Artificial sexuality

The best thing in "A.I." is Jude Law's robot gigolo, who should make us worry if we still have it anymore.

Topics: Sex, Jude Law, Love and Sex,

Artificial sexuality

It says so much that is damning about Steven Spielberg’s “A.I.” that the best thing in it is Jude Law’s Gigolo Joe, a character that serves no useful narrative function. You’ve probably heard or gathered that Joe is a “mecha,” a robot, a machine that has specialized in bringing sexual consolation or adventure to pale and forlorn women who have nearly forgotten the state of rapture. For in the vague future time of “A.I.,” just as the oceans have come up, so the libido of most people (the personality level, even) seems to have gone down.

So Joe can crack a joke and a grin as fast as his thumb-flicking motion can turn on a period crooner to assist in his seduction. You can only imagine the great whirring thing, the Dyno-rod of delight that he keeps beneath his black leather coat. If Buñuel had made “A.I.” you might have had a charming shot of Joe oiling his instrument, or rubbing pine tar on it.

Gigolo Joe is a terrific idea, but then we get everything that Law brings to the part. When I ask if there’s anyone on-screen these days so thoroughly alert and alive, you may begin to feel the irony barely picked up by Spielberg: that mecha Joe is so much more compelling than the real people (the “orgas”) who look down on him. And it isn’t just that Joe can get an endless hard-on to entertain the ladies, it’s more that he is all hard-on — a shiny, freshly painted puppet, Punch’s naughty boy, with a crest of hair that is the hardest nut you’ve seen (or felt in your soft parts) since Bogart’s toupee.

It’s plain to see that this gigolo is acting like a mecha to be a better turn-on, to conjure up fantasies of mechanical endurance. There’s a wealth of wit and character within him, so much sparkling originality and caprice — it left me realizing that, long ago, in “American Gigolo,” Richard Gere had been the true robot prototype, numb to feelings or ideas, just obsessed with matching the right shirt and tie.

You Might Also Like

But here’s the intriguing point: In so many modern movies, there is the creeping sensation that real-life men and women don’t have it anymore, that they’re weary of sex and all the emotional turmoil that goes with it. Whereas Joe has the happy optimism of someone who has never met a girl he wouldn’t like to fuck. But why is it that our imagination now so readily attributes a kind of sexual vitality to robots, androids or machines?

All the woeful sentimentality of “A.I.” suggests a wish on Spielberg’s part to see the mechas as deprived, underprivileged outcasts. Yet somehow there’s a subtextual energy, a curiosity in us, pulling the opposite way and saying how sweet it might be to be with a machine (call it a pacemaker, a simple little trigger mechanism such as the one that guards Dick Cheney for us all). Just think what a dazzling satire “A.I.” might have been if the robots (even the primitive models) turned out to be kinder people, more trustworthy, better problem-solvers and headier lays than the self-righteous ghosts who can claim organic material.

Why is this? I think it’s because of something that Spielberg never quite grasps — that, for a hundred years now, we have had a species of robot to play with. They are called the people in movies — very lifelike, very pretty, brimmingly sexy, unaging and very obedient to our dreaming urges. Is it any wonder if we prefer these mechas to our sad, failed selves?

David Thomson is the author of "A Biographical Dictionary of Film" (new edition just published), "Rosebud: The Story of Orson Welles" and "In Nevada."

More Related Stories

Featured Slide Shows

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on Facebook
  • 1 of 13
  • Close
  • Fullscreen
  • Thumbnails

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    DAYA  
    Young Daya has yet to become entirely jaded, but she has the character's trademark skeptical pout down pat. And with a piece-of-work mother like Aleida -- who oscillates between jealousy and scorn for her creatively gifted daughter, chucking out the artwork she brings home from summer camp -- who can blame her?

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    MORELLO   
    With her marriage to prison penpal Vince Muccio, Lorna finally got to wear the white veil she has fantasized about since childhood (even if it was made of toilet paper).

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    CINDY   
    Cindy's embrace of Judaism makes sense when we see her childhood, lived under the fist of a terrifying father who preached a fire-and-brimstone version of Christianity. As she put it: "I was raised in a church where I was told to believe and pray. And if I was bad, I’d go to hell."

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    CAPUTO   
    Joey Caputo has always tried to be a good guy, whether it's offering to fight a disabled wrestler at a high school wrestling event or giving up his musical ambitions to raise another man's child. But trying to be a nice guy never exactly worked out for him -- which might explain why he decides to take the selfish route in the Season 3 finale.

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    BOO   
    In one of the season's more moving flashbacks, we see a young Boo -- who rejected the traditional trappings of femininity from a young age -- clashing with her mother over what to wear. Later, she makes the decision not to visit her mother on her deathbed if it means pretending to be something she's not. As she puts it, "I refuse to be invisible, Daddy. Not for you, not for Mom, not for anybody.”

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    SOSO
    We still don't know what landed Brooke Soso in the slammer, but a late-season flashback suggests that some seriously overbearing parenting may have been the impetus for her downward spiral.

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    POUSSEY
    We already know a little about Poussey's relationship with her military father, but this season we saw a softer side of the spunky fan-favorite, who still pines for the loving mom that she lost too young.

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    PENNSATUCKY
    Pennsatucky had something of a redemption arc this season, and glimpses of her childhood only serve to increase viewer sympathy for the character, whose mother forced her to chug Mountain Dew outside the Social Security Administration office and stripped her of her sexual agency before she was even old enough to comprehend it.

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    CHANG
    This season, we got an intense look at the teenage life of one of Litchfield's most isolated and underexplored inmates. Rebuffed and scorned by her suitor at an arranged marriage, the young Chinese immigrant stored up a grudge, and ultimately exacted a merciless revenge.

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    HEALY
    It's difficult to sympathize with the racist, misogynist CO Sam Healy, but the snippets we get of his childhood -- raised by a mentally ill mother, vomited on by a homeless man he mistakes for Jesus when he runs to the church for help -- certainly help us understand him better.

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    NORMA
    This season, we learned a lot about one of Litchfield's biggest enigmas, as we saw the roots of Norma's silence (a childhood stutter) and the reason for her incarceration (killing the oppressive cult leader she followed for decades).

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    NICKI
    While Nicki's mother certainly isn't entirely to blame for her daughter's struggles with addiction, an early childhood flashback -- of an adorable young Nicki being rebuffed on Mother's Day -- certainly helps us understand the roots of Nicki's scarred psyche.

  • Recent Slide Shows

Comments

0 Comments

Comment Preview

Your name will appear as username ( settings | log out )

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href=""> <b> <em> <strong> <i> <blockquote>