Philip K. Dick once said that the ultimate in paranoia isn't the idea that your boss is out to get you—it's the idea that your boss' phone is. In The Terminator, your boss' phone isn't just out to get you: it's equipped with a machine gun to take you down.
The film's particular brand of paranoia is called "technophobia," the fear of advanced technology. And who wouldn't be afraid of the Terminator? It's a machine designed for the sole purpose of killing all humans as quickly and brutally as possible.
But the technophobia infects this story on more than just the surface level. The backstory tells of a world where humanity has lost control of the tools we created to make our world a safer, more vibrant place. Now, the machines have taken over, and infiltrator units can blend seamlessly into human society, making it difficult to tell the difference between the man and the machine.
Yeah, we think the ultimate in paranoia might be unknowingly inviting your boss' phone out for a drink…
Questions About Technology and Modernization
- How do you see machines and technology harming or hindering people in the film? Provide specific examples. Is any of the other '80s tech in the movie bad?
- How do you see machines and technology helping people in the film?
- Given your answers to the above questions, would you say the film considers technology to be beneficial or destructive overall? Does the film distinguish between beneficial and destructive technologies? If so, how? If not, why not?
- Do you think the film's warnings about technology still hold up in our digital era? Why or why not?
Chew on This
The film's conclusion shows Sarah running from the technological wonderland of the modern city to the technology-free Mexican desert. Here, nature serves as a safe haven from the modern world.
The film often shows the technology of the future as a dark reflection of our present-day tech. For example, the Hunter-Killers are connected to construction equipment, while the Terminator is connected to answering machines in its ability to assume a human voice.