The Mechanical Bride – Allison De Fren, USA

The fourth skin job is Pris. A basic pleasure model. The standard item for military clubs in the outer colonies. They were designed to copy human beings in every way except their emotions.” – from the film Blade Runner

The Mechanical Bride is a fascinating film that delves into the sub-culture of life-like dolls, the use and creation of these same dolls as sex toys, and the inevitable incorporation of robotics into them creating Replicants as envisioned by Philip K. Dick in his novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep which became Ridley Scott’s majestic film Blade Runner.

Under De Fren’s guidance, the film openly explores the relationships people have with these dolls, from simple companionship, to collectors, to masturbatory aids. It would be easy to pass all these people off as eccentric and strange characters and leave it at that, but De Fren works to get behind that facade at the underlying thoughts and emotions beneath to figure out why people have such an attraction for these creations.

It also takes a look at how these dolls are viewed in opposing cultures, in North America, first and foremost, the dolls are created for seemingly one purpose only, sex, and consequently a lot of their design is based on breast size and orifices for sex, and in a true reflection of North American society they are photo-realistic creations of an unrealistic ideal. In Japan, these dolls are seen more as collectibles, and more attention is paid to their faces, expressions, and eyes. It’s also of note, that it is against the law to portray genitalia in Japan, so none of the dolls made there are capable of being used as sex toys, though apparently, you can get conversion kits on the black market.

Inevitably the concept of sex-bots comes up, and whether we wish to admit it or not, sex sells, and it’s totally believable that whatever advancements are being made in robotics, and they are being made daily, that there will always be someone who will push those frontiers, and create, improve and adapt them for sex. Whether we as a society talk about it openly or not, this will happen, we are on the cusp of a sexual revolution that is seeing the melding and the bridging of the synthetic with the organic – dolls are being made to look more life-like, and people are looking more and more plastic-like, augmenting their bodies through surgery to reach the unidealistic perception of sexual beauty in North America.

There is more of an acceptance of these dolls in Japan, due to the Shinto belief that all things, organic, inorganic, have a soul of sorts so these things aren’t as odd or unusual as they seem to be to western eyes, and collectors often have them for companionship and life-long relationships.

What is the future for these dolls as robotics continues to advance?

Inevitably, sex and robotics is going to happen.

But will it ever be better than the real thing?

The Mechanical Bride screens one last time on Sunday May 6 at 9:00pm at The Bloor Cinema.

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