Thursday, February 23, 2012

Prompt 1 - Gibson and Haraway - Richard McKita

Haraway tells us that her cyborg myth is about "transgressed boundaries, potent fusions, and dangerous possibilities." All these phrases certainly apply to Gibson's character, Molly. She is a "razorgirl" assassin whose body has been modified into a living weapon by grafting and implanting technologies. This body modification is seen as a severe break with traditional gender roles, as we see when Terzibashjian expresses disgust at Molly's appearance: "In Turkey, women are still women. This one..." (Gibson, p. 91).

Her personality includes massive heaps of typically masculine aggression and anti-social attitude as well. She is extremely protective of her lover Case, going so far as threatening the life of Riviera for playing a prank on him, while also buying him gifts and paying for his dinner at restaurants. When Case experiences her point of view through the simstim device, he is shocked that she carries her self in such a way that everyone on the street intuitively knows to step out of her way, despite the fact that we as readers know she is a relatively petite girl who has been described as having a ballerina's figure.

By taking control of her physical nature in such a direct way, Molly directly opposes what Haraway terms "biological-determinist ideology." Molly is utterly debased and abused during her experience working as a prostitute, but is able to transcend it by using the money she makes to turn herself into a street samurai. Rather than being trapped within the confines of patriarchal gender roles, which are so often justified in the faux-scientific language of evolutionary psychology, Molly is able to take control of her being at its most base level and effectively dispel all the constraining myths about women's potential, leading to a total redefinition of her self: "Anything any good at what they do, that's what they are, right?" (p. 50). Rather than simply being the "self-who-is-not" (Haraway), defined entirely by her femininity which is nothing but the Other of dominant masculinity, unconscious in her "cubicle in the puppet place" (p. 179), Molly performs the "self's labor" (Haraway) in order to become a razorgirl.

Molly also embodies the ambiguous political nature of the Haraway cyborg. Haraway's mythical cyborg "blasphemes" against socialist-feminism but offering a route of resistance that exaggerates the qualities of capitalist dominance rather than retreating from them: "In a sense, the cyborg has no origin story in the Western sense - a 'final' irony since the cyborg is also the awful apocalyptic telos of the 'West's' escalating dominations of abstract individuation, an ultimate self untied at last from all dependency, a man in space." The cyborg is the most ridiculous extreme of Western ideology, and as such it has the potential to explode that ideology entirely. Molly, as a cyborg, possesses this ultimate untied self. She is self-sufficient to the extreme, demonstrated by her ability to easily leave behind her and Case's relationship after the mission that brought them together is over. She goes out of her way, in fact, to tell him that her feelings might change at any moment and therefore she is easily capable of great violence against him. At the same time, she is "marked [with] confusion of boundaries and moral pollution" (as Haraway describes society's view of HIV positive homosexuals and drug users). Molly, and the cyborg, are simultaneously constructed by their society and yet monstrous enough within it to offer a new space for resistance.


Adam said...

It's interesting and so unexpectedly conventional how Gibson deploys Turkey as an archetypically conservative society - I'm glad you brought our attention to that.

Question regarding the next couple paragraphs. Does she reject/transcend the problem of women being understood as "self-who-is-not," or by reversing her role, does she essentially become something like "the not who is self", by becoming (one could argue) ultramasculine in all but a narrowly sexual sense.

The last paragraph is great, especially since it's unpacking a dimension of the cyborg that I didn't handle particularly well, or in any particular detail (since I'm more interested in the cyborg as post-capitalist rather than the illogical extreme of capitalism - but it's both). However, it's really a new beginning - this paragraph is the introduction to a different essay.

You begin with somewhat conventional if interesting observations about Molly; you end with something very much better, which would be the beginnign of any revision you'd produce from this.

Brian Moeller said...

I agree, I think the last paragraph is by far the strongest and where you really begin to draw great comparisons between Molly and Haraway's point of view. Linking the idea of Molly's moral pollution and HIV was brilliant and something that I wouldn't have thought to put together.

I understand the first two paragraphs are necessary to introduce the reader to the type of character that Molly is, but it does read a little flat and I was unsure when Haraway was going to come into play. Your rebound at the end was great, and if you choose to edit this one, I would like to hear more about the parallels of Molly as a cyborg being cut free from society.