An Ode to the M3GAN Dance Scene: Cool for the Sake of Cool

Context be damned, M3GAN understands that a murderous doll dancing is fun enough on its own.

M3gan dancing in horror movie
Photo: Universal Pictures

Before the android horror-comedy M3GAN even premiered on Jan. 6, it was already the stuff of internet legend. Thanks to a revealing trailer of the Blumhouse project about a murderous A.I. doll, the character of M3GAN (Model 3 Generative Android) was injected directly into the meme canon with numerous online posts dedicated to her, let’s say, animated dance style.

It didn’t take much. Just one five-second sequence of the blonde-haired, dead-eyed moppet doing a little jig amid a murderous rampage led to a whole thriving ecosystem of Twitter .gifs, Tik Tok tributes, and more. And many of them are great! Additionally, since the launch of that trailer, pretty much every new promotional effort has featured M3GAN or M3GAN impersonators dancing in some fashion. Below are just some of our favorites, each indicative of how production company Blumhouse and distributor Universal were ready for the memetic onslaught.

A gaggle of M3GANs danced at an NFL football game.

A pod of M3GANs danced atop of skyscraper.

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Loose bands of M3GANs even showed up to press screenings of the film to showcase their moves.

All in all, if there was one thing that the movie-going public knew about M3GAN‘s titular murder doll, it’s that she do be dancing. One thing that wasn’t clear going into the film, however, was why exactly is M3GAN dancing?

Perhaps this is an overly simplistic observation, but typically when people (or robots) dance they have a reason for doing so. They might dance at a friend’s wedding, an enemy’s funeral, or in a breakdancing contest for survival against a group of tough youths. Many would-be M3GAN fans (or at least this would-be M3GAN fan) assumed that M3GAN’s dancing in the film would be part of a larger thematic gambit. Maybe M3GAN was dancing in that hallway because it was a perfect way to distract her next victim. Maybe M3GAN was dancing because her child friend Cady (Violet McGraw) taught her to do so and she just couldn’t help herself but to get down at an inopportune moment.

Imagine my surprise upon seeing M3GAN and discovering that the limber android dances in that moment just because dancing before killing someone is a fun and cool thing to do.

Admittedly, there is a moment early on in M3GAN where Cady and her new friend dance together, adding a new skill to the learning android’s repertoire (naturally that became the subject of memery as well). But that moment isn’t harkened back to when M3GAN sashays before murdering David (Ronny Chieng) with a paper trimmer blade. She really just cuts a rug and then kills a guy. All for the love of the game!

There’s a way to view this brief trailer-friendly moment cynically and accuse Universal, Blumhouse, and M3GAN‘s various creators of crafting a scene solely for the sake of memes. There’s also another way of thinking, however, and it’s the one that I subscribe to. Doing things just because they’re fun and cool is not only acceptable, it’s kind of the whole point of moviemaking.

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Film is a visual medium, and M3GAN herself is truly a visual marvel. Regardless of how one feels about M3GAN the film, it can’t be denied that M3GAN the character is one hell of a creation. Equal parts uncanny and compelling, M3GAN is an eyeball magnet for every minute she appears onscreen. She looks fascinating and much of the filmmaking joy derived from M3GAN comes from merely watching her do things. It’s fun to watch her raise an eyebrow at someone. It’s fun to watch her scamper around the wilderness on all fours like a rabid beast. And it’s really freaking fun to watch her dance in her herky-jerky yet weirdly graceful way.

Though musicals on film and television are currently in a bit of a fallow period (how on Earth could a West Side Story adaptation written by Tony Kushner and directed by Steven Spielberg be a box office flop?), non-musical endeavors in media appear to be rediscovering their love for song and dance. Netflix’s The Umbrella Academy, for instance, opened its first season with an extended song and dance number. Not because it was necessarily a narratively sound thing to do, mind you, but because it was a fun thing to do. Netflix’s even bigger genre hit Wednesday continued that dancing tradition with a viral dance sequence in its first season. And then, of course, there are filmmaking cultures who have always appreciated the art of some well-timed dance as RRR reminded Western audiences last year. And if there was one thing audiences could discern from the trailer for Damien Chazelle’s Babylon, it’s that Margot Robbie was about to go medieval on that dance floor (not to be confused with her and Leonardo DiCaprio busting soon-to-be memed moves in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood).

Pop culture is more fun when movies and television shows let their characters express themselves visually. Dance just happens to be a lovely way to do so. It would only make sense then that M3GAN join in on that fun.