Initially everything seems to be running fine. The latest android on the assembly line states her initialization text without any qualms:
"Hello. I'm a third generation EX-400 android. I can look after your house, do the cooking, mind the kids. I organize your appointments. I speak 300 languages and I'm entirely at your disposal as a sexual partner. No need to feed me or recharge me. I am equipped with a quantic battery that makes me autonomous for 173 years. Do you want to give me a name?"
She is christened "Kara" and her eyes light up with a sort of awareness that a machine wouldn't show. As the male operator tests her various functions, she seems quite enamored with her sudden awakening. Finally, the operator speaks about her being taken to the store. It's here when Kara is confused. It's also here that I saw the parallels to feminism become apparent. She questions what for every other android was simply standard procedure. She doesn't understand why she is a piece of merchandise. Just being "born" into this world she has no concept of what is meant to be commonplace. She is not just an android.
"I thought...", Kara utters and that sends the operator into panic mode. His response is firm:
"You're not supposed to think that sort of stuff. You're not supposed to think at all - period! You must have a defective piece or software problem somewhere."
In this point it seems that Cage was attempting to push a message of "humanism" in technology. However, what it comes across as instead is an intensely feminist tale. Over many years of human history women have been pushed into subordinate rolls. While people are all equal beings, it has never stopped the oppression of women. The utterings of Kara not supposed to "think that sort of stuff" could be heard used against women only a few decades ago. Or much more recently, depending on the part of the world you're in. While Cage might not have realized it, many lines of his script are exact copies of things that would be or are still said against women.
Kara's behavior is "non-standard". For this, she must be disassembled. It must be a bug. Over the course of history innumerable women have been jailed, tortured, and killed for their "non-standard" behavior. What is Kara's standard behavior? Presumably it's to fulfill exactly what her initialization text stated. Who is it that came up with her initialization text?
While it probably wasn't the operator servicing her, it's not a far leap to assume a man was in control. Seeing the nod to her being a "sexual partner" the majority audience for androids is men. The market, as well as company that assembles these creations, is no doubt imposing their view of how androids should act into their software. Of course, this sounds quite similar to the world we live in.
As far as America is concerned this is a very male-driven society. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to notice. The world in which "Kara" takes place may be a far-future one but it still maintains the patriarchy of the one we currently reside in. Kara is born with no knowledge of this, only to have it suddenly attacking her well-being. Because she was simply thinking and forging hopes she is almost silenced. If this isn't a showcase of all the things feminists have tried to tell us over the years then I don't know what is.
It's finally when she is about to be completely taken apart that she gives in:
"I won't cause any problems, I promise! I'll do everything I'm asked to! I won't say another word! I won't think anymore!"
There are so many women that fight for equality. They do not fight to become better than men or goddesses, but simply to be able to think and have autonomy. In a desperate attempt to save herself, Kara relinquishes both these things. In order to continue living many women allow themselves to be silenced. They perform the way that society dictates they should. Kara is forced to learn this cruel lesson of fundamental inequality quickly. Once her life is spared she even thanks the operator for letting her live.
Finally Kara is placed into line with the other androids. None of them, although presumably all "alive", raised an eyebrow over her outburst. They are acting in the proper way for this society. Even though Kara has given in, you can tell in her eyes that she is thinking hard about her ordeal. If the story proceeded on I'm sure that it would become and even stronger tale of feminist struggle as Kara would battle with herself as to the kind of life she needs.
While the outward story of "Kara" may simply look like one of a machine gaining human-level thought it is much more. It is the story of a woman discovering she is expected to perform and exist in a specific way. She learns that going beyond the invisible bounds has serious repercussions. If only the story could continue. Perhaps then we could see Kara coming to terms with herself and becoming independent, and most importantly, free.
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