For all of the utopian visions of the future, with robots and spaceships and holodecks, there is an underlying fear of technology which often drives stories and films in the science fiction genre. In their essay on technophobia, authors Michael Ryan and Douglas Kellner write that science fiction films concerning the fears of technology often negatively affirm the values of freedom, individualism, and the family (Ryan Kellner, 58). These tales featuring malfunctioning or terrifying mechanical monsters were metaphors for anything that threatened the natural order of life through which we learn positive and cultural values, and yet also represented the modern triumphs and radical changes over the traditional conservative social institutions (58). Technology offers the idea that nature can be reconstructed, and isn’t a victim to total unchanging authority. In many technophobic films, the world presented is a dark, twisted and dirty world, with excessive social regulations, loss of loved ones, meaningless sexual encounters, and enforced conformity. Films like Blade Runner, Soylent Green and 2001: A Space Odyssey offer bleak pictures of humanity, with scheming killer androids, dark rainy cities and hungry exhausted people crammed in tight places together, slowly losing their individuality and independence. The message is clear: capitalism turns humans into machines, and the films call to attention the oppressive core of corporate greed. Yet for the dark warnings of human greed, the films also advocate revolt against exploitation, the message of hope that humans can band together to defeat the overlords who rule them with iron and often mechanical will.
In her essay, “Feminism and Anxiety in Alien” writer Judith Newton actually touches on cruel extent to which humanity is enslaved and considered expendable by corporate greed. “The Company in Alien,” she writes, “represents capitalism in its most systematized, computerized, and most dehumanizing form, a fact ironically enforced by the name of the Company computer, Mother”. The cold and unmoving technology exploits the company workers, who don’t control or even understand their own work, and who, in the endgame, are expendable in the pursuit of profit and power. The android Ash is clear embodiment of the mechanical threat that threatens the human crew. Newton states that even the alien itself is “a piece of company property…unclouded by conscience, remorse, or delusions of mortality” (83).
The film Blade Runner is strong representation of technophobia. Four androids, known as replicants, who look and act like humans, rebel against their human creator, the Tyrell Corporation, and police officer Deckard, played by Harrison Ford is called out of retirement to hunt and kill them. He ends up falling in love with an advanced replicant, Rachel, who strongly desires to hold on to her humanity and individuality, and escapes the city with her after battling the rebellious androids.
The ideas present in Blade Runner and Alien make a strong case for the fears of technology, which is often tied to human greed and the desire for profit and power. And yet, for all the darkness and fear of technophobic films, the ideas that humans can rise up and defeat the mechanical and corporate threat are also present, offering glimmers of hope and retaliation of the natural against the unnatural and man-made.