Times have changed. This is the age of online dating and virtual friendships (I’ve found more genuine friendships online than I’ve found outside). More and more people are not only finding it convenient (and “trendy”) but also finding the privacy afforded by the cyberspace more comforting as opposed to conversing in a public space where you are surrounded, most of the time, by your friends and family and you find it a bit frustrating to not talk about what you really want. And we now have some cool dating apps for this too (I’ve never used one).
This, however, depends on the person. Some people still prefer face-to-face interaction and the human touch more. They equate the virtual “avatar” of a real person to that of a computer program. But let’s face it: This is the only option you have with you if you want to maintain long distance relationships. And even some of the short distance ones can be strengthened this way. Contrary to what some people out there think, sometimes true happiness can be found online and deep commitments are forged this way.
We’ve been seeing the depiction of this sort of relationships recently in fiction too, especially in movies. In addition to online romance, we’ve seen films where human beings fall in love with robots too – not just the male-female kind but the others too. A human-robot relationship has served as perfect fodder for some of the greatest science fiction movies ever made. Let’s take a look at 5 such movies that have touched people’s hearts and are now cult classics.
Blade Runner (1982)
The one that started it all. Ridley Scott’s seminal sci-fi classic has Harrison Ford playing Rick Deckard who happens to be a “blade runner” – a cop who hunts and terminates supposedly dangerous androids called “replicants” that escaped from an off-world planet. These replicants look and behave like normal human beings and come with a shelf-life of 4 years. Deckard is sent to profile a special female replicant called Rachael and eventually finds himself falling for her. What makes all this more interesting is the added layer of ambiguity about Deckard being a replicant himself.
Her has Joaquin Phoenix’s Theodore, a loner making a career out of penning sweet letters for other people, literally falling in love with a computer program – a super advanced operating system residing in a tiny device that you can carry around in your pocket. And this OS, called Samantha, has a pretty looking interface and is powered by the seductive voice of Scarlett Johansson (who will be soon seen as a cyborg in The Ghost in the Shell remake). Their interactions are as sweet and natural as those that take place between real life couples. Brimming with thought-provoking ideas and themes, this film brought tears to my eyes. A relatable film for many.
The Iron Giant (1999)
Pixar veteran Brad Bird’s (The Incredibles, Ratatouille) debut animation film is basically the robot version of Steven Spielberg’s E.T. It’s about a young boy who develops a deep and heart-warming bond with a giant alien robot (voiced by Vin Diesel) which is being hunted by paranoid government officials. This was Transformers before it became a big thing, but without all the Bayhem. This is a tender and witty film that can be enjoyed by both kids and grown-ups alike. One of my all time favorites.
Terminator-2: Judgment Day (1991)
The ultimate “boy befriends mysterious robot” movie. Enough said. That thumbs up scene in the end got me all choked up.
One of the most narratively and thematically complex sci-fi films ever made, Steven Spielberg’s A.I raised some deeply philosophical questions about the nature of artificial intelligence and love as well. Consider Haley Joel Osment’s boy robot David, a modern day Pinocchio of sorts, who exhibits every emotion that a normal child would, to the point that it becomes so freakishly unnatural and at the same time incredibly moving that you are compelled to ask, “Would you love a robot in the way you would a human child?”. The strongly emotional ending left me in tears.