On the Origin of Robot Species


Clearly, robots evolve. Cylons, for example, first got badder ass and then grew skin. But please, art directors and engineers, you need to stop fetishizing white robots with black mechanical guts.


It’s getting a little played out, dudes.



It begins, as these things do, in Japan


OK, so here were are in 1987, and anime is about to break out big. One of the biggest is going to be Ghost In The Shell, by Masamune Shirow. (Careful: the trailer has cartoon boobs.) By the way, that’s cybernetic armor on a (naked) human, not a full-on robot, but you can see where this is going.


Ghost In The Shell


Maybe they’re white because Iceland is cold

Jump ahead a decade, and Bj√∂rk is having (the amazing) Chris Cunningham direct the video for All Is Full Of Love. It’s all about sexy girl-bots that build each other and then fall in love and make out. (Careful: robot boobs.) Looks pretty similar, right? However, this is clearly an homage, and Cunningham has taken the aesthetic in an entirely new direction. And AND, Cunningham made all those sick Aphex Twin videos, not to mention this Japanese psycho-ward mini-film featuring a talking dog for Squarepusher, so it’s cool.


All Is Full Of Love


After the apex, the downward trajectory accelerates quickly


So now pretend you are Alex Proyas, circa 2004. You helmed Dark City, so your visual creativity is rather beyond questioning. You are about to make an adaptation of I, Robot, the beloved Asimov novel. Who do you tap to be your art director? Oh, how about someone who did not one, but two Ernest movies? That will DEFINITELY get you something exciting in the robot-taxonomy department.


Oh, yeah, let's also make the robots glow red when they are evil. Totally subtle!


A hero runs afoul


Stan Winston, you were awesome. You absolutely pushed the art forward. You earned 4 Academy Awards. You were better than a pseudo-sexy-girl-robot ripoff-ad that got slapped on the sides of buses. I hope the Times is lying and you didn’t do this. No, wait, it’s (unlinkably) posted in your portfolio.


Ugh. UGH.


It ends, as these things do, in Japan


The white-shell-over-black-joints trend has become completely pervasive, and utterly thoughtless. Is it surprising that engineers keep beating this particular dead horse/laborsavingdevice?

I leave you with what I can only hope is the final, inbred, malformed freak of this gnarled branch of the robo-evolutionary tree:


please kill me