Gender in Tron

4 Nov

Let me begin by admitting that I just binge watched Tron Uprising, and I enjoyed it immensely. Not only have I enjoyed how the setting of Tron has developed since Kitsis and Horowitz brought Tron back for Tron Legacy, but I enjoyed Tron Uprising as it’s own thing. Let’s be honest with ourselves, the original Tron (1982) was not a science fiction classic. Tron was pretty much The Wizard of Oz, with a glowy computer theme laid over it. But Tron Legacy was a thoughtful film about emergent artificial intelligence, in which the villain was in the right, and he was ultimately defeated with a big hug. I’m really not sure how we, audiences lucked out, since The Day The Earth Stood Still (1951) was a science fiction classic, and in 2008 it was a moronic snorefest in which aliens were upset that humans were destroying the habitability of the Earth, so they threatened to Destroy The Earth! (I blame David Scarpa.)

I even loved the art, the character design, and the cultural references in Tron Uprising. The characters have roughly the same proportions as characters from a CLAMP cartoon.

watanuki

Watanuki takes a mean fall.

Beck takes a mean fall.

Beck takes a mean fall.

This frame, aside from being beautiful and meaningful all on its own, deprived of any context, also seems to be an allusion to another great work of science fiction, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.

Classic Sci-Fi

Classic Sci-Fi

Maybe they made this reference because Elijah Wood was also in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. Later on in the series, Beck (Elijah Wood’s character) does come into possession of a mighty weapon, shaped like a ring, that corrupts whoever uses it, and he has to take it somewhere to destroy it. At least this time he doesn’t have to walk the whole way.

Tron Uprising wasn’t as thoughtful as Tron Legacy. Much the same way Tron (1982) was Wizard of Oz in computers, Tron Uprising is Zorro in computers. I thought this was awesome because I love Zorro. And I cannot stress enough how well suited the Tron universe is to Zorro style storytelling. In a Zorro TV show, you might have to occasionally have an establishing shot before a fight or a chase scene. In Tron, no such shots are necessary. If you need a fight, the characters pull their disks off their backs and engage in some Anis Cheurfa style martial arts action. (Thank you Anis Cheurfa; your gymnastics changed what Tron was about in an awesome way.) If you need a chase scene, the characters pull batons off their legs, materialize bikes or jets or something and go to it. Tron is an excuse for instant fight and chase scenes with as little fuss as possible.

However, Clu is disappointingly a much simpler character in Tron Uprising. In Tron Legacy, there was really no way for Clu to understand the significance of emergent artificial intelligence. His only point of view was as a program, so to him ISOs (emergent artificial intelligences) could only be perceived as malfunctions. He was tragic in several ways. In Tron Uprising, Clu is just a tyrant, and ISOs are usually nothing more than a convenient target for the racism and xenophobia of the programs (as the other inhabitants of the grid call themselves). I thought Uprising was simpler than Legacy because Uprising was a Disney cartoon for kids, but they waste absolutely no time and jump immediately to brutally murdering characters that we were just starting to like, and getting the surviving characters in complicated sexual relationships.

Yes, they brutally murder each other in this show. In the most grizzly samurai story, you might hear about a samurai testing a new weapon on some hapless peasant, but this happens in Tron Uprising, almost as if we should have expected it. There is a character named Pavel, played by Paul Reubens (and his performance is amazing). Because I always forget Paul’s name, I had trouble remembering Pavel’s name, and periodically just called him Evil Pee Wee.

So help me, Jambi, if you mess up one more wish I will reach into your box and CHOKE THE LIFE OUT OF YOU!

So help me, Jambi, if you mess up one more wish I will reach into your box and CHOKE THE LIFE OUT OF YOU!

Well, in one episode, Evil Pee Wee walks down a line of cells, picks one with three tough guys in it, unlocks the cell, unlocks their weapons, tells them to not escape in the most sarcastic voice you have ever heard, and then brutally cuts them into little cubes, all to test his weapon.

But the violence wasn’t the only thing that startled me about this cartoon. It is dripping in complex sexual relationships.

If we count the pilot as the first episode, then this scene takes place six and a half minutes into episode two.

If we count the pilot as the first episode, then this scene takes place six and a half minutes into episode two.

This isn’t just some boy who has a crush on a girl he works with. This guy is pining for that girl, and when they go out to a club together and he feels like she has firmly friend-zoned him, he runs off with another girl who tries to seduce him.

Either she always arches her back uncomfortably for no reason or she is giving him "come hither hiney".

Either she always arches her back uncomfortably for no reason or she is giving him “come hither hiney”.

I swear to you, she just said, “Well, it's getting late.” When a sexy human female leans back and says, “It's getting late.” she means, “Take off your clothes or take me home because I can't wait any longer for you to make your move.”

I swear to you, she just said, “Well, it’s getting late.” When a sexy human female leans back and says, “It’s getting late.” she means, “Take off your clothes or take me home because I can’t wait any longer for you to make your move.”

And this really got me thinking. Why? Why is there sex in Tron at all? Why are any of the programs female? Don’t leave a comment that some of the programs are female because it’s a movie and we have to cast it, because other sci-fi franchises are so short on ladies you’d think they were made by people who hate ladies. In Star Wars, as a child I thought The Clone Wars were some conflict in which women were made largely obsolete by cloning technology and that’s why there were no women other than Princess Leia and Aunt Beru.

But the presence of females in Tron is puzzling because that is not where new programs come from.

Clu cannot create new programs.

Clu cannot create new programs.

This means that there is no amount of wealth or social power that Clu could amass that would give him access to something that makes new programs. This is in sharp contrast to humans in which massive amounts of wealth or power often gives one very easy access to baby makers.

They (the ISOs) were never written. They serve no purpose.

They (the ISOs) were never written. They serve no purpose.

Incidentally, no one knows where new ISOs come from either, not even the ISOs.

So, programs must, in some way, be written. This adds another tragic level to Clu’s struggle. Clu must strive to create the perfect system. If he doesn’t then why does he exist at all? The perfect system should be complex, efficient, and predictable. ISOs are not predictable. Therefore Clu must overthrow Flynn and destroy the ISOs. But doing so removes his access to the process by which new programs are created. If Clu cannot gain access to Flynn’s disk and get into the larger physical world, he knows that one day all the programs will die and be derezzed. Even if programs never age, they do “die” through accident or combat. Clu’s war for “perfection” will make the grid desolate and empty, if he cannot win it and beat Flynn.

So why do programs have genders? I remember the first Tron (1982).

Our spirit remains in every program we design for this computer.

Our spirit remains in every program we design for this computer.

OK, so Tron looks like Alan (Bruce Boxlietner) because Alan’s spirit remains in Tron. Yori looks like Lora (Cindy Morgan) because Lora’s spirit remains in the program she developed to handle laser simulations. Tron and Yori are in love because Alan and Lora are in love. But then this raises the question:

sluts

Which sluts imbued their spirits into these programs?

And the Wizard of Oz theme seems to have been abandoned in Tron Legacy. There is no program named Duze played by Cillian Murphy because Cillian Murphy played Edward Dillinger who wrote OS12. Although that would be awesome, right? Duze invented the means to repurpose programs because OS12 turns your computer into a police state where you can’t do what you want with your own files, if those files contain copyrighted content. Plus:

This year, we put a 12 on the box.

This year, we put a 12 on the box.

I don’t know. I doubt Disney would let a critique of DRM sneak into one of their films, no matter how fancifully presented.

Back on topic. In Tron Uprising, programs do not seem to have gender because of some human designer somewhere who imbued the program with his or her spirit. So what is the purpose of their genders? Is there some thing that programs accomplish in their mating that aids the system overall? Is that why they were programed to desire mating? Maybe they just like to mate because it feels good. Programs have program sex to experience program orgasms?

But then why are their gender values like ours?

Human females feel like, “If we have sex with you we might get pregnant and even if we take every precaution against pregnancy, sex’s reproductive function is still written on every molecule of our being so we’re going to be less eager to have sex than you males.” Program females have never reproduced through sex so there is no reason any female program would ever need more convincing to have sex than a male program. Male programs should not be pursuing female programs. If anything female programs should be trying to convince the male programs to go through the exertion of having sex for his measly single orgasm while she has half a dozen. She gets more out of the relationship than he does. Why do programs of different genders have substantially different attitudes towards sex?

Also, are there sexually transmitted computer viruses?

If sex is divorced from reproduction in Tron, can we even call these genders, since they seem to play no generative purpose, they lead to no new generations? And am I looking at this from a limited human perspective? Because I am cis-sexual (in difference to trans-sexual, ie. I am a man who alternates between actively liking my gender identity or totally ignoring it as irrelevant.) am I missing some aspect of Tron gender?

Full disclosure: I have what might seem like a weird take on gender-revolutionary trans-sexuality. If you (cis-sexual person) so desperately need to fit people into the gender categories of male or female that you have to ask ambiguous people about their genitals then your rudeness borders on a personality disorder. However if you don’t obviously fit into male or female genders then just deal with whatever pronouns occur to me. I got it “wrong” because I seriously don’t care. My perception of your gender shouldn’t matter to you unless you are sexually interested in me. Gender is a social construct. I am part of society. Don’t tell me I’m not part of society or shove whatever gender you feel you are in my face. That is also a level of rude that borders on personality disorder.

Perhaps, in Tron, they have more than two genders. Are sirens female? CmdR Paige is a female program. She used to be a medic, considered becoming a musician, and then she became a military cmdR. Could she hypothetically quit her job as cmdR and become a siren? Sirens are a different color. They look vastly different than females who aren’t sirens.

Also, why are the sirens so much more sexed up in the cartoon?

Sexy live-action siren buttocks – note how the glowy parts of her outfit accentuate her waist. Very nice.

Sexy live-action siren buttocks – note how the glowy parts of her outfit accentuate her waist. Very nice.

Cartoon siren buttocks – note the buttock cleavage. They drew her without pants. Her buttocks are simply colored white.

Cartoon siren buttocks – note the buttock cleavage. They drew her without pants. Her buttocks are simply colored white.

Are these guys male? Or do they represent a different gender with fundamentally different interests in whatever kind of sex programs have?

Are these guys male? Or do they represent a different gender with fundamentally different interests in whatever kind of sex programs have?

Is “shoulder pad guard” a job, a social position, a gender, or what? What is “siren”? I am aware that the lines between job, social position and gender have not always been easy or clear. Here is an interesting article on the definition of the term “Eunuch”.

Also I’m not wondering how many genders programs have in Tron because I read Joe Mcdaldno’s Rookvale and now I can’t stop thinking of Rookvale society with its six genders. This has nothing to do with Rookvale. If I read Joe’s game properly, then you put the gender cards on the table and every player picks one, meaning a group cannot have two characters of the same gender. This would seem to be more of a meditation on how we express gender roles and gender values, even in all male or all female groups. We’ve all noticed that the “mom” of a group of friends is not necessarily the oldest woman in the group but could be a young heterosexual dude, just whoever is most mom-like to this group, usually whoever is most concerned that this particular group of friends doesn’t get involved in antics that are too stupid or dangerous.

Rather, I’m wondering how many genders programs have in Tron because I sincerely want to know if “siren” is such a fundamental part of identity that a siren is always a siren no matter what job the siren might have, and which jobs and types of relationships are only for sirens, and which jobs and types of relationships are sirens generally thought to be excluded from. And can sirens go against these standards? Can a siren do a job or get in a relationship that is thought to be for female programs, or male programs?

There is an episode towards the end of the first season called Rendezvous in which I thought some of my perplexity was going to be alleviated. In this episode Beck goes out on a date with Paige. Elijah Wood is really good in this episode. Beck often sounds insincere and borderline rude to Paige without it sounding like Elijah Wood is just acting poorly. He sounds like Beck is on this date with ulterior motives that he can’t adequately hide (at least from the audience), and that he’s baiting Paige.

Paige frequently contorts her body into sexy poses when she's around Beck.

Paige frequently contorts her body into sexy poses when she’s around Beck.

At this point we are two increments from watching these two programs make out.

At this point we are two increments from watching these two programs make out.

But then Pavel interrupts them and I never got to find out what they hoped to accomplish on their date, what kind of digital sex acts that programs might find rewarding and why they might feel that way. I swear that I screamed at the screen. “No, Evil Pee Wee! Stop! They were about to show me how and why programs get busy. Why are you such a terrifyingly horrible and insane villain?” Later in that episode Evil Pee Wee hires someone to torture Paige, alters her memories, and then he uses a super-weapon on her that nearly kills her, pretty much just because Paul Reubens plays a brilliant psychopath.

I don’t think they will be making this cartoon anymore, which disappoints me, but as far as I know there will be another Tron movie. I doubt that Kitsis and Horowitz or anyone at Disney has any interest in explaining to me why programs have gender dimorphism, or gender polymorphism or whatever we want to call it. But I thought Tron was cool when I was a little kid in the 80s racing my lightcycle through stunts on my parent’s driveway. (You pulled a ripcord, placed it on the ground and it zoomed off. It was a great toy.) Now that Tron is much more mature and interesting, I want to think about it more, but now that it’s more mature and interesting there is this weird thing (gender that seems to have no bearing on reproduction) that I am finding very distracting, but not distracting in a bad way, because I seem to enjoy thinking about it.

Somehow I seem to enjoy the distracting thought that Lux might not be wearing pants. Weird, huh? Incidentally, Lux's relationship to Cobalt (the character she's touching in this image) is so horrible and complex that it gave me the ick.

Somehow I seem to enjoy the distracting thought that Lux might not be wearing pants. Weird, huh? Incidentally, Lux’s relationship to Cobalt (the character she’s touching in this image) is so horrible and complex that it gave me the ick.

One Response to “Gender in Tron”

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  1. Musings Episode 38: Perfection… | Rego's Life - 15 December 2013

    […] Gender in Tron (sheikhjahbooty.wordpress.com) […]

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