Blade Runner 2049 continues questionable trend of the ‘algorithm-defined fantasy girl’

The 1985 film Weird Science introduced the tantalizing idea of someone being able to create their idealized version of a woman — one far superior than a normal, living woman. The AI girlfriend, Lisa, which Anthony Michael Hall and Ilan Mitchell-Smith conjured up together in retaliation for being humiliated, would become a prize; something that could be held over the heads of high school bullies in a sickening, primal gloat. The doll, an object, became their woman; their woman became an objectified doll.

[Warning: The following contains spoilers for Blade Runner 2049 and Her.]

Weird Science would kickstart the idea that anyone who existed just outside the societal norm wouldn’t have to wait for a perfect woman. They could simply build one instead. The faster technology grows and the simpler it is for us to understand, the more likely it seems possible. The robotic girl from Weird Science feels archaic compared to the AI girlfriends of present: Scarlett Johansson’s Samantha in Her, Alicia Vikander’s Ava in Ex-Machina and, most recently, Ana de Armas’ Joi in Blade Runner 2049.

Gone is the manic pixie dream girl of yesterday; the messy cliched girl with a vibrant, unpredictable vibe that men helplessly fell in love with. The new cliche, birthed in the dawn of mobile computing, smartphones, advanced technology, bots and an unhealthy personification of our devices, is the algorithmic-defined fantasy girl. A humanoid whose machine learning capabilities are so powerful that men can fall in love with her, but it remains just robotic enough to be tampered with, altered and controlled.

K’s artificially intelligent partner, Joi, in Blade Runner 2049
Warner Bros.

In Blade Runner 2049, Ryan Gosling’s Officer K is in love with Joi, an artificially intelligent companion that he purchased from Wallace Corp, the manufacturer behind the Nexus 9 replicant. K is himself a Nexus 9…

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