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.

Cameron (Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles).

Cameron (Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles).

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.

The Android (Dark Matter).

The Android (Dark Matter).

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?

5 responses to “Human-Centric Diversity in Science Fiction: Cyborgs

  1. I do feel like I’ve seen some cybernetic aliens before… Doctor Who particularly jumps to mind, although some of the best examples there have gone so heavily to the machine as to be full villains (Cybermen, Daleks). Well, and the Cybermen were humans first, shoot. And Daleks are cells from a humanoid looking guy. Hmmm… Their Star Trek counterparts, the Borg, technically change all sorts of species but you also see mostly human-looking ones. Like in many TV shows, that happens in large part because you’re using human actors!

    So outside of TV, what about Mass Effect? For one thing, your characters are using all sorts of body-enhancing tech – the Quarians living in their environmental suits, Shepard rebuilt with tech including nano tech, Garrus with his aiming eyepiece, the Omni-tools that are what I want instead of an Apple Watch… But really, the best examples are probably the enemies, the various cybernetically-enhanced creatures that the Reapers have turned into weapons. There is a version of these that match most species in the game, with some humanoid, some gigantic or bug or otherwise. With animating them, this was an easy option – in comparison to human actors doing this! Or a Muppet sort of creature. Or honestly, probably computer graphics anyway…

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    • Mass Effect is a really good example! Even the Bioware Star Wars games are good examples for non human Cyborgs, whether in KOTOR or SWTOR (both your own character of NPC you interact with).

      I agree that with animation, it makes the possibilities even easier.

      As if writing on Mass Effect for here hadn’t already made me want to pick the games up enough, you bring that up again. You had to, didn’t you? 😉

      Kidding aside, I am happy you are bringing other examples!

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  2. Is the character from Dark Matter actually a cyborg, though? It’s not really been said that she’s in any way organic. Simply being a human-looking machine doesn’t make a character a cyborg – they have to be part organic. If any character in Dark Matter is a cyborg, it’s Number 2 (human augmented by nanites).

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    • I thought based on what I read that the Android actually had organic parts and was thus revealed to be a Cyborg later on but I might be wrong because I haven’t seen much of Dark Matter yet.

      Like

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