City Tech, Fall 2016

Metropolis: An Ancient Tale in Modern Morality

Popular sci-fi likes to demonize technology. Smart sci-fi questions those behind the technology. Metropolis is an example of the latter. To start, there is very little technology in the story. That which does come up throws the world for a loop and brings the machine to a screeching halt. It is the Machine-man and according to the characters of Metropolis, it is the manifestation of the seven deadly sins in one form. But it is man made and so where does the fault lie in it’s actions throughout the film: in it or it’s creators?

My two cents: the fault lies in it’s creators. Machine is not inherently bad. It just can’t be. You see, technology is a vehicle, a medium for us. To do what, you may ask. Quite simply: everything. Technology is nothing more than a tool to us; a means to an end and that is no different now than it was to Lang when he made Metropolis. My argument goes back to the first time I read Lord of the Flies. People are inherently evil whether we would like to believe it or not. Sure both these stories put us in dire situations and these situations are prone to push us to our limits but do you ever stop to realize that we don’t stop. I’m not saying defeat or surrender is a viable option but what I am trying to say is that for a so called civilization we sure do always meet the same grisly fate at our own hands.

In our second meeting with Maria, we see her holding a service of sorts with the workers in the city below as her audience. She preaches to them about love and peace. She tells them to be patient and wait for a mediator to bring the “head and the hands” together. But at the end of the service, one man in attendance is quick to reassure her that they’re done being patient. Civility has gotten them nowhere to this point and they’re tired of the games. They praise her like the heaven-sent angel she is but they’re slow to truly place all of their trust in her. Flashforward to the climax of the story and look at the rally that her doppleganger throws. The crowd is enthralled with her chants of violence and death. They’re hanging on the edge of her every word. The very way Joh plans to use the machine-man to incite them to violence is feeding into their deepest desires making the machines violent rhetoric work both ways. Both sides are using the machine to their own benefit, seeing what they want in it’s promises. For Christ’s sake, the people didn’t even think of their children before they marched their way to the heart machine and destroyed their homes.

This is just the way I see it. There are multiple things that can be drawn from this film but that was the most immediate to me. From the moment Freder’s involvement in the displacement of the workers was revealed, I couldn’t help but think of how easily it is for man to use machine and their fellow man to further themselves in the world.  And Metropolis doesn’t shed much light on why man does this except for comfort. Sickening: yes. Awfully realistic: Yes.

1 Comment

  1. Sky Captaina - Alex S

    A every good argument for the evils of man and the innocents of technology. Tech is made by people who give it a purpose, in most cases one that will advance their goals and ideals. How they use it or who uses it determines everything about the technology. A better person will use it to help himself and may be others while a worse person will use it for greed and cause harm. The world is not split into good and evil or even shades of grey. The world shapes what people become and the people themselves can choose to avoid that mold if they wish whether it be good or bad. several times in history we see how a negative was used to create a positive outcome later or how a positive created a negative.

    The world is more then white, black, or grey. It is alive, and living things do not always act the same way.

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