Aerotropolis is apparently the new tongue-in-cheek term coined for the Chinese cargo hub proposed at Lambert International Airport. Immediately, this name evokes the 1927 dystopian film, Metropolis. Filmed in a German Expressionist style with angular, dramatic shots of the futuristic city of Metropolis, workers toil and sometimes die at the hands of a deity-like, Heart Machine. In the film, the workers exist in stark contrast to the city planners, who live a decadent life of beauty and luxury atop the Tower of Babel, cut off from the gritty, desperate life below. The contrast between the city planners and the workers are juxtaposed in array of stunning visual effects, particularly noteworthy of its time. The protagonist, the son of a wealthy city planner spends a delirious day working at the clock to keep the Heart Machine going thus becomes a mediator between the planners and the workers to find unity in existence.
Just as I have found many personal metaphors from Carrollton, metaphors can be interchanged between the Aerotropolis moniker to the Metropolis film. From the monied city planners whose visions expand beyond their boundaries at the physical hands of workers, the workers who have little to say against their plight, the desperate hopes for a mediator between the two classes of people, the Tower of Babel as a form to exchange language between the communities, the city of Metropolis, to finally, the vision of a dark, broken city desperate for reform, there are many parallels that can be drawn between the two. The most immediate metaphor resides with the film’s self-appointed mediator, who works against the clock to keep the machine going and gains a crucial understanding of what the people must do to survive in Metropolis.
As the legislation wound down last week, the Missouri tax incentives for establishing the Chinese air-cargo hub at Lambert International Airport became that smoking clock a delusional wealthy man-turned worker fought to keep alive. The city planners have failed before when they expanded Lambert and opened its newest runway in 2006, against the plight of the homeowners and businesses within 2,000 structures. The planners are suddenly seeing the pressing need for work in the St. Louis area and desperately trying to mediate a way to make that runway useful at the same time.
Whether or not the St. Louis City leaders will become the next Freder in our city’s own Metropolis story remains to be seen. If they can do it without the tax incentives to bring work to the region, then they can have the hero title of Mediator. Until then, they remain the same failed City Planners they were when they introduced the runway project to begin with.
Two articles from the Post-Dispatch: