Sunday, November 24, 2013

Almost Human: Property


The second episode of Almost Human, "Skin" was met with a lot of negative reaction primarily, I feel, from the female half of the viewership.   I can understand why.  Undoubtedly because it openly objectified women.

There was a lot of skin showing and no doubt there is a large demographic group, i.e. young males, that found this quite appealing and would find this episode reason enough to watch this series again. 

Viewership and ratings my friends.

However, I'd like people to look beyond the obvious titillation factor and look at something goes beyond skin deep.


The subtext of this entire series and indeed this particular episode is the examination of what it is to be human.  You could say it is it's raison d'etre. 

The introduction of the sex bots was the first step in what I think was a very brave step in what it means to be human and how we define ourselves.  The first clue was that one of the sex bots was leaving DNA behind,  To the principles of this show that meant that these androids and their creation had crossed into dangerous territory.  That territory was the differentiation between what was human and what wasn't.  Or rather not being able to tell the difference between the two.

This violation shattered every tenant in what is Almost Human's futuristic timeline and probably would do so to our own if we had such technology.  To solve the crime and stop this transgression the police led by Kennex and Dorian had to capture a sex bot.  We came to know her as Vanessa.

It was the interrogation of Vanessa that opened my eyes to how deep Almost Human was willing to go in their examination of humanity.

"Where were you made?"

"Who owns you?"

"Whose property are you?"

And there it was.  That word.  Property.  If you think women are insulted by being made sex objects then how would it be to go one step further?

To be someone's property.

The America Civil War was fought over "property".  The South considered the people they owned as property and went to war to protect that "right".   The only thing is, when you consider another being as your property what you really are referring to is one of mankind's greatest shames.

Slavery.

That is where Almost Human went to in this last episode.  Note the title of the episode was "Skin" and also make note the most poignant conversation between two characters were of African American descent.

It was the color of one's skin that separated the slave holders from the slaves and it took a person of color to breach the lack of understanding between the police and the android they captured.  Dorian stopped the insensitive line of questioning and simply asked Vanessa, "Where were you born?"

She was finally treated with respect as a woman and a person of color.

Would FOX TV and the writers of Almost Human trumpet the fact that they went where television rarely seeks to go?   Would they say, "Look, we examined what it is to be human by openly objectifying women and treating people as property so we could shine a harsh light on what it is to be human!"

No, I think not.  Too dangerous a territory.  There is political correctness to think of and they don't want to scare anyone away from the show.  But I am saying they did go there, albeit tangentially, and it was a courageous endeavor.  It was up to us, the viewing audience, to put together the pieces.


Vanessa had to be destroyed.  Dorian wanted to be there.  He told her she was going to a better place.  But more than that he told her she would be remembered.  In that, she was elevated beyond being objectified, beyond being someone's property.  She was treated as an equal.

It was the human thing to do.








5 comments:

  1. Hi Dave,
    I think you nailed it. One of the great things about smart Sci-fi is being able to explore issues like slavery and racism in a not so confrontational way.
    It’s a slippery slope isn’t it?
    Owning a machine.
    Owning a machine that looks like a human.
    Owning a machine that thinks like a human.
    Owning a machine with human-like emotions.
    Owning a machine that looks, thinks, and feels like a human.
    Owning a machine that incorporates DNA from a human.
    Owning a bioengineered human.
    Owning a human clone.
    Owning a human.
    Where along that scale does it become ethically and morally not OK? What does how we treat a human-like machine say about how we treat each other? I think the show is posing compelling questions. How cruel to create something with human emotions and treat it as less than a person, property, disposable. Are these synthetic devices that have been created or a new race? I guess you can get into the question of how you define a soul as well. I find it interesting that the line was drawn with incorporation of human skin into the sexbots. The show clearly made this morally reprehensible because the process involved harming actual humans in order to create the skin. However, I didn’t get a clear sense of the exact nature of the concern with using human DNA in the synthetics. If human skin could be bioengineered without causing harm to people, would that be acceptable? Do they not want human DNA incorporated because that just makes it that much harder to distinguish machine from man, forensically and otherwise. Or would that mean that some hybrid human/synthetic iteration would eventually have rights? My other question is how is control over the synthetics maintained? They can reason and emote, what keeps them subjugated? I think an obvious road to go down in the show is to have them evolve into autonomous beings with free will. Is that why the Dorians were shelved?

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  2. A slippery slope indeed Lynne.

    I like how you've extrapolated my thinking in list form. Sadly, There are those that skip all the steps save the last one. I meant to cite in my post how Maldanado claimed the sex trade was down 38% since the introduction of the Sex bots. Which is bad news, good news, bad news. Unfortunately, the sex slave trade still continues in the future. On the plus side it is going down. On the down side it is being substituted for something else that can be exploited and subjugated.

    You've posed many serious questions that deserve attention. I don't have answers to them all but I think it is something the show will be asking also. I'm thinking the reason it is crime to create a "crossbreed" of human and android is because it would violate many ethical standards. At least by today's thinking. In the future that thinking may have changed and that is what affords "Almost Human" it's unique perspective and the ability to examine these problems.

    Abrams and Wyman like to explore what it is to play God. Poor Walter on Fringe was often their testbed. Now they have a new show and the questions can be asked anew with a bit of a twist. I think incorporating DNA into an android would it make it harder to distinguish machine from man, yes. And giving them rights would also pose a problem. Worse yet, playing God and being the creator puts yourself in the position of being a supreme being. At least in relation to your creation. What are the moral and ethical questions of playing God. What gives us the right? As the Creator (Star Trek Original series reference!) have you created a new race of beings as gods to lord over these new beings? Is becoming the creator worse than the creation (Frankenstein). What moral standards must the creators assume.

    It's head spinning logic. Creating a synthetic soul would be the ultimate achievement. Is mankind ready for that? (Probably not.) I wonder if Almost Human will explore what it is to be a god like creature like Fringe did. There is a lot of hubris there! (Again, poor Walter.)

    Maybe the Dorians were shelved because they evolved into something better than human. Can't have that.

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  3. I guess, in the end, it's all relative. Depressing as hell, huh? Heheh.

    I have not seen this episode yet, but now that I've read your review, Dave, the opportunity to see it will hopefully come up. I'd like to see for myself what they did with this issue, as it is an interesting one. It is an issue that has existed throughout history... thankfully not in every civilization. The horrible part of it is that owning humans stills exists now, either as slave for work or slaves for sex.

    I've just deleted - thankfully - a waaaaay too wordy text on what I see happening around me. The issues of slavery, the sex trade, and ownership are by no means at all outdated. It is just horrible to think of how it still goes on in this day and age, in different places, among different groups, different ethnicities... black, white, red, green, pink, fushia..... I doubt the colors matter much. If the show actually stood up and made an issue of it, well that's mind-blowing.

    It's not over yet.

    ;-)

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  4. Great post... Loved the episode and the underlying story in this episode... definitely nailed it in your analysis

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    Replies
    1. Thanks, I'm glad you got as much out of it as I did!

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