Seriously, would you let the guy who said the following have control of the character of Sarah Connor?
“The flinty heroines played by Sigourney Weaver and Linda Hamilton in the Alien and Terminator movies were well done, but they’re outdated. They’re the first evolutionary step in the female-action genre. I want to see women respond to danger and solve problems differently than men. Otherwise, what’s the point.”
That was a totally unknown Hollywood moron named Josh Friedman, who according to his IMDb page had done nothing in 1995, other that write a script for a crappy movie that came out the following year I suppose, in a Philadelphia Inquirer June 14, 1995 article “Ready for Action” by Jeffery Wells. It was later included in the essay “The Gun and the Badge: Hollywood and the Female Lawman” by Carol M. Dole in Reel Knockouts: Violent Women in Movies, edited by Martha McCaughey & Neal King (University of Texas Press, 2001)
We didn’t know this when we heard that FOX was going to have a show called The Sarah Connor Chronicles, in 2006 (even I had forgotten th name of the nobody who had said that, so at first that didn’t worry me, although his lack of background did).
As some of us had dreamed of a show based on Sarah since T2, so we wanted to have hope. However, it was hard to ignore the fact that except perhaps for some of the actresses on Lost and Gina Torres as she appeared in the movie Serenity the female muscle that had been apparent on TV and in movies during the ’90s, likely largely inspired by Linda Hamilton’s Sarah Connor physique, had given way to skin and bones again. When word came out that Lena Headey was going to play Sarah, many of us who had seen her in various movies were horrified. Among the skinny actress trend, she stands out as painfully thin, although hardly the thinnest out there. And not all of us felt she could carry such a role as an actress, even some of her fans who felt she did better in romantic comedy than in action or drama. But maybe she’d put on some muscle for it?
But she didn’t. In fact, both she and Friedman were totally defensive about it as were may fans and other writers. On our fora, we got rather catty in comparisons. I’m not proud of this, in fact, I’m quite embarrassed. The fact that this is a very physical role which inspired many of us isn’t even enough of an excuse. It was not Headey’s fault she was cast, she should not have become the focus. Friedman’s choices to make Sarah Connor weak, not just in appearance but in behavior and action, to match his fantasy that he expressed above is the point. This is a man who wants to see women weak. Period.
There were excuses made for this, when the anger was expressed, many statements relating to “an actress could never maintain such a physique while busily filming a TV series” which ignored the men who maintain muscle, ignored the fact that it doesn’t really take “hours and hours” in the gym to do so for the right actors regardless of gender, ignoring the fact that Evangeline Lilly of Lost was managing just fine. There was a lot of “well, Sarah had had a lot of time to workout at the mental hospital” cries too, to which I must again note it doesn’t take “hours and hours” and, in reality that’s not the best circumstances to have good fitness routine. And a lot of “muscles have nothing to do with strength” …um, that one is so stupid that I can barely address it. Funny, no one ever says anything like that about men’s strength.
This was a total betrayal. Here they were offering our dream, a show supposed (by the title) to be focused on our idol, our role model, and they destroy it by casting an unmuscular actress (a few graduates and students DO like Headey, but not for this role, others of us do not feel she has any talent either) in the role of a physical feminist icon!
When the series came out in 2008 it was obvious that, real, long-time, adult female fans of T2 were not the target audience. Casting** of Thomas Dekker, which is also a bad bit of casting for most of us, as John Connor, writing both roles as whiny, pathetic, unprepared, survivalistically stupid….they are going for a much younger audience. Mostly viewers who probably never saw the movies. And probably predominantly young women. Who they are giving a role model who inspires the status quo ultra-skinny ideal rather than fitness and strength! ….and this is nearly criminal…young women need strong role models not ones who give the message that women should be emaciated! And this role model already had been established as such.
Friedman got what we apparently dreamed of when he said what he said above. To turn Sarah Connor into his own, extremely limited and sexist vision of a “female-action heroine.” Someone with no muscle. Or intelligence, certainly no survival abilities. While his choice of having an unfit “Sarah Connor” was a key topic for the SCCS, it wasn’t our only issue.
Other Problems We Have with the Series
Behavior and Attitude
Upon some of us seeing the leaked pilot and others just from reading various reviews, websites or viewing trailers, we realized there was a lot more wrong with the series than just the lack of muscle. As someone who watched the entire series (I sacrificed myself for the group! Give me a fucking medal!), these issues just continued to get worse. And even worse in the second season.
As mentioned above, they turned both John and Sarah into pathetic whiners, which isn’t shocking given this trend in youth-marketed TV shows. John boohoos to his mommy that he’s not a leader in the pilot…and it’s obvious that he ISN’T, which would be impossible given that he was when he was 9! Both obvious long for a pathetically boring “normal life” and do absolutely stupid things to try to get it.
Another attitude problem that has outraged most of us at first was Sarah screaming and shoving John around, abusing him. While she might go off on others, even in her most fucked up state in T2 she’d never would have abused John in this way…everything is about him, as far as she’s concerned. He IS the future. She might have kept him at arms length, might have shut herself off from real love for a time, but she didn’t strike or shove or scream at him. Even at her worst. And by the end of the movie, she had become a Mom again. This was disgusting! Having any primary character abuse a child is bad, but this is our role model here!
Things got worse. John supposedly hardened, but his “hardened” was awfully pouty. *SPOILER* (like I really care but it’s polite) In the beginning of the second season this seems to happen because he saw his mother kill a guy who was apparently going to rape her. We find out later, of course, because this is Friedman’s revisioned “heroine” who “has to be different than men” which means being a victim, that John had killed the guy to save her.
What? 1) The REAL Sarah Connor would not need her son to save her. 2) I think that it’s vitally important to the canon that John never have killed humans. In fact, through this series there was a blatant lack of concern for human life…totally opposed to the message in T2 that “you can’t just go around killing people.”
But mostly Sarah needed saving?
The pouting and whining continued.
They also fucked the timeline, not in the “someone went back and changed it way” which is part of the whole deal, but in what would have been set from the first movie…they claim that this starts in 1999, John is 15 and the events in T2 are said to have taken place two years before. Uh, okay…John was born in 1985, he was about 9 in T2 (you never go by the actor’s age, okay) which means that it should have taken place in 1995. If it took place in 1997, it would have been a tad late because Judgment Day was August 29, 1997….I think Dyson would have been a LOT further along and things would already have been in place if T2 took place then. This is just stupid…just as stupid as the stuff with Johns age in T3, which will eventually get bitched about here as well.
Hamilton’s Sarah Connor was not just a role model of physical feminism, but also of survivalism. Not all of the SCCS graduates are truly living as preppers, but some of us are. Some of us were before and were excited to see a character we could identify with. She was prepared, she was smart and she was driven. She was prepared for what was to come and she was willing to risk her life to prevent it if she could.
In the series, it’s obvious that the writers do not have the slightest clue as to how someone like that would have acted following the events of T2. They had her stay in the US when she clearly has contacts south of the border. They have her work as a waitress, which not only was a job she held before and that would be known to the Feds, but also tends to put you out in the public to be seen. They have her use her and John’s first names and the last name of a known associate as her “alias”…and all they can do is have the Terminator scold her for using it twice? Sarah Connor would never have done that once! They have John in public school. They have her shacked up with some ugly, boring “regular Joe” (okay, an EMT, but one who apparently forgot how to do his job and killed his wife ..”go slower” is never the right order when transporting a critical patient…I, btw, am married to an EMT myself…hardly as ugly and boring as this guy…hopefully he’d actually try to save me if I got killed because of his ex). Sarah Connor would have done none of these things. No intelligent survivalist wanted as a terrorist would have done any of these things!
So, we continued to bitch about and mock this atrocity while it lasted, at least now it’s gone but, sadly, it’s had it’s negative effects. But perhaps it’s also helped? With this and Terminator Salvation which was only comparatively better, there has been more focus on the franchise and it seems that Linda Hamilton is the Sarah Connor people are remembering. She’s certainly the one inspiring us to train and prepare.
The Sarah Connor Charm School rejects the message that to be beautiful one must be skinny!
**Casting Summer Glau as a Terminator is the ONE good bit of casting. She does not have Hamilton’s physique, but she is athletic, can move and she can act. Of course, she loses points as a physical feminist role model in this series by being a robot, we want “meat role models” we can aspire to. Sadly, she was wasted on this production (many of us would really love to see her in something good…since Firefly/Serenity that hasn’t happened).