M3GAN Explained: Technology, Humanity, and a Human Voice
M3GAN took to social media as soon as the first trailer for the movie dropped. The little robot doll dancing around and talking silly, combined with its apparent homicidal tendencies, made fans immediately interested in what looked to be a dumb but fun horror film to kick the new year off. So why did this audience take to this killer doll so quickly? The answer might sit in multiple places. What looks to be just another over-the-top horror film might actually hold something a bit more important to us as a culture and may also play into the popularity of the film and character.
How Technology Impacts Humanity in M3GAN
Human beings love technology. Anything to make our lives easier is a welcome addition to our everyday life. Except, we rarely consider that there are downsides to our improved lives. The question is, do the pros outweigh the cons?
Smartphones are the norm for everyone these days, and if you ask someone if they wanted to go back to the days before that, they would probably tell you there was no way they could do it. Except, there are some downsides to that computer in our pocket. Be it taking away our attention from those around us or even something as small as never being able to get around town without a GPS app. We are dependent on and distracted by our technology.
Most people would probably not say that smartphones have ruined our lives or impacted us in too much of a negative way, but there are likely some exceptions. People have become so obsessed with their technology that their lives have shifted dramatically over the years. The concept of relying on technology too much is not a new one, but it’s one that I think people often take comfort in. Life would be so much simpler if a machine could take care of our problems, after all.
The Scientific Manipulation of M3GAN
Horror films have often used science as a plot point to show just how much humanity attempts to manipulate the world around us with tools and toys. From the genetically created dinosaurs in Jurassic Park to the more recent clones to take our punishment in Infinity Pool, it’s no secret that audiences crave this concept. Not just content to have our cake and eat it, too, the fantasy of science in many horror films also gives the viewer the chance to replace their hardships with a convenient plot device. But there are some things that can’t be so easily replaced, and despite its camp tone, M3gan is a fine example of that.
In the film, when Cady and her parents are victims of a terrible car accident that kills Cady’s parents, the young girl goes to live with her aunt Gemma. Gemma works for a toy and tech company where she is working on a new type of android to be any child’s best friend. The android, M3gan, is not something Gemma’s boss is happy with and wants her to cancel her work on it. Instead, Gemma uses the opportunity to give Cady a friend to bond with in her trauma. In typical horror movie fashion, this doesn’t go too well as M3gan will do anything to stop Cady from feeling pain – going so far as to attack and kill a neighbor’s dog and attack another child that bullied Cady. This is done in good, slasher fun, putting the audience in the position of even rooting for M3gan as they watch the film. She’s just so ridiculous and is having such a good time as she protects her best friend that it’s not something many watchers would likely take seriously. And yet they love it – the film has grossed more than $150 million on a budget of $12 million, and critics have praised it for how campy and fun the film is.
It’s in these types of humorous horror films, the ones where we can forget how serious life is, that people can really see more than they expect in what makes us the kind of people we are. Wouldn’t life be so much easier if we all had a M3gan? Someone to take care of our problems and always be there to talk to us or even sing a pop song to us at night to help us fall asleep? Sure. In a fantasy, people probably love the idea. Except it would obviously do more harm than good. And not just because of the potential murder.
The Human Connection Missing From M3GAN
The concept that most people won’t think about, or only briefly consider, is that Cady didn’t need a robot companion. She needed a loving family. She needed her aunt, but Gemma preferred concentrating on work. And if she could bring the two together by taking care of her niece as well as doing her job, all the better! Except that’s not how we function.
Many people would love to put off their responsibilities to technology. It helps us get through an already stressful life. Why walk to work? Take a car. Why handwrite a letter? Send an email. These things are not bad, but there is a limit to what we can put off on our tech. And that limit is our human connection.
People are complicated, with their own wants and feelings that make it difficult at times to coexist. Gemma has her own problems and her own goals in her profession. Cady complicates this the way that people can whenever they are a part of our lives. What M3gan does is take away that complication for the viewer as a fantasy. She has no wants except to be your friend and to take care of you. She has no issues of her own, no goals of her own. No agency. She exists to be your support with no responsibility put on you to do the same in return. And selfishly, people want that. But there’s a reason it’s a fantasy – and a reason M3gan goes off on people in the film – and that is there is no such thing as a one-way street for emotional support.
M3GAN and the Legacy of Chucky
Having someone take on all of your emotions and needs without dealing with their own is bound to lead to a dramatic end, although hopefully with less murder. We need people. Cady needed people. And we need to be there for them as they are there for us, even if it makes our lives a bit messier. That was Gemma’s mistake. She wanted to consolidate her life and avoid anything she didn’t want to do, which ended up blowing up all around her.
The success of M3gan may not be because people wish for their own robot best friend; after all, Chucky is still very popular despite a long and bloody track record with other people. Between its campy exploits, humorous dancing, and all-around ridiculous concept, M3gan succeeds by allowing audiences to embrace the silly while in the unseen corners of the film, the very real themes of humanity, and our relationship with technology sit tucked away for safekeeping.
M3GAN is out today on Peacock.
Tyler has been the editor in chief of Signal Horizon since its conception. He is also the Director of Monsters 101 at Truman State University a class that pairs horror movie criticism with survival skills to help middle and high school students learn critical thinking. When he is not watching, teaching or thinking about horror he is the Director of Debate and Forensics at a high school in Kansas City, Missouri.