Human-Centric Diversity in Science Fiction: Cyborgs
After looking at human-looking supremacy in Farscape, this week I will explore the human predominance in Cyborg representation and ponder on whether Cyborgs should be called Cyb-humans (or any better-sounding variations on that theme) instead of their usual denomination.
Cyborgs are a type of characters I find most fascinating in Science Fiction. I love the idea of technology and living flesh blending with more or less ease, as well as the questions about identity it can bring up. There is such great potential with Cyborg characters.
Yet I find myself sometimes wondering why so many Cyborgs are human looking and specifically mix human and technology parts. It makes sense to have a significant number of Cyborg characters be as such but they amount for a smothering majority.
Some most famous Cyborgs emerged either from literature and/or movies. The Replicants from Blade Runner and the different Terminator models from the eponymous franchise have significantly paved the way for later Cyborgs. The latter originally introduced more single dimensional Cyborgs but the franchise then offered more layered ones, even beyond the personal arc of the original Terminator model’s journey. Even the Alien franchise continued to include more androids into their stories, up to the related feature Prometheus.
It is noticeable how these Cyborgs are all a product of human and machine, although the term itself doesn’t require human to be the organic part. Blending cybernetics with alien species would be all the more compelling especially since Science Fiction opens up so many possibilities in terms of world building and character depiction.
Cyborgs even tend to fall on the Caucasian human and machine blend more often than not. The re-imagined Battlestar Galactica in the early 21st century remains one of the few example that included more diversity to the gene pool aspect. Indeed, one of the most important human-looking Cylon models, with two major copies, was Number Eight, portrayed by Grace Park, an American-Canadian actress of Korean origin. A couple other Cylons were portrayed by non-Caucasian actors, including one of the Final Five, Tory Foster, portrayed by Rekha Sharma, of North Indian heritage. Yet, Park’s characters remained the most fleshed out and remembered of these.
Even a currently airing show such as Dark Matter introduced a Caucasian female Cyborg as their ‘Android’. While it is heart-warming to see a fair number of female Cyborgs in the past decades, it would be worth seeing more diversity in the human-based Cyborg landscape, and even greater, to also see alien-based Cyborgs equally involved in Science Fiction universes.
What Cyborg characters are your favorites? How do you feel about an alien Cyborg compared to a human one?