We’ve been going through a unit devoted to deconstruction in my English class, and while I’ve found most of it extremely tedious and encased in opaque jargon (which, given that deconstruction is an offshoot of Postmodernism, shouldn’t have been all that surprising), I’ve enjoyed trying to apply it in my own writings. However, applying it to the materials suggested in class is mind numbingly frustrating, so I’ve decided to back burner my paper on Othello and instead take a crack at the storyline from the Exo-Force line, mostly because I’m bored stiff, and wading through Exo-Force is still more fun than analyzing the ethical conduct of Mike Nifong or any of the other projects I’ve got going.
The conventional viewpoint regarding Exo-Force is that the Humans were good and the robots were evil, as is par for the course in robot uprising fiction. However, a deeper examination of the robot’s actions doesn’t necessarily support that viewpoint. I wouldn’t go so far as to say that they’re the real heroes of the story, but they aren’t the cackling villains the story presents them as either.
We’ll start with the cause of the revolt. The robots were originally used in mining (and likely other tasks, as the animated movie shows that thunder furies were equipped with their chainsaws before the revolt. While I’m not expert on mining, I am fairly certain that chainsaws aren’t as useful there as they are in forestry, hinting that robots were used in a larger variety of roles), as pilots for the larger mining mechs. At some point, they got sick of being used for manual labor, and Mecha One led them into a revolt. A revolt that was put down when the humans shoved the robots into the chasm by pushing them in with sticks. Given that the robots went down that easily, I find it doubtful that they were actively attacking the humans at this point (if you hijack a bulldozer and try to attack the nearest town, I’m fairly sure it would take more than a couple guys with sticks to bring the rampage to halt. If you just park the dozer somewhere in protest, a couple cops with nightsticks could subdue you with ease), and may have even been programmed with failsafe’s to prevent them from attacking the humans. So to recap, blinged out Robot MLK leds a protest, humans react by tossing him off a cliff.
After the humans started going 300 on them, the robots evidentially decided to abandon pacifism and start fighting back. After upgrading their mechs, which incidentally proves that they’re not as mindless as the story says, since designing the advanced weaponry they use indicates a fair degree of intelligence (and given the robots consistently outech the humans throughout the series, it’s possible they’re much smarter than their makers), the robots go on the offensive, and rapidly conquer half the mountain. During the assault, they capture a number of humans, and rather than executing them, take them prisoner. Given that said POWs are still alive several years into the war (when the Exo-Force storyline takes place), it’s clear that the robots are actually wasting resources feeding and caring for their prisoners, something that, to my knowledge, is unique in robot rebellion literature. The humans, on the other hand, never offered the fully sentient and intelligent pilots of disabled mechs a chance to surrender. I’d also point out that since the human’s initially didn’t know about the prisons, so they’ve likely been located somewhere away from the front lines (instead of the more pragmatic “put the civilians out in front of the palace so no one will dare bomb it” plan embraced by dictators around the world).
Another fact hinting that robots aren’t as evil as Exo-Force claims is the tactics the robots use. Once they gain control of their half of the mountain, they continue to wage a conventional war to seize the other half. Why they want it is never explained, though I’d speculate that they were, like the humans, aware of the legendary golden city, and once they established control of their half of the mountain and confirmed it wasn’t there, realized it was on the other half. Knowing what the humans would do if they got their hands on it, namely using its technology to try and crush them (which is exactly what they tried to do), they decided to keep fighting to ensure the humans wouldn’t have that option. Disregarding their reasoning, the key fact is that they fought a conventional war over the mountain. They didn’t manufacture some chemical weapons and gas the humans, they didn’t use biological weapons to devastate the population, and they didn’t build some nukes and bomb their enemies into submission, even though all of those strategies were well within their capability and were far less resource intensive than building an army and seizing the mountain the old-fashioned way. To contrast, by my recollection the humans wanted to expand the golden city’s robot jamming field and shut down all the robots on the other half of the mountain. Again we discover that the side abiding by the law and customs of war is the robots. How diabolical.
The only solid evidence Exo-Force presents is the precise way the robots choose to fight their war, but everything the robots do is entirely logical. For example, the iron Drones are stated to be simple minded robots that are mass produced in order to swamp the humans with sheer numbers. This is stated like it’s a bad thing, rather than an entirely logical tactic for robots to use. Real life drones are used for the exact same role, after all. The other “Robots are evil” claims revolve around the tactics employed by the Devastator robots, such as going to extremely lengths to finish off human soldiers or intentionally inflicted collateral damage to human settlements (and given we only have the human’s word on that, even that may not necessarily be true). However, from the robot’s perspective, both actions make sense.
Regarding their habit of chasing down human soldiers, why wouldn’t they do that? The humans are running so low on trained personnel that one of their best equipped units consists of 4 young adults (I don’t think any of the Exo-Force team members were actually teenagers, which is a little surprising for series that borrows so much else from anime) with next to no military experience. The humans were clearly getting desperate if they were willing to assign the characters of Exo-Force to one of their elite units, so all the robots had to was keep up the pressure. Every human causality permanently reduces their net fighting strength, while a destroyed robot will have its replacement role off the assembly line before the wreckage has cooled. Consequently, making every effort to eliminate human soldiers is an entirely logical decision. Regarding the deliberate destruction of civilian areas, I’ve got two words for you: Dresden Firebombing. Here’s two more: Atomic bombings. Another point is that since the robots don’t seem to have any kind of civilian/military robot distinction, it might not occur to them that humans do (It’s likely that they do possess such an understanding, but not proven). And still, running through a village blasting things with a flamethrower is unpleasant, but the robots could have decided to do that with VX gas but decided not to.
Putting it all together, you come up with very different picture than what the Exo-Force storyline tries to present. Hell, the robots are acting more in line with the law and customs of war than the humans are, and could even be viewed as the good guys, fighting for their freedom against the oppressive humans!
"There's suspension of disbelief and then there's insulting my fucking intelligence"