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Unformatted text preview: ally not that far off things that several theorists of scientific management offered in their writings) is sold not on the basis of its goodness or its humanity, but its efficiency and its bottomline value for competitive productivity and profit. As the machine says: actions speak louder than words The Radio: Smells like Commerce Chaplin wrote in his Autobiography of his lifelong revulsion toward the ethos of advertising and commercial propaganda heard in mass media society. He blamed it, as he said, for the "gradual dissolution" of western culture. "Our decline and fall is not the result of politics, revolutionary armies, communist propaganda, rabble rousing or soapboxing...It is the soap wrappings that are the conspirators; those international advertisers" among which he listed the media of "radio, television, and motion pictures." The cure for the indigestion that is heard over the radio, and the two hostile sounds are linked by association here, is as bad as the problem. The Tramp would rather have quiet and turns it off. The Important Things As a Comedy, Modern Times is more concerned with making fun of the social conventions and behaviors that push the Tramp around. The things that remain important for Chaplin, the things that the Tramp cares about his very human needs, are very basic Food and Hunger Not stealing, hungry Eating in the age of machines While eating is still a necessity in Modern Times, it is reduced to a function instead of something more human. Note that the Big Boss does not reject the feeding machine because it strips the human of his dignity (little concern for the Tramp here) or reduces him to an "automaton," but because it is "not practical," ergo it will not help the bottom line of factory production. If it did, the Big Boss would no doubt implement it. Being Eaten By Machines Chaplin seems to argue that just as the most human need eating is sacrificed to productivity, the human being is always sacrificed to the machine in industrial society. He visualizes this logic explicitly through the following surrealistic sequence, where the speed of modern production quite literally pulls the Tramp into the machine (which here looks like the inside of a film projector) and leads to a nervous breakdown. This sequence is said to have been inspired by Chaplin's conversation with the journalist in Detroit, who had described to him how the factories lured healthy young men off the farms who became nervous wrecks after a couple of years of work on the assembly lines. This is one of the most iconic scenes in cinema history, and one of the most trenchant criticisms of modern society. Interestingly, when he emerges, and he has lost his sanity, he is freed from the pressures of time and work rhythms...
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- Spring '99