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UBC Theses and Dissertations

“Get off my cheeks hue!” Liberal humanist hierarchies, posthumanism, and the artificial lifeforms of Final Space Leung, Elizabeth


For nearly fifty years, science fiction creators and posthumanist scholars have been imagining what our future environments alongside androids and cyborgs will look like. While some see technology as a threat to humanity (Francis Fukuyama), others envision new forms of subjectivity (N. Katherine Hayles and Donna Haraway) that can be derived from the “decentering of the human in relation to either evolutionary, ecological, or technological coordinates” (Cary Wolfe xvi). Whether these narratives depict utopic or dystopic futures, as humans travel into space, it is not just the final frontier they are discovering, but also their posthumanity. The cartoon Final Space (2018), a space opera parody with a high appeal to young adult audiences, depicts a posthuman future where humans and artificial lifeforms co-exist within the same environments. However, it is not without distinct liberal humanist hierarchies where biological life is valued over that of artificial life. Using a posthumanist framework, I explore the liberal humanist hierarchies present between the human and robotic characters within Final Space and examine how the show’s use of parody interrogates this anthropocentric mindset through a study of three robotic characters. The S.A.M.E.S. defy their sameness when their brief moments of individuality upset liberal humanist hierarchies; yet, they all perish within the show’s first season. Using theories of artificial morality, KVN depicts an autonomous moral agent whose existence confounds various posthuman boundaries, particularly those surrounding life and death. Lastly, HUE’s change from the AI of the Galaxy One spaceship into a small robotic shell aligns with Hayles’ argument about the necessity to consider embodiment for the posthuman subject. Using Anne McCaffrey’s The Ship Who Sang as a comparative text, this thesis examines the hierarchy of AIs and artificial bodies in Final Space through the lens of posthuman ethics and critical disability studies.

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