On what really makes us human.

Imagine a beautiful young woman standing on a beach, alone except for a couple with their baby and a dog, who are a long way off. As she is looking at them, the dog swims far out into the sea. As the mother tries to bring him back, she is swept along by the waves. The father goes to rescue her, but he himself is unable to swim against the strong current. The young woman watches with perfect indifference as the parents drown, and the baby is left alone, crying.

This is a scene from the movie ‘Under the Skin’, and the ‘young woman’, an alien sent to our planet to hunt humans. I think the scene was crafted just to show that she isn’t one of us, as she’s incapable of compassion.

In the movie, the alien chats up her (male) victims, takes them to ‘her place’ and lures them into a black void, where their skins are stripped off.

In the beginning, she seems to consider her job as routine as farming, but after a few victims, she starts to empathize with her victims. The last victim is a man with elephantiasis, who’s never been with a woman before. The alien actually tries to make him better about himself, and after he dies, she can no longer bear to kill anyone.  It was as if her own skin was being stripped off, making her more vulnerable and human.

Another film that explores this theme is ‘Ex- Machina’ , which is about artificial intelligence. Caleb is invited by an inventor, Nathan, to perform the’Turing test’ on his latest AI. The AI is named Ava and has the appearance of a young woman. Caleb is won over by Ava’s looks and personality and even develops feelings for her. Ava seems to reciprocate his feelings and warns him that Nathan can’t be trusted.

But of course, the real test is whether the AI is merely manipulating the human, or actually capable of returning his affection.

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It’s interesting to note that in both these films, the Other is a beautiful female who can take advantage of a male’s weakness for her.  Of course, empathy has traditionally been considered a ‘feminine’ quality, and women are supposed to show it more than men. Hopefully, it’s more mainstream now, thanks to Will Graham on ‘Hannibal’.

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