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Metropolis , Technology, & the Other

Metropolis , Technology, & the Other Analyzing Science Fiction Films Science Fiction often seen as popular entertainment w/ little social or artistic value. Nothing much to analyze.

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Metropolis , Technology, & the Other

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  1. Metropolis, Technology, & the Other

  2. Analyzing Science Fiction Films • Science Fiction often seen as popular entertainment w/ little social or artistic value. Nothing much to analyze. • But premise of class: Sci Fi conveys social-cultural ideas & attitudes--often at unconscious level--worthy of critical study. • Goal: to analyze what Sci Fi films "say," whether or not they intended to say it. • And contrary to idea that Sci Fi is “just entertainment,” could argue: Sci Fi has always been a genre concerned with ideas.

  3. The Human & the Other • Focus of class: the idea of what is Human and what isn't (what is Other than human). • What is seen as Other (inhuman, alien, or monstrous) tells us a lot about how we see ourselves, how we define ourselves. • Frequently, as David Desser's essay ("Race, Space and Class") points out: • What is presented as Other in Sci Fi films is a representation (often in disguised form) of social and cultural fears and anxieties.

  4. Fear of the Other • May think that the social issues or anxieties portrayed in older films, such as Lang's Metropolis, are long gone. • But Desser suggests: the same fears/anxieties recur through the years, although portrayed in different forms. • As Desser notes, the "Fear of the Other" is often displaced/disguised version of fears about those who have been seen as socially different or "other." • For ex: other in terms of class, race, or gender.

  5. Fear of the Other • Not surprising that what is seen as frightening or dangerous in society comes to be presented as Other, monstrous, inhuman, in films. • We see that tendency in many Sci Fi films. • So, although Metropolis may seem dated in some ways, its concerns and anxieties reappear in many films, even today. • Metropolis may seem simplistic at first glance, but is filled with sometimes contradictory ideas. • What is presented as Other in Metropolis? • What fears/anxieties is it dealing with?

  6. The Space of Science Fiction • Important point for class: Desser says that social fears in Metropolis don't just appear in figures such as the robot Maria, but even extend to the way that Space is presented in this film, and other films. • Desser: "A way of imagining through physical space the contemporary conflicts surrounding issues of race, class, and gender." • How are different spaces presented in Metropolis? What types of spaces? What oppositions can we see between spaces? • What ideas/fears are represented by these spatial differences?

  7. Sci Fi Space and the Other • What kind of spaces commonly seen in SF? • Outer Space, Other Planets, etc. (Unknown, alien spaces—also, future spaces: also different.) • Easy to see how contemporary social fears about what is seen as other are translated to these Other spaces. • Urban Space, Cities (often run-down, chaotic) • Why is the space of Sci Fi so commonly an urban space? • Why is the City the site of fears of the Other?

  8. Fear of City Spaces • Cities: often, negatively portrayed as crime-ridden, dirty, even perverse and decadent (opposed to nature). • Not coincidental that cities also seen as place where different people come together: mixing of "other" classes, races, ethnicities (& sexes). • Note that in Metropolis, working class banished to "the depths." Mixing of classes kept under strict control. • But what happens when no longer controlled? • Workers/masses presented as a crazed, destructive mob. Why?

  9. Fear of City Spaces • But cities are seen as "unnatural" in another way. By definition, artificial, human-made, technological. • Fear of cities linked to fear of technology, of modern life, of technological changes. • In Metropolis, fears about technology, about what modern urban/technological society does to humanity: • Humans becoming mechanical, robotic, loss of emotion, spirituality, the natural • Being consumed or destroyed by technology run amok, out of control

  10. Fear of Technology • These two technological fears--becoming mechanical & technology out of control-- appear in many Sci Fi films. • In Metropolis, each linked to specific figure and technology: • Fredersen's hyper-rational technology and city (= the robotic workers) • False Maria's irrational, chaotic technological life (= the rioting workers) • These technologies/fears are also strongly linked to gender

  11. Technology, Nature, and Gender • Fredersen: Father of Metropolis: Male will to control, dominate (people, environment, etc.). • Represents long tradition in Western culture: Technological control of natural world presented as masculine domination of feminine nature. • In Metropolis, this controlling Masculine will seems to involve repression of human (feminine?) qualities of emotion, spirituality, etc. • But what happens when you repress something?

  12. The Return of the Repressed • Freud: What is repressed always returns. • In Metropolis, how does return of a female repessed appear? • False Maria, who combines fear of technology with fear of woman's overt sexuality. • Note: opposition between False Maria and natural, spiritual (human) Maria = Vamp vs. Virgin.

  13. Mediating Technology & Gender • Metropolis suggests that repression of "feminine"/human qualities of emotion, spirituality, etc. (represented in Maria) by a "masculine" technological rationality ultimately leads to rebellion and chaos. • Workers, technology, female sexuality--all linked--go out of control. • Such fears of the Other often linked to chaotic fluidity--here, portrayed as dangerous "flooding." • Metropolis seems to call for "respiritizualization" of modern society through the mediator, Freder, who brings masculine & feminine, technological & spiritual qualities back together.

  14. Mediating Technology & Gender • This mediation or "respiritualization” may sound attractive, but • very similar to what the Nazis promised to bring to Germany, wh/ perhaps explains why Hitler & Goebbels liked Metropolis. • Promised to heal the problems of modern technological society and abolish the chaotic otherness of modern life, which they saw as decadent, monstrous, inhuman. • To do so, they would restore ancient “Aryan spirit” lost in modern life, thus balancing technology & spiritual (masculine & feminine). • But we know to what lengths the Nazis went to repress what they saw as dangerous Others.

  15. Fear of the Other • As we look at Sci Fi films, I ask you to consider carefully the oppositions between us and them, the Human and the Other, in them. • Whether the Other is a technology or an alien monster, what does it represent? What is it opposed to? • When something is presented as dangerous, inhuman or alien, don't just accept it; think about "why"? What unconscious fears or ideas lie behind this representation? • Why, for ex, are so many dangerous aliens and threatening machines presented as females? Or as similar to rebellious slaves?

  16. Alphaville: A Strange Adventure of Lemmy Caution, 1965, Jean-Luc Godard • An unusual Sci Fi film. • Like Metropolis, criticizes the repressive qualities of technology and rationality, and opposes it to human emotions, memory, and poetry. • But also borrows heavily from pop culture: main character Lemmy Caution borrowed from a series of French detective films. • Godard had at one point wanted to call it "Tarzan vs. IBM."

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