The Automaton Sequence: 5.0: ‘It’s in your nature to destroy yourselves’; The Human as Machine

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‘We are all chimeras, theorised and fabricated hybrids of machine and organism; in short, we are cyborgs.’

Donna Haraway, pp. 158

As the Automaton Sequence comes to an end, I wish to end on a bang; to write about one of my favourite texts (well, two of my favourite texts), writing about how the human is in fact cyborg through a simple analysis of The Terminator and Terminator 2: Judgment Day.

When thinking of the Terminator series, I inexplicably think of the connection between the T-800 and the humans; the anxieties conjured by Kyle Reese and a fresh-faced Sarah Connor in T1 and the parental bond it has with John Connor in T2. The fact the T-800—or the Schwarzenator as academic Thomas Byers labels it—is shaped like a human male does aid in my ability to forget that the Schwarzenator is machine, but I’d like to think that the Schwarzenator is also an agent of reminding the viewer that the human is already cyborged.

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‘Come with me if you want to live!’ T-800.

In both T1, T2 and every other film in which the Schwarzenator is present, the cyborg-replicant-robot is presented as flesh, the Schwarzenator aids my argument by stating that it is nothing but ‘human tissue over metal endoskeleton’. In both films, though superhuman in strength, the Schwarzenator is bound by the laws of the human; it can bleed, it can malfunction and, more importantly, it can “die”. So what does this say about our friend, the Schwarzenator? It is my assertion that James Cameron’s T-800 model is representative of the next formative stage of the human; akin to Ridley Scott’s replicants in Blade Runner, the Schwarzenator is created to be the perfect human (even though the actor representing it, Arnold Schwarzenegger, is arguably inhuman).

Though robot, the Schwarzenator is not depicted as radically Other (Byers, T 1995, pp. 8), especially when contrasted against other bots like the T-1000 (or Patrickanator?). The T-1000 melds, blends and is fluid, whereas the Schwarzenator is nothing but a chunk of bloody metal, something that Byers claims to be reassuring for the audience, explaining:

‘In both films the T-800 has a scene where he slits open the flesh of his arm and reveals that underneath he is a hydraulic machine. Though he is computerised, the primary source of his power lies in a mechanism that has by now been more or less comfortably assimilated by the popular imagination…the only force that can save us.’

(Byers, T 1995, pp. 8)

If we are to listen to Byers, the Schwarzenator is both human, and anti-human, one in which is assimilated by the cultural consensus while also a figure of horror; a hydraulic machine, computerised, an assimilated by the popular culture. But I liken this cyborg to the Haraway-an concept, something Donna Haraway suggests in her remarkable Cyborg Manifesto; cyborg writing is about the power to survive (Haraway, D 1983, pp. 174); and the Schwarzenator indicative of this survival in both films.

In T1, though antagonistic towards the human characters, the Schwarzenator is representative of the survival instinct of Skynet. Sent back in time to eradicate its foe, the Schwarzenator is a supreme force of mechanised horror; something in which has mechanised Reese (with his ability to “disconnect” pain), the human army of the future, and something that has metamorphised Sarah Connor from the humble, bumbling 80’s woman to the steely eyed 90’s warrior; nigh on mechanical and disconnected from the human. It is the 80’s Schwarzenator that sets Sarah Connor in motion; a willingness to survive, and to impart this wisdom onto John Connor which is further informed by the Schwarzenator in T2. The Schwarzenator is therefore this unusual agent representative of the human, born of cyborgian ingenuity, and is something in which Skynet unwilling aids the proto-Connor.

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‘The terminator, would never stop. It would never leave him, and it would never hurt him, never shout at him, or get drunk and hit him, or say it was too busy to spend time with him. It would always be there. And it would die, to protect him,’ Sarah Connor.

There is a lot of irony occurring in The Terminator franchise, but this is due to what Haraway claims, that cyborgs have more to do with regeneration (Haraway, D 1983, pp. 178), as opposed to degeneration, or even destruction for the cyborg refers to a rebuilding, or a tinkering with the human to promote regrowth. It is because of this, the Schwarzenator is compelled to aid John Connor, not just because of its reprogramming, but because it is a literary device in which promote growth and renewal. Perhaps even unbeknownst to Cameron, the Schwarzenator is the agent of human regrowth. The only way to survive in Cameron’s Terminator-verse is to become mechanised, and the  Schwarzenator is symbolic of Haraway’s chimeric evolution into the cyborg.

Thus to survive, Cameron claims that we must all become cyborgs, and eradicate all that is human; all the feeling in which Sarah Connor loses; all the pain in which Kyle Reese is able to disconnect. and the parental bonds in which John Connor hacks in twain by the end of the T2. Cameron’s series promotes the belief that to strive and to live within a mechanised society, one must become mechanical; therefore, the robot is not just  the Schwarzenator, but everything it touches. Therefore the Schwarzenator is not just cyborg, but a fusion of both the human and inhuman; a link between the metal and the meat.

 

So, that’s it for the Automaton series! I have a few more ideas for a next series, so if you’d like to read more, please let me know in the comments. Do you have any recommendations, or robot suggestions? I’d gladly watch, read, play, and interpret anything you link me to!

2 Responses to “The Automaton Sequence: 5.0: ‘It’s in your nature to destroy yourselves’; The Human as Machine”

  1. Why do you use the phrase “in which” so much? I’m trying to wring some meaning out of it and getting none. Just use “which”! It’s closer to what you’re trying to convey. (Seriously, ask someone you trust about this.)

    The relatable-Schwartzenator vs othered-T-1000 dichotomy is interesting. I think there’s a masculine-vs-feminine aspect to it, too. Look at the Sarah Connor quote you have under the photo, where she’s basically listing out the reasons the T-800 is the perfect father! A replacement for John’s biological father, Kyle Reese. If we connect the dots from there, can we characterize the T-1000 as representing a monstrous feminine, an evil mother? IDK man, feels like a stretch, but it’s tantalizing because everyone else in that move is so masculinized (even Sarah) that the “soft” tech of the T-1000 is feminine by contrast.

    Thanks for the thought-provoking article.

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