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GENERAL INSTRUCTIONS

  • Write a 6-8 page papertyped and double-spaced, on one of the topics below.
  • Your essay should provide an introduction to your topic, including a brief summary of what you will say about it, and a conclusion.
  • Your essay should be divided into paragraphs and display a clear organizational structure.
  • Use technical terms whenever appropriate, explain them, and illustrate them with examples from the texts (movies, TV episodes, articles, etc.).
  • Make sure to address formal features (shot selection, editing, mise-en-scène, etc.) as well as content in your discussion of films and TV episodes.
  • It is important that you explain and discuss the issues you are writing about in your own words.
  • Keep a critical stance.  Explain and critically evaluate the reasons authors give in support of their views and the reasons that lead you to your own position.
  • Make sure to support your claims by textual and/or audio-visual evidence.
  • Consider whether there is any counter-evidence in the texts (books, articles, films, TV-episodes, etc.) that you are discussing that may contradict the claims that you are making.  If there is such counter-evidence, either show why it ultimately does not contradict your analysis and evaluation or make sure to rephrase your analysis and evaluation so that it accommodates all the evidence.
  • In your essay, you must make use of at least one of the scholarly texts from the course syllabus/course readings.  You must show within your essay how this text relates to your topic.  It is not enough to merely list a source as reference at the end of your paper.  Movies or television episodes do not qualify as scholarly texts.
  • Permissible (but not required) additional sources for this assignment are further secondary scholarly literature, movies, television shows, novels, and news articles. Movies and episodes of television shows that you refer to must be available on DVD or streaming services, such as Netfilx, Amazon, Hulu, etc.
  • For this assignment, it is mandatory that you include a list of references with all the sources (articles, books, movies, etc.) that you are using in your essay.  You should attribute all contributions to your topic that are not genuinely yours to their original sources, including quotations but also ideas that you refer to without providing quotations.  You must choose either MLA, APA or Chicago/Turabian as citation format and you must use the format of your choice consistently.
  • Your paper should have a cover page that includes your name, course number and section, and the number of the topic you are writing about.  This information should appear only on the cover page but not on any of the other pages you submit.
  • Please, do not plagiarize.  Plagiarism will result in an F for the assignment or an F for the course.

Topic 1

In 1927, Metropolis envisions a society one hundred years in the future in which the privileged (such as Freder) are ignorant of the hidden human labor and suffering that makes their lifestyle possible.  H.G. Wells (author of, The Time Machine, The War of the Worlds and other science fiction classics), in his review of the film (Mr. Wells Reviews a Current Film, New York Times, April 17, 1927) thinks that this is not how the future will look like.  He claims that, “The whole aim of mechanical civilization is to eliminate the drudge and the drudge soul,” that, “mechanical civilization has no use for mere drudges.  The more efficient the machinery the less need there is for the quasi-mechanical minder…The hopeless drudge stage of human labor lies behind us.  With a sort of malignant stupidity this film [Metropolis] contradicts these facts.”  Wells also objects to the film because, “One is asked to believe that these machines are engaged quite furiously in the mass production of nothing that is ever used and that Masterman [i.e., Fredersen] grows richer and richer in the process.” (In other words, Wells objects to Kracauer’s view that the ultimate goal of the mechanical capitalist mode of production is profit for profit’s sake, not the manufacturing of useful products.)  We now live only few years away from the time period in which Metropolis is set.  Discuss which vision of the future is more relevant to the present, the one presented by Metropolis, or Wells’.  As part of your discussion, pick one of the following items:

  • Your smart phone
  • A piece of clothing that you frequently wear
  • The meat that is part of your dinner or, if you are vegetarian or vegan, a vegetable or fruit that is part of your dinner.

Describe what you know about how this particular item was produced and your level of ignorance about its origins.  Research the conditions under which it was produced with emphasis on the degree of “drudge labor” and suffering that may have gone into its production.  To what extent does the contemporary mode of production resemble the one depicted in Metropolis, to what extent does it differ?  To what extent does the movie reflect the distribution of wealth in our contemporary society?  Assess the overall merit of Metropolis as a science fiction film in terms of its depiction of privilege, working conditions, and distribution of wealth.

Note: Wells reviews the initial English language release of the film which changed many of the characters’ names from the original German version.  The ‘Masterman’ of his review is the ‘Fredersen’ of the original, etc.

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