Thursday, September 03, 2009

House of Silent Scream: "Engineered desire."

I'm very proud to present the first guest post in our annual look at silent genre cinema. I promised to mix in aces from beyond the horror-centric blog-o-sphere, and I'm going to make good on that promise right off the bat.

Screamin' Shon has been a supporter of ANTSS and a regular presence in the comment section for, what, like a year now? But his witty comments don't fully reflect his truly prolific and twisted genius. If you want to be virtually bukkaked in Shon Genius, then you need to wait until your back in the privacy of your own home, you've put the kids to bed (or sold them Singapore - sorry baby, you work for them now), and check you his regular original erotica on Erotiterrorist.

That's right. The first guest is a master of the naught story and he's come here to talk about sexy freakin' robots. Told you this year would be different.

I'd like to thank Shon for guest starring and without further ado . . .

The 1927 Metropolis is an impressionistic film. That means it is really best viewed while sleep deprived. The internal logic doesn’t quite hold up but if you are aching for sleep and are in a highly suggestive frame of mind, it may be the best waking dream you have ever had.
The city of Metropolis is a fantastic utopia of skyscrapers, flying cars and stock markets. Pleasure gardens and bars exist for the upper class to frolic and dance. They engage in athletics for fun. They chase girls. They get chased by girls. Serious men in suits look at ticker tape and manage vast industries. Everyone is joyfully clean.
The people who actually keep the city running work in vague factories with the shambling enthusiasm of tortured zombies. These people sweat, toil and endure hardships for no reward what so ever. They gather in mass elevators very much like herded concentration camp prisoners. The elevators send them up to work in terrible factories and then take back down to their subterranean lives. Everyone is heartbreakingly filthy.

There is a plot about the workers trying to set sympathy from the ruling class but I don’t want to get into that. The moral of employee relations that Metropolis tries to teach is pretty laughable to anyone who has ever worked in a real world factory. This is compounded further by the fact that we don’t even have the complete movie now. It was chopped apart for the sensibilities of American audiences and no one made back up copies. There are still large tracts of the movie missing.

What makes a truncated Metropolis worth watching almost a hundred years later is the monster of the movie and her perverse creator.

Rowtang is the mold from which other mad scientists in film were forged from. Crazy hair? Check. Robot hand he designed himself? Check. Should really avoid being around great heights near the end of the movie? Check. Insane manner of handling the grief of his lost love by recreating her as a robot? Double Check.

Rowtang as played by Rudolf Klein-Rogge, is a wonderful madman. Years ago, the love of his life, a woman by the charming name of Hel, married another man and had his rival’s child. Hel died in childbirth so Rowtang creates a metal woman in her image so that he can be with her again. It’s the first sexbot.

Rowtang’s rival comes to him and asks for his help in dealing with a meddlesome social worker type, by the name of Maria. Rowtang comes up with the brilliant plan of kidnapping the social worker and using her likeness to cover his robot. He sends the Robot-Maria out to sabotage the workers, as well as the ruling class, as a way of getting back at his rival.

Let me tell you something. Mad Scientists are the last people you come to for help when they lusted for your wife.

Which brings us to the robot herself. Robot-Maria is an amazing design that could only have been spawned in the age of Art Deco. Completely metallic curves stress both her femininity and her artificialness. She looks like something that should be on a skyscraper. She is a modern Pygmalion brought to life with strange science with a touch of evil intentions.

You can’t exaggerate her visual influence on science fiction. C-3PO from Star Wars is her grandson. The Cybermen of Dr. Who could be her clones. The sleek updated Cylons of Battlestar Galactica aspire to be her. She defined what a robot looked like and she still does to this day.

The curious thing about her influence on movies is that her wonderful robot form is only seen briefly in the movie. For most of the movie, she is disguised in flesh and takes the place of Real-Maria. Robot-Maria spends her days with the workers, inciting them to commit violence against their uncaring surface masters. At night, she is an exotic dancer who mesmerizes the jaded surface bosses with her inhuman passions and crazy costumes.

I have seen Metropolis a dozen times yet I am always baffled by her seduction of the jaded surface people. Here are the richest of the rich. They spend their days in Pleasure Gardens with willing women yet Maria somehow drives them crazy with passion. We see her perform a frantic burlesque scene while men in tuxedoes scream for her attention and almost faint from a glance. Somehow she corrupts the most corrupt.

I think the answer to this is a male conceit that lies at the heart of the Sexbot fetish. Robot-Maria is the ultimate sexual being because she was created by a man to be desired by man. No woman can be as alluring as Robot-Maria because they are human with their own free will. Robot-Maria exists only to do what Rowtang wants of her. She can be as wicked, as sexual and as utterly without conscience as Rowtang wishes. She is engineered desire. She is not a woman controlled by a man. She is a device created to be what men desire from women.

Which is why I think poor Robot-Maria really gets the short end of the stick when famous monsters are discussed. Frankenstein’s Monster usually gets the fame and glory for being the ultimate artificial man monster. Frankenstein’s creation becomes a nightmare that turns on his creator. He embodies the fear of what happens when man tampers with what we were not meant to know. Robot-Maria scares me more. She is simply a monster who does what she was made to do. Every murder she orchestrates is something she was programmed to do. The tool that obeys the evil wishes it was designed for seems much more horrible to me.

Metropolis is a grand nightmare of sweat, hedonism and wicked malice. Rowtang and his creation continue to stomp through our culture and our fetishes.


Anonymous said...

Nice MC Frontalot reference in the intro, by the way!

I am trying to finagle some assistance from the ANTSS readership on this very matter of this blog post. Years ago, somebody on the Internet had compiled if not a database, at least a playlist of music that references, alludes to, or could ostensibly be used as mood music for Robot Sex. The Electric Light Orchestra's "Yours Truly, 2095" and the Polecats' "Make A Circuit With Me" were both mentioned, for example. Can anybody recall that site?

-Troy Z

Shon Richards said...

You may want to check out Sex-O Olympic-o by the Revolting Cocks. That whole album is robot sex.

Man, the things I know.