“The head of the laboratory is a robot – and the bomb is in him!”
(Arthur Spooner in “King Of Queens”)
The legendary sitcom character Arthur Spooner (RiP Jerry Stiller) utters this sentence in a cinema foyer. A murmur goes through the bystanders, as this spoiler robs them of the punch line of an upcoming cinema pleasure in just a few words.
Of course, there is no such thing as that film with the exploding laboratory robot, but what has always fascinated me about it: You can fantasize about it almost completely using this single sentence – somehow you would even like to see it. The resolution that a person is actually a robot unnoticed immediately tickles a sci-fi fascination.
In fact, I’ve always wanted to devote an entire column to the phenomenon of robots and artificial intelligence in pop culture. What I just missed was the current hook to trick this wonderful topic past the strict online editorial boards.
But now, friends, the time has come – Isaac Asimov and his three robot laws, stand by us!
The current trend on Netflix is the broadcast of “Battlebots”, a TV series that already has ten seasons in the USA. Netflix Germany currently offers at least the two that were broadcast on ABC. Battlebots? You can just imagine what that is supposed to be: a mixture of event TV, nerdy DIY cult and cagefights of metal soap boxes. Everything in tournament form.
Anyone who knows the Simpsons has a small advantage: The ninth episode of season 15 tells about how Homer Simpson tinkered such a battlebot for his beard (which then only consists of Homer himself in a box).
In any case, I am happy to finally be able to see the original source, to which this episode refers, after a delay of decades.
Hey, and with all the love for the next queer dating show, this battlebots stuff is incredibly entertaining. I haven’t seen such fascinating trash TV since the good jungle camp seasons and the early Bachelor moments. No prior technical knowledge required. Just hammer and circular saw petting at its best. Take this with you as a central recommendation for the next hangover day:
Group picture with robot: 5 record covers to remember
01 power plant – “The Robots”
02. Queen – “News Of The World”
03. Daft punk – “Random Access Memories”
04. Aerosmith – “Just Push Play”
05. The Get Up Kids – “Something To Write Home About”
8 memorable artificial people in the movie
01. data (Brent Spiner, “Star Trek – Next Generation”)
I have to say, I was more enthusiastic about his guest appearances on “Big Bang Theory” than the character of the strangely made-up data at the time in “Star Trek”. But for pop culture, Data, which questions everything human in an “interesting way”, is certainly one of the most prominent humanoid machines of all.
02. The Gunslinger (Yul Brynner, “Westworld” / “Futureworld” 1973/1976)
A robot cowboy with unmatched lack of emotion.
03. T-800 / T-1000 (Arnold Schwarzenegger / Robert Patrick, “Terminator 2”, 1991)
Without a doubt, two human machines for eternity.
04. Lobot (“Star Wars – The Empire Strikes Back”)
A marginal figure, whose appearance I look forward to at every Rewatch, when the rebels roam through the cloud city of Bespin again. The name “Living Robot” or Lobot alone … strong guy.
05. Ash (Ian Holm, “Alien” 1979)
The antagonistic figure that Arthur Spooner’s opening quote could possibly refer to. The Android, initially not outed as such, who betrays the crew in “Alien” and carries out the company’s corporate interests. Who hasn’t had office colleagues like this before?
06. Wolverine (Hugh Jackman, “X-Men”, 2000)
It doesn’t always have to be an electronic brain to pass as a spectacular hybrid between man and machine. Sometimes it is enough to have an adamantium skeleton.
07. Arthur (Michael Sheen, “Passengers”, 2016)
This lovable bartender without a belly in a film for all friends of ghostly empty giant spaceships.
08. Edward (Johnny Depp, “Edward Scissorhands”, 1990)
I had to look up again first. But yes, this iconic pinup of the Gothic scene is an artificial human being that its dying creator could no longer completely finish. Like, who also knows that about himself.
7 robots from film and series history that you just took to your heart
01. R2-D2 (“Star Wars”, since 1977)
02. Number five (“Number Five Lives”, 1986)
03. VINCENT. (“The Black Hole”, 1979)
04. Dot matrix (Joan Rivers, “Spaceballs”, 1987)
05. Wall-E (“Wall-E – the last one cleans up the earth, 2008)
06. Grag (“Captain Future”, 1980s)
07. The hedonism bot (“Futurama”, from 1999)
7 iconic robotic beings for the cineastes
01. the machine man (Brigitte Helm, “Metropolis”, 1927)
02. Tin Man (Jack Haley, “The Wizard Of Oz”, 1939)
03. Gort (Lock Martin, “The Day The Earth Stood Still,” 1951)
04. Mechagodzilla (“King Kong vs. Godzilla”, 1974) & (“Ready Player One, 2018”)
05. Hal-9000 (Douglas Rain [Stimme], “2001 – Odyssey in Space”, 1968)
06. The Iron Giant (Vin Diesel [Stimme] “The Iron Giant”, 1999)
07. Ultron (James Spader, “Avengers – Age Of Ultron,” 2014)
4 pretty damn raviolid androids
01. David (Michael Fassbender, “Prometheus – Dark Signs”, 2012)
Please kill me if I have to watch Ridley Scott’s convoluted monkey shit again about the origins of mankind and aliens. The uncharismatic or overrated Michael Fassbender also puts the crown of wasteland on this derelict conspiracy theorist flick.
02. General Grievous (“Star Wars III – Revenge of the Sith”, 2005)
I say it as it is: the middle “Star Wars” trilogy creates eye rolls as much as pity. The supposedly cool digital technology that George Lucas used to ruin his own work in the 90s and early 2000s didn’t even look that great back then. Jar Jar Binks is hardly a level or two more real than Pumuckl, when he was painted as a cartoon character for his master Eder in the real film. A particularly two-dimensional figure with a fan swag acts as the final boss in the finale of the trash can trilogy: General Grievous. Dude, on the other hand, the four ghosts in Pacman are still real character actors.
03. David (Haley Joel Osmond, “AI – Artificial Intelligence”, 2001)
Great, might all the junk bots be called David? In any case, this Pinocchio here is such a disastrously maudlin project that would not even have run on Kabel Eins without Steven Spielberg and Stanley Kubrick as senders.
04.Bumblebee (“Bumblebee”, 2018)
Friendship among cars? Who just came up with that, Volkswagen Marketing? With all the love for animating dead objects, anyone who thinks the loudly honking rear-end collision of the “Transformer” series is a successful blockbuster also likes to lick 9-volt block batteries.
Special mention: “I am your person”
In addition to all the cult figures that the longing creatures have implanted robots in countless films, books, series and games, the examination of artificial intelligence always raises the question of: What makes people different? Which is particularly interesting in times of learning algorithms that try to get closer and closer to us. In the current film “Ich bin dein Mensch” by Maria Schrader, all those annoying and inflexible devices such as Siri and Alexa are turned on in everyday life. How close can a program come to you – and how much of such closeness can you endure?
Special mention II: ABBA
The fact that ABBA 2021 did not shuffle back into the action as friendly, frail pop seniors, but as their own digitally young-at-heart avatars, should hardly have escaped anyone in the last week. The utopia / dystopia that artists * can at some point be replaced by their own holograms (as already tried out with Tupac) is in any case a big step closer with this event – and should be with us for far longer than the new dumb ABBA hit, the the artificial Bennis and Agnetas brought us. In any case, this visit teaches us one thing: For a very long time, authenticity will no longer be the measure of all things in media art.
Special mention III: Luis Ake
“I’m not a machine”, Tim Bendzko once complained – and I, your friendly narrator or columnist here, can only agree. In my last edition of Popwoche, I presented high-density newcomers from 2021. Luis Ake should also be there. For technical reasons – when will I finally be replaced by a robot? – unfortunately it did not come to that.
In the end, this should be made up for here.
I kiss your circuits, that’s it for this time!
WHAT COULD THAT BE? Playful NDW pop with a stylish staging of perverted kitsch.
NICE TO KNOW The songs on the record “Liebe” were produced by Konrad Betcher, who also works for Dagobert, among others.
WHAT WOULD YOU LIKE TO READ ABOUT YOUR MUSIC? “As a scientist of the heart, Luis Ake made romantic love explainable to us and proves with its nature that pop music is an art form that is not just about music.”
WHAT PLEASE NOT AGAIN? “Luis Ake quotes himself: His publications sound identical in style and always follow the same pattern. He has become another slave to the algorithm. “
LISTEN TO Luis Ake “Detour”
What happened until now? Here is an overview of all pop column texts.