For the American Cinema class I teach, I ask students to keep a film journal of recently watched movies. I decided to keep one as well in the spring. I will post the entries as times go on.
Film #1: Ex Machina, 2015
This was probably the best film I saw all summer. It took me awhile to really break down my thoughts on it, but then I realized that this film is arguably a long treatsie on how we, and especially men, are socialized to think about women and their agency.
I think a strong argument can be made that we are socialized to think of women as a form of, in a modern sense, manipulatable artificial intelligence. Women are often thought of as infantile, silly, and superficial. In my LIT208 class, we read a lot of essays about suffrage where men, and some women, argue against women voting (and being educated too) because they are not bright enough or "made" for it. Some even go as far as to say that women will just vote with their feelings and could be manipulated easily (men definitely never are though!).
But real women are not an AI that can be reprogrammed. A few years ago, I taught Ira Levin's novel The Stepford Wives in my LIT206 class. We had a fantastic discussion of the novel that was based around how society often, at the same time, puts women on pedestals but also thinks of them as manipulatable objects. The film adaptation of Levin's novel (the first one, not the more recent one) highlights this rather well. Alongside of this we had read some of Freud's writing about women's sexuality and his fear of women having agency. This film really shows those fears of agency quite well. The AI protagonist in this film is able to manipulate the men in the film because they think if they help her, they will get something out of it. She then uses them, leaves, and gets what she wants without them.