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unjapanologist ([personal profile] unjapanologist) wrote2012-03-09 12:44 pm

[watch this video] Kara

Social experiment: please watch the video before reading any of the text that follows it? There seems to be wide agreement that this is a moving and poignant short, but I'm curious to know exactly why different people find it poignant, so I don't want to impose my framing of what happens beforehand.

Kara (7min)

"Kara" is intended to show off the motion capture technology that will be used for some future games on the PS3. Reading the full article only after I'd watched the video, it struck me how my reaction to it was different from that of Cory Doctorow, whose introduction to the vid on Boing Boing was the only text I read before moving on to the video. He writes that "the unsettling poignancy of this clip arises from the gender and form of the robot". In the comments to that article (which are somewhat iffy in places), lots of people pipe up with where they think the poignancy came from, citing everything from the robot's appearance to her human-like reactions to the music. There's more interpretations in the comments on YouTube (which are iffier).

I found this moving as well, but I'm fairly sure that the "gender and form of the robot" had very little to do with my reaction. For me, this video was all about the story of Kara and the assembly worker, their interactions, and their relationship. Kara is certainly impressively human-like, the acting is good, the music helps, and so on, but all that just works to support what is essentially - for me - a character piece. Some Boing Boing commenters felt the story would have been stronger if the whole thing had been deliberate, a test to see if the robot was self-aware enough. While that might have been interesting, it's not my preferred interpretation, because it would interfere with my reading of this as two characters interacting. If it was all a set-up and the assembly worker's reactions were routine and fake, something he does twenty times a day with every robot he tests, that would mean these two characters didn't really connect. I want there to be shippiness everywhere, darn it.
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[personal profile] facetofcathy 2012-03-09 03:03 pm (UTC)(link)
Wow, that was all gender and feminism for me. With a side order of a little more gender and some inverse feminism. Bearing in mind I am in a cranky state right now...

I'm with copracat and hl to a large degree. I didn't find it poignant, I found it bitterly ironic and yes, it made me feel tense and angry.

The opening where she comes alive, I saw that as all about how we (Westerners?) want our identity to be all of our making and control, not something that is riveted on from outside, and yet we don't really have that control and accepting that is hard.

Then when the man -- yes it would be way different if the tool of the patriarchy, er technician, were a woman -- starts providing her identity for her as a traditional woman who does a whole shit load of things I do all the time, I got squirmy. I want my life to be my choice, but I know it isn't all my choice.

When he says she's worth money, I got that I'm supposed to start thinking about how she's commodified, and how that's bad, but what I thought about was how careerist feminists only see value in women who have earnings. Wow, it's just all about me apparently!

I found the begging hideously uncomfortable, and desperately wanted her to take her right to life, not have to beg for it.

When she gets in line and says thank you, ughh, I wanted her to make some sign, some indication that she's not done stepping out of line. In my mind she's leading the revolution and technician dude doesn't make it to the show trial stage when its over.

The ending when the guy is boggling about what's changed in his world broke my suspension of disbelief because all I could think about, given the context, was some gamer dude saying, "Holy shit, man, chicks are people--what do we do now?"

Oh, and the bit where she's a sexbot, but she's got body modesty really made me role my eyes hard. Holy whore/madonna complex, batman. Even if that's just there to make it so they can pass ratings or whatever, it tells a whole story about attitudes to sex and bodies and women as people.