Robocop Movie Review: Totalitarian Technocolonial Regime Or More Aptly A Surveillance State

Such a movie details how this technology can be used to build a police state, replacing democracy or the current working model.

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Othering is an old concept experienced by different people differently throughout the world. It is, doubtlessly, a discriminatory practice that continues to divide humanity forever. There are various kinds of Othering, like those based on sex, race, ethnicity, colour, nationality, etc. It creates a long-standing psychological impact upon the victim and continues to grow in them. Before we can easily eradicate them, we must be able to understand and identify them.

Visual representation is one of the common means by which Othering ideology is permeated by the viewers. This is because the culture industry is the cheapest and easiest way to reach and teach the masses. All except the ones with the critical eye soon miss the political under leanings and capture them. Even the commodities sold under the category of film knick-knacks carry understatements. To understand at least some of these in detail, let’s consider the case of Othering as in movies or specifically in AI movies to understand the complex implications put forward by them.

Othering is an old concept experienced by different people differently throughout the world. It is, doubtlessly, a discriminatory practice that continues to divide humanity forever. There are various kinds of Othering, like those based on sex, race, ethnicity, colour, nationality, etc. It creates a long-standing psychological impact upon the victim and continues to grow in them. Before we can easily eradicate them, we must be able to understand and identify them.

AI movies specially imply new meanings related to global supremacy owing to the possession of the latest and the most sophisticated technologies in the world. Many acknowledged researchers and scientists admit the fact that AI is the new future before us. Inevitably, the nation in possession of such technology can lead the world or most probably dominate the world. This justifies the race of the global powers behind such technology.

AI movies usually portray one or two nations in possession of such technology, and it details how this technology can be used to build a police state, replacing democracy or the current working model. More than mere representations, they have an implication that needs to be understood and studied to realise the bleak future before us. Also, to learn how technology can inflict a greater divide among the already divided people if these sci-fi films once become a reality. This article considers how Othering is given currency through AI movies and why certain factors are always present among the ingredients of such movies, and why many, at times, certain other factors are made invisible in such movies. 

Adding on to the above-mentioned kinds of Othering, nationwide Othering is also present throughout the AI movies. If we consider the case of major AI movies, they significantly lack a global vision; they showcase a monopoly. And interestingly, these monopolies are the global powers. Initially, the presence, whereabouts and state of goings of nations other than the US are nowhere within many of these films except at the beginning of Robocop (2014). This is a similar case with many other AI movies, for example, in Terminator series, Bladerunner (2017), etc. can this imply a future of non-existence for other nations of the world is a curious question.

Visual representation is one of the common means by which Othering ideology is permeated by the viewers. This is because the culture industry is the cheapest and easiest way to reach and teach the masses. All except the ones with the critical eye soon miss the political under leanings and capture them. Even the commodities sold under the category of film knick-knacks carry understatements. To understand at least some of these in detail, let’s consider the case of Othering as in movies or specifically in AI movies to understand the complex implications put forward by them.

Many of these movies exclusively deal with the apocalypse theme but most unlikely, even in this case, the only focus is America. This deliberate erasure of the absent presence of other nations carries heavily loaded political implications from Hollywood as the main film industry of the world. At one level of representation, it simply reflects the spacial location and temporality is limited to the restricted experiences of the protagonist.

At the second level, it means that the only centre represented by the production needs illustration or, more literally, that only America is the centre that needs attention. Thirdly, it can mean the non-existence of other nations, like the survival of the fittest theory in the technological era. Thus for them, there is hardly any need for its depiction. Lastly, the more political kind of meaning arises in that it showcases a world that is technologically captured by one of the superpowers of the world.

AI movies usually portray one or two nations in possession of such technology, and it details how this technology can be used to build a police state, replacing democracy or the current working model. More than mere representations, they have an implication that needs to be understood and studied to realise the bleak future before us. Also, to learn how technology can inflict a greater divide among the already divided people if these sci-fi films once become a reality. This article considers how Othering is given currency through AI movies and why certain factors are always present among the ingredients of such movies, and why many, at times, certain other factors are made invisible in such movies. 

Does it need any other representation than the drawing of the victor? This is exactly what tries to answer the many questions regarding the absence of the other nation’s imagination. Here comes the importance of the initial scenes of Robocop; it provides a vision of the militarised near-future of other nations of the world.

In the scene where the people are continuously scanned, frightened, and pointed at with guns in the name of peace, this technocracy has the potential to bring about a totalitarian technocolonial regime or, more aptly, a surveillance state. And to this centre, all the rest of the people stand oblique and unnecessary, and thereby, their absent presence.

Thus, it is this lack of a multicultural perspective in engaging other nations, their people and phenomenon that make these movies narrowed and isolated, leading to these conclusions. However, minor representations like foreign scientists working for US-based capital companies are also reliable threads to account for a demolished nation and economy.

A very recent example of contemporaneous technological Othering is: Barack Obama’s government uses algorithmic methods to identify targets without even knowing their identities. In 2012, the Washington Post published a story about something called ‘the disposition matrix.’ This was the Obama administration’s ‘next-generation targeting list,’ a sort of spreadsheet of doom used to keep track of all those foreigners marked for anonymous drone assassination as alleged terrorists. (Fraze 131) 

Adding on to this problem of ‘signature strikes’ (Fraze 132) is the fact that these operations are partially automated. “The Washington Post reports on the development of algorithms for the same. . . that allow the CIA and Joint Special Operations Command to hit targets based on patterns of activity . . . even when the identities of those who would be killed is unclear” (Fraze 132).

It is sadly astonishing that these acts are supported by a substantial number of Americans for xenophobia, though also a class phenomenon as well (Fraze 133). Thus, the political metaphor of these acts is direct towards the term technological Othering, foreseen in the coming age of technocolonialism. It becomes only one side of technocolonisation, yet there are many undiscovered realms to it that need immediate attention. 

Also read: ‘I, Robot’ Film: Technological Othering And Technocolonialism Of The Marginalised

The present technology advancing us every moment to the future brings us each moment to this inevitable event. The technological future, in this way, becomes an arena where resistance and revolts will be totally crushed in other names. Of them, one being ‘the digital industry’ that replaces the term ‘culture industry’ (Adorno and Horkheimer) with its process of mass passivisation through the digital sphere.

Also read: Gender Bias In Futuristic Technology — AI In Pop Culture


Vidhupriya is an independent researcher, currently pursuing a Bachelor of Education. She is a Post Graduate of English Literature and Language from the Institute of English, Kerala University. She can be found on FacebookLinkedIn and Instagram.

Featured image source: Common Sense Media