broader context of Western Culture by reconciling them with the fact that most A.I. technology in real life is also gendered as female. To conclude, I will demonstrate how science and science fiction feed off each other, developing each other’s ideas and pushing the other to its creative edge. Thus, my analysis of fembots in science fiction will ultimately imply that our fictional and/or imaginative characterizations of artificial intelligence have real world impact.

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