This study uses the character of the cyborg, as it is invoked in Science Fiction film, to understand representations of identity, focusing on gender, from a perspective that is embedded in both social and material contexts. The cyborg deconstructs the dichotomies that define the Humanist subject, such as subject and object, real and fantasy, technology and culture. However, as society transitions from a Modernist, to Postmodern and beyond, cyborg fantasies reflect differences in ideology and values. These social changes can be tracked on the bodies of cyborg images.
In this research, I use the cyborg, a figure of rich cultural significance, as a heuristic to research representations of gender from a perspective that accounts for cultural and material contexts. Scholars specializing in feminism, anthropology and cultural studies continue to theorize how the rich cultural significance of the deconstruct(ed)(ing) cyborg body. This research contributes to this on going discussion by focusing on the cyborg's significance in film discourse and feminist discourse.
I argue that the cyborg, as a subject of film, conflates the false opposition between empowerment and victimization. My research method uses the cyborg character to illustrate that these two terms are not opposites, but connected in an intricate weave. This weave between power and powerless materializes through the cyborg's gender performance, the representation of her body, and context of the mise-en-scene. In addition, I argue that with social and technological shifts, the dynamic between empowered gender performance and victimized performance changes.
Specifically, this research complicates the notion of objectification. Laura Mulvey's argument presupposes that 'object' indicates passive and repressed while 'subject' indicates active and powerful. Women are passive because they are framed as spectacles or objects. The foundation of Mulvey's theory of the gaze presupposes that objectivity must be a passive position. The cyborg does not totally disrupt this filmic code, but it does present an active spectacle. The cyborg reveals that object and subject are false distinctions. Object or body is the basis of the subject; embracing that leads toward new experiences and ontology.
While I remain more reserved then Haraway's utopianism, I do take up Haraway's challenge to reject the describing all women as victims by closely analyzing these cyborgs' performed and programmed gender. This research contributes to previous feminist analysis, but it also critiques feminist discourses that maintain the opposition between empowered and victimized. Instead, both positive and negative trends come into focus through the cyborg as a lens thereby creating a two dimensional perspective of gender performance.