“They’re Not Even Human: Cyborg Identities in Fringe”

Zinder, Paul ORCID: 0000-0002-9578-4009 (2013) “They’re Not Even Human: Cyborg Identities in Fringe”. In: National Conference Popular Culture Association American Culture Association, 27 - 30 March 2013, Washington DC.

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The Fox series Fringe utilizes various iterations of cyborg construction to comment on the way machines have affected postmodern identity. Fringe literalizes such philosophical questions in a science fiction context by focusing important narrative events on the human/machine hybrid, thereby offering many of its characters a posthuman experience. While the dominant presentation of the cyborg in the series concurs with Nina Lykke’s contention that “cyborgs are grotesque and post-industrial boundary figures” (Lykee and Bridotti 5), the “positive” use of cyborg technology sometimes counters the overt danger posed by other treatments. Kim Toffoletti argues that “it is the bodily transformations and augmentations that come about through our engagements with technology that complicate the idea of a ‘human essence’” (13). Many of the investigations undertaken by the Fringe team of Olivia Dunham, Peter Bishop, and Walter Bishop query what it means to be human. The series offers both cyborgs created by scientists as personalized Frankenstein’s monsters as well as hybrids formed only when people choose to supplement their organic selves with machine-parts. Many of the human/machine hybrids in Fringe are meant to be utilized as weapons. In “The Transformation” (1.6), Walter discovers a glass disc embedded in the palm of the man who transformed into a giant beast on an airplane, a device developed by a rogue scientist intending to sell his biological “weapons” on the black market. In “Dream Logic” (2.5), a man bashes his boss’s head in with a briefcase because the computer chip embedded in his brain has transported all of his pleasant dreams to a scientist who depends on them like an addict. And dangerous shapeshifters from an alternate universe have memory chips implanted in their necks. But not all of the cyborg technology in Fringe is open to easy judgment. The ambiguous figure of Nina Sharp became a cyborg after cancer took her arm (“Pilot” 1.1). Walter uses a neural stimulator, which requires the surgical attachment of a mechanical cap onto a subject’s head, on several cases to aid his investigations. The most significant cyborg in Fringe, however is Peter, a character who chooses time and time again to become part machine in order to achieve the Fringe team’s goals. Fringe does not condone the existence of the cyborg as much as acknowledge its inevitable rise.

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)
Additional Information: Paper presentation formed part of a panel session session entitled “Finding Fringe.” in the national conference of the Popular Culture Association/American Culture Association.
Uncontrolled Keywords: Popular culture; America
Related URLs:
Subjects: P Language and Literature > PN Literature (General) > PN1990 Broadcasting
P Language and Literature > PS American literature
Divisions: Schools and Research Institutes > School of Creative Arts
Research Priority Areas: Culture, Continuity, and Transformation
Depositing User: Anne Pengelly
Date Deposited: 12 Jul 2016 09:44
Last Modified: 08 Aug 2023 20:26
URI: https://eprints.glos.ac.uk/id/eprint/3751

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