What more could viewers ask for?
Combine Black Mirror with animation and the result is Netflix’s sci-fi fantasy anthology Love, Death, and Robots (LD+R). Creators David Fincher and Tim Miller pay ode to the beautiful craftsmanship of digital animation with a variety of short stories that span across a variety of genres, from horror to comedy, each from a diverse group of illustrators, animators, and animation studios.
Love, Death, and Robots allows audiences to venture across worlds, from the post-apocalyptic journey of three robots navigating a small city to the technological war between a Russian army and demonic entities. Each episode is no longer than 20 minutes and features a unique style of animation from animators across the world, captivating viewers with the intricacies of detail, vivacious color, and different stylistic techniques found within every episode’s characters and setting.
An episode titled “Zima Blue” pays a beautiful homage to Alistair Reynold’s short story of the same name, where the protagonist and famous artist Zima is a robot adorned and shaped out of a cluster of hexagons, each colored with hues of browns, blues, and blacks. In “FISH NIGHT,” the episode plays with 2D and 3D animation and features sunsets that beam with the color of ochre and salmon, and the shadows of the deep sea illuminate with neon creatures of the night.
LD+R doesn’t stray from covering NSFW topics and issues. Minus love and death, the show never fails to leave out all the gritty details. Some of these include mutilation, showing the bloodshed and brutalities of being on the battlefront in war, and even questioning a world where humans are ruled by sentient yogurt.
But even Love, Death, and Robots has its faults. The show’s representation of women falls short, with the majority of female characters being hypersexualized, and the role of women is often associated with negative stereotypes. For example, in the episode “Good Hunting,” the protagonist is sexually assaulted, mutilated, and the episode perpetuates the fetishization of Asian women and culture. In particular, there is a scene where the main character is drugged and mutilated in an effort to transform her body into mechanical parts built solely for pleasure. The episode uses rape, assault, and abuse as a catalyst for the protagonist to prove her worth and perpetuates the idea that “women are strong when they can rise from difficult situations.” Other episodes similar to this include “Sonnie’s Edge” and “The Witness.”
What Love, Death, and Robots needs to do better is find the line between questioning social issues while leaving audiences with something to think about. A story doesn’t have to be riddled with sexual assault and trauma to leave an impact, and the episode “Zima Blue” demonstrates that as it explores what it means to be human. “Zima Blue” is a saving grace for the first season, and viewers should see this episode as a beacon of creativity among others, which leaves nothing behind but sorrow. “Zima Blue” relays a message that the most peaceful and meaningful part of his life is not when people are concerned about the universe and their impact on the world but rather the simple tasks ahead of them.