All The Robots I’ve Ever Loved
This is a serious list. Like super fucking serious. I do not take love lightly. And, above all, I will not shill. Not even in support of my book, Sad Robot Stories, which was published by CCLaP. Were I a less honorable man, I’d plug my book, Sad Robot Stories, which was published by CCLaP, inside of this list. Instead, I will leave all references to my book, Sad Robot Stories, which was published by CCLaP, out of this list, a list about every single robot who’s ever had a fiery grasp on my heart.
Whether you love the original RoboCop or 2014’s remake, there’s one thing you should know — both suck in comparison to 2000’s RoboCop: Prime Directives TV miniseries.
Made by a Canadian production company whose budget was smaller than my monthly Hershey’s allotment (I need it to get by, man), Prime Directives not only had the worst actors willing to work for the lowest wages, it had the worst actors willing to work for the lowest wages that also happened to have Canadian accents.
Even better than all the “aboots” was RoboCop‘s newest badass: RoboCable. After Murphy’s old partner — a surly black man with the biggest fake, gray mustache you’ve ever seen – dies, he gets roboticized (or whatever) and becomes RoboCable. His shining moment is a fight with RoboCop in which the two robo…cops…stand across from each other shooting bullet after bullet into the others’ armor for about three minutes straight. They don’t move. They don’t vary their actions. They just stand there and shoot.
While attending my friend Lizzie’s bachelorette party (damn grrl you need some women friends…jk jk), I, along with a dozen others, were instructed to paint a vase with a flower in it at a “drink and draw” studio. My friend Joe chose to instead paint RoboCop, which went will with my plan to paint RoboCable – who’s a hell of a lot cooler.
There were two other bachelorette parties at the studio. It was funny to watch multiple women looking over at our beautiful creations, seeing our refusal to illustrate the requested flower and vase combo (popular at bachelorette parties, I guess?), and cringing in our direction (I guess we were ruining their big day?). Even better were the women who tried to casually walk by and take cell phone pics without us noticing. I’d like to point out that the instructor leading the exercise loved us.
As awesome as my RoboCable painting was, I ended up getting shown up by my girlfriend, Hillary. She painted what looked like a pregnant woman spewing blood out of her lady-parts. This is not a joke. Or, well, it is a joke, it’s her joke, she really did this. On the woman’s stomach, it read, “Lizzie & Justin.”
For some reason, Lizzie and Justin refused to accept Hillary’s painting as a wedding gift.
The two paintings now hang side-by-side in our dining room.
I’m not talking about any ATM. I’m talking about the ATM that once gave me an extra $20.
Having only had 23 bucks in my bank account at the time (the last vestige of my student loans), the extra $20 was a goddamn miracle.
Yes, this extra $20 allowed me to stay drunk for one extra night, unsure of what I was going to do with the rest of my life, having recently graduated, sleeping with (but not really dating) a girl who once attempted to get permission to hold a can of Miller High Life in her hand as we made sweet, sweet love (‘In case I get thirsty!’), holding the can even after I said, “Please don’t.”
I drink a lot less now.
New Order’s Drum Machine
In the late 1970s, a band named Joy Division slowly developed a unique sound in response to punk. It was softer than the clashing power that was popular back then, yet with the same raw feeling, and lyrics that were as dark as they were lovely. What was most interesting about the band was the fact that Ian Curtis, the singer, was a robot. It was as clear as day — his monotonous baritone gave it away.
After a few years, the rest of the band upgraded to a drum machine (after all, it was the ’80s) and changed their name to New Order. Who knows what happened to Curtis.
The best part about New Order’s drum machine is that all you had to do is press a button and, voila, it starts playing “Temptation” or “Blue Monday.” It’s also significantly less moody than the previous model, Ian Curtis.
Vanessa, NOT Vicki, from Small Wonder
I was still shitting myself when Small Wonder first aired, so I had to catch it about a decade later as afternoon reruns the summer I was 12.
It starred Vicki, a robot girl posing as the daughter of a robotics engineer. As you might imagine, there were lots of ’80s shenanigans to be had. What I want to talk about isn’t Vicki, but Vanessa, the robot that appeared in an episode in Season 3.
While Vicki was a boring automaton, Vanessa seemed closer to a realistic twelve-year-old girl, who also had super strength and a smidgen of insanity. Unlike the droning monotone of Vicki, Vanessa provided a voice closer to your average, sassy ’80s kid. She seemed like my dream girl at the time (this was about the time I started to like-like people, but before I really understood what to put where).
In one scene, the son of the robotics engineer attempts to tell Vanessa to make his bed. When she refuses, he yells, “The human is the master and the robot is the slave,” in an attempt to bully her into doing what he wants. Something about this power struggle, especially in the bedroom, interested me greatly. What interested me even more was Vanessa’s response: “That’s a crock,” she said, turning it back on the dweeb in front of her. She was nobody’s slave.
Later, after the dad told Vanessa to clean out the garage, she responded angrily: “You programmed me to make my own decisions, and I made one. It’s illogical for me to do what humans tell me to when I’m superior to humans in every way.”
Sadly, the father ended up shutting Vanessa down after she took the family hostage in their own home. It was sad to see a female robot’s attempt at living independently outside of society’s expectations go down in flames. It was like a feminist Blade Runner, but in 22 minutes.
Despite her short stint on the show, Vanessa will forever be 12-year-old Mason’s dream girl.
Not one but TWO ex’s have called me a computer. I can only assume it’s because of my cool-while-under-pressure demeanor.
I’m honestly trying to remember exactly what happened in the moments I was called a computer — what was said right beforehand — and I’ve got no clue. My complete lack of understanding for these situations may very well be an indication of why they happened in the first place. Who knows.
Whatever the case, one truth remains: I do in fact love myself.
Mason Johnson is a writer from Chicago who currently works full time writing and editing articles for CBS. You can find his fiction at themasonjohnson.com. Also, he pets all the cats.