John DiMaggio attends the premiere of Futurama 'Bender's Big Score' at the Cinerama Dome on November 15, 2007 in Los Angeles, California.
Movies - TV
The Classic Sci-Fi Story That Inspired Futurama’s Bender
Much like its predecessor, “The Simpsons,” Matt Groening’s “Futurama” drew inspiration from and spoofed classic movies like “Armageddon” and “Animal House” for some of its episodes. Unlike Groening’s other work, “Futurama” distinguished itself by its love of science fiction, with two particular sci-fi writers helping inspire the creation of the misanthropic robot Bender.
Stanislaw Lem’s story, “The Eleventh Voyage,” later parodied in the “Fear of a Bot Planet” episode, sees a human being disguised as a robot traveling to a machine-controlled planet where humans are hunted. The hero soon discovers all the other robots are also people in disguise, highlighting humanity’s willingness to betray their neighbors to save themselves.
The other writer who would play a role in Bender’s creation was Karel Čapek and his story “R.U.R.,” which follows a man who creates a machine servant to do his bidding, leading to the overthrow of humanity and the age of the “robot.” Deriving from the Czech word “robota,” meaning “forced labor,” “R.U.R.” critiques the movement that advocated and measured human life by productivity.
Despite Bender hating humans, he isn’t so different from them and even shows relatable weaknesses, such as being emotionally vulnerable and exploiting others for his gain. While Lem and Čapek’s stories were inspired by war and the rise of fascism in their times, their themes are perfectly reflected in Bender: Humans and robots are the same as both can be fearful and violent.