I wouldn't be thinking about this if I hadn't decided to include The Communist Manifesto in Humanities this semester--the topic is Children of Frankenstein again, but I wanted to cover Marx to introduce the idea of Labor as a human relation to Nature that's profoundly changed by new technologies, and to give some basis for discussion of Metropolis, which follows next on the schedule.
Because of this, I'm thinking that the most interesting about Maria is what she doesn't do: Rottwang's apparent aim in creating the robot is to make human laborers completely obsolete--the etymology of robot as Czech for "slave." But Freder wants her as an agent-provocateur and perhaps lover.
The shift from robot to AI and the shift from industrial to service economy both involve a shift in the fantasy of the artificial person--from freeing humans from the need to do manual labor to a focus on fulfilling desires for power and sex. This is probably very old news to the post-human people, but it's a nice topic for my class.