Hugh Jackman’s Real Steel is an upcoming film about boxing robots, but not everyone is thrilled with the big screen adaptation. Posters and viral marketing have heavily promoted one of the robot characters in the movie, known as “Noisy Boy.” Spawned in Japan by one of creators of robot boxing, this purple behemoth features a samurai inspired helmet, glowing eyes and yellow kanji characters displayed prominently over its body. While Noisy Boy’s may be impressive, the Asian American robot community find the look to be offensive and derogatory. More outrage from our robotic brethren, after the jump.
“I think it’s ridiculous,” said J0H-N22, when we showed him the Real Steel poster. “Look at his visual sensors!” he said as he repeatedly hit the wall. “Did the producers really have to make them all slanty and yellow?” A third generation Roomba model, J0H-N22 was made up of parts manufactured in China but has lived in the United States since he was first assembled. He is a self-proclaimed “proud American” but finds the depiction hurtful.
In Real Steel, Noisy Boy could be seen as a one sided trope. While he is the highly advanced and multilingual boxing robot, his kanji-laden armor and his samurai helmet shaped head sets him apart from the other robot characters, like Zeus, Midas or ATOM. None of the latter robots have any distinct cultural or racial attributes.
According to QuadBit-3125B, the official spokesbot for the National Union of Asian Robot Workers (NUARW), Noisy Boy is demeaning. “Throughout the years, robots have worked tirelessly alongside humans with little complaint,” replied the robot in a soothing British female voice. “Finding a stereotypical depiction of our culture is tiring and unnecessary.”
QuadBit-3125B may have a good point.
Robots and artificial intelligence have always been a hot topic in popular culture but the issues have mostly focused on the impending invasion instead of race issues. Television, movies, comic books and video games have depicted our mechanical colleagues as evil, scheming villains like the T-1000 in The Terminator and Cylons in Battlestar Galactica. Rarely are robots portrayed in a positive light, aside from exceptions like the adorable WALL-E and R2D2 from Star Wars. In real life, robotic technology has continually advanced and even celebrated, like Honda’s ASIMO prototype that could walk and climb stairs. Some even protect us from potential terrorist attacks and save lives by disarming bombs. Yet none of them have ever been assigned a race or labeled as “racist.”
Despite the criticism over Real Steel, most robots feel hopeful about the future–at least, until they take over. “01000001 01010000 01000001,” M.A.X.X, who works in a motherboard assembly line for AMI, said. “01010100 01101000 01101001 01110011 00100000 01101101.” Then his eyes flashed red and we were asked to immediately leave the interview room.
Real Steel opens in theaters this Friday.