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Opinion
Lionel Laurent

Fleeing the City? You’ll Be Back

Suburbia isn't the utopia it's cracked up to be.

Choose your dystopia: The fictional 21st-century city or the real one.

Choose your dystopia: The fictional 21st-century city or the real one.

Photographer: Sean Gallup/Getty Images

Anyone who’s ever taken the London Tube or New York subway during rush hour will feel right at home watching Fritz Lang’s 1927 sci-fi dystopia Metropolis. Crowds of workers, heads down and shoulders hunched, march through underground tunnels on their way to daily drudgery while the wealthy live in pleasure palaces high above. 

If the movie was remade today, there would be even more dystopian elements of 21st-century life to add: Overvalued real estate totally out of whack with workers’ earnings and a Covid-19 pandemic that has turned densely populated and vibrant cities into barren spaces where human contact is avoided. Simple pleasures like going to a concert now mean wearing a mask and doing a temperature check. If 1960s New York had been like this, Bob Dylan might very well have stayed in Minnesota.