Netflix's reboot of the iconic sci-fi series Lost in Space has been met with mixed reviews. Critics praised the cast, including Toby Stephens and Parker Posey, as well as the lush production values, but questioned whether this grittier remake did anything to truly reinvigorate the formula. Nevertheless, fans have been tuning in and binge-watching with excitement.
You'd think that the eye-candy for geeks everywhere would be Stephens, who had many of us hot under the collar thanks to his turn on Black Sails. But that would have been way too normal for the internet. No, the thirst trap of Lost in Space is... the robot.
In the original series, the robot's job was mostly to flail its vacuum-tube arms and yell the show's signature catchphrase, "Danger, Will Robinson!" His aesthetic was more akin to the retro-futurist stylings that were typical in the 1950s and '60s. Think Forbidden Planet on a shoestring budget. Like the original Star Trek series, half the fun with Lost in Space was in seeing how far the writers' imagination could stretch despite the sheer lack of money to make it reality. Now, it's 2018 and Netflix are happy to give massive budgets to any and every show. Lost in Space Redux used those finances well, especially when it came to that robot. Now, it's more humanoid in appearance, with reptile-like scales and spikes across its body, and... well, let's just say that no attention or expense was spared in the rear department.
As the internet would say, dat ass.
Sexy robot times have invaded the Lost in Space fandom, and even Netflix’s own Twitter account is getting in on the fun.
The internet can thirst over anyone and everyone, so this is hardly the surprise of the century. This is all happening in the same week where Avengers fans suddenly decided that Thanos was the muscled genocidal beast of their dreams, so anything goes. Still, what this particular robot lust elicits is particularly interesting given the genre’s interesting history with the intersections between sexuality and artificial intelligence. In short, sci-fi loves a sexy robot.
Robot fetishism is frequently tied to agalmatophilia, or the sexual attraction to dolls, statues and mannequins. It should come as no surprise that the sci-fi genre is heavily populated with this particular brand of technosexual.
Generally, the sexy robot trend in fiction is limited to ones that look female, and their purpose rooted in sex or submissiveness. Consider the Stepford Wives, obedient android replicants of the women whom the men of Stepford have deemed too bossy, not pretty enough, too feminist, or just not the spouse they’ve always fetishized. Ex Machina focuses heavily on how Ava has been designed to come "fully equipped" with a working vagina. Many of the robots in Westworld were built with sex in mind, just in case the paying customers possessed such proclivities. There’s even an episode of Futurama that riffs the trope.
Such robots tend to be identical to human women — impeccably beautiful and indistinguishable from the real thing — but can also be heavily exaggerated versions of the female form. The 2018 Netflix film Mute features robot pole dancers with comically large metal breasts. Sexy robots strip humanity from the equation and are the most literal form of objectification we have: It’s sex without having to worry about emotions, pleasure, or even consent.
We don’t see this kind of android sexualization with robots designed to look masculine — Jude Law’s gigolo character in A.I.: Artificial Intelligence is a notable exception — and when robots are gendered as male, they are crafted more with strength and practicality in mind. Our robot pal from Lost in Space looks strong, with the armor-like scales suggesting human muscles in all the right places. The fact that this robot also has an undeniably fabulous arse feels like a calculated addition on the part of the showrunners. Someone had to build that dude and they deliberately added nice round buttocks, so it must have been for a reason. Said reason is probably only for pure gratification, but it’s clear that a lot of people are enjoying it! Granted, he's not a typical sexy robot in that he hasn't been designed specifically for sexual pleasure, but he's certainly been made to be nice to look at.
Along with the literal objectification of sexy robots, there are interesting issues of intellect and emotion. Who’s the smartest mind in the room, and who’s the most empathetic? A lot of what makes the robot so alluring has little to do with those impressive aesthetics and more to do with its very human instinct for love towards the young Will. We genuinely feel for the robot when his friendship with Will is put to the test and when Dr. Smith tries to sabotage it. Lost in Space’s robot famously has a unique bond with Will Robinson, the youngest child in the Robinson clan. The robot seems to respond to Will's emotions rather than his direct commands, thus creating an unusual connection between boy and machine. For a show that gets frequently as bleak as this reboot, this relationship is often a very innocent one (so of course we all get kinda pervy when talking about this robot!).
We've talked about the robot in exclusively male pronouns, which the showrunners mostly do as well, given that its relationship with Will is coded as highly paternal. However, in an interview with io9, production designer Ross Dempster made a point of using both masculine and feminine pronouns, noting "I just felt we should leave that open. Why dictate that he’s a guy?" On top of dealing with an oft-asked question of why we even gender robots in the first place, this makes the robot all the more interesting. Why do we code it male? Why does everyone else? Does the alien race that created it have different signs for masculinity and femininity, or do those concepts even exist to them? Is the robot as hot to them as it is to us? Season 2 has a lot of pressing matters to cover.
Fans will have a while to wait for new episodes of Lost in Space and further opportunities to work out their complex feelings for the robot of undefined gender and impressive glutes. For now, at least we can rest easy with the knowledge that, when the robot apocalypse comes, there will be something aesthetically pleasing to sate our lust.