The T-800 in “The Terminator” (1984)


The theme of “Mad Science” is manifested in the eponymous antagonist of James Cameron’s 1984 The Terminator (otherwise known as the T-800). The murderous android, conceived by humans first as military technology and subsequently developed by the malignant computer system Skynet, parallels with Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein in which the monster emerges directly as a result of human scientific exploration. When examined under the scope of Barbara Creed’s theory of abjection (Kristeva, Femininity, Abjection) and Jeffrey Jerome Cohen’s seven theses (Monster Culture: Seven Theses), the T-800 fulfils many of the defining criteria of the monstrous. On one hand, it is a “body without soul” whose mechanical body and humanoid façade disrupt “identity, system, order” (Creed); on the other hand, it is a revenant that escapes death twice and is “resurrected” (Cohen) in future instalments of the franchise (Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991), Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines (2003)). The T-800’s relation to abjection, refusal to participate in either side of the monster-human binary opposition and repeated resurrections reinforce its status not only as a movie villain, but also as the proverbial monster.

Works Cited

1. Heffernan, James A. W. “Looking at the Monster: “Frankenstein” and Film.” Critical Inquiry 24.1 (1997): 133-158. Print.

2. Mann, Karen B. “Narrative Entanglements: The Terminator.” Film Quarterly 43.2 (1989): 17-27. Print.

3. Larson, Doran. “Machine as Messiah: Cyborgs, Morphs, and the American Body Politic.”Cinema Journal 36.4 (1997): 57-75. Print.

4. Klass, Morton. “The Artificial Alien: Transformations of the Robot in Science Fiction.”Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science 470 (1983): 171-79. Print.


One response to “The T-800 in “The Terminator” (1984)

  1. I really enjoyed your post about “The Terminator” because it strongly relates to my character, The Green Goblin, in terms of using science to create something all-powerful and perfect in order to succeed in war or with major problems in general. The Terminator, being part man and part machine, is able to deceive society in his appearance, buts really proves to be a monstrous being. The Green Goblin’s technology-based suit in a way gives him the power to pursue these evil expeditions and is the final touch in his evil transformation. This really brings in to question whether or not science and technology are really the roots in monstrosity because when we see our characters portray villains, they use their non-human abilities. Great post!

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