“Love, Death & Robots” Combines Sexual Racism with Hyperviolence
This is an offence report for Netflix’s adult animated web-series Love, Death & Robots (March 2019). Read on and let your concerns be heard by following our recommended actions at the end of the report.
“The Witness”: Hypersexualized Orientalism
Several TV critics have lambasted “The Witness” for its conflation of gratuitous female nudity and violence. An Asian young woman hears a few gunshots from the window across the street from her high-rise flat, flees from the apparent white murderer, shoots him in self-defense after he chases her down and confronts her, and then … realizes that his doppelganger is watching her from a room across the street. Meanwhile, her emotional distress and her sexualized body are simultaneously presented as fetish-objects for a voyeuristic and Orientalist gaze.
Spanish animator Alberto Mielgo’s aesthetic of “realistic but graphic” keyframe animation is unfortunately utilized to create hyper-sexualized neo-Oriental imagery. There’s the image of the victim at the start, whose nudity is draped by a silk red kimono (the setting is an alternate version of Hong Kong, but the interchangeability of Chinese and Japanese signifiers is predictable). After realizing that the murderer is aware of her presence from across the street, the witness (who is a doppelganger of the victim) leaves for work in a taxi and calls the police during the ride.
It turns out that the witness works as a stripper in a BDSM-themed sex club; Mielgo has revealed on Instagram that the film’s realistic human proportions were necessary “because it would had been so weird [to have] a full on striptease and pubes with mainstream cartoon proportions”. Her striptease routine lasts for over a full minute (with multiple and highly voyeuristic close-ups) before she realizes that the murderer has followed her to her workplace.
A highly problematic voyeuristic chase sequence ensues, with the witness running through the streets and back alleys of Hong Kong wearing nothing but an unfastened red kimono. As Epigram’s Calum Bradshaw notes, “it’s obviously expected that 18+ animation will include nudity, but there’s no need for ‘The Witness’ to be quite so gleefully pornographic in its depiction of a young woman running for her life.” Trauma porn unfortunately reaches a new low with “The Witness” – while simultaneously reinforcing the stereotype of the hyper-sexualized East Asian woman.
“Sucker of Souls”: Asian Male Disposability
Despite all the futuristic sci-fi conceits of aliens, space travel, sentient AI and cyborgs, the series also features Hollywood’s age-old gendered racism. All the characters in “Sucker of Souls” – a team of anthropologists and mercenaries-for-hire who embark on an ill-advised Indiana Jones-type quest to find an alternate version of Dracula – do meet a gory demise, but it is nerdy Korean graduate student Simon who is singled out for spectacular violence. After being mauled in the neck by a bestial/demonic version of Dracula, he is impaled in the stomach and then halved with surgical precision.
Neither his academic supervisor nor his expedition-mates appear to register his gruesome death as a tragedy – one of them nonchalantly asks if the blood on another mercenary is “real Korean grad student”.
You can voice your concerns by contacting Netflix CEO Reed Hastings on Twitter (@reedhastings) and “The Witness” director Alberto Mielgo on Instagram (@albertomielgo).
CATEGORY OF OFFENSE: Denigration ( Reinforces Stereotypes)
MEDIA TYPE: TV Show
OFFENSE DATE: March 15, 2019