Pick Your Human Half

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Tachikoma 1: Oh, now I get your drift. If we just act a little more robotic...
Tachikoma 2: We might stand a chance of the Major liking us!
Tachikoma 4: Exactly!
Tachikoma 3: It's the ultimate robot strategy plan!
All four Tachikomas, in unison: [monotone] We are robots. We are robots. We are robots.

Tachikoma 3: Aaaaaah I can't do this anymore!

If a major robotic character looks human (is an "android" in the looser sense of the term), there is a very good chance that they will act robotic, being unemotional and uncreative, and given to Robo Speak. On the other hand, if a major robotic character looks completely mechanical, there is a very good chance that they think and act quite human, exhibiting plenty of emotion and saying quite human things even if they say them in a Robo Speak accent.

Apparently, major robotic characters can look human and act mechanical, or vice versa, but seldom show the same nature both inside and outside. This makes dramatic sense: an android that both looks and acts human is hardly different enough to be any fun; a robot that looks and acts mechanical is really more of a prop than a character, unless you put a lot of effort into inserting some interesting behavior, usually human but less obviously so, into the character.

The Spaceship Girl trope is a counter-trope, since she usually both looks and acts human; the audience is only reminded that she's not human when she refers or reacts to her status as a ship.

Examples of Pick Your Human Half include:

Examples of androids that act mechanical[edit | hide | hide all]

Anime and Manga[edit | hide]

  • R. Dorothy Wayneright from The Big O. Although she is capable of feeling anger/happiness/longing/etc; she is unable to express these emotions to a great degree. Thus, she comes off as a very mechanical Deadpan Snarker.
    • It's suggested that this isn't a shortcoming of her programming or construction, but the effect the death of her "Father" had on her, which would be a very human reaction.
  • Subverted in the short series Time of Eve: In public, androids have holographic rings over their heads, act quite unemotional, and tend to only follow commands. Thinking of androids as or treating them similar to human beings is considered at least nerdy, or highly taboo. But in the Time of Eve cafe, where the rule is not to distinguish between humans and androids, it is impossible to tell who is which, and their true personalities are let loose.
  • Unsurprisingly, this was discussed and analyzed by the Tachikomas in Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex. The Tachikomas notice that while they (the robotic spider tanks) are given nearly human intelligence, the humanoid robots are given much more primitive AI. They surmise that this is because humans are uncomfortable with the idea of a robot being both human-like in intelligence and form, as that makes it too close to actually being a human being when it is, in fact, not one. As such, the Tachikomas acting human doesn't bother people because of their obviously inhuman appearance, but if they were given human form, people would be scared of them.


Film[edit | hide]

  • Averted in the person of David, the android boy in the Steven Spielberg/Stanley Kubrick movie A.I. David looks perfectly human and acts quite human, too, especially after his ability to love gets irrevocably turned on. Although he doesn't act particularlynormal...
    • To be honest he doesn't act that weird for an 8 year old body with only a 2 year old brain.
  • Daryl, another android boy, from the 1985 movie DARYL
  • Averted by Bishop in Aliens, whom neither Ripley nor the audience would've realized was a synthetic (all right, artificial person) if he hadn't cut his finger. Subverted by Ash in the first film, who successfully passed for a human who was as stiff and unemotional as an android.
  • Chip from Not Quite Human, a robotic teenager. Although he averts the classic behavior to some degree (he has free will, understands emotions and can use subterfuge to trick people), he exhibits many robotic quirks, such as limited facial expressions, twitchy movements, and decorating his dorm room with posters of famous robots. His robotic girlfriend Roberta qualifies even more, since she lacks Chip's experience and free will. For instance, she was not the least surprised that he too was a robot, since a statistical extrapolation of her limited social group back in the lab would suggest that roughly one in five persons was a robot.
  • In the Robin Williams movie Toys there is an android that, while looking human, doesn't really act like a robot at all. She doesn't really act NORMAL, either. She acts like... well... a crazy person? Crazy in the dumb funny way.
  • The T-800 (Mark II) in Terminator 2 slides along the scale...when he first shows up looking just like a normal Badass Biker, he is almost as inhuman as his predecessor from the first film. As the film progresses, the more banged-up he gets, with his robotic half showing, the more human he starts to act.
    • Justified in a deleted scene where John and his mother take out his CPU and reset the switch, allowing him to learn and function as more than just an automaton.

Literature[edit | hide]

  • R. Daneel Olivaw from Isaac Asimov's The Caves of Steel and later works.
  • Miss Willow, a "femiquin" (prostitute robot) from Fritz Leiber's novel The Silver Eggheads. Contrast with Zane Gort and Miss Blushes from the same novel, in the next list.
  • Inverted in Alan Dean Foster's Cachalot, where a stiff-necked, unpersonable government official is rightly judged not to be an android, because any decent android would've been programmed to act more friendly than that. In short, he was "too mechanical to be mechanical."

Live Action Television[edit | hide]

  • Lt. Cmdr. Data from Star Trek: The Next Generation.
    • This trope is presented in the show as the reason for his slightly off appearance, as well as for his unemotionalism and inability to use contractions.
      • His Evil Twin Lore still has pale skin but has fully emotions and can use contractions. He was considered the flawed prototype, with the deliberately less human Data being the perfected final model. Though the main flaw was being evil, of course.
  • Vicki, the little android girl (little gynoid?) played by Tiffany Brissette on the TV show Small Wonder.
  • Rhoda the Robot, played by Julie Newmar on the mid-1960s TV show My Living Doll.
  • Hymie in Get Smart.
  • Yancy Butler's android character Eve in her first TV series Mann and Machine.
  • Cameron of The Sarah Connor Chronicles, and for that matter the rest of the Terminators. But especially Cameron.

Webcomics[edit | hide]

  • Jones from Gunnerkrigg Court deserves mention—though it's unclear whether she's a gynoid or not, Antimony suspects she is, and her stoic personality is one of the main reasons.
    • Well, there's that and the fact that large swords don't usually go *SKANG* and bounce off upon hitting the cheekbones of diminutive women. Characters whose word may or may not be trusted have declared that Annie's suspicions are ridiculous, however.
    • Jones herself has declared that she is not a robot. Ofcourse this doesn't necessarily mean that she is human.

Video Games[edit | hide]

Examples of mechanical-looking robots that act human[edit | hide]

Anime and Manga[edit | hide]

  • The Mons of Digimon are actually computer programs, and are all shapes and sizes, from fluff-balls to Humongous Mecha to Cosmic Horrors, but act very human (or at least, display a human level of mannerisms and emotions.)
  • The Tachikomas in Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex are sentient tanks that manage to act cute and human, despite looking like giant blue mechanical crabs on wheels with multiple eyes around their bodies.
    • In the episode "Machines Désirantes", this trope comes up as a subject of conversation among the Tachikomas themselves. One of them theorizes that, as advances in cybernetics technology blur the lines between humans and machines, humans are becoming nervous about any robots that seem too human. Thus, any robots which require a human-like appearance (in order to interact with human environments) are given less advanced AIs so they're not perceived a threat, while more advanced AIs are confined to obviously non-human bodies.[1]
  • Mechazawa from Cromartie High School.
  • Gynoid Chachamaru from Mahou Sensei Negima starts with a pseudo-skin face, but antenna ears and visible joints make it obvious she's a robot, at least to those without a Weirdness Censor. She gets a full body pseudo-skin covery later, though, but retains her antenna ears. She's gone so far as to develop a crush on the main character.
  • Again in The Big O, we have the piano-playing robot, who, unlike Dorothy, speaks exactly like a human and shows the full emotional range that a human would have. He was built to play the piano so well that he taught Dorothy how to play with subtle nuances. In the second season, we then come across a mechanical detective; he has built-in equipment for forensics, but aside from that, he approaches cases in the same way a human would. He also takes on this particular episode's case for personal reasons. While there are other androids and gynoids disguised as humans, neither of these two attempt to hide what they are and are treated as professionals in their fields.

Film[edit | hide]

Literature[edit | hide]

  • Zane Gort and Miss Phyllis Blushes, robot lovers from Fritz Leiber's novel The Silver Eggheads. Contrast with Miss Willow from the same novel, in the previous list. The dichotomy is rationalized by Zane, who tells the human hero that, if you tried to cram all the AI circuitry of a real robot like himself into the same chassis with all the human-mimicry devices of a "femiquin," the result would have to be 10 feet high or as fat as a circus fat lady.
  • Just about all of Isaac Asimov's robots except R. Daneel Olivaw, but especially Robbie, from the short story "Robbie", the first story of the "I, Robot" anthology.
  • Marvin the Paranoid Android from The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, along with almost every other computer, robot or happy vertical people transporter.
    • In the Hitchhiker's Guide and Starship Titanic universe, the designers give robots and other mechanical things that speak "Genuine People Personalities" which are copies of people's personalities.
  • In the futurist book 2081, there are laws that prohibit making androids that can be mistaken for people, mostly for safety reasons (e.g. so rescue workers will know to save the humans first). How much different they need to look varies from country to country.
  • Keith Laumer's "Bolo" series of stories all revolve around tanks that start about the size of houses and move up from there. Their AIs are modelled to be courteous Warrior Poet types, to offset the fact that a group one of them could sterilize a planet. You don't WANT strange, alien mindsets running around with your guns, after all.
    • To the point that they are usually more moral, ethical, and all-round better people than the flesh-and-blood humans who give them orders.

Live Action Television[edit | hide]

Toys[edit | hide]

Video Games[edit | hide]

  • Metal Gear Mk. II from Snatcher has a very cute, emotional personality; is capable of enjoying food, forgetting to perform tasks that it intended to do, and even having orgasms - and looks like a scaled-down version of the bipedal walking tank with his name.
  • GLaDOS, from Portal, has quite the personality, but her body is just a tangle of wires and computers. Justified as having once been a human, with her brain uploaded.
    • Some people think there's a little more to her design than you might expect.
    • The commentary mentions that she was supposed to look like an inverted The Birth of Venus, which she does for a certain angle. Some fans ignore this, as the commentary mentions this in the past tense.
    • Bondage is just cooler?
    • While most sentry guns have a limited (still makes you want to spare them) set of responses, the defective ones in Portal 2 just don't get enough time to show their personality.

Defective turret: I'm different.

    • However, a non-defective turret in the last co-op level yells a unique and coherent statement, and they all can apparent make an opera.
    • Some of the personality cores have a surprisingly human behavior. If they aren't chanting Madness Mantra, that is.
    • Wheatley, despite being literally a ball, has a very developed personality.
  • Robo from Chrono Trigger was made of this trope and, ironically, Pinocchio Syndrome (the type that wants to be human in the "ways that count").
  • HK-47 and T3-M4 in Knights of the Old Republic, as deliberate echoes of R2 and 3PO. Of course, HK-47's "human half" is a kill-crazy psycho...
    • Another example are B4-D4 and T1-N1, from the Czerka office. Both are uncannily similar to 3PO and R2, except for being quite sociopathic.

Webcomics[edit | hide]

Western Animation[edit | hide]

Aversions[edit | hide]

  • Tony Stark's robot helpers in the Iron Man movies are plain mechanical arms with no dialogue, a few sound effects, and minimal expressiveness. They get most of their character from how Stark interacts with them.
  • The Chee of Animorphs. They look mechanical without their holograms, but act human. Turn on the hologram, though, and no one can tell the difference, meaning they usually both look and act human.
  • Cutey Honey is so human-like suffocation and bleeding are regular hazards for her and until the last episode (where she is x-rayed) there's no evidence beyond a recording of her father words she's not entirely human. For this reason Cutey Honey Flash makes her the product of Genetic Engineering instead.
  1. What originally sparked this philosophizing was the worry that Major Kusanagi was displeased by the Tachikoma's emerging self-awareness. And she was, but not for the reasons they thought: the Major simply thought navel-gazing robots would be a liability on the battlefield.