Nerd Factor: You Might Really Be Dating a Robot

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Art by Nicole Freewalt

Dr. Mike Robinson ~ UL Communication Studies Professor

     Popular culture has taught us that robots may be our most loyal friends or our most terrifying foes. No matter what their motivations, from time to time, replicants and androids and synthezoids and whatever-oids feel compelled to hide their identities from us in order to move in human circles. This may cause romantic complications. Because the Nerd Factor cares deeply about your emotional well-being this Valentine’s Day, here are some tips to tell if you might really be dating a robot:

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Nerd Factor: Harley

Promotional Photo for Birds of Prey

Dr. Mike Robinson ~ UL Communication Studies Professor

     One of the most fascinating things about Harley Quinn is her origin. Not the tragic tale of a psychological intern who makes the terrible choice to fall in love with her insane patient, the Joker. “Mad Love” is a great story, but by origin this time, I mean Harley’s real world beginnings. Harley is the most successful superhero character to debut outside of comic books.

     These days, the major comic book companies are part of huge entertainment conglomerates. DC Comics has long been a part of Warner Brothers (these days known as WarnerMedia because things always sound cooler when words run into each other). And, of course, Marvel has been owned by Disney for a bit over a decade now. These corporations essentially mine the creative properties of their comic book companies to produce television, film, and video game products. 

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Nerd Factor: Regal Treatment Is Not Royal Treatment


Photo retrieved from

Dr. Mike Robinson ~ UL Communication Studies Professor

     We were finally seeing Knives Out. Plus, this was a date. My wife conspired with the in-laws to take the boy out for food and fun. Excited and genuinely glad to have avoided any possible spoilers after so long, we made our way to the theater in the mall with smiles on our faces. 

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Picard Movie Poster 

Dr. Mike Robinson ~ UL Communication Studies Professor

     Star Trek used to be one thing. There was only one starship, the USS Enterprise. And there was only one captain, James T. Kirk. Oh sure, we would see other ships and other commanding officers on the show and in the movies, but when the iconic opening narration said, “These are the voyages,” we knew whose voyages really mattered. 

     All that changed in 1987, when Star Trek: The Next Generation (1987-1994) debuted in syndication. Suddenly, the Trek franchise opened up to allow the adventures of others. Jumping farther into the narrative’s future, we met the USS Enterprise-D and its new crew. From that point forward, there would be other ships and other officers. We got to know Commander and later Captain Benjamin Sisko, Captain Kathryn Janeway, and we even bounced back a bit in time to meet Captain Jonathan Archer. However, the captain that opened that door and proved that Trek could be something new and leadership could be something other than Kirk was Next Gen’s Captain Jean-Luc Picard. 

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Nerd Factor: Batman Smells?

bat man smells
Photo retrieved from Google images.


Dr. Mike Robinson ~ UL Communication Studies Professor

We all know the popular variation of the holiday standard but in our annual rush to mock the Caped Crusader at Christmas time we rarely consider the central issue that it raises. Does Batman smell? And if so, how badly?

     Many elements of the comic tune have certain veracity to them. It is entirely possible for the Batmobile to lose a wheel, although one would assume that some kind of sophisticated WayneTech device would quickly replace the missing tire. And of course the Joker can get away. In fact, he’s ridiculously good at getting away. That is one of many qualities that makes the wily trickster so frustrating. 

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Nerd Factor: Claus-trophobia


santa-claus (retrieved from
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Dr. Mike Robinson ~ UL Communication Studies Professor

     The Nerd Factor is vitally concerned with the public interest. As part of the column’s ongoing commitment to the health and well-being of its readers, an important safety announcement follows. 

     Claus-trophobia is a condition that affects millions of people each year, yet somehow the general public remains relatively unaware of the disorder. Claus-trophobia is a state of heightened anxiety, agitation, and even fright, related to the approach of the Christmas holiday. Like other phobias, Claus-trophobia can manifest in a variety of ways. 

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Nerd Factor: The Annexation of Thanksgiving 

thanksgiving annex
Photo retrieved from Pinterest.

Dr. Mike Robinson ~ UL Communication Studies Professor

     Longtime readers know that I have been fascinated for a while by the so-called War on Christmas. A kind of concocted outrage that seems designed to get viewers to return to certain news stations after the commercial break, drive up page views on websites, and outrage those who like to quickly pass along memes without thinking about them much. The complaint goes that Christmas is somehow being wiped out. 

     This is ludicrously wrong. Christmas is just fine. 

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