Friday, March 23, 2012


Kira Scammell

Narrative & Technology

March 24, 2012

Blog #5 Revision

There is no doubt that Molly Millions is a complex character, deviating from stereotypical depictions of women and in many ways deviating from the normal behavior of any empathetic human being. Through the lens of Haraway’s essay, A Cyborg Manifesto, we can look at Molly not so much in her femininity but instead as a cyborg and her existence as it pertains to a post-gender society.

Haraway talks about the boundary between the physical and the nonphysical. I particularly enjoyed this example,

Pop physics books on the consequences of quantum theory and the indeterminacy principal are a kind of popular scientific equivalent to Harlequin romances as a marker of radical change in American white heterosexuality: they get it wrong, but they are on the right subject. (Haraway, 154)

If we call Molly a feminist, we’re not correct, but we’re moving in the correct direction. At the same time calling her an anti-feminist would be incorrect as well. We could call her a post-feminist, and that would be most correct, but still not quite there either. Molly is made up of too many contradictions to be considered any of these three things. If I put her in any category, it’s that of a sociopath.

Molly is a goal driven character, fueled by a desire to be self sufficient and powerful. She uses her resources, including her sexuality and her physical enhancements to get what she wants. Her actions are not driven by the desire to act against women’s stereotypes; she doesn’t aim to be either antifeminist or feminist, but instead she uses her resources in whatever way she can to propel herself towards her own personal goals without regard to others. Molly is not an ethical character but she is an ambitious one. It would be easy to say that Molly fills the role that a typical male would fill because she acts in a tough and dominant manner, but even if Molly were a man, she would still find a way to best use her assets to get what she wants. We just expect that more from a leading male character, making it easier to write off Molly’s actions as merely acting like a guy.

The main reason I shy away from classifying Molly as being a feminist or a post feminist is because she pushes the boundaries of social norms across the board, not just in terms of being a female. She is a killer and she enjoys killing. Recall her first interaction with Case, she threatens him and tells him she has no reservations about hurting him or anyone else. It’s just the way she’s “wired” (Gibson, 25).

She has also been a “meat puppet,” which is essentially prostitution. This profession on the surface screams anti-feminist because of how our society typically perceives prostitution, but if we examine Molly’s reasoning behind becoming a meat puppet, we see that she is earning her money so that she can afford her body modifications, making herself a little bit tougher and enabling future self sufficiency. From a shallow perspective it seems as though she’s using a very anti-feminist profession to become more of an independent woman, or more feminist.

In this situation, Molly is simultaneously being feminist and anti-feminist, which makes little sense if we are trying to bind her to either of those classifications. Instead, we can compare her to a cyborg, both in her physicality and thinking about her general being overall. Haraway says:

The cyborg is resolutely committed to partiality, irony, intimacy, and perversity. It is oppositional, utopian, and completely without innocence...The relationships for forming wholes from parts, including those of polarity and hierarchical domination, are at issue in the cyborg world. Unlike the hopes of Frankenstein's monster, the cyborg does not expect its father to save it through a restoration of the garden; that is, through the fabrication of a heterosexual mate, through its completion in a finished whole, a city and cosmos. (Haraway, 152)

This sounds a lot like Molly, does it not? A cyborg has similarities very close to that of a sociopath. According to an article entitled “Profile of a Sociopath,” sociopaths tend to have a lack of remorse or shame, a need for stimulation, lack of empathy, and tend to be very impulsive. Like sociopaths, cyborgs do not feel a need for relationships and live beyond the western ideals of living where men and women have clearly definitive roles.

Let’s run with the idea that Molly is a cyborg. Here is some contextual evidence to support the idea that she is living a “post-gender” lifestyle. For one thing, Case doesn’t know her sexual preference, nor does it seem like a curiosity as to what her preference is. When it comes to sex, Molly is aggressive. Her first sexual encounter with Case started with her grabbing his scrotum while she was giving him a back massage. She has known him for all of a couple hours and they’re having sex. That in and of itself should say that Molly is not typical in the way that she thinks and behaves.

Going beyond her sexuality, we can think about her body modifications. She has lenses to enhance her vision and shield her eyes. She has razor blades under her fingernails. Her hair is cropped short and her figure is lean and strong. Molly has made herself a weapon. She is self sufficient and prepared for danger at any moment, which is exactly what she needs as she is constantly putting herself in danger. Her craving for the lifestyle of a razorgirl is also consistent with being a sociopath. She craves the stimulation, and at the same time this job lets her have power, and it keeps her from developing any kind of connection or serious relationship, which is also consistent with the lifestyle of a cyborg.

She consistently acts on impulse, a trait of being a sociopath. At one point in the novel she disobeys Wintermute, and makes a turn that he tells her not to, but it’s too late and she ends up walking in on someone about to commit suicide. When he threatens her then falls asleep she doesn’t hesitate to kill him.

There are many examples throughout Neuromancer that contributes to the idea of Molly being a sociopath and/or a cyborg. The terms cyborg and sociopath aren’t necessarily interchangeable terms, but they are closely associated, more so than how either of the terms relate to feminism. But coming back to the idea of feminism and how Haraway uses it to relate to the idea of a post-gender cyborg society we can examine this last idea.

Feminism re-categorizes what already exists. The cyborg is a new being, it is one that defies current human existence, it is a new specie, not a re-categorization of preexisting stereotypes like feminism is. Molly’s sociopathic tendencies put her on the path to cyborgism, but this doesn’t necessarily mean that Molly entirely fits the profile of a cyborg, although it is more descriptive of her character than the idea that she is a feminist.

Cyborg imagery can suggest a way out of the maze of dualisms in which we have explained our bodies and our tools to ourselves. This is a dream not of a common language, but of a powerful infidel heteroglossia. It is an imagination of a feminist speaking in tongues to strike fear into the circuits of the supersavers of the new right. It means both building and destroying machines, identities, categories, relationships, space stories. (Haraway, 181)

If more people like Molly existed, the world would either end or it would make way for a new society with new rules. We could move towards a genderless, not necessarily a sexless society, but something different from the structure that we currently identify with. If society were to move towards becoming more of a cyborg dominated world, there’s no doubt that there would be an increase in the amount of sociopaths or sociopath like behavior, but for now, we can look at Molly and imagine what it’s like.

Works Cited

Gibson, William. Neuromancer. New York: Ace, 2004. Print.

"Haraway_CyborgManifesto.html." Stanford University. Web. 23 Mar. 2012. .

"Profile of the Sociopath." R. Preston McAfee. Web. 23 Mar. 2012. .

1 comment:

Adam said...

Part of the structure of teaching a writing class means that one must often come across as critical. I have critical, or at least seemingly critical things to say, and they might take up some space, but I want to acknowledge all the things right about this essay before I go any farther.

1) Your writing is beautifully clear and concise
2) Your grasp on Haraway seems good
3) You pick a very interesting topic - Molly's feminism, or lack thereof - and explore it in some depth, from multiple angles
4) Bringing in the idea of "the sociopath" in tension with "the cyborg" is smart - probably it has far more potential than you begin to explore here.

Those are just initial good things to note.

There *are* real problems here. Your research, without being entirely absent, just scratches the surface, and your interactions with details of the text themselves are limited. I wonder, for instance, whether you thought through other characters in relationship with the your definition of the sociopath. Isn't Case arguably a sociopath? How about Wintermute itself? How many characters *aren't*? In other words, is Molly part of a larger phenomenon here? Your concept is very good, but you don't use it widely/rigorously enough.

Second, while you make some attempt to deal with the concepts "sociopath", "post-feminist" and "cyborg" together, you don't do it convincingly. This is related to the fact that you more have a well-defined area of inquiry than a true argument - the true argument would be able to articulate the relationship between these three concepts better than you do.

Third, there are clear counterarguments to the premise that Molly is a sociopath. She is morally repulsed (I think) by Riviera, for instance. Also, she's a professional, who seems to mostly abide by a set of professional ethics (as a hired killer, granted). In fact, her professionalism seems like something you really needed to address here.

Overall: Conceptually strong, lots of clear writing and interesting ideas, with some limitation in terms of execution - both because of limited research, failure to move fully from questions to argument, and maybe not addressing everything in the text that you might have.