Features and Columns · Movies

A Brief History of the Fembot in a Red Dress

Were you distracted by the woman in the red dress? Yeah, us too. So let’s talk about it.
The Matrix Fembot Red Dress
Warner Bros.
By  · Published on February 17th, 2021

Welcome to The Queue — your daily distraction of curated video content sourced from across the web. Today, we’re watching a video essay about the symbolism and aesthetics of dangerous (and often robotic) women in red dresses.

We’d all like to believe that the human mind is an impenetrable fortress. That we know our brains and that we’d know when they’re being taken advantage of.

This is, of course, not the case. Indeed, our monkey brains respond to plenty of stimuli on a subconscious level. And those responses are being exploited, intentionally, by forces in the know. Like marketing agencies who know that seeing the color red makes you hungry, so it’s advantageous to paint advertisements accordingly.

But red also carries connotations of another kind of hunger. There is a strong cultural association between the color red and a very specific kind of feminine sexuality. It intones a standard of beauty that is both idealized and weaponized: a lady in red; a vamp; a scarlet whore of Babylon.

Which brings us to the fembot and to her often dangerous scarlet spectacle. As the video essay below suggests, Hollywood sci-fi wields the connotations of the lady in red to great, and sometimes self-reflexive effect. The red-clad fembot is not simply a symbol of purposeful femininity or a reduction of womanhood in media. At her boldest, she is a reminder of our humanity and of the programming that, ironically, renders us most machine-like.

Watch “Fembot in a Red Dress“:

Who made this?

Allison de Fren is a writer, professor, and media scholar who focuses on the relationship between the body and technology. She teaches at Occidental College in Los Angeles. Her documentary The Mechanical Bride examines the modern-day phenomenon of artificial dolls for sex and companionship. You can follow her on Vimeo here.

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Meg Shields is the humble farm boy of your dreams and a senior contributor at Film School Rejects. She currently runs three columns at FSR: The Queue, How'd They Do That?, and Horrorscope. She is also a curator for One Perfect Shot and a freelance writer for hire. Meg can be found screaming about John Boorman's 'Excalibur' on Twitter here: @TheWorstNun. (She/Her).