Machinal by Sophie Treadwell
The Technological Revolution of the late 19th century and early 20th century is generally characterized by the widespread usage of previously concentrated networks of telegraph, railroads and factories. Communications skyrocketed as surges of ideas and people began to move around and create connections previously thought to be impossible. The roaring 20’s is known in today’s popular culture as a time of challenged gender social normalities, but there was a nasty underbelly. For many women and men alike, this wave of mechanization and technological advancement made their bodies into moving parts to add to the machine of society. Mass production inserted humans into assembly lines of repetitive movements and no room for error.
Machinal is the story of a young woman drowning in this technological change. Her place as a woman gets further reinforced by wires, marriage, and a child. Never quite fitting into the rest of the machine, she creaks along, leading her to the ultimate societal system error: murder. A faulty cog, the Young Woman does what she is supposed to do while yearning to express her voice to the rest of the world who functions in perfect clockwork, and who leaves her both suffocated and isolated simultaneously. Seen through her perspective, the audience is allowed to only accept and not comment.
Fast forwarding to year 2017, the metaphorical machine of our society has manifested through the extension of our sensory organs in smart phones, earbuds, and fitbits. Instead of using this technology in the workforce to energize a bigger machine, it accompanies us at all times and connects us to one another in a different and more profound way. There is a major turn in the millennial generation to follow our own paths instead of the predetermined traditional one, but this turn from traditional social cohesion will inevitably have its own undetermined effects. How can we use our intertwined web of communication to give voices to those who do not have one more efficiently than our grandparents could? Can we keep the apparatus moving without full and focused cooperation? Can true exceptions to the status quo actually survive?