Apparently there are many secular progressives objecting to Love, Death, & Robots (LDR) for being sexist and misogynistic. They base this on the fact that there’s a lot of female nudity in the series (among other things). I’ll focus on the nudity in this post since it forms a central objection if not the central objection.
1. Before I begin, what is LDR? LDR is a new animated series on Netflix. It fits in several genres, but probably animation, science fiction, and horror would be the main genres. It’s a single season of 18 short episodes. Each episode is maybe 10 mins long on average. Each episode tells its own self-contained story. LDR is an anthology. See the Wikipedia entry on LDR for more information.
2. My perspective. I watched a few of the episodes on Netflix since I usually like scifi and animations. From what I’ve seen, the series is, indeed, full of gratuitous violence, nudity, foul language. Indeed, I have a lot of serious moral objections to this series. However, I’m speaking as a Christian, and from the perspective of Christian ethics, it’s easy to see why I would object.
3. Nudity and secular progressivism. That said, I don’t see why secular progressives are complaining, given their beliefs. I’ve read secular progressives objecting to LDR for its female nudity, but at the same time arguing they support nudity in film and television. If so, what’s wrong with the nudity in LDR? Also, why complain about female nudity alone? What about the male nudity in the series too?
4. Is it about the balance or ratio of female to male nudity? If so, why is ratio a problem if nudity in general is not a problem? If nudity is not morally objectionable, then isn’t any nudity acceptable regardless of balance or ratio?
However, if nudity is morally objectionable, then isn’t even a single instance of nudity morally objectionable? If so, then why isn’t a single instance of male nudity objectionable (as opposed to the ratio of female to male nudity)?
Moreover, secular progressives accept and promote LGBTQ rights. They support men wanting to become women and women wanting to become men. As such, what’s wrong with more or less male or female nudity? Male and female would be a distinction without a difference given secular progressive views. It’d be a trivial distinction since “male” and “female” aren’t fundamentally speaking fixed or static, but fluid and dynamic.
5. Is it because some nudity is gratuitous? What’s the difference between nudity and gratuitous nudity in their view? For instance, I’ve read the same secular progressives enjoying and respecting Game of Thrones. However, Game of Thrones contains quite a bit of gratuitous nudity. Why is the gratuitous nudity in LDR objectionable, while the gratuitous in nudity in Game of Thrones is not?
6. Is it because nudity in LDR doesn’t contribute to the story? If so, then that’s not a moral objection, per se, but a creative objection. Maybe someone else would take a different creative direction. Maybe it’s just a difference of creative opinion, not a difference of moral opinion. Yet, secular progressives react with moral indignation.
7. Is it because the female nudity in LDR is sexualized? I’m not exactly sure what secular progressives would mean by sexualized. If they mean it makes women objects of sexual desire, then isn’t that what women themselves often intend? Women often intentionally try to make themselves objects of sexual desire. That is, women often want to look “hot” so that they can win over a guy. Sometimes or maybe oftentimes more than one guy.
8. Is it because sexualized means something like LDR treats women like nothing more than sexual objects? If so, then, yes, that’s a problem in my view, but why is it a problem on secular progressive grounds? In fact, there are even some female secular progressives who argue that women engaging in stripping, pornography, BDSM, and/or prostitution is empowering for women, etc.
In addition, aren’t depictions of sexual assault and rape in the series always portrayed highly negatively? For example, I saw the very first episode, “Sonnie’s Edge”. The premise of the episode is that the main character, Sonnie, was brutally raped, and she uses her rape as a motivation to get even with her rapists. It’s like La Femme Nikita or The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.
9. Is sexualized nudity morally objectionable if it’s animated? If no people are involved in the animation except as voice actors? The ancient Romans scrawled and depicted something like pictographs of sexual acts in their cities (e.g. see Mary Beard’s Pompeii and SPQR). Similarly, one often sees “stick figure” pictographs of obscene sexual acts in public restrooms today. No one in their right mind doubts many of these depicted sexual acts are meant to be obscene. So these are examples of how art can be obscene. Modern animation studios are able to make photo realistic renderings of humans so that they’re almost indistinguishable from real humans on film.
10. Nudity vs. pornography. There should be a distinction between nudity and pornography. Not all nudity is necessarily pornographic. Take a patient needing to disrobe in order to be examined by a physician for a medical condition. There’s nothing sexual let alone pornographic about that.
At the same time, not all pornography necessitates nudity. Take schlocky erotic romance novels which contain no visual nudity, but contain plenty of detailed depictions of human genitalia and sexual acts, indulges in various fantasies, attempts to seduce (typically female) readers to fall in love with mysterious model men who don’t exist in reality, or if they do exist they wouldn’t be the type of man a woman would want to marry in reality, etc. In any case, these erotic romance novels are quite arguably pornographic.
I suspect what a lot of these secular progressives are actually arguing is that the nudity in LDR is pornographic. However, secular progressives often have no problem with pornography. So it’s a dilemma for them if they object to the female nudity in LDR because it’s pornographic.
11. What message is LDR sending to its viewers? Most of us can probably agree the fundamental problem with LDR is its message. That’s what secular progressives recognize when they complain that LDR is sexist and misogynistic. That’s not a message they think is good. So far, I presume we are agreed.
Now, Fincher is the executive producer for LDR and the name most associated with the series. He’s a famous director. He has directed Seven, Fight Club, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Zodiac, House of Cards, among others. Like most of Fincher’s stuff, LDR is gritty, violent, and utterly nihilistic.
So the more fundamental message of LDR the series (and of Fincher’s work in general) is its nihilism. Nothing matters in life. No one cares about anyone. It’s live or die. Survival of the fittest. People are disposable. People are basically meat bags, as is presumed in the “Three Robots” episode in LDR, for example. So why shouldn’t the stronger treat the weaker however they want? Will to power and all that. And all that includes luridly ogling women in various states of undress if they’re in a position to do so, including when the women are willing participants, as sounds like is the case in “The Witness” episode of LDR, which seems to be the most complained about of all the episodes.
Why don’t secular progressives object to the atheism and nihilism in LDR? Why don’t they argue (along Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s lines): “If there is no God, everything is permitted, and that’s a problem”? After all, the atheism or nihilism is the more fundamental problem in LDR. The sexism and misogynism are arguably justifiable on Fincher’s nihilistic worldview.