The Large Glass illustrates the interplay of power between the Bachelors and the Bride, and the fear experienced by both sides at the notion of not being in control. Duchamp’s idea of second-class citizenship for sentient but created beings is central in Asimov’s Three Rules of Robotics: That is: “A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm. A robot must obey the orders given to it by human beings, except where such orders would conflict with the First Law. A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Laws.” (Asimov, 1963)
Finally, the fact the replicants from Do Androids Dream/Bladerunner have an expiration date from the time of their creation shows a different set of moral standards for sentient artificially intelligent constructs. The Large Glass also speaks to the ways in which the Bride is the embodiment of life and humanity, while the replicants are the Bachelors in amorous pursuit.
Read against Metropolis, the Bride is the upper city and the society’s elite, and the Bachelors, as machines, are the lower city and working class. As the film opens, we see the underground workers move in perfect unison like parts of a machine as they exit factory after a grueling 10-hour shift. Later, when Freder, the prince of the city, watches them working the Heart machine when he tries to go below to find Maria, we see the same careful choreography and perfect unison being used to work the machine.
Unlike the Large Glass, in which the Bachelors are forever frozen in their space, in Metropolis, one of the Bachelors is able to experience the Bride he has been looking up at for so long, when Freder trades places with one of the workers. The worker stares out the car window at the woman in the car next to him and fantasizes about her and all of the sensual delights the above world have to offer. The Large Glass also illustrates the interplay of power between the Bachelors and the Bride, and the fear of losing control experienced by both the elite and the workers. In one of the first scenes in the movie, Maria brings the children of the workers from below to see the upper city-dwelling (eg: Upper class) people and tells the children that they are their “brothers.” Almost immediately Maria and the children are sent back below because their presence and especially her appeal to Freder are threatening to the city’s power structure. Later when he goes below to find Maria, Freder is horrified and confused by the Heart machine and following explosion, and hallucinates, the workers being sacrificed to the Ammonite god Moloch. Toward the beginning of his hallucination, the sacrifices are being forced, but they are followed by workers who go willingly into the beast/machine’s mouth.
This exemplifies the general paranoia stemming from a fear of machines overcoming man, man’s seeming willingness to be controlled, and an Acceptance of one’s lot in life. Later in the film, the False Maria, created from the Professor’s Machine Man, controls both the city’s elite and its workers. If we read the False Maria as the Bride, does the Bride in her higher position actually control the bachelors? Or is the Bride the real Maria, with the bachelors projecting their own agenda onto what is just her image in the false Maria while the real Maria is being held hostage.
The Bachelors, if representing the workers, seem to be empowered and released from their machine-like state by the False Maria; in fact, they are just doing her bidding (and therefore the city’s elite’s bidding) and in so doing, while they think they are throwing off the chains of the power structure, they are actually grinding away into self-destruction. The scene in which the False Maria in the appears at the Yoshiwara club is the most explicit visual analgy to The Large Glass- as the False Maria dances, the men in the night club watching worship and lust after her in very repetitive and mechanical ways. As she first rises out of the smoking bowl on the stage, the men are startled by her beauty. Their breathing grows visibly heavier as she turns around to show them her entire body, waving her hips in a circular, almost grinding motion. The men bite their lips and pull their hair, crying out, “For her, all seven deadly sins!” and they rush up to the platform to reach for her. There also exists here the notion that admiration can quickly turn into resentment. The Workers as the Bachelors revel in destruction of heart machine, but the revelry is disrupted when they realize that by being seduced by the False Maria, they have likely drowned all of their children in the city below, and what follows is a witch hunt for Maria. This ultimately concludes with the burning at the stake of the False Maria and the exoneration of the real Maria.
Finally, the Mind/Body disconnect played out in Metropolis plays a similar role to the separation between the two panes of glass in The Bride Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors, Even-- something exists that keeps the two always in separate worlds. In Metropolis, Maria says, ”Head and hands need a mediator. The mediator between the head and hands must be the heart.” What is missing between the Bride and the Bachelors is a mediator, or heart. In considering the Bachelors as the machines that they are, it begs the question, is AI capable of emotional life, eg, having a heart?
Duchamp’s idea of second-class citizenship for machines is demonstrated in Asimov’s Three Rules of Robotics as seen in his 1963 collection of short stories I, Robot. The Laws of Robotics are in order of importance, as follows: “A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm. A robot must obey the orders given to it by human beings, except where such orders would conflict with the First Law. A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Laws.” (Asimov, 1963) Hence, a robot can break the third law if it conflicts with the second law, and the second law if it conflicts with the first. In a rather compelling way, Duchamp is himself exercising a modified version of the First Law of Robotics, as seen in the I, Robot story concerning the unit Nestor 10. The version of the First Law that Nestor 10 is operating with states only that “A robot may not injure a human being,” but can allow a human being to come to harm through inaction. The Large Glass, as an inanimate object, does nothing to actively hurt its viewers, but does nothing to prevent any angst caused by the viewing of the piece, and further offers only a mirror to gaze into, and no solution to the problems which the piece presents.
”A humanoid robot is like any other machine; it can fluctuate between being a benefit and a hazard very rapidly.” (citation needed). The Large Glass speaks to the ways in which the Bride is the embodiment of life and humanity, while the replicants are the Bachelors in amorous pursuit. In the most recent “Final Cut” of Bladerunner, the viewer is made to understand that Deckard is himself a replicant, and he will be analyzed accordingly. Working under the assumption that the Replicants are the Bachelors, the Bachelors are indeed capable of emotion, and The Bride represents the Life and Humanity that they lust after.
The replicants were originally used as slave labor, and as such it was problematic for them to have emotional lives, and as a result they were given a short 4-year life span and outlawed on Earth to ensure the general population’s safety. To further control the replicants, some replicants are unaware that they are fabricated machines, such as Deckard and Rachel. Their creators went as far as to create a past and instill memories into the replicants so that they have no reason to suspect that they might not be human beings.
Where the Replicants try to attain a more humanlike existence, Deckard struggles to maintain/regain his humanity. Regardless of whether Deckard is a replicant or not, he is in search of the same things as the replicants. His job is to kill sentient, emotional beings; his inhumanity is evident in his lifestyle as an angry loner and in the way he treats Rachel, especially considering she is a love interest. Supposing that the Replicants/Bachelors are not supposed to have emotions, are the Bachelors supposed to be in love with the Bride, or just going on base instinct to procreate? This begs the question, can machines have instinct/subconscious drives? Similar to the workers in Metropolis, the Replicants resentful of their position, and are being driven crazy by their lust for humanity and a life span longer than 4 years. Interestingly, Replicants experience empathy for each other; the Bachelors are all in the same agonizing position and likely also empathize with each other, rather than mindlessly grinding away while ignoring each others’ existences. The replicants appear also to be capable of sympathy, and /or, empathy toward humans. As angry as he is at his lot in life, Roy still shows some remorse for killing Tyrell in his rage. Ultimately, like the Bachelors, the replicants and Deckard churn away and pine for something they can never have. The Replicants (and Deckard) can never be human. The Replicants (and Deckard) can’t extend their lives because their genetic makeup makes it physically impossible.
It would seem that Tyrell, like Duchamp, had no love for the machine. An interesting side note is Pris’ (played by Darryl Hannah) costume in the scene in which Deckard shoots her. Her white skin, nude leotard and ivory veil are visually very reminiscent of The Bride.