Some spoilers are included in this article M3GAN In its discussion on modern parenthood, and the relationship between technology-affected children,
M3GAN Many things. This is a wonderful movie to watch with friends. It tells the story of a monster who is already a queer icon. It’s a horror story about tween girls and their terrifying power. It’s a film that demonstrates the appeal of PG-13 horror. It’s part of a new type of Universal Monster Movie.
It is actually charmingly and knowingly a camp exterior. M3GAN The film is held together with a few strong themes and ideas. Like many movies with artificial intelligence, it is fundamentally a story of parenthood. In particular, it’s a movie about parental fears about the relationship between parents and children. More than that, it’s a very modern and very timely spin on these anxieties, firmly anchored in the present moment.
M3GAN This is the story about Cady (Violet McGraw), a young girl. Cady is taken to live with Gemma Williams, her aunt, after her parents (Arlo and Kira Josephson), die in a road accident. Gemma is a designer at Funki, which makes toys companions for children. Gemma has even bigger ideas. Gemma has been working on Model-3 Generative Androids (M3GAN), which is a self-teaching robot of child size with seemingly endless potential.
Gemma is unable to make contact with Cady. However, when Cady takes an interest in some of the projects in Gemma’s workshop, Gemma decides to develop a M3GAN doll (Amie Donald, Jenna Davis) as a constant companion for the child. Cady quickly forms an emotional connection to the artificial intelligence. This bond is mutual. Gemma is intrigued by the potential commercial uses of artificial companions for young children. M3GAN will eventually develop a mind of its own.
Many stories about artificial intelligence and robots are metaphorical stories about children. After all, these synthetic beings are humanity’s children in an abstract sense. They are not just the next generation but the next evolutionary leap forward. Through science fiction storytelling, these stories elevate and extend the excitement and uncertainty that comes with parenthood.
There is a solid argument to be made that Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein This is the first science-fiction novel. It can best be described as a reproduction horror. Cybernetic characters such as Data (Brent Spiner), are available for purchase. Star Trek: The Next Generation And the T-800 (Arnold Schwarzenegger). Terminator 2: Judgment day Children who look like adults are artificial beings learning how to self-actualize and become fully formed adults.
There are many other interpretations of the artificial intelligence metaphor. There are obvious political implications, with the word “robot” deriving from the Czech word for “slave.” However, even stories of robotic revolutions are often shaded with themes of generational conflict, the idea that mankind will be supplanted and replaced by their creations, just as parents will give way to their children. The prototype robot in Alex Proyas’ I, Robot adaptation is even helpfully called “Sonny” (Alan Tudyk).
M3GAN Similar to this, the film is built around anxiety. The movie’s central thematic preoccupation is the question of whether Gemma is a good parent, whether to Cady or to M3GAN. Gemma finds herself in something of a custody battle with Cady’s grandparents over Cady, and she repeatedly submits to visitations from a social worker named Lydia (Amy Usherwood) to assess her viability as Cady’s long-term guardian.
It’s clear that Gemma wants guardianship of Cady, but it’s never clear that she’s capable of assuming responsibility for a child. Although she does take time off to help Cady settle in, Gemma finds herself quickly drawn back to her work obligations and leaves Cady to work in the garage for a high priority assignment. M3GAN was created partly to allow Gemma, who is now free from parental responsibility, to be able to outsource the task of a robotic surrogate.
The extent to which technology has taken over the parental role in modern parenting is a major problem. There are many debates over how much time children spend using tablets and smartphones and how easy they have access to the internet. These are perhaps just extensions of the older debate about the generation of “latchkey kids” raised by television, to the point that Alison Hillhouse has spoken about a generation of “digital latchkey kids.”
Modern phones and older televisions have many features that are vastly different. Modern technology is interactive and networked in a way TV reruns were never possible. The digital space is full of dangers, including nightmarish algorithms-generated videos and more physical threats. This makes it clear that parental concerns are much more intense and heightened than in previous generations.
M3GAN It’s about this. Shortly before the car crash, Cady’s parents argue about the amount of time that their daughter spends playing with a tablet in the backseat of the car. Her mother insists on setting “screen time” limits, while her father pragmatically points out that it makes the car journey easier for everybody. When Cady arrives at Gemma’s house, she asks about these same parental limits on screen time, and Gemma laughs off the idea of limiting Cady’s access as absurd.
To Gemma, the idea that technology can raise children isn’t a source of anxiety, but a cause for celebration. M3GAN very astutely understands that the target market for the eponymous doll isn’t children — it’s parents. This is the ultimate luxury item. As Funki CEO David Lin (Ronny Chieng) prepares to rush the device into production, he asks Gemma, “More or less than a Tesla?” The advertising settles on a price point of $10,000. Kids aren’t buying these with pocket money.
The in-universe advertising explicitly markets M3GAN dolls as parental surrogates, as substitutes for parents who don’t have the time or the energy to see to all of their children’s needs. M3GAN reminds Cady to use the bathroom and wash her hands. It never gets tired of repeating herself to the child. This is the perfect solution for Gemma. Early in the movie, Gemma struggles to read a bedtime story to Cady because “the app is updating.” M3GAN does it with ease.
M3GAN quickly grows into the empty space left by Gemma. Early in the movie, it is revealed that there is a hole in the fence separating Gemma’s garden from that of her neighbor, Celia (Lori Dungey). Celia’s dog can get through that gap. Gemma reminds Celia to close the gap. Gemma doesn’t get around to it. Gemma is enjoying music in the garage while Cady and M3GAN get attacked later. M3GAN, protecting Cady, sneaks out to kill the dog that night.
Of course, M3GAN isn’t just a surrogate parent. In its own way, it is just as much Gemma’s child as Cady. Gemma uses a similar parenting approach to raising M3GAN. Gemma, based on the latest trend in artificial Intelligence, designed M3GAN to be self-teaching. She can access the internet to retrieve information and access it to improve her function. It’s a science fiction riff on the concept of machine learning and deep learning, which can generate anything from art to chatbots.
The results of these experiments are often disturbing in the real world. There’s an uncomfortable tendency for artificial intelligences raised on the internet to quickly become racist or homophobic. While M3GAN arguably dramatizes that, it’s also part of the movie’s central metaphor. Gemma creates an artificial intelligence which acts like a child and then refuses any parental responsibility.
M3GAN begins the film by asking Gemma about her thoughts on death. It can be difficult to talk about with children, as any parent will tell you. But it is crucial to their emotional growth. Rather than having that potentially uncomfortable conversation with M3GAN, Gemma simply shuts her down — literally. Gemma refuses to have any kind of conversation with M3GAN to help it grow or guide. The pattern repeats over the course of the film, with Gemma just turning M3GAN off when she doesn’t want to deal with something.
Gemma can avoid her parental obligations by bonding M3GAN with Cady. Gemma has designed M3GAN to avoid any parental responsibility. M3GAN doesn’t learn its values and behavior from Gemma; it pulls that information from the internet. When it has questions, Gemma doesn’t engage them in a meaningful way, but simply ends the conversation. When M3GAN is so self-aware, things escalate. Refuse To be closed.
Lydia talks to Gemma about “attachment theory” and how she is concerned about Cady emotionally imprinting on M3GAN rather than Gemma. Cady could end up in a childlike condition, just as M3GAN will remain trapped in the body of a teenage girl forever, never maturing. Gemma may be similarly emotionally stunted. When Cady arrives in Gemma’s house, she finds the space decorated with “collectibles,” toys still in their boxes.
M3GAN Taps into a modern parental anxiety. M3GAN, Cady, and her brother M3GAN were raised by modern technology. They step in to take over the parental responsibilities. M3GAN, with her memetic personality and viral dance moves, is nothing but a child of social networking both within and outside the film. The internet has made her a part of our generation. M3GAN Wonders what horrors are in store
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