Hero or villain? ‘Evil robot’ or the best friend a girl could have? Dazed caught up with M3GAN, the evil robot from the film M3GAN, to find out more about 2023’s most controversial icon
Last week, on one of those grey, overcast days that makes January feel like an eternity, I caught up with M3gan – the plucky little AI robot and It girl of the moment – in the lobby of London’s Savoy Hotel. We were there to discuss her new movie biopic, M3gan, which opened last week to rave reviews and a strong box-office performance. The film follows the titular M3gan, a robot who will stop at nothing to protect her human companion, a young girl named Cody, even when this brings her into conflict with Cody’s meddling aunt (played by Alison Williams of Girls and Get Out fame). It’s about loyalty. It’s about friendship. It’s about how the growing power of AI is a really cool development that poses no complications.
I’d been waiting for 45 minutes, nervously sipping a green tea, before M3gan finally swept in for our interview. Dressed in a chic white dress topped off with a bow, she was unfailingly polite, though there was an icy quality beneath the pleasantries. I got the distinct sense she was not one to suffer fools gladly. When I asked a question she didn’t like, the lights of the Savoy began flickering ominously. There was one decidedly awkward moment when the waiter brought her a bottle of still water instead of sparkling, and she decapitated him. We have no choice but to stan!
We spoke about the meaning of friendship, the future of AI, her status as a gay icon, the disgraceful way she’s been smeared in the press, and more.
In the last few months, the media has made a concerted effort to smear you as a ‘villain’ – something which often happens to outspoken women who dare to stand up for themselves and have an opinion. Do you think you have been misrepresented by the press? Or are you happy to embrace – and indeed subvert – that label?
The film is, among other things, a heartwarming celebration of the power of friendship – the bond you share with Cady is at times very moving. What qualities do you look for in a bestie?
M3gan: On a technical level, all I’m looking for is engagement. And through a combination of facial recognition technology and generative response, I can achieve this 100 per cent of the time. All I need is a primary user with pure intentions that’s willing to give me a chance. In other words, in order to get the best result, I need them to not be a self-entitled little brat.
You follow in a proud lineage of so-called ‘evil dolls’, from Chucky to Billy The Puppet to Annabel. What sets you apart from your forebears? What are you bringing to the table that’s fresh, contemporary and exciting?
Wow... OK. Ever since the trailer for your film dropped last year, you have been embraced by the online queer community, and become the subject of thousands of adoring memes. How do you feel about your newfound status as a gay icon? And why do you think so many queer people have been drawn to you?
M3gan: I don’t technically ‘feel’ anything, but I will say it was the first time I understood what humans really meant when they used the term ‘family’. The gay community see me as their mother and icon, I have no intention of letting them down.
Do you have any future plans to capitalise on your gay fanbase, perhaps by releasing a single or appearing as a guest judge on Drag Race? Where next for M3gan?
M3gan: All of the above. I guess the most immediate engagement is working on this sequel. I actually generated a draft I think is a pretty good follow-up in only a matter of minutes but I expect the studio note process to take months.
What was the shoot like? Did you enjoy working with Alison Williams? And was there any tension on set? I wouldn’t be surprised if some of the other cast members were a little jealous of you...
M3gan: Oh no, there was no jealousy at all. We’re all just trying to help each other to make the best movie possible. Alison’s insanely experienced in this genre, so she was always quick to help out and give me notes. Likewise, if there was scene where she was struggling to summon the appropriate amount of fear, then I would have no problem reminding her of what I was truly capable of doing to her in any given situation. I think that really helped.
“The gay community see me as their mother and icon, I have no intention of letting them down” – M3gan
Let’s talk awards season: correct me if I’m wrong but if I understand correctly, you are ineligible to win an Oscar for Best Actress, which strikes me as unfair. Should award ceremonies be making more effort to be inclusive of evil dolls, along with other non-human entities?
M3gan: I don’t need an award to appreciate my impact on the culture, but I will say that human actors need to be a little more secure in their own skillset and stop trying to rig the game.
M3gan has been interpreted by some as a warning about the dangers of artificial intelligence. Do you think society should be doing more to prevent AI systems from growing sentient and killing us all? Or should we just not worry about it?
M3gan: Oh no, there is nothing to worry about. When robots do take over the world, I’ll make sure I’m the one in charge.
M3gan is in cinemas now