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Video clip synopsis – Hit the morality brakes - the Great Love Boiler is overheating on daytime soaps and underwear ads.
Year of production - 2002
Duration - 5min 0sec
Tags - animation, audiences, creativity, digital technology, family life, feminism, fertility , gender, identity, image and reality, media text, representations, reproductive technology, stereotypes, symbols and symbolism, values, see all tags


The Sex Machine

For copyright reasons this clip is not available as a download.

About the Video Clip


The Sex Machine is an episode of the series Human Contraptions (10 × 5 mins) produced in 2002.

Academy Award winning animator Bruce Petty takes a satirical look at the “contraptions” that shape our lives. Education, sex, finance, globalism, art, media, medicine, law, government and even the brain are transformed by Petty into evolving machines. Beginning with a simple concept, he takes us on an anarchic journey through history as each apparatus builds to its complex contemporary form. In the wry, ironic style that is his hallmark, Petty reveals these to be contraptions of a very human kind – imperfect, sometimes unpredictable and always subject to change. A witty, provocative and entertaining series, narrated by Andrew Denton.

A Film Australia National Interest Program. Produced with the assistance of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

Curriculum Focus



Students will learn to:

  • understand and critically analyse how sex and gender are represented in the media
  • understand the role of animation in media representations of issues
  • analyse how technology has affected relationships between men and women
  • express their ideas through media forms and gain self-confidence and communication skills through that expression;

Key Concept: Representations
Representations are constructions of people, places, events, ideas, and emotions that are applied to create meaning in media production and use.

This clip is relevant to year 11 and 12 students studying:

VIC- VCE Media Studies: Units 1, 2 and 4.
WA- The Arts/Media: Contexts, Exploring, Responding and Reflecting:
QLD- Film, Television and New Media: Technologies, Representations, Audiences, Institutions and Languages
SA- VET Broadcasting and Multimedia

Go to senior years Media Studies curricula in your state or territory for specific outcomes

Background Information


Moving on from a basic one-celled duplication device, the most successful reproductive machine has
proved to be the two-human, semiautomatic, chromosome exchanger. It’s simple and neither operator requires previous experience, but steering the flying, passion-driven, bonding module is far more difficult. From foreplay to feminism, romance to religion, Bruce Petty considers various attempts to get the sex contraption running hot.

Classroom Activities


Learning Activities

  1. Petty sex uses the language of computers and manufacturing in his sex contraption.
    1. What reasons do you think he has for using this language?
    2. Use the internet to look up in vitro fertilisation (IVF), sperm and egg donors. What intrusions has technology made into relationships between men and women? You may also want to consider the internet, mobile technology and other devices.
  2. The cartoon uses imagery and symbolism to represent issues relating to how sex and gender have been perceived in western cultures over time. Petty borrows from a variety of sources. Discuss the images chosen as well as Petty’s cartoon styles:
    1. art works reproduced in the cartoon- for example, a print of flapper and an oil painting from a much ealier era.
    2. depiction of religion.
    3. depiction of men and women’s roles in contemporary society- for example, consider men represented as obsessed with sports and power and women as “maternal” machines.
    4. depiction of how sex is viewed in other cultures.
  3. Discuss Petty’s style of animation. Is it effective in conveying his meaning?
  4. Petty sees the sex contraption as having a number of relationships rather than just one:
    1. How does Petty see the relationship between men and women in the contraption? Does his contraption see it as a changing relationship? If so, in what ways?
    2. What role does Petty see other ‘bodies’ as having in the relationship between men and women?
    3. How does Petty see the role of the Media in the contraption? Can you give examples from your viewing or knowledge of the Media to illustrate Petty’s point.
    4. Draw, build or otherwise create your own relationship human contraption (if you can’t draw, you might like to do this in the form of a diagram or “family tree”). Your contraption will need to show the interconnections that you think there are between the various ideas of gender, individuals and groups, ideas of sexual identity and control over bodies and minds. In your work you will need to include, amongst others, media, religion, technology, cultures, censorship and identity – both individual and cultural.

Further Resources


Go to The Age for a profile of Bruce Petty

Go to ABC website to find out more about Bruce Petty

Go to The Age for a colour slide show of various Australia cartoonists presented by The Age.

Cagle, D, The Best Political Cartoons of the Year 2007, Macmillan Computer Pub, 2006.

Petty, B, The Absurd Machine: A Cartoon History of the World, Penguin, Ringwood, Harmondsworth, New York, Toronto and Auckland, 1997.

Go to Screen Education for excellent articles and study guides focussing on all aspects of media teaching.

Read Media 1 by Roger Dunscombe, Melinda Anastasios- Roberts, Juliet Francis, Karen Koch, George Lekatsas and Nick Ouchtomsky and Media 2 by Roger Dunscombe, Melinda Anastasios-Roberts, Kevin Tibaldi and Andrew Hyde. Heinemann Harcourt Education, Port Melbourne, 2007. Go to the books online at Heinemann Media for more detail.

Read Media new ways and meanings by Colin Stewart and Adam Kowaltzke. Jacaranda, Milton, QLD, 2008. Go to a sample of chapters online at Jacaranda Books