Of course, I’ve been anxious for months waiting to actually see Sarah Connor in action. I mean, it’s still rather early (except for Disney movies and some others with toy tie-ins where the first trailers are mostly to sell toys, not the movie) for a trailer. But we’ve known about this for soooooo long. There was hoping when it came out that Terminator: Dark Fate, newly officially titled, was going to be featured at CinemaCon and the cast was be awarded Best Ensemble that the following day we’d get something. We got more photos, we got descriptions of the footage shown, but as that wasn’t even a trailer we had to wait.
So this week has been a huge deal for me, from the moment Arnold Schwarzenegger posted on his social media that the trailer was 48 hours away. The next morning we got the first official poster, featuring Sarah Connor, with the road reflecting both the endings of The Terminator and beginning and end ofTerminator 2: Judgment Day. It’s minimalist, stark even, which a perfect echo of where Sarah is likely at this point. Yes, this goes on the gym wall very soon!
This was really the best sign I could have asked for, to see Sarah/Linda centered as completely as this. A sign that they know that for many of us, this really always has been about Sarah Connor. That we’re here for her, not the machines which all movies following T2 seemed to be based on. Oh, there are those who are, of course. Most of them seem to already hate this movie, however, so probably it is wise not to focus on them. Oh, they’re giving us a new Terminator model that is more advanced, able to not only shape shift but split in two, and a new hero who is apparently a true cyborg, an enhanced human …maybe. But the machines are not the focus I have….I’m here for the continuation of Sarah’s story. And the beginning of Dani’s.
And yesterday morning, when I woke up early (considering my habit of keeping late hours, which I had not managed to curb the night before) so I’d have this computer up and running and pointed at the YouTube premiere page, I was blown away by a trailer that did, indeed, center around these women’s stories, with no lack of action.
Even having heard the descriptions of footage seen at CinemaCon, even with all the anticipation I have had for this, I will admit I was emotionally shaken by seeing Sarah Connor step out of that truck to kick Terminator ass. I have watched it several times and get choked up every single damn time! I’ve waited so damn long for this!
Of course, the trailer is being trashed by the toxic dudebros, sometimes apparently for the opposite reasons they were previously claiming it was going to suck for. Haters gonna hate. But I don’t have a single complaint (other than the movie being over 5 months away, of course).
Nothing is given away except one death that I think most of us expected but does blow the “Diego Boneta is secretly playing John Connor” fan theory out of the water, which is good as it was getting real old and needed to die. It’s hard to call this a spoiler when it was so obvious from the day the casting was revealed. To some of us. A “point of no return” death is an expected trope here, Ginger in The Terminator, John’s not-exactly-beloved-but-they-were-home foster parents in T2.
Other than that, little is revealed. We get imagery that indicates that Arnold Schwarzenegger is playing a Terminator, we know nothing more about his character yet. We see things that indicate that most of what was hinted at already about Sarah Connor and Grace now is likely but we really learn very little. We certainly still have no idea where John Connor is.
I might not have chosen the rather haunting, dirgey even, cover of Björk’s Hunter ( vocals by John Mark McMillan, arrangement by Matt Wilcox) but I felt that they used it well. While faster paced and industrial might have been what was expected, of course, I felt that the way it was structured the music enhanced the action scenes rather than undermined them and added a sense of sorrow, longing, pain to the teaser. Oh, I’d still be getting misty over seeing Sarah again, but I think the music intensifies it. As it’s the first trailer, just a teaser, we probably were never going to get Junkie XL’s scoring yet. Possibly it’s not ready, likely they also want to keep it under wraps. Maybe they even hoping that those who are still somehow expecting Brad Fiedel would hate this so much that they’ll be more accepting of the change. I doubt it will work, of course.
We also got a behind-the-scenes video, which gives us a bit more insight, again focused on the fact that this is all about Sarah Fucking Connor!
No, not everyone seems happy, but all the consensus among die-hard Charm Schoolers and other Sarah Connor fans has been, over all, positive. And after decades of feeling like we were “on the fringes” of the Terminator fandom (again, we didn’t even get Sarah Connor action figures until 2004!….but we’re expecting one, along with Grace and Dani, soon from this one!) it’s also really good to see James Cameron, Tim Miller and all noting that this is about Sarah Connor!
Shout-out Richard Kisielka for collecting and sending us the photos used here. He has also sent some close ups of items to help with the cosplay blog post and page (some confirming already that I was right about the watch despite lack of detail previously…), so that will be getting some updating soon.
I’m also working on a more detailed post on my thoughts and, yes, feelings about “old” Sarah Connor’s return and what it means to me in my midlife.
We know more about the upcoming Terminator: Dark Fate since hearing descriptions of the two clips and montage footage shown at CinemaCon on April 4, 2019. But there is still a lot we don’t know. And one thing has been bugging some fans (not me so much but some of the talk about it kind of does, hence this) above all else. “Where is John Connor?”
I admit, I’ve been a bit nicer in my interactions about this subject on Facebook than I’m going to be here, mostly because getting down to the nitty gritty seems better done in one place. Less energy and time, too.
And, yes, that is there, even if most (but clearly not all, as some are so proud of it, although most of them seem only capable of vile yet boringly repetitive “tr***y” jokes about Mackenzie Davis, which do not deserve any more energy than this) of the fans doing this would not consider themselves being misogynist about it. They likely are first thinking of wanting a beloved character to return. But it is effectively , it is effectively negating the importance of Natalia Reyes’ Dani Ramos. Something which we have seen continually happening in various ways starting with early reports that Mackenzie Davis was the new central character, some even billing her as Dani Ramos, while Reyes’ involvement was largely ignored or reduced for weeks (in some cases months) by many fans and much of the English speaking press. Essentially, these theories precisely reduce the importance of Dani Ramos as contingent on her supposed relationship to John Connor.
Most of the fan theories start with the issue that John has not been mentioned by anyone, aside from the leak that Jude Collie did motion capture for at least one flashback or dream scene of young John. Apparently, this lack of mention must mean John is so important and this is going to be so amazing that they are keeping it a big secret. This leads to a lot of hope in many hearts that Edward Furlong is going to return to the role, in a big reveal. Furlong having gone into rehab last year around the time filming started, has strengthened this hope. Some are willing to face it might be someone else, but again, a big reveal at the end. Usually the idea is that John must be in hiding from Skynet, likely bunkered somewhere.
But not all fans are satisfied just this theory, because there is the “problem” of the Dani having some importance. One theory that “explains” Dani Ramos’s “seemingly” central role popped up in several fora after the release of this behind-the-scenes video that shows (at 0:43) Natalia Reyes wearing a short wig. This theory is that Dani has short hair because she is meant to be a decoy “John Connor” to lead Gabriel Luna’s Terminator from the real thing. This is perhaps the most transparent attempt to invalidate Dani’s importance that I have seen so far. It also makes no sense when, from early filming photos and such, it was clear that long haired Dani was actually being targeted. But, what ever.
But another, more popular attempt, is goes with John more hiding in plain sight and is based on the fact that 28 year-old Mexican actor Diego Boneta’s character has not been named publicly at this point. His character has been noted several times both officially and in his own social media accounts as Dani’s brother. So, obviously he must be John Connor! Uh…yeah. The idea is that Dani is just his half sister, Sarah having married and settled down in Mexico city. Or maybe that happened later and they’re only step-siblings. Or maybe he was adopted or fostered by the Ramos family. But obviously the only reason she could be important is proximity to her brother.
There are so many reasons it seems unlikely. He’s younger than the character, actors are typically actually older than the character for some reas (and the Terminator franchise has itself tended towards this). Boneta also left filming early, when principal filming that included Arnold Schwarzenegger was still going on in Hungary Boneta was in South Africa already filming Monster Hunter. Although he did get a photo in the group released to IGN by Paramount Pictures on April 4, 2019, which I use here, he was not present at the CinemaCon and included in the Ensemble Award (but then Schwarzenegger didn’t receive the award either but was there for the presentation) But the fun part of this theory has been that all of these reasons to doubt can be explained as part of the great ploy to hide the fact he is John.
This theory also feels like it’s negating Boneta’s own Mexican identity. Boneta is the only Mexican born actor in the main cast and it’s clear on his social media that he’s very proud of his culture. Gabriel Luna was born in Texas although he seems strongly connected to his Mexican roots, Natalia Reyes is Colombian. Many of the other Mexican characters are played by Spanish actors, as much of the “Mexican” filming was done in Spain, as well as likely some Mexican and other Latin American actors. While Edward Furlong apparently has some Mexican ancestry and John Connor spent his childhood in Latin American countries, it is a stretch to claim that John Connor is culturally immersed Mexican person. This theory seems to essentially say that the actor’s Mexican identity is just another “Red Herring” to fool us into thinking he’s not John and that’s really …problematic.
However, the Boneta is John theory should now be put to rest, although some are holding strong which is really why I’m writing this, by the descriptions of one of the clips at CinemaCon of what sounds like an amazing entrance by Sarah Connor:
At that moment, a truck speeds into the scene. It does an aggressive slide and out pops…Sarah Connor, who has a huge ass gun. She fills the human-looking Terminator with shells, much like the did at the end of Terminator 2, and then takes a bazooka off her back, and uses it to blow the shit out of the endoskeleton Terminator. “Who the fuck is that?” asks the girl (Reyes/Dani). “I don’t know,” says Davis. – Germain Lussier, “The Terminator: Dark Fate Footage We Saw Featured Some Serious Cyborg Upgrades,” io9 my emphasis
This makes it pretty clear that Dani Ramos doesn’t know Sarah, so obviously not mother/daughter, step or biological. It’s even unlikely that if John were her foster or adopted brother that, if they were at all close, he’d not have told stories. Or that the family wouldn’t know of his past, even if they think the whole time travel and killer robots things was all his mother’s delusion around two men who were trying to kill/save them. I’d think it would far more a “shit, you’re really real!” reaction instead of “who the fuck is that?”
But aside from Dani’s response busting the sibling theory, it’s overall more telling that Grace doesn’t know, or at least suspect, who Sarah Connor is either. If John was still the Great Military Leader Savior of Humanity, if he was one of the targets she was sent to save, she’s certainly have known about his mother and realize “that must be the Great Sarah Connor!”
“Some legend, huh?”
Which brings me to my own actual theory:
Since the events in Terminator 2 pushed back when Judgment Day happens by at least 28 years, John Connor is no longer the Savior of the story. He isn’t the one who saves humanity. Sarah is no longer the mother and teacher of the Savior. I know some fans have said that if John is not centered then the first two movies had no point, but I say that that was exactly the point of T2. Sarah succeeded in her obvious goal to save John from having to bear this burden, even if we now find she failed at stopping Skynet all together. “No fate but what we make,” is the key there. T2 changes their fate.
Dani Ramos is not being targeted by Terminators because she’s somehow in proximity to John, she’s targeted because in the timeline (“one possible future, I don’t know tech stuff”) Sarah and John created she’s the Chosen One. Either the Great Military Leader who Saves Humanity or the ass kicking mother of said leader. Neither John nor Sarah are targeted at all. Sorry, folks, this really is about Dani Ramos.
Yes, this does mean that John may not be in this movie or any that might follow at all (I do see riots if that’s the case, so it might be better if fans got use to the possibility sooner than later). He might be dead. He might be a Senator as in the alternate ending of T2 (he was a kid, as far as anyone knows he was kidnapped by his crazy mother and a guy has an established habit of shooting things up and disappearing, his other exploits are “youthful indiscretions, because he had a crazy mother, which he overcomes”). Maybe no longer being the Chosen One fucked him up and he’s in and out of rehab. Maybe he still thinks he’s the Chosen One and is hiding from Skynet for no actual reason. Maybe he’s an okay guy who just isn’t in the movie or comes in at the end, not because he’s the Chosen One but because it’s the right thing to do. Or maybe he’s an otherwise okay guy, who doesn’t show up at all because he no longer feels that’s his life.
See, that brings up what I hoping for with Sarah. That she no longer is any sort of target for the Terminators, but she puts herself in the fight because …she can. It’s why I am totally good with the idea that she and John are not the Holy Savior Family any more. You might think that I’d be upset with that, but I’m not. I’m fucking excited by this possibility!
Because while she was always a better (for my liking, ymmv) Chosen One than some, because she 1) accepted her Destiny with only minimal whinging at first that she then stopped and went out and learned so she could prepare John, 2) came to question her and John’s Destiny and instead used that training to try to save him from it and 3) did this with no superpowers (I like superheroes, too, they’re fun; but it’s always cooler and far more inspirational to me to see someone “normal’ train up to kick ass). But she still did all of that because she felt she had to. Whether accepting their Fate or storming against their Fate, it was the duty she’d be stuck with.
Now, if my theory is correct, she no longer Fated to fight Terminators. Oh, the whole “Dark” part of Dark Fate is thought to indicate she might feel responsible due to changes her choices have caused. Cameron said that she has gone through much more tragedy that has “hardened” and made her “Maybe less likable, but stronger.” A line that has led to “her choices killed John” theories. But even guilt isn’t the same as Fate. In fact, if you feel that your actions made things worse, it can lead to you inaction rather than action. (Hmmm…we’ve seen that somewhere before, seemed to upset a lot of supposed fans of another franchise)
So when she comes storming into the battle and saves Dani and Grace, she may be doing this without any sense that it’s what she has to do. She may feel it’s what she should do because she might feel it’s her fault. She may feel it’s what she should do because she is one of, maybe, two people who know what the fuck is going on. She does, after all, have a rather rare skill set that allows her to fight killer robots. She may feel it’s what she should do because she’s not a damn bystander hoping someone else will anymore, it’s just her nature. But she wouldn’t be doing this because she’s the Chosen One. Or because she herself or her child is in danger, because if they aren’t the Chosen Ones, Skynet doesn’t care either.
And this would make her even more interesting, make her more relatable. How many of us feel we are Chosen Ones? Well, okay, I know a few people who do but still, really, I think most people know they are not. But we might act on something due to guilt, we might act on something because it’s something we’ve prepared for and we probably all hope that when the shit goes down we would act on something because our nature is to act and not be a bystander.
So if John is still alive in this world, and he may not because that would be an easy (lazy, even) way to make sure Sarah is even more traumatized, and no longer fated to be This Great Military Leader, will he choose to act? Will he show up at the end of this movie, preparing to be in the next ones, because he was trained all his life to fight this and he could be helpful, without be the Savior? Or will he just not.
I do think people should be prepared for the possibility that John is dead. Honestly, I don’t want to find myself in the middle of a violent riot on opening night…I mean, I try to always be ready for things to throw down if they do, but I kind of hope to just have fun that night. But either way, I think some fans need to face that this is about Dani Ramos now, it’s very much not likely that it will give you a surprise twist where John Connor is again the focus. T2 did change the future, obviously, and to be the true sequel to it that we crave, that is something we also need to accept.
So, as a feminist running a physical feminist fan site (that would be the one you are on right now) for Linda Hamilton’s Sarah Connor, I have to break this to you and often to myself: The Terminator and Terminator 2: Judgment Day are not actually feminist movies. They are not really female led, either. Yeah, it sucks. I truly wish I could tell you differently, but I’ve been dealing with this fact for years. Those of you where have been reading recently probably have picked up on this with some of my recent posts.
But, but Sarah Connor is the lead, right? Well, only kind of.
The title character is, obviously, Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Terminator. It is pretty standard for monster movie titles to be or to allude to the monster, which was the case of The Terminator which was a Final Girl horror piece with a twist a the end. Sarah doesn’t breath a sigh of relief that it’s all over after she crushes the monster, while the audience knows better, she heads off to prepare for the fact it’s just starting. She’s also pregnant because the movie also broke the usual virginal requirement for Final Girls. Final Girls are only kind of the lead character, she does win, after all, but really the monster is the star. The Final Girls can even change in each movie.
Schwarzenegger’s Terminator is again the title character, now a franchise name, in Terminator 2, this time as the hero. It’s, of course, handy that it as the T1000 is also a Terminator, the monster still gets in on the title (this, of course, means there was a female title character in Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines, but as awesome a person and actress as Kristanna Loken is, there was no saving that movie). While Sarah is shown as tough and capable and, for many of us, felt like the lead, this time she doesn’t even kill the monster in the end like a Final Girl. She comes close, but is short that last shell that might have driven the T1000 over the edge and into the molten steal It is the Terminator who has to take the final shot. She does then get to kill this reprogrammed ally, but it’s somehow not the same as watching her crush the monster that tried to kill her and did killed everyone she loved, “you’re terminated, fucker!” And now that she is not a Final Girl, being the only fully developed female character in the movie, she sadly fits in the One of the Boys mode far too much.
When I’m not writing about pop culture “strong women” or fitness, I research and write about warriors and gender issues in Old Irish literature and culture. My educational background is in Celtic and women’s studies and it’s been something I have continued to research seriously for over 30 years now. This may seem like an aside, but it definitely connects for me as there are layers of similarity in studying women warriors in both modern media and Old Irish literature. One big one how there are few women warriors in either early Irish or modern stories, yet many, including many feminists, declare that those few mean that women are so well represented that we should just shut the fuck up about it now.
Which, of course, I’m not. Because counting off two, three or a dozen “strong female characters” actually does more to demonstrate that there actually are not that many compared to “strong male characters” which are, of course, usually just called “characters” because male is seen as the default and physical strength is something considered normal for men but exceptional for women. You can’t make similar lists of all the “strong male characters” in either the Irish literature or modern movies and television so easily, there are just too many. Instead people will list their favorites or the best know. And also ignore all the dozens of supporting characters that are male and in roles indicating strength, while even in the background there are few such women. If we need further reminding of the issue, we just need to see how white cis-het men get so defensive about being “erased” when there are “too many” characters (or writers or directors…) who are not white cis-het men. That’s because there are some who truly believe that that white cis-het maleness is the Default Human and everyone else is Other, so they must outnumber everyone all the time. One woman (or PoC or LGBTQ+ person) is “equality,” two is “really pushing it,” more than that is “Feminazi SJWs* Ruining My Childhood!” Even though, you know, the world doesn’t work that way, so why should fiction? And if your world really does work that way, you have created a safe little bubble for yourself haven’t you? Guess what? That means that both your childhood and your current bubble need ruining. Time to join the real and very diverse world.
The other reason not to step back is that we’re usually having to find these characters in works that are non-feminist, even misogynist, and even when not that heavily so were created by men and not from women’s points of view. This is extremely obvious in the Old Irish literature, which we have not only written down by male clerics but most of the translations we currently have were done by men during the Victorian era. The point of view we get these stories from is very male and often hostile towards women. Which, oddly, is part of the reason why the fantasy of women warriors and women’s “strange” equality in early Irish culture is still believed by many, despite the evidence that women were not equal and any living female warriors wold have been outside the culture which is actually the very focus of what I write about on that subject. “If men wrote about them it must be they existed.” Except that it doesn’t work that way, either, and the actual presentation of female warriors in these texts is actually very negative. They are usually the enemies of the hero, sometimes monstrous. If positive, they are veiled as Otherworldly, Outsiders, and serve the hero of the story as teachers who are only warriors to pass the skills on and sometimes sacrifice themselves for his future. Well, kind of like some view Sarah’s role with John and maybe Dani now, which at least is a positive change regarding the gender of the student but it’s making some of us really worried about the possibility of that sacrifice aspect. (blatant self-promotion, this is all total simplification, if anyone is interested in that sort of thing you can visit Scáth na Feannóige)
Yet, while the viewpoint, the lens, that male writers might have see these female characters in was often down right misogynist, some of those women seem heroic to women today. In feminist literary studies there is the concept of looking at how different readers/listeners/viewers of a story see the story through different lenses, only some sharing the same point of view with the writers. Irish literature, among other forms, is being studied through this theory. Women, like Queen Medb of Connacht may have been written in a bad light, but women today and possibly women of early Ireland, often feel empowered by the story of her “unwomanly” ambitions and actions. (for those interested this is my review of what I consider to be the most thorough study of Medb’s story using this theory. Several of my papers on my site linked above as well as the blog linked here examine others)
Whether we are discussing ancient tales or modern movies, the story itself does not have to be written as feminist for us to find feminist messages. James Cameron did not create Sarah Connor as a feminist icon, that is clear in where the movie falls short. Like Medb is now made a feminist icon by feminists own vision of her, feminists, including Linda Hamilton through her amazing performance, made Sarah Connor a feminist icon. That’s our lens, we don’t need to pretend Cameron had the same one.
Today, men still tell most of the stories about women. It’s 2018 and it’s just now that we are really seeing an effort in film and television to even the playing field for women, people of color and LGBTQ+ folk. Oh, just as with characters in movies and literature, yes, we can name women who have held power in Hollywood, including Gale Anne Hurd who played such a vital role in bringing The Terminator to us both as writer and producer, and doing the leg work to sell it, to begin with. But white cis-het men still control things. Some of these men have worked to uplift women, POC and LGBTQ+ colleagues by consciously hiring and centering their voices. Others, as we have seen, continue to treat women directors and writers as if they are mythical, as satirized here. The San Diego Comic-Con had a panel of female filmmakers discussing the very real issues of working in Hollywood today. Some women who have made progress are definitely lifting other women up behind the camera, like Marvel’s Jessica Jones show runner Melissa Rosenberg hiring only female directors for season 2 and again for season 3, which will include the star Krysten Ritter’s directorial debut.
We are now seeing more female writers and directors in action movies, especially comic book based ones which is coming up as we’re finally getting female-led comic book based movies at all. Wonder Woman, which, remember, Cameron infamously attacked as “not really feminist,” was initially written by men, but put in the talented directorial hands of Patty Jenkins who co-wrote Wonder Woman 1984. The upcoming Captain Marvel movie is directed by Anna Boden with Ryan Fleck, both are co-writers along with Geneva Robertson-Dworet (who also co-wrote Tomb Raider), Nicole Perlman, Liz Flahive, Meg LeFauve and Carly Mensch. The treatment for Black Widow was written by Nicole Perlman and it will be directed by Cate Shortland.
Hurd actually co-wrote The Terminator script, as well as producing the first two films. She has been given “characters by” writing credit on Terminator 3, Genisys, The Sarah Connor Chronicles and some of the video games. We’ll see if she gets them with the new movie or not. She should William Wisher is the only other writer credited on Terminator 2, as well as having writing credit on the first one with Cameron and Hurd. But for Cameron’s return to the franchise, he and co-producer David Ellison hired a roomful of writers. All men. And he hired another man to direct. While attacking Jenkin’s Wonder Woman as not as “feminist as T2,” Cameron somehow forgot to include any actual female presence anywhere behind the camera of his supposedly feminist new movie.
I’m not going to say that men can’t write and direct Strong Female Characters or even express feminist ideals. And Linda Hamilton’s Sarah Connor is a strong character, in both the first movie when she’s thrown into a situation she has no preparation for (and was co-written by a woman) and the second where she is more obviously the epitome of the trope. But she is alone as a major female presence in T2.
Terminator 2 should have been a game changer, Linda’s portrayal of Sarah certainly did push boundaries in the hearts and minds of many women. Her physicality, her toughness, her organization, her prepping, even her psychotic break from knowing the truth and being gaslighted by…everyone…was stupendous for a female character. But it didn’t really change the game in movies to the extent it could have. This is likely because for all her strength, Sarah was alone, therefore such a breakthrough was not even considered by filmmakers at the time. And she was presented as primarily the future hero’s mother for all her muscle and skill, with no alternative non-maternal fighting women involved for balance as she was the only fully realized female character in the entire film. Add the cringey faux feminist rant that is shut down by her son and that she needs rescuing in the end, Sarah is a “strong female character” that doesn’t challenge fragile masculinity all that much. Therefore any progress stopped there, where we see similar characters, well, it’s usually clear that she’s One of the Boys.
If we needed more evidence that T2 wasn’t female-led nor feminist, it’s the fanboys who are right now crying over the inclusion of two more female characters and the release of a photo of the three as the first official photo, many who are claiming “T2 was real feminism, this is fake feminism. Because 1) they think they have the right to proclaim what is or isn’t feminism and 2) they think that equality means that men outnumber women at least 3-1. I will note that it’s not just men, there are women out there who even call themselves “feminists” who gladly support this delusion and join in on the attacks. Like the “Sarah alone was real feminism, if there are other strong women for her to work with that fake feminism” I was informed by a guy that he had it on the “creds” of YouTube “feminists” that “SW: A New Hope with Leia alone was real feminism, while four prominent women in TlJ as fake feminism ..and totally erased the men.” So, yeah, it’s not just men who are the problem, some women gladly attack and we are seeing that with Terminator now as well. But we can look at the actual numbers, to see exactly how feminist ANH was in comparison to all the SW movies through TLJ really were; even TLJ fails at reaching 50% of the dialogue being by women. Yet some very fragile men see that as erasure. Meanwhile, I would love to see such a count on T2 and the upcoming movie.
The toxic misogyny has certainly showing up in the Terminator fandom since this movie was announced, primarily at first in the form of ageism because Linda Hamilton is now 61. Mind you, Arnold Schwarzenegger is 71 which has prompted some ageist remarks, but far fewer than towards Linda. The photos of Mackenzie Davis have been attacked since the beginning, often with misgendering or vile tr*nny attacks. There were murmurings of “this better not be Feminazi SJWs* Ruining My Childhood!” again. The release of the photo at top, the first official photo for the movie, of course, has verified that’s what it is for this type and the attacks have been standard. Natalia Reyes had mostly been ignored in the English and other non-Spanish speaking media and social media until then. As she looks more conventionally “feminine” at this point, may save her from some attack. It does make me kind of glad that Hamilton does not do social media (seriously, folks, none of those profiles or pages are her or official, most are straight forward, but at least one person has accounts everywhere claiming to be her, they are not) and Davis does not seem to either. Otherwise, they might end up driven off by the shit like Ridley and Tran were.
But in a way, I’m taking this hysterical vitriol as a good sign. Change is coming, slower than some of us might like, but the tantrums over it make it clear that it’s happening. So it makes me hopeful that despite the lack of women behind the scenes, with three strong actresses playing strong roles, Terminator 2019 might just take major steps towards being an actual feminist movie….as defined by a middle aged feminist with a background in women’s studies who doesn’t really give a flying fuck whether actual feminism hurts certain men’s feelings or not. And if it is and does hurt those fragile feelings, all the better. Women, non-binary and non-fragile men spend money too, and again and again it’s being shown we will fill those seats that the misogynists won’t. And given that Mackenzie Davis appears to be at least part machine, given her apparent surgical scars and therefore may qualify as a Terminator, this may have a female title character.
I am hoping that what we are seeing does indicate that the female fans of Sarah Connor are a considered fanbase this time. That we will, indeed be seeing these three characters be well developed and featured. And that THEY DON’T KILL OFF SARAH CONNOR! I also really hope that we get action figures of all three right off the bat!
*Social Justice Warrior being used as a pejorative is one of the most Bizarro World things I have seen in all this mess. But, see, I’m old enough to remember the term being used as a positive descriptive and consider the idea of fighting for social justice being negative one of the fucking stupidest things I have ever seen. Obviously, I am using it ironically to mock those who use it as a slur here.
*****SPOILER ALERT for what is supposed to be a major spoiler for Wonder Woman, although it seemed pretty obvious. Also a bit spoilery for T2 but given that you are reading this that probably isn’t an issue at this point ****
One of the things that struck me about James Cameron’s tone-deaf rants about Wonder Woman, was that in the first one he said of Sarah Connor “…,she was a terrible mother, ….” This seems a bit odd as it certainly has nothing to do with comparing her to Diana who is not a mother. It does bring home the fact that James Cameron for all his claims of being “feminist” does seem to be a bit fixated on women as mothers. Especially as “terrible mothers.” Remember, he turned Ripley into a “Terrible Mother” who is guilt ridden over missing her daughter’s life and finds redemption in taking care of an orphan. This is just another problematic issue.
First, I don’t really think that Sarah is a Terrible Mother, as such, but rather she’s a mother faced with a overwhelming task to raise a child she knows must face absolute hell and who she also knows she must prepare him for it. This certainly turns her into a dysfunctional mother in many ways, she was not a warm and cuddly mother, at least by the time we see them in Terminator 2. Sarah is not gentle with John, she speaks harshly to him, a harshness she knows is nothing compared to what is waiting for himShe may well have never baked one fucking cookie out in the jungle. She might have at one time. She may have once tucked him into bed with a story, but she undoubtedly included stories of how he was the Savior of Mankind, rather than to convince him otherwise. She loves her child, but she knows the truth, she’s the only one who does, and it refocuses the way she raises her child.
Before T2 happens, Sarah decided she could not have her son face such a horror, nor could she let humanity face it if it could be stopped. She set out to try to stop Judgment Day before it happens. “She tried to blow up a computer factory but she got shot and arrested.” This, of course, means John ends up with another terrible mother as well as terrible father in his foster parents. It cuts Sarah off from John when she knows he is now being told that all she taught him was a lie and that he is even more vulnerable. She wanted to stop what was going to happen to him, but failing that needs to make sure he can still grow up to be the Savior of Mankind.
When they are reunited it is with Sarah’s greatest fear not only happening but walking right into the asylum. Primal terror kicks in to her already high adrenaline drive and she doesn’t seem to register that her son, who she is so desperate to get to and protect, is walking right in with her nightmare and her first response is to flee. It’s only her son who can bring her back to the present and allow her to adjust to the actual information that this nightmare is there to save them and a greater nightmare is now after them. She never responds lovingly to her reunion with her son, his moment of hope that she might is actually a check for injuries followed by scolding him for risking his life for hers. It’s her job, after all, to risk hers for him. She’s on overdrive, she’s still in primal instincts which now have returned to being about protecting her child and assuring he is so far okay. It seems cold, but, honestly, it’s also understandable to me. Apparently, not to James Cameron.
Of course, Sarah returns to the decision to stop John’s (and the rest of the world, all the other children) hellish future. She doesn’t make the greatest choice for that, but she moves forward immediately, leaving her son with a guardian she believes can protect him better than she could. She likely saw herself even more expendable now that a machine can guard him.
Everything Sarah does is to protect her child but also protect the world. He must be protected and prepared to save mankind if she fails, but she will do everything she can to try to keep him from every having to face doing that. She might not be a typical mother, but I don’t see that as terrible.
Hippolyta was charged with exactly the same task, raising a child, Diana, who is the Savior of Mankind. Rather than a time traveler sent back by her child the messenger and father is the God Zeus. Like John, Diana is meant to be trained and prepared for the task ahead and if she fails it could be the doom of humanity. Hippolyta deals with this mission rather differently than Sarah.
Hippolyta might not bake cookies either, but I’m sure she has a servant who does. Despite being queen, she does seem to be a warm loving Mommy who cuddles Diana and tucks her in at night with bedtime stories. Bedtime stories are designed to gaslight this Savior of Mankind into believing she anything but. To lie to her about what the God Killer is. To try to convince her not to want to train to prepare for a battle she doesn’t even know she is supposed to face. Hippolyta tells Diana the story of the Amazons, of the war between the Gods, of Ares’ vanquishing but also that she, Diana, is made of clay with no father. And she speaks of the God Killer as if it were a thing, a sword wielded by the mightiest among them, “and that is not you, Diana.” She is gentle and is dooming her child and all of humanity through her gentleness.
Unlike Sarah, despite not wanting her child to face what she must, Hippolyta never chooses to try prevent it by facing Ares herself. Unlike Sarah, Hippolyta refuses to train her child for what is to come. But fortunately, also, unlike Sarah she is not alone in knowing that Diana is the Savior of Mankind. All the other Amazons know it, but even her sister cannot turn her around, choosing to add to lies by training Diana in secret.
Even after Hippolyta catches them training and is then convinced to allow it, even while she does tell Antiope to train her to be better than even herself, she still does not reveal the truth to Diana. At every turn she claims that the more Diana’s ready to face Ares, the sooner Ares will find her. Even though the less Diana is ready, the more likely she is is to fail. She continues this even as Diana is leaving to seek out Ares not knowing she is the God killer or the real extent of her power.
Both these mothers have a horrible burden to raise a child who is meant to face horrors to save the world. Neither wishes this on their child, but it is their fate as well as humanity’s. Yet while Sarah does everything she can to make sure John is able to fulfill his destiny, then tries to prevent it by putting herself on the line to try to stop Judgment day; Hippolyta does everything she can to prevent Diana from fulfilling hers, yet never tries to take on the burden herself. Sorry, James Cameron, Sarah has nothing on Hippolyta when it comes to being a Terrible Mother.
To be honest, while I lost interest in Cameron’s work with Titanic, although my issues started with True Lies, complete with Jamie Lee Curtis’s character forced to do a strip tease, but I was won back by the underrated Strange Days directed by Kathryn Bigelow. But it was Avatar that completely made me lose any real respect for him. The racist, colonial, misogynist stereotypes are so blatant and so wrong that if we want to talk about steps backwards…well, he is the one actually running, blindly backwards. These are not the movies of the 21st century!
While he claims to want “strong female characters” he is making movies for those 14 to 18 year-old boys he thinks a pretty female lead in armor is meant to draw. T2 was really a fluke when it comes to him having female fans. And he’s losing us fast, here, because NEWS FLASH! a lot of female fans who are into T2 because Linda’s Sarah kicked ass and want to be excited for her return also enjoyed Wonder Woman and do not appreciate being told by some man that we are wrong to!
Cameron’s insistence that he, and only he (and maybe these other men he’s gathered for TReboot) understands “strong women.” But, of course, his mansplaining (because that is what it is) of “strong women,” only proves he does not understand women, strong or otherwise, fictional or real. A man who does isn’t going to go around telling female fans they are wrong for loving a movie that he just is not able to understand. And he obviously doesn’t.
Cameron doesn’t even seem capable of understanding that Wonder Woman/Diana is a this is a 76 year-old comic book icon that millions of girls and women have idolized all our lives. Some for 76 years even! That it’s a big deal that it took that long for the character to get a title movie or, for that matter, only got featured in a male-led DC movie just a few years ago. When Superman and Batman, the other two big name DC superheroes, have had many movie incarnations. That this movie was called a failure by many comic book movie fanboys long before it came out, on every conceivable social media forum. That we’ve been battling to get women-led comic book movies and told that they will fail, because Catwoman and Elektra, which were badly written crap (but so have been many male-led ones), failed so badly over a decade ago. That it was even under promoted until just before it’s release and yet it smashed records! Highest grossing action film directed by a woman. It is just $1 million shy of 2002 Spider-man for a comic book movie and is the highest grossing comic book origin movie of all time. That means no Batman, no Superman, not even Batman vs. Superman with Wonder Woman thrown in, has done so well.
And it is problematic that in 2017 all of this is newsworthy, is a big deal. It shouldn’t be and Terminator 2should have led the way to change in the ’90s. But it didn’t. Perhaps in part because it was not a female-led action movie, Sarah Connor who was the protagonist Final Girl in the first, took a back seat in T2 to the story of a boy and his pet Terminator. There are no other strong female characters (“prepper” Jolanda is off hiding unarmed with her kids instead of teaming up with her husband to flank the intruders, which would make far more sense) or even any actually developed female characters at all. This makes Sarah a Not Like Other Girls/One of the Guys trope (yes, a problem with WW after they leave Themyscira, too) The feminism of T2 is actually shut down by the badly written feminist rant that is, then, shut down by her little boy scolding her! While Sarah finished off the Terminator in The Terminator, she requires a last-minute rescue at the end of T2.
Don’t get me wrong, Sarah Connor’s arch from Final Girl to Warrior was an awesome thing. Obviously! I’ve been obsessing on Linda’s portrayal for 26 years, for crying out loud! But the movie wasn’t perfect and those imperfections make Cameron an utter hypocrite to say a single word about an actual female-led movie. Especially when there are things that are very problematic with Wonder Woman that are not the things he’s noting and things that he hasn’t done a remotely good job with. Like the Not Like Other Girls trope and lack of other, diverse, intersectional female characters after they leave the island.
With such a small number of female-led action movies, we already do not have the diversity that male-led ones do. But Cameron seems to feel that strong women only come in one type, that they should all be Sarah Connor knockoffs. This view is simplistic and one-dimensional, the idea that while male action characters can be, obviously, very varied (unless someone can find me where he said Superman shouldn’t be wearing that sexy, form-fitting costume), strong women must all be exactly alike. And, apparently, totally broken and mothers looking for redemption (he had to turn Ripley, a character he did not create, into a guilt-ridden abandoning mother who finds a second chance with an orphaned child). NEWS FLASH! the mother thing is the least interesting thing about either Sarah or Ripley for some of us.
What is interesting to me about Sarah is that she was a “normal woman” Final Girl who twisted the Final Girl trope at the end of the first movie by heading out to prepare for the future because she knows that the real monster hasn’t even been created yet. Whose arch into Terminator 2 show her as a determined survivalist. Here was a woman who had trained, prepared, organized to prepare her son for a horrible future, and then sacrificed herself in an attempt to keep him from having to face that. I fell in love and identified in many ways, sans the entire mother part, with Linda Hamilton’s Sarah. I thought both Linda and Cameron, as well as co-writer William Wisher and producer Gale Anne Hurd, were utterly awesome. I still have those feelings for Linda, Wisher and Hurd (and it doesn’t hurt that Wisher and Hurd both kindly supplied auction bling to help my chief Terminator Spotter get surgery! Thanks to The Terminator Fans. I am eternally grateful to all three! <3)
Sarah was also a “real person.” You know, as far as action film characters go. Like, say Kyle Reese. Wonder Woman/Diana is a comic book super-powered superhero, like Superman. Not even like Batman whose only super-power is that he’s rich and dysfunctional. In fact, while Superman is an alien, Diana is a fucking Goddess. Okay, the Goddess part is a recent addition to the character in the comics, but even before she was revealed as a Goddess she had been bestowed with “the strength of Hercules, the wisdom of Athena, the speed of Hermes and the beauty of Aphrodite.” So being beautiful is a canonical part of the character, although how she was drawn did change with the ideals of beauty at the time. And as either supernatural Amazon or Goddess, if she wants to come out of a battle with perfect silky hair, she can and always did.
Being a supernatural super-powered superhero, her life story is also vastly different from Sarah’s. Sarah is, I think, far easier to relate to having some sort of vague average American upbringing in the original movies. Diana was born to save the world, in the version used in the movie. Actually, Diana is far more like John Connor than Sarah, born to save the world with a sort of “otherwordly” father, but their upbringings with this understanding were different even beyond one being supernatural and the other being Earthly paramilitary survivalist and if I were to compare Sarah with anyone in the movie it would be with Hippolyta. (Something I will probably do and have now done).
Now I am personally more drawn to Sarah’s “realness”…a mortal woman of our time who turned herself into a warrior and survivalist. Because that’s what I have tried to create in myself even before Terminator 2 came out. Diana was someone I wanted to be back as a child. Hmm, actually at the time she didn’t have superpowers, but had lost them and took up karate, although I also had some older ones. But that doesn’t mean that I can’t enjoy the higher fantasy of Wonder Woman or understand that that might appeal more to other women. Especially with the great, if brief, Amazon training scenes at the beginning.
Bottom line is, many women are fans of both Sarah Connor and Wonder Woman. And Ripley. And The Bride/Beatrix Kiddo. And Furiosa, the Wives and the Vuvalini of the Many Mothers. And General Leia, Rey and Jyn Erso. And others still too few, and sometimes not all that great. And we want more. More Sarah Connor from Linda Hamilton. More Wonder Woman and not just DCEU version. More comic book super-powered female heroes. More down to earth and messy haired and variously flawed mortal female heroes…some who are butch, some who are femme, some who are women of color, some who are queer, some who are trans women…..
Yes, we want it all!
And we don’t want men telling us that we don’t fucking understand strong women. It’s insulting. We do actually know a bit more than you do about strong women.
We are strong women!
*Sketch of Sarah Connor and Lt. Ellen Ripley shushing James Cameron on behalf of Diana/Wonder Woman was drawn by Axel Medellin, who kindly granted permission for use here, and was originally posted Tumblr