Digital Media Shapes Human Representation: Case Study of the Film “Stepford Wives”2009The digital media has variously used technology to represent humans but in most cases have imbued the cultural and societal elements in such representations. Technology not only allows creativity to flow but the sub-conscious nature of the creative process also uses the cultural parameters that are prevalent of the times. While the first media age was concerned primarily with the mass media, that is broadcast media, the “second media age”, proposed by Poster (1995), has encompassed the digital media that has formed ideas based on prevalent culture.
Modern study of cultural interpretations of embodiment focuses on gender and on gender relations, including its dynamics, and questions regarding its transformation processes (the context and the politics behind such changes), the ways such changes are used and for what reason. Michel Foucault was perhaps the first to study the gender scenarios motivating the social practices and cultural products shaping daily lives. In his philosophical works like Discipline and Punish (1977) and The History of Sexuality (1978), Foucault stressed that the body and sexuality are cultural concepts rather than natural occurrences playing an important role in the feminist analysis of essentialism.
In what he called a 'genealogical' study, a kind of analytical history trying to analyze 'the present time, and of what we are, in this very moment' in order 'to question … what is postulated as self-evident … to dissipate what is familiar and accepted' (Foucault 1988a: 265). Foucault proposed that in modern society the conduct of individuals and groups is more and more insidiously regulated through scales of regularity dealt out by various measures, diagnostic, predictive and conventional knowledge such as criminology, medicine, psychology and psychotherapy.
Modern individuals, become the agents of their own 'normalization' so far as they are put through, and are given to the classifications and standards disseminated by scientific and organizational discussions professing to divulge the 'truth' of their identities. Modern disciplinary society can, as a result, be restrained directly because social control is attained through finer tactics of normalization, through self-control of “normalized” persons (Foucault, iep. utm. edu). Foucault’s idea that the body and sexuality are cultural creations has attracted the modern gender theorists by relating power with and the body.
Following the Foucauldian premise, feminist theorists have forwarded gender studies on the basis of subjectivity and defiance. Postmodernism, Foucauldian theory and scientific and technological rhetoric have been combined by feminist thinkers like Donna Harraway (1991) and Anne Balsamo (1996) to focus on a utopian view of gender and body that is the result of cultural use of technology. In this paper, I will discuss the film, Stepford Wives (2004) to see how the digital media and cybernetics forward the representation of gender in the Foucauldian sense of surveillance and control.
The term ‘cybernetics’ popularized by Weiner (1954) refers to the study of automated control mechanisms. Although it was initially introduced in the context of developing anti-aircraft gunners to anticipate the movement of enemy aircrafts, the term is now used universally for all types of technological intervention even in our daily lives. Weiner defined cybernetics as “classed communication and control together” (quoted in Brett and Provenzo, 1995). Technology has been adapted for the purpose of communication through various ways, from physical objects to computer-created objects as in the recent times.
Cyborgs are a form of robots, typically gendered as androids or gynoids, referring to human combined with some form of electro-mechanical replication. Cyborgs are in contrast to the early-day robots that had a fearful ghost-like appearance. Cyborgs, on the other hand, are realistic and human-like enough to seem more utopian and misleading. The textualisation of all aspects of life in the poststructuralist world in which lived relations find their way into the creations of fiction make the difference between the human and the robots ephemeral.
As Harraway (1991) says, the cyborg as created in science fiction, literary or digital, is both “a social reality as well as a creation of fiction” that incorporates the racist, male-dominated capitalism that regales in progress and culture yet sustains the age-old patriarchal patterns. It reflects the sociopolitical position of women in the lived time when individuality is driven by a complete lack of innocence yet a utopian dream. In the film Stepford Wives (2004), the women in the gated community have been programmed with the aid of cybernetics to be the perfectly domesticated women who also embody the patriarchal ideas of sexuality.
The individual is then created by the computer that has been programmed through the computer.