20 years since Judgment Day

Today, when I start this (but likely not when I post it), is the 20th anniversary of Judgment Day.  On Saturday we went to see Terminator 2: Judgment Day in 3D, a rather big deal as the theater was 4 hours away. Also cushy with recliners.  And nearly empty so it was almost like having a private viewing with the only awareness of the handful of others a few rows behind was their laughter during quiet funny scenes.   I felt the 3D effect was well done, but then I am a big fan of 3D….it does help get my ADHD brain focused, it seems.  Something that might have helped given that I’ve seen T2 hundreds of times by now,  and usually watch while working out rather than lounging in a comfy recliner.  It was a memorable event.

Unlike, it seems my first viewing. Which seems odd for a movie I am so obsessed with. I realized this last year, when I thought about writing something for the 25th anniversary of the movie. It is one reason I didn’t, although the greater one was my focus on trying to save my dogs which meant I wasn’t writing much of anything. It seemed odd. I saw it several times that summer, but I don’t remember the first. I don’t remember if I saw it alone or with someone, although I remember seeing it with several other people at various times.

Mind you, I remember the first time I heard about the movie.  A few years ago I wrote this in my personal blog when examining the influence Sarah Connor had on my spiritual path, in the context of discussion going on in the Pagan blogosphere about pop culture in Paganism.

Never having seen The Terminator, I didn’t pay much attention when a friend, a mentor on the warrior path, and his roommate were talking about the second movie about to come out. I seem to remember them focused on Arnie and machines. *yawn* Later that day, I was a bit surprised when I visited other friends (at the time) who were not, AFAIK, Arnie fans anymore than I was, to find that they were all excited about Terminator 2 as well.Then they showed me her photo in a magazine (remember those things? ah, yes, tell me the machines aren’t taking over, after all). Linda Hamilton, dressed in black and with all that muscle.

You know how you don’t know you were looking for something until you find it? Yeah, one of those moments. Or rather it built, I sought out the first movie, got to the new one the first chance I got. The first moment when Sarah is on the screen doing chin ups was probably when it really hit. This was something I was looking for, I just hadn’t known it.

An Morrígan and Sarah Connor: Pt. 2 Warrior Cults and Charm Schools

I was into fitness before I saw the movie, working to become as strong as I could, walking a warrior path that I still strive for. To see real muscle on a female character in an action film blew me away….before I saw the movie. So just learning about it apparently superseded the actual first seeing of it….which then gets blurred with all the others. The chin-up scene is inspiring, every damn time, so the memory of the first…it just got lost in there, I guess.

Sarah's ionic chin upSeeing the scene in 3D, especially after so many viewings on my poor ancient TV that is in the gym, and the poor ancient VHS playing the poor ancient tape that I bough used as soon as it was available after renting it so many times (yup….the DVD player is in the living room….but it might get moved as the T2 tape really is on its last legs…and I do have two different DVD editions) was amazing, all the same. And from there it almost felt like it was the first time….except that I do know it line for line.  ~:p

26 years later and Sarah Connor remains my ultimate pop culture icon to this day. When it came out I did think we were about to have a great influx of physically strong female action leads in movies on a similar vein. And we really didn’t. We got a few, but most were not as relatable for various reasons.  We had super powered Buffy, corny Xena, potentially fun but not what I was looking for (tbh, the Buffy from the alternate reality appeared like she would have been much more appealing to me). We had quirky Tank Girl, which I liked but didn’t become fanatical about. It wasn’t until recently when Mad Max: Fury Road gave us not just the kick ass Imperator Furiosa but also the Vuvalini of Many Mothers who she came from and also allowed the “victim” wives to reveal their own strengths. And, of course, the new Star Wars movies offered more, including showing the strength Leia which was somewhat overshadowed in the first trilogy despite Carrie Fishers own strength and talent.

Looking back, T2‘s Sarah Connor really should have been more of a step than it ended up being because we needed to move forward from it. I love it, I love both Sarah and Linda Hamilton….but even before seeing it so large and 3D, I knew the movie itself failed its potential as far as the character could have been. Largely this is due to the need for Schwarzenegger to be the hero. While The Terminator, in classic Final Girl fashion had Sarah start off helpless but be the one to kill the monster in the end and then twist the Final Girl formula by showing her having already started the journey to become a warrior and heading on to continue it, T2 ended with her falling short of saving her son and herself and the T800 needing to come in to save them. To be honest, I think T2 without Schwarzenegger might have been far better, to have the Terminator who helped them not be top billed, not be the hero at the end. Sarah should have been the actual lead, but was not.

The movie also fell into the Not Like Other Girls/One of the Guys trope. To some extent as this was a sort of “nuclear family unit” (you can take or leave the obvious pun in there as you wish) thing that is understandable. However, it could have been circumvented a little by more background women in roles that were not so “motherly.”  Oh, you have the security guard, but other wise you have Janelle, not a good mother but still considered by the authorities to be better than Sarah, obviously, you had the nurse and you have Jolanda.

Jolanda was, actually a poor portrayal from a survivalist stand point. The oldest child was old enough to hide with the others and be ready to defend them if his parents were taken out.  Jolanda should have flanked the three intruders when Enrique confronted them. That alone would have been a huge step. Or, you know, at least have her come out from hiding securing a long gun.

A few obviously female cops might have helped. It looked like there might have been a couple in the stand off outside Cyberdyne….but all recognizable cops were clearly male. There really were female cops in 1991.  Hell, there were in 1984 but it was made clear that all the ones in the station in The Terminator were “men with families, children.”  Given no real substantial female roles other than Sarah, I feel it fails the Bechdel Test although it’s been given a disputed pass.  After all, “Open it or I’ll pump him full of this shit!” is still talking about a man and the guard doesn’t seem to be named.  I don’t think “Get on the floor, bitch. Fucking down now!” really counts either. Her greeting with Jolanda is kind of “to the side” and not really a conversation but is the closest thing to giving it a pass.

Of course, despite Jame Cameron’s attack on Wonder Woman (something I may or may not comment on more at some point), it’s been made pretty damn clear that Terminator 2 was never about Sarah Connor lately. Even more so than it always has been. This is an Arnold movie, all following movies were Arnold movies including the one he wasn’t in at all. Sarah was incidental. The only time I have seen her character brought up while all the talk of the 3D release and Cameron’s upcoming reboot of the series has been, yeah, when it was used to attack an actual woman-led movie directed by a woman. Otherwise you’d think Sarah Connor wasn’t even in the damn movie. She certainly won’t be in future ones, instead Cameron is making sure that Arnold is in the first to pass it on to new characters. We certainly never will get anything like the once hoped for William Wisher script bring Sarah Connor back and “closing the loop.”

There are multiple Terminator franchise fandoms, really. I think the two that are hardest to reconcile are the ones focused on Future War and the one, such as the SCCS is part of, that focuses on Sarah Connor/Linda Hamilton as the real lead of the first two movies. We clearly dreamed, when we still had dreams of good sequels (something some FW fans still might dream of, but I think those of us who are only in it for Sarah and only as played by Linda have given up), of far different sequels. Sarah’s story was best told in a continued battle with time trying to reset, with pushing the date of Judgment Day further into the future but still having to fight to keep it from happening. We did get a few okay, if not great sequels in that vein in comics and novels. We got one really horrible TV series attempt.  It’s clear by omission that Cameron has no interest in this sort of future for the franchise.  Of course, the reset is needed to be considered….we’re now closer to the date when the Terminators and Kyle Reese came through than we are Judgment day.  But no Sarah. No Linda.

Coming back from seeing T2 again on the big screen, 26 years older than i was when I saw it the first time. Still in awe of Linda’s strength, inside and out…and feeling a bit old, to tell the truth …I remember a long time debate with myself about the alternate ending showing Grandma Sarah 30 years after a Judgment Day that never happened.  Of course, I question the possibility of a Senator John given his mother’s felonies and his own involvement….I suppose it’s possible, he would have been seen as a kidnapped child.  But given the blame likely to have fallen on Sarah not just for what she did do with reason but also for murders committed by the T1000 and by the police (Miles Dyson’s death would be put on her and her vanished accomplice, obviously), would she ever be free and not in hiding?  Well, that might be workable.  We’ll never know.

First I was glad it wasn’t used, it could have been used to end the franchise and I had hoped for at least one sequel not long after T2 with Sarah fighting to keep the Future War from happening. And, yes, one without Schwarzenegger. But, well, we know what happened instead so. …  Then I wished to Gods they did end it there. But now I see how much of that was caught in my relative youth. Wanting to see this in my 30s with a 30something Sarah, because by 50 we’d both have withered away, right?   ~:p

So thinking about this now, just 10 years from that ending, I can’t help but think how utterly awesome it would be to have had this ending and ….go from there! To have all this “it’s completely over, all is peaceful(ish)” and then time starts to finally try to reset. And Grandma Sarah and Senator John have to find their inner warriors, and we probably find out that Grandma actually has kept prepping and kept fit all along, and fight Terminators from the future.  After all, now that I am over 50 and I am still prepping and still training, I so damn much want to watch 60 something Sarah kicking ass!

But, i can guarantee you that James Cameron is not waiting for my advice on this.  Not that he seems to be someone who listens to anyone, anyway.  But…damn…yeah, this is the sort of thing that is my total fanon now.  So I am going to leave this at that thought.  I hope those who want to see this and haven’t are able to…in the US some AMC theaters are running it tonight and tomorrow.

 

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