OMG, I’m a Robot! has a comedic premise that underlies a kind of important conversation about the relationship between “manliness” and “vulnerability”. It explores how the manly-vulnerable dynamic shapes identity and self-esteem, how others view you, treat you, and whether or not they’ll even love you.
I’m a Robot takes time to first establish Danny Bernstein (Yotam Ishay) as insanely sensitive, needy, kind of dopey. It’s clear in the above trailer from how his girlfriend, Noa (Hili Yalon), looks when she comments on Danny crying over Home Alone. It’s clear when she says she needs space and he tries to hug her. In those two moments we’re seeing the ugly aspects of a vulnerable person.
There’s a scene early on, before the “I need space” talk, where Noa and Danny are accosted by two men.
What unfolds is a bullying-mugging, where the guys cat-call Noa and pick on Danny. They’re arrogant, physically menacing, violent. They embody the ugly aspects of masculinity and serve to show just how far removed Danny is from this kind of masculine behavior.
It isn’t long after this encounter that Noa breaks up with Danny. For a while, Danny descends into the pit of pure vulnerability. He’s pathetic, sad, mopey, unable to move on—to the point of attempting suicide. When the suicide fails and he finds out he’s a robot, there’s an immediate shift in behavior. Danny becomes much more the stereotypical masculine male who is confident, out at clubs, dancing, being larger than life, and looking for girls to have sex with.
All of this is done in a comedic style. All the sad stuff is actually funny. The attempt at suicide has humor to it. Danny’s hyper-masculinity as a robot at the club is supposed to make you laugh. But there’s something more going on here with how superficial everything has been to this point. Danny’s and Noa’s relationship was superficial. Danny’s compassion and vulnerability was superficial (it’s one thing to cry at Home Alone, it’s another to care enough to go out in the world and do something that shows how much you care). The masculinity from the bullies was superficial. Danny’s time at the club is superficial. It’s 20-30 minutes of fun.
This superficiality sets up the film’s second-half. Danny finds out Noa hasn’t been avoiding him for 8 months—she’s been kidnapped. In trying to find Noa, rescue her, and defeat the main villain, OMG, I’m a Robot! becomes an exploration of what healthy masculinity and vulnerability look like.
In rescuing Noa and then in the final confrontation, Danny faces situations that challenge him to be less vulnerable, more masculine, less masculine, more vulnerable, again and again. Until he ends up as a much stronger person than who we saw at the beginning of the movie. And this shows us how masculinity not only tempers vulnerability but provides it with the capacity necessary to take action and have positive impact on not only your life but the lives of people you care about. And the inverse is true. Vulnerability tempers masculinity, and that can morph a man from a blunt object into someone worth admiring and respecting—into a friend, a partner, a husband, a father.
All of the nuance that’s present in the film’s second half has more meaning because the first half purposefully sticks to the superficial. Which kind of plays beautifully into the concepts of robot and human, showing how humans can act robotic without even realizing it. The comedy is there because comedy is great.
I think the most important thing is that being a robot isn’t what made Danny a better person. It was the fact he decided to face situations with courage and compassion. That’s something every one of us can remember, work on, and use to our own benefit.