Newswise — Human relationships with robots are ever-changing. The recent crop of robot-related films and TV series go beyond the classic and old-fashioned "us vs. them" dynamic. Prof. Despina Kakoudaki is author of ANATOMY OF A ROBOT: Literature, Cinema, and the Cultural Work of Artificial People. The book, out this month by Rutgers University Press, draws from a rich fictional and cinematic tradition and explores the political and textual implications of our projections of humanity onto figures such as robots, androids, cyborgs, and automata. Prof. Kakoudaki is available for comment on issues related to robots in popular culture.

• “In the new movie Transformers, for example, robots and people work together, and people have to protect certain robots instead of simply controlling or fighting against them. Films like Transformers revise or play with our expectations of the older stereotypical portrayals of robots, even as they mention or involve these stereotypes in the story,” Kakoudaki says.

• The new TV series Extant explores relatively new terrain – robots and children. Most artificial people are portrayed as adults and as new beings, new to the world. “The robot boy in Extant is treated with stereotypes: anti-robot sentiments, fearfulness about the robot's evolution, are robots out to get us, how do we avoid a robot uprising, do robots have emotion or is it just programming, or do they have a soul,” Kakoudaki says. “On the other hand, however, the behaviors that make this robot strange, uncanny, are the kind of behaviors that we may recognize from observing children in general, and from observing how mysterious or uncanny children can be. Artificial people are often characters that teach us what it means to be human in all its complex forms.”