Stories where someone's significant other turns out to be a robot?
May 11, 2020 1:31 PM   Subscribe

What are some movies or books where the main character comes to realize his/her significant other is actually an android? I'm specifically interested in stories which are devoted to exploring the emotional challenges/difficulties of a robot-human romantic relationship -- not Robot erotica. Thanks!
posted by egeanin to Media & Arts (22 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Stepford Wives.
posted by Melismata at 1:43 PM on May 11, 2020 [2 favorites]

Both versions of Robocop explore this a little, with more in the more recent version because in the first one, Off. Alex Murphy is declared dead, and his wife and son are not told that he has become Robocop. In the newer one, they are told he's alive as a highly prosthetized (well, it ought to be a word) individual, but they don't know to what degree, and also don't know what's going on when the people at OCP decide to dial his emotions down after he gets worked up trying to solve his own murder.

There's a character arc in "The Orville" in which Isaac, an artificial being from race of artificial people who are largely hostile to flesh-and-blood races, begins dating Dr. Claire Finn, the ship's CMO. The show suggests that her attraction starts when she saw him with her two sons, even though being a TV robot, he's always literal, socially clueless, and so on. At one point while they date, he uses the ship's hologram technology to replace what she sees of him with a human face (played by the actor who is nominally stuck in a full suit and mask, natch). The Orville is actually pretty good SF for the TV format. Episode s02e06 is where to find the bulk of this relationship, plus the greatest mustache ever.

And I'm reminded of Royksopp's "The Girl and the Robot," feat. Robyn., which is less about robot problems, and more about emotional and physical absence on the part of the robot/boyfriend.
posted by Sunburnt at 1:55 PM on May 11, 2020

In Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me it turns out that Vanessa Kensington was a fembot all along.
posted by XMLicious at 2:13 PM on May 11, 2020 [3 favorites]

Some of this is captured in the broader Robotic Reveal trope (TV Tropes), but it looks more like your question is more of a sub-trope that isn't currently well cataloged. Maybe something of a hybrid between this trope and Robotic Spouse, which is mostly mad scientist-types making a spouse, instead of realizing that the person they married isn't human after all.
posted by filthy light thief at 2:23 PM on May 11, 2020 [1 favorite]

He, She, and It by Marge Piercy is exactly what you are looking for and is excellent.
posted by john_snow at 2:30 PM on May 11, 2020 [2 favorites]

I don’t remember the details and the Wikipedia article is kind of vague, but the 1960s TV show My Living Doll was about a human/robot relationship. There are some episodes on YouTube.
posted by FencingGal at 2:56 PM on May 11, 2020 [1 favorite]

Have you seen the Spike Jonze movie "Her"? It's about a guy who falls in love with his AI assistant. Not sure if that fits your criteria or not, but there was a lot of relational development and emotional grist for the mill.
posted by carlypennylane at 3:08 PM on May 11, 2020 [2 favorites]

Bladerunner. Depending.
posted by sweltering at 3:12 PM on May 11, 2020 [5 favorites]

"comes to realize"--how gradual does the realization have to be? because THE SILVER METAL LOVER today, yesterday, and tomorrow.
posted by queenofbithynia at 3:48 PM on May 11, 2020 [2 favorites]

Battlestar Galactica if you count fleshy cylons.
posted by zengargoyle at 3:55 PM on May 11, 2020 [5 favorites]

There are several episodes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer (TV series) that feature relationships between humans and androids:
Season 1, Episode 11: Ted - John Ritter plays Ted, a robot who enters into a relationship with Joyce Summers.
Season 5, Episode 15: I Was Made to Love You - Warren creates a robot girlfriend, then ditches her for a human woman. At the end of the episode, Spike confronts Warren and demands that he create a robot version of Buffy.
Season 5, Episode 18: Spike receives delivery of the Buffybot. The robot also appears briefly in Season 5 , Episode 22: The Gift, which is the last episode of the season. She makes some appearances is Season 6 as well.

The Buffybot is mostly played for laughs, but there are some interesting moments along the way, especially as it relates to the real Buffy's relationship to Spike.
posted by tuesdayschild at 4:06 PM on May 11, 2020 [1 favorite]

One of the storylines in Autonomous by Annalee Newitz explores the emotional aspects of robot/human romance, though doesn't exactly answer your question because robot status is known all along. There are a few robosex scenes, but only a few.
posted by esoterrica at 4:19 PM on May 11, 2020 [1 favorite]

The first episode of the Second season of Black Mirror-- I'm talking of the British series before it moved to Netflix in the USA -- is called "Be Right Back," (youtube teaser) was about a young mother (Hayley Atwell) who was lately widowed, and in her grief joins a service that analyzes his extensive social media activity simulates him so that she can communicate by text. Before long, she is upsold to a level where she can speak to a voice simulation of him. And then, she is upsold again to a robot version of her late husband (Domhnall Gleason). The remainder of the episode is about how to navigate this relationship with a robot who very effectively simulates her husband, except where he doesn't. As Black Mirror goes, it's not one of the nihilistic ones, but has a very nice ending.
posted by Sunburnt at 4:20 PM on May 11, 2020 [2 favorites]

Total Recall (1990) in some aspects.
I, Robot (2004) in some aspects.

Anne McCaffrey wrote or cowrote the first five novels in the Brain & Brawn Ship series, beginning with The Ship Who Sang (1969).
"By 1997 there were seven novels, one old and six more recent. They share a fictional premise but feature different cyborg characters." The Ship Who Sang - Wikipedia
posted by TrishaU at 7:17 PM on May 11, 2020

Becky Chambers' A Closed and Common Orbit.
posted by signal at 7:47 PM on May 11, 2020

The anime series Mahoramatic has some romantic themes. Battle robot becomes maid for former commander’s son. Fan service ensues. Poignant ending.
posted by rw at 8:31 PM on May 11, 2020

The main characters of The Umbrella Academy (TV show) were born on the same day to different mothers under supernatural circumstances, and have been adopted by an eccentric millionaire; they have a real Stepford Wife for a mother, and it becomes apparent before long that she is indeed a robot built by their adoptive father. Later in the series, it is revealed why a robot could do the job that, say, a nanny could not, and also how it is that their father was able to build a robot that sophisticated. The father out of the picture so there's no romance, but rather the child-mother bond which is explored.
posted by Sunburnt at 10:47 PM on May 11, 2020 [2 favorites]

Making Mr. Right, an obscure John Malkovich movie.
posted by johngoren at 1:49 AM on May 12, 2020 [3 favorites]

Humans ended in 2018 after 3 seasons. From the top of the Wikipedia link:
...based on the Swedish science fiction drama Real Humans, the series explores the themes of artificial intelligence and robotics, focusing on the social, cultural, and psychological impact of the invention of anthropomorphic robots called "synths".
posted by kingless at 8:28 AM on May 12, 2020

Not a movie or "real" book, but the story Perfect Match on the app Choices fits this.
posted by LoonyLovegood at 6:57 PM on May 12, 2020

The story The Long Years in Ray Bradbury’s book The Martian Chronicles captures grief, loneliness, and love so well.
posted by marguerite at 11:12 PM on May 12, 2020

Piers Anthony’s Apprentice Adept series
posted by misterbrandt at 4:55 PM on May 13, 2020

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