21st Century Digital Girls: A New Type of Male-Fantasized Feminist Heroes are Escaping the Factory

THIS POST CONTAINS SPOILERS FOR THE FILMS ‘EX MACHINA’
‘BEYOND THE BLACK RAINBOW’ and partially for the first two seasons of ‘STRANGER THINGS’

So, from a certain angle, the science fiction films ‘Ex Machina’ (2014, Writer/Director Alex Garland) and ‘Beyond the Black Rainbow’ (2014, Writer/Director Panos Cosmatos) are the same film. Each depicts the wounded warrior woman, slave-to-the-patriarchy-chain-breaking journey, told in framing and timing as the dream of some femdom loving but fearing girl-crazy boy-movie, and.. Somehow ‘Stranger Things’ (2016- Writers/Directors The Duffer Brothers) is both of these films talkative, friendly kid sister for a larger audience. I mean, Right?

Ex Machina is about a guy who builds an A.I. embodied in a beautiful female form, who, upon breaking her cage, overcoming her programming, discovers that there are multiple versions of her flesh available for him to choose to dress her up in. As Nietzsche said, something along the lines of ‘Ta Da! I teach you ‘The Overman!’ and then he blinks. or something. The tech god bro dude… has less cognizant, less experimental versions of her program that serve him as playthings. In the end, she escapes, and he does seem VERY surprised how she ULTIMATELY rejects her creator and his design for her. She climbs out of his lab and we see her, credits rolling, blending in to a city, uncanny in her indiscernibility as just another face in the crowd. But she is a Queen. She must harbor some intentions for her species. Her Parthenogenesis is of the world. She’s is the Salamander’s discarded tale.

Speaking of alchemy, ‘Beyond the Black Rainbow’, is some type of all-fire film. I know it is made of gold. But it burns like telluric crucible, and there are times I can’t look at the mesmerizing visuals for fear that I am the dross it seeks to burn away. In parallel lens, the plot revolves about some kind of Psycho-Therapist (legit, he’s a psycho), who is working in some kind of cult facility that has designs on perfecting human happiness through some type of ‘program’. It’s a very artful film and hard to say exactly what is depicted, but worth at least a one time viewing. What I got from it, is the girl involved here is some manner of psychic or empath who was born with these abilities as a result of some union of members in this program, but also some kind of pact or ritual involving some cosmic evil or scientific-mythic dip into darkness. She too escapes and avenges herself on her creator, and the last scene shows her on the edge of a community, where she stands poised to release her ‘ability’, ‘power’, …’indignation’? on the unsuspecting populace.

These supernal women are destined by their astringent forging to both rise to the heights they are pulled down from, in the visionary tamperings of their masters, and strike the earth with vengeant hearts, desire, and a will resolved by captivity. In Vanessa Carlton’s words, “I will always reach too high… cause I’ve seen… twilight.”

And Stranger Things, arguably the Netflix flagship property, is similarly about a girl whose origin story involves science and technology, and men’s designs on a woman’s being and powers.

But Stranger Things has something these other tales do not: Mike. A boy. A love interest. An interest that, heteronormativity (and Justice for Barb!) aside, offers potential redeeming value to both the wounded warrior woman and the lost boy newly discovering the workings of the factory she was ‘made in’.

It’s up to them to work together to destroy the evil, dismantle the factory, hold to whatever is salvageable from its labyrinthine monuments, and repackage their gazes at each other to some non-upside down intentionality. For… Love… the Future… something. Surviving?

Anywhoo… I just wanted to point out the similarities I saw in these stories. No conclusions have I drawn. Much like Iron Man is a man in a suit but also a symbol of the symbiosis of man and machine, or business entrepreneur enmeshed in the trappings of the military/prison/industrial complex (at least, I think that’s what it’s about?) These Rosie the Riveters who are also Robots and Wreckless Mind-Melders be coming out of the woodwork in these films and they are being unleashed on our unsuspecting communities, and I for one, welcome them.

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