No Soap, Radio

By: Peggy Nelson
January 14, 2010

Should we throw out the babes with the bathwater? After unplugging them of course. But perhaps the uncanny devil is in the details. Maybe all Barbarella needed was a little grounding; she needed to lure Lloyd from his silent running. He could save her from excessive technophilia, and she could save him from organic despair. I know: Barbarella was not, strictly speaking, a bot. But she was a bod, and isn’t that the essential component?

[Jane Fonda channeling Brigitte Bardot in the “anti-gravity scene” in Barbarella, dir. Roger Vadim, 1968]

In any event, Lloyd and his garden certainly needed her. Here, a little Vitamin B might have fortified him against outrageous fortune:

[Bruce Dern and friends in Silent Running, dir. Douglas Trumbull, 1972]

In Lawrence’s day the gardener did the rescuing. But erotic energy has always displayed a certain polymorphous plasticity. Perhaps in the future, the machine might play Mellors to those so beset?

[Jean-Louis Coullo’ch in Lady Chatterley, dir. Pascale Ferran, 2006]

Or if not the machine itself, perhaps the more subtle energies of its programming. What if we could reach straight into the subconscious and extract a perfect dream of the Other?

[The “anti-gravity scene” in Solyaris, dir. Andrei Tarkovsky, 1972]

Without all those hooks and wires of course. Modification and maintenance via mind-meld.

[Still from Spectre of the Gun, Star Trek, 1968]

And yet perchance, what dreams may come . . . there is a horror to a robot in its limitations and logic. But there’s also a surprise and a delight to the intricacies of our extensibility. As we manifest more of our metaphors, the play will only become more perverse.

And therein lies the rub.

[Scenes from I, Mudd, Star Trek, 1967]


Read-outs, Sci-Fi, Uncanny