Humans have been fascinated with robots - specifically, with the potential to create better (or more powerful) versions of ourselves using technology - since long before the tech itself existed. Robots have taken on a number of roles withIn the cultural consciousness. At times, like R2D2 in Star Wars, they are benevolent and exist primarily to serve their human masters. Other times, like the Replicants in Blade Runner, the artificially intelligent beings become restless and resentful of their status as slaves to humankind, and humans end up trying to quash robot rebellions.This particular narrative trope speaks to an anxiety in relation to both technological advancements and concern that a marginalized group might recognize its own power and overthrow its oppressors. Another popular incarnation of the figure of the robot is the sex object, love interest, or seductress - in other words, female tropes as old as time - as exemplified in the characters of Ava in Ex Machina and Samantha in Her. The Robots folder in the SVA Pictures Collection offers a great deal of insight into the many forms robots have taken and continue to take in both reality and in our imaginations. While they might not be ready to take over the world in quite the way cinema promised, the potent mythology of the robot isn’t going anywhere soon.


 

A large  assortment of toy robots.
Geo 3, May 1981
A doctor in training practices listening to a heartbeat on a plastic torso.
Geo 3, May 1981
A face is magnified in a scientific magnifying glass while tinkering with a robot. Several pairs of hands are involved.
A scientist's face is reflected in a magnifying glass, surrounded by several robotic arms.
A person looks up at a large robotic structure.
Actress Carol Christensen is embraced by the robot arms of a robot named Mobot.
Robot named Mobot, with actress Carol Christensen
A robot and a robot dog in a domestic situation.
The World's Fair, New York City (1940)