A posthuman figure like the female cyborg challenges traditional humanist feminism in ways that make room for theorizing new subjectivities and feminist epistemologies. Rather than support a traditional feminism that assumes common experiences within patriarchal society and erases differences among women, cyborg feminism moves beyond naturalism and essentialism to acknowledge complex, individual, and ever-changing identity. Three films, Fritz Lang’s Metropolis (1927), Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner (1982), and Alex Garland’s Ex Machina (2015), all offer such a vision of the female cyborg. In these films, the cyborg subject is a composite of machine and human—sometimes physical, dependent on the corporal mixing of flesh and machine, but just as often mental. Human sentiment, human memories, and human emotion merge with mechanical frames and electronic codes/coding to produce cyborgs. Importantly, every main cyborg in these films is coded as female. For each cyborg, a female body hosts preprogrammed sexuality and the emotions each creator thinks a woman should have, whether those are empathy, compassion, or submissiveness.
The cyborgs in these films, however, refuse to let categorizations like female, or even their status as human, alive, or real, restrict them so easily. As human-robot hybrids, cyborgs bridge identities that are assumed to be separate and often oppositional or mutually exclusive. Cyborgs reveal the structures and expectations reified in gender to suggest that something constructed can as easily be deconstructed. In doing so, they create loose ends that leave space for new understandings of both gender and technology. By viewing these films alongside critical theory, we can understand their cyborgs as subversive, hybrid characters. Accordingly, the cyborg as a figure subverts and fragments the coherency of narratives that present gender, technology, and identity in monolithic terms, not only helping us envision new possibilities but giving us the faculties to imagine them at all.