Today January 10 is the anniversary of the German 1927 opening of director Fritz Lang’s (1890–1976) science fiction film Metropolis.
Poster for Metropolis 1926. This 1926 art-deco poster was designd by German graphic artist and painter Heinz Schulz-Neudamm (1899–1969) and was created for the premiere. Only 4 copies of Schulz-Neudamm’s poster are known to exist. One went at auction in London in 2005 for a record price of £398,000 (about $460,000) making it the most expensive poster in the world. This photocopy is from a vintage print held by the Austrian National Library.
Poster for Fritz Lang’s film “Metropolis” shows the character Maria in Rotwang’s transformation machine. Originally published in Germany, also in 1926.
What do Kafka or Kafka’s Ape from his short story “Report to an Academy” and Zooey Deschanel have in common. Each in their own way have been reduced to projections of others imaginations. And not to their benefit.
In his 1917 short story, “Report to an Academy,” Kafka tells the story of Red Peter, a chimpanzee captured in Africa and brought back to Europe to be studied by the members of an institution very much like the Muséum d’Histoire Naturelle in Paris. Red Peter, by some unusual transformation that is never fully explained, develops after his capture into a cultivated, language-endowed gentleman, and the titular report is in fact his narration of his own autobiography, beginning shortly after his first encounter with humans while still in his merely animal stage.
Peter recounts how, early in his captivity, he had been subjected to various experiments in which, for example, scientists hung a banana from the ceiling in order to see whether he had the requisite intelligence to stack blocks together and climb up to reach his reward. This sort of experiment, of course, takes a number of things for granted. Among other things, although it purports to be testing for something human-like, it does not allow for the possibility of individual whim; it does not allow for the possibility of a response such as that of Zira, the fictional chimpanzee in Escape from the Planet of the Apes (1971), who cannot help but exclaim, when the human scientists try a similar experiment on her, “but I simply loathe bananas!”
Amanda Hess writes In Defense of Zooey Deschanel, and please M’s Hess never defend me if this is a defense. Zooey/Red are bright independent creatures entitled to individual whim. Neither Zooey or Red are bound by any social contract to represent the rigid litmus tests for what constitutes art or humanity by examiners who seem to be starved for some kind of validation.
In short, everyone hates Zooey. I used to despise Deschanel’s Pinterest-pinned image, too. I hated her ukulele-accompanied olde tyme singing voice, her pink jammies Siri commercial, and her human elf routine. Most of all, I hated her blank-eyed, dress-twirling turn as the object of Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s obsession in (500) Days of Summer—the role that launched 1,000 indie wet dreams.
But today, I come to you as a convert to the cult of Zooey Deschanel. I used to think that I couldn’t stand to watch Deschanel’s infantilized archetype traipse through another quirky romantic scenario. As it turns out, I just hadn’t yet seen enough of her.
I’ve read the same shallow criticisms of 500 before. I wonder if we watched the same movie. maybe the critics got a copy of the “manic pixie dream” cut and I got the cut that turned conventional rom-com genre upside down. Instead of a young man meeting a woman and saying to himself, she’s cute enough, maybe worth a few dates, see if we have some fun, maybe have some sex – and if things don’t work out. tough luck I never promised her anything; it was the Summer(Zooey) character. She was that guy. Joseph Gordon-Levitt was the smitten girl who tried to play it cool, but couldn’t. At the end of the 500 days she saw someone else that spinned her props, dumped Joseph and could not understand what the big deal was. She was kind of a player, a charming one, but still, and he was the one played. If the “emo” crowd fell in or is still infatuated with Zooey it is not because she is some hallow vessel ready to be filled with emo fantasies about what she should be. It is because of the psychology of looks. Zooey is attractive, but not in the dangerous mode of a traditional pin-up girl, which actually scares some men ( I remember an on-line poll at Esquire probably around 12 years ago and more men picked Michelle Pfeiffer than former Playboy model Pam Anderson as their dream date) or makes them think that is the kind of woman that would be too tempted to stray. Zooey did not invent that stereotypical social dynamic. There is a certain type of attractiveness in men and women that scares people as much as it titillates. Search the subject on Google- there have been surveys that show most people prefer normal average range looks to settle down with – regardless of income, politics or religion. Back to lessons from Kafka’s Ape,
What is going on here? It seems that in general humans hope to be able to explain everything animals do in terms of automatism or instinct, and that journalists regularly hope to create a sensation by providing evidence to the contrary. But what this scenario leaves out is the possibility that different creatures will manifest different capacities, in part in view of the kind of creatures they are, in part in view of the opportunities and challenges their environments present to them. This scenario leaves out, moreover, the possibility that there is simply no such thing as ‘animals’, conceived as a discrete class of entities that lies between the vegetable and the human in the same way that the human was long thought to lie between the animal and the angelic. ‘Animal’, I mean, is an uninformative umbrella term, one that fails to pick out a set of kinds of creature with similar internal natures and capabilities.
Red and Zooey are bright humans with curious minds ( Red transformed into one that just looked like an ape). They and creatures like them are not obligated to be automatons of converted fans like Hess or those that still use that ridiculous and cruel pixie phrase. Anyone have some study a PhD and her grad student volunteers with a well researched and documented paper to prove otherwise, well, I’ll make time to read it.
The conservative/libertarian rationalizations continue for the let them eat cake philosophy, Fox’s Gutfeld: “The Biggest Myth Of All Time Is That Sweatshops Are Bad”.Gutfeld knows all about sweatshops because he worked as a low paid intern in a nice air conditioned corporate office for someone who was sometimes rude to him. He never entertains the thought that sweatshop owners make huge profits off the backs of those lowly “unskilled’ thus undeserved workers. This system, this way of doing things is as nature intended. No sir there is nothing wrong with a business model that exploits people. That point of view is called social-Darwinism. The people that believe in it and the ones that practice it are bereft of a functioning moral conscience.
Time card dated June 26, 1911 showing hours worked for two weeks by Miss Jennie Hackemans or Hackemaus. She was employed in a fruit cannery. She worked 166 hours for the two weeks, earning $16.60. Accompanying information summarizes daily hours for first week and totals hours for the first week as 117.5 with the average wage at $0.10/hr. – New York (State). Factory Investigating Commission 1911-1912. By way of the New York State Archives.