Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Ducktales, Season Three, Episode Six: "Metal Attraction"

Gyro invents a robotic maid--"Robotica"--to cut down on Mrs. Beakley's workload. She's super-robotic and creepy and hilarious: "Oh you must be the children units shall we play a game good how about Simon Says good Simon Says spin your head" [head spins like Linda Blair in The Exorcist; kids run in terror] "Why are you not playing Simon Says is fun for the whole family ha ha ha ha ha;" then he reprograms her to be hyperemotional--either way, her animation and voice-acting are extremely memorable, and often hilarious--I laughed a lot, which is not that common in these things.

Anyway, Gyro also apparently programmed her for, um, concupiscence, as she falls extremely hard for Gizmoduck, and her language in describing her feelings is only very-barely veiled in that regard: "Why do you deny our love? Can't you see how you tickle my transformers? Inflame my insulators? Excite my engines?" It's the Ducktales version of "Paradise by the Dashboard Light."

While this is going on, Fenton is being overbearing in his relationship with his girlfriend, Gandra Dee, making these constant, hugely-elaborate gestures of love; this shit was honestly incredibly painful to watch; that was the point, of course, so no points off there, but it's hard to overlook the fact that in real life, this stuff would be grounds for a restraining order, whereas here Gandra just sighs prettily and more or less accepts that there's nothing to be done.

The episode contrasts Fenton's obsessive behavior towards Gandra with Robotica's towards Gizmoduck, and Fenton ultimately finds himself in the untenable situation of having to be two people at once on a double date with the women, resulting in hijinks. Ultimately realizing that this isn't gonna work, he tries, as Gizmoduck, to break up with Robotica, which results in her going completely insane--she's really quite terrifying in Deranged Mode--and trying to kill Gandra. But she gets blown up and then rebuilt and reprogrammed and Fenton learns a valuable lesson.

Now, there's no denying that this episode's gender politics are incredibly dodgy: neither Gandra's passivity nor Robotica's derangement are exactly progressive portrayals of women (though admittedly, as far as the latter goes, given the episode's namesake, you wouldn't expect much else). And, insane though she may have been, I can't help but find the ending--in which she's been reprogrammed with dialed-down emotions, leaving her with this spacey, lobotomized demeanor--creepy as hell. Hello, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest!

That said, none of that changes the fact that this is an absolutely brilliant episode. It's hilarious throughout, due to top-notch writing and acting, and you can't help but admire the sophistication of the comparison between the two relationships, even if it does get troubling when you put on your critical theorist hat; furthermore, the writers have a great, absurdist sensibility, resulting in Gandra and Robotica both frequenting an "econolube and perm boutique" and a version of the Teacups--that hoary old carnival ride--in which you're riding in teabag-chairs which giant hands dunk into giant teacups of water. A top-three episode, for sure.

Stray Observations

-I'm pretty sure Fenton only has to say "blatherskite" to summon the suit, yet he always appends "blatherin'" to the beginning. Is he unaware that the extra word is redundant, or did the writers just forget?

-And hey, creepy as I found the ending, it must be said, "that diagnostic machine has been making eyes at me" is edifyingly predictive-of-Futurama.


  1. I'm almost certain that Fenton doesn't know that only "blatherskite" is needed. He came across the password completely by accident by saying his expression of exasperation, and since he never got a full walkthrough of how the suit works from Gyro, he believes that the whole phrase is necessary.

    I notice that in one of Robotica's hyper-emotional states she's clearly crying visible tears. What do you think they are– axle grease droplets?

  2. Let's hope so--the idea that Gyro would have included actual bodily fluids in her construction inevitably leads to conclusions that are way too gross and disturbing to dwell on.