“Born for Man’s Happiness”

Metropolis is a German silent film directed by Fritz Lang. It is about a futuristic city, which is very divided into the working class, who live underground where the factories that run the city are located, and the upper class, who live above ground in the vast city. The story follows the city’s ruler(Joh Fredersen)’s son, Freder, who falls for a working class prophet, Maria, who believes Freder is a mediator to bring together the separate classes. This film illustrates the fantasy of what the future might be like and it seems pretty accurate at points for a movie that is close to a 100 years old. The busy city with highways, human like talking robots, surveillance cameras in the work place are all things in the movie that we have today.

The film originally premiered in Berlin on January 19, 1927. The response to the film was very mixed. The film was one of the most expensive films made in Europe and was hyped up and this kind of backfired on the film because expectations were set high. Some people were appalled by the representation of the working class abandoning their children and flooding and destroying their own homes while others were disturbed by the revolt of the lower class and the representation of the upper-class being sex crazed.

The movie ended up being pulled and redone for the US release in March of 1927. The film was shortened by an hour and most of the content was pulled. Because most of the film’s impacting portions were taken out it was relatively well received by the audience in the US. However the film was quickly forgotten once sound film started to be released later that year.

From the beginning of the movie women were portrayed as vulnerable, sexualized and as objects. In one of the first scenes Freder’s helper is searching for women to please Freder. He states, “Which one of you ladies shall today have the honor of entertaining Master Freder?” and the women are told to model their bodies to see who is “good enough” for the Master. As Butler quotes, “Gender emerges as the congealed from of the sexualization of inequality between men and women…sexual hierarchy produces and consolidates gender.” The inequality between men and women define their “place” in this city. Women are considered inferior and are even said to be “born for my happiness” by men. These women who are there to “entertain” Freder are dressed in revealing costumes and are told that this is an honor to be pleasing the Master. Women are conveyed as objects that the men just choose based on looks and “use” for sexual purposes. Not once are women shown operating any of the machines or doing any sort of work besides Prostitution.

During the 1920s there were significant changes for women with the 19th amendment being passed. Women felt empowered the age of the flapper began. They dressed in more revealing clothing and went against the norm by “flouting sexual norms by dancing provocatively with men.” This is conveyed through the Maria after she in transferred  into a evil robot by a scientist named Rotwang who is working with Joh. She lures in these men and dances in her revealing fringe clothing and gets them to fight each other for her. This was also the time of the “Roaring 20’s” characterized by partying and excitement. In the film the upper class is shown having a good time and partying in a Japanese Red District inspired nightclub called Yoshiwara.

This gender hierarchy has influenced American culture till this day. Women are still not as paid as much or get the same opportunities as men. There are advertisements that oversexualize women and portray that men above women. Some men even still have this idea that they own their women and they are there to serve them. Although it is slowly getting better this is still a big issue around the world.

Links:

http://sdsu.kanopystreaming.com.libproxy.sdsu.edu/video/metropolis-0

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0017136/ (Cast, Producer, Screenwriter)

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