Old Women Kick Ass: thoughts on growing old with Sarah Connor

I waited 28 years to see this moment:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It hit me with the sort of power this scene had in 1991:

via GIPHY

I didn’t even really know I was waiting that whole time, of course, because I didn’t even know it could be possible (especially after T3 ). But I was. I knew it after months of hearing about James Cameron talking another movie and my strong belief that it would be without Linda Hamilton’s Sarah Connor….and then, boom, they announced she was coming back!

Maybe the inclusion of Sarah Connor’s entry would have lost power once I saw the movie, due to being included in the trailers. It really didn’t. Then again, neither have those pull ups in over 28 years. I have now seen Terminator: Dark Fate three times, I hope to get to a theater again a few more times before it finishes up. I will, of course, also be adding the DVD to my regular gym line up (which is now mostly the first two Terminators, but sometimes I throw on the first two Aliens, sometimes Mad Max: Fury Road, and then there are some others, but mostly Terminator).  I’ll likely do a full and spoilery review eventually, but right now this is more a reflective journey piece although I’ll discuss the movie somewhat and towards the end some spoilers about Sarah Connor will be touched upon.

I was 29, the same age Sarah was in Terminator 2: Judgment Day according to Dr. Silberman, when T2 came out  Of course the movie taking place in 1994 or 1995 (I’m not going into the issues of the conflicting information we’re given on that, just go with what you prefer) while it was released in 1991 means I am technically a few years older than Sarah. On the other hand, Linda Hamilton was 34 at the time of filming (October 1990 through March 1991) and the release in July. So a few years here or there, both actress and character are my contemporaries. This also means that in one year half my life will have been spent with my feelings of connection to (okay, okay… being obsessed with) the character of Sarah Connor.

Hamilton and Carrie Fisher are really my most contemporary female action/sci-fi actresses I’m a fan of, but I discovered Linda late, when she discovered Sarah’s bad ass self, besides, I somehow missed The Terminator when it first came out and only saw it shortly before going to T2. Sigourney Weaver is just enough older to not feel quite so connected although I loved Alien and Aliens. Jamie Lee Curtis is totally my favorite in the horror genre and is even closer in age, but was the quintessential Final Girl in the original Halloween, so while I might have identified somewhat with Laurie Strode’s shy bookworm nerdiness, she wasn’t exactly a role model type back then. My childhood heroes were, of course, much older, not to mention sparse and more problematic. I can think of no others who really are near my age. It was like one day I had much older role models I wanted to be like (but probably butcher), then Sarah and BOOM! I was mom-age watching “kids” getting all the action. When Buffy the Vampire Slayer (the series, the movie was amusing but not a huge blip) came out only a few years after T2, I was closer in age to Kristine Sutherland’s Joyce than Buffy and her gang. Now, I’m even older than the parents on the CW’s Arrowverse shows, which has given me the characters I longed for as a teen, especially with Sara Lance in Legends of Tomorrow as well as Batwoman. (Although I admit to great disappointment that Alex Kingston’s Dinah Lance was not revealed as the original Black Canary, as in the books and would have given me a heroic peer, but rather replaced with the newly created Sara being first…they could have done both!!!. As it is, Kingston is the closet to my age of any of the other parents on these shows *sigh*)

I’ve I talked some about what it meant to me and how significant the timing was to discover this character in 1991 at a time when I was really working to figure out a Celtic Reconstrucionist Pagan warrior path for myself. Not just as fitness motivation, but martial arts as well. And simply not being a damn by-stander, so while our “activism” might be different on practical levels, there was a sense of “What would Sarah Connor do?” that kept me going at times and still does. Eventually, when I returned to the country, I also took up prepping and firearms training, all with Sarah on my mind.  Of course, I also liked the way she dressed, being partial to all black and lots of pockets myself. However, I like more accessories (Celtic-styled, of course).

When Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines came out just over a decade later, it was at first disappointing to learn that Sarah Connor was killed off before the movie starts. But it turned out to be so badly written that it was really more of a relief, especially in a way that if anyone felt they had to acknowledge the film as canon it could be that she faked it. Far better than the other options, like killing her off on screen either subjecting Hamilton to being in it or recasting her as they had John Connor. The Sarah Connor Charm School could maintain its own fanon, for us Sarah lived on. All was good. So far….

But Sarah Connor essentially got trapped in that 30ish stage as characters tend to do. In my 30s and early 40s, the issue of age was still peripheral but it was starting to show, after all I note above the realization I was closer to “mom” age than hero age already. Then when That TV Show came around my issues weren’t just that it was miscast and horribly written, but also that having them jump forward in time “Sarah” was kept 30ish when she, like I, would have been early middle aged. Of course, a middle aged woman could not be the title character of an action-scifi tv show, now could she? Seems that is still impossible.

So Sarah’s middle age was something of a mystery, although we got to see Linda in other roles and I even got to meet her Linda!!!!!in 2010. I was then two years shy of 50 years-old and with my first reading glasses, went to Chicago ComicCon to meet Linda Hamilton, who was then 54. And I remember feeling a bit “connected” as I noted readers on the table top of every woman (and Michael Biehn) I was there to see (with the exception of Kristanna Loken, the token “kid” on my list of the actors I met at the con). Of course, Linda isn’t Sarah, Sarah might have been taking to aging differently.

But there were some hints. Just before that con it was announced that Linda would be playing Chuck‘s mother. A mom-of-an-adult role, but in this case another kick ass mom far more relatable for me than, say BtVS‘s Joyce. And included homage such as “come with me if you want to live” and a shot of “Mary Elizabeth Bartowski” in lock-up doing chin-ups on an overturned bed seen on a monitor. The role was followed by her “mom” appearances in Defiance, which gave her a chance to explore struggles with bipolar disorder as it would be for someone in a post apocalyptic world where treatment was limited, and her “mentor-but-not-bio-mom” Lost Girl role.

Acacia in Lost Girl is my favorite of the three roles, despite my conflicted feelings over this series, which certainly had strong women, lesbian and bisexual characters but also had an annoying mixture of actual Gaelic cultural concepts (including faoladh, a huge part of my ongoing studies) mixed with nonsense (including how faoladh was misrepresented, never mind the horrid misrepresentation of my patron Goddess as an evil “Fae” title).  Acacia had a style that was a bit more in keeping with my own than Sarah Connor’s, actually. I mean, I might often wear the basics of Sarah Connor’s T2 look, but I have a Gaelic warrior’s love of adornment as well. So I add a lot of jewelry not to mention tattoos (which you just figure Acacia has hidden under her leather). I do, on occasion, go heavy on eyeliner like Acacia, too. And I have a much loved 30+ year-old leather, more basic style than Acacia’s but decked out in tartan and chain mail. Yeah, I love Acacia…just wish Linda played such a character on a less problematic (for a folklore purist like me) show. But, none of these three were Sarah, exactly. Although clearly all shared different elements.

In the middle of this, of course, was another new “Sarah Connor” in the retconned disaster Genisys, making the character even younger as she starts her time-traveling at 18 (although Emilia Clarke was 29 or there about, as Hamilton had been in T1).  (and also extremely horrible writing). Thankfully, this was extremely easy to ignore, even after I finally saw it as it was on a streaming service I already had when it landed there.

With Linda Hamilton appearing in the roles above, and Genisys not even a factor, it wasn’t hard to picture how a middle aged Sarah Connor might be like. It wasn’t the same as having that character right in front of us, though. It wasn’t getting to see her. There have been few middle aged female action characters until recently, how could there be many when there are still few female action characters of any age or other designation; and even then some are supposedly “older” they’re still often only in their 40s and still often don’t survive long in the movie (I’m looking at you Wonder Woman).

The youthful focus, when we get strong women at all, isn’t surprising. We live in a youth obsessed culture, especially when it comes to women. There isn’t a minute that women living in this society don’t get the message that we’re only “worthy” when we are young and even then only if we are thin enough, pretty enough, “girly enough,” etc. Hollywood gets blamed, but that’s really a reflection, although one that teaches us “our place” and teaches cis het men where to put us. No matter a woman’s “worth” when young, we lose it as we age; first we are supposed to be mothers, then when too old for that we’re supposed to just disappear. Unless we try to hide it, fight it, pretend to be younger, but then we are mocked for that, too. And at some point we either become invisible or people get really cranky to see we’re still around. The ageist attacks on Linda Hamilton’s returning as Sarah Connor show this explicitly.

When you have been wanting representation of women fighters and the industry still falls short, it becomes even more aggravating when you realize that you’ve aged out of the small sampling. You’ve become invisible. You’re seen as decrepit, witj even the return of Linda as Sarah bringing up some seriously problematic misinformation about aging and fitness (I will likely be doing a piece on this, I have been fairly quiet on it but as a middle aged fitness professional with specialty certification in senior fitness, I have thoughts). Oh, yes, there has been some improvement which Dark Fate is part of, but there’s a long way to go to match the number of male action heroes we see of any age, but even more so for over 50.

There is, of course, Helen Mirren in RED, always to be brought up by those who wish to prove that somehow that one character is enough to balance the many older male stars/characters and we should just shut up about now. I love Mirren and I found her character fun, but completely token, and doesn’t even make up for there being three older men on the team. Not only the only woman in the “band” but “the nice little old lady who happens to be an assassin” is essentially the entire character Mirren’s given to work with. The role and the fact it’s trotted out anytime the subject comes up truly does nothing but scream the absence of strong older women in action roles.

We did have the Vuvalini of the Many Mothers in Mad Max: Fury Road and some even survived to the end. Fury Road is really the fist action movie where women were well represented, rather than token. Charlize Theron’s Imperator Furiosa is easy to recognize as A Strong Female Character but, along with the Vuvalini, the brides Furiosa is helping escape and the older woman who helped them all show their own strength and skills. While the old women were not central, they were vital, and in a movie with so many strong women, they don’t feel as token. Still, not central.

The return of General Leia in the new Star Wars trilogy was a great blessing, although her character was, again, vital but not centered. Yet she served as a wonderful backbone for the Carrie Fisher as General Leia centering of Daisy Ridley’s Rey and then also Kelly Marie Tran’s Rose; a vital improvement from the “only woman in the entire universe” trope that unfortunately marked Leia’s original appearances way back when. I think we all suspected that Leia was meant to be central in the upcoming The Rise of Skywalker, as Han had been in The Force Awakens and Luke in The Last Jedi, if her tragic real-life death had not gotten in the way. This has been confirmed, but I’m not linking because, tbh, I can’t even bear to click on the links themselves it’s so heartbreaking. We have yet to know how much they were able to make her part of with left over footage. Of course, the character would have likely died in this final one by the end, anyway, the generational nature of the trilogy of trilogies is obvious, even if upsetting to many fans. But, personally, I’d much rather have a dead Leia in the franchise and a live Carrie Fisher in the world. We’ll never see quite the movie that might have been planned and that we might have hoped for.

Who knew it would be bookish nerd Laurie Strode who would bring an ass kicking middle-aged woman front and center ? In fact, who knew Laurie Strode in middle age would be conceived as very much the paranoid, prepping, obsessively trained sort of character that Sarah Connor was. That isn’t to say she was an actual copy, she was totally Laurie Strode,Jame Lee Curtis and Judy Greer -Halloween 2018 not Sarah Connor; she came to this place from and with her own trauma. Jamie Lee Curtis pulled off this off-screen arch beautifully, leading the next two generations of Strode women into the fight for their lives that she always knew would eventually come. Oh, and SPOILER! (but the cat’s kind of out of the bag now …and I’m so there for this too!) She survived. Because old women do not need to die to save the next generation of women warriors! 

When Halloween (2018) was announced in Sept. 2017, I still believed that there would be no return for Linda Hamilton’s Sarah Connor and was perhaps even more annoyed. After seeing T2 3D, I was sure it was the one and only time I’d see Linda in the role in 3D, the last time I’d see her Sarah in a theater. I was never so happy to be wrong when just four days after hearing about Curtis’s Halloween return, Cameron announced Linda was returning as Sarah Connor. Along with a great statement that older badass women are not represented enough in action movies. Followed by the rather ominous note about “passing the baton.”

There is an important factor, of course, in having women of different ages as we do see in the last Skywalker trilogy, Halloween now and Dark Fate. It gives women and girls of all ages someone to reflect themselves. Diversity is still an overall issue (Halloween offers the least diversity, with the three generations being one white family). We’re not there yet, there’s work. That certain people are super mad about it is all the more sign how much we need to break the white cis het male default. That default, itself, no longer hinges on youth as much as it did with so many favorites still in action, including Arnold Schwarzenegger. But Hollywood still loves pairing older male stars with younger female costars, or younger looking.

Sarah Connor in Terminator Dark Fate shooting Linda Hamilton’s Sarah Connor is not young looking. Given that she’s probably younger than Hamilton (movie is set in 2020, see my mention above about their age difference) but looks older, she totally looks like someone who has faced trauma, has probably not really slept in over two decades and doesn’t give two shits about skin care or hair dye. She does look rough, and she should look rough. And seeing unapologetic aging in a woman who can kick ass is powerful for those of us who also show our age, yet still know that we have ass kicking potential.

Because we do. Sometimes, despite maybe a few more aches and pains (but, some of us have had them all our lives, anyway) and age related wear and tear (although, oddly, the issue I currently have interfering with my training and activity is associated with far younger folk, DeQuervain’s is also known as “New Mother’s Thumb” and more recently “Gamer’s Thumb” …in my case it might be “writer with a sticky space bar on her computer thumb”) mostly we don’t all feel all that different than we did decades ago.  Especially given that not many of us who were very active in our youth were injury free then. I was always having to take breaks or work around something, it’s just that now some of those things might be “age related.” Me next to Sarah Terminator: Dark Fate standee at AMC

Perhaps because of some of the physical stuff as well as life shit that got in the way, I have to say that I very much needed to see Sarah Connor’s return right now. I needed to see her having gone through (and still in) hell at a time when I’m feeling that. I needed to see her with gray hair and lines in her face, because …me too. I also needed to see a Sarah Connor who kicked ass as only she can. And at the side of another woman who can kick ass in a different way; not because the other woman, Mackenzie Davis’s Grace, is younger, but because she’s got augmentation that Sarah doesn’t. I needed to see each have strengths and weaknesses, that sometimes balanced each other. Grace is stronger and faster, but not so good on the long haul, while for Sarah the long haul is really what she knows.

This movie is part of a yet small trend of ending the single token female character, of women working together, of different aged women working together. This trend needs to grow. Perhaps it won’t in the Terminator series, for the low box office might have now ended it for good. Or, horribly after we waited so long for this, yet another fucking reboot which might appease those boys this upset so much. But I am glad we got a Terminator that was part of this trend, because I needed Sarah, who started as Final Girl and grew as Only One Woman Allowed, to be part of it.

It certainly plays into the mission of The Sarah Connor Charm School. It was our movie. Finally. And maybe when we needed it most.

If you haven’t seen it, get your ass into a theater seat before it’s too late!

Laurie Strode Cosplaying Sarah Connor for Halloween?

And what color was that tank top?

Shortly after the trailer for Halloween (2018) was released showing a prepared Laurie Strode, about three months ago, Jamie Lee Curtis was quoted as saying about her returning Halloween character:

“Laurie wasn’t a badass, Laurie was a nerd…She’s smart and she survived and in that she’s badass. But you know, her poking [Michael] with the [hanger] was just an instinct and in this movie, I also don’t want her to be a badass. I want her to be prepared. I want her to still be who she is but prepared; she’s not Linda Hamilton, I don’t have those arms.”

Then on August 21 a Halloween Movie Twitter posted this photo:

Hmmmmm

True, it looks like she has her own arms, which look pretty damn strong. This is good as we all know Linda is needing hers while filming the new Terminator.  How much of this is just a promo and how much we’ll see Curtis in a tank top is something we’ll have to wait to see. She is wearing one at least once in the movie, as the trailer reveals a scar received in the first movie.

And if Sarah Connor preparing for the storm coming in rather than breathing relief at the end is an influence for the prepared Laurie Strode, well, turn about is fair play. What Final Girl after 1978 can honestly show no influence from Laurie Strode? While many people love to rag on any comparison in such things, to me it’s part of the glue that holds my fangirl heart together.

And I love the idea of Lauire Strode as a Badass Nerd!  That needs to be a serious thing! After all, I know I am not alone in being a bookish and physically capable. Brains seriously help with preparation for monsters.  It takes both. And given that many of us are geeky movie fans who also read a lot as well as many of us working out and, yes, getting self-defense training that might even include defensive firearms…..this is what we live for! We need soooo many Badass Nerds!

And especially middle-aged Badass Nerdy women!

I am looking so forward to seeing Laurie Strode kick Micheal Myer’s butt this October! You better believe I will be seeing this. Probably many times.

If you haven’t yet or just want to again, you can check out the Halloween trailer here. Then we’ll discuss tank top colors.

Okay, so pretty much everyone I know and, obviously many I don’t but I’ve read them say so or have seen their Sarah Connor cosplay agrees. Sarah wears a black tank top. So Laurie’s green one is a difference. Right?

Well, the reason I feel a need to bring this up, is that not even an hour before I first saw the photo (which was two days after it was posted), I was rearranging my N.E.C.A. Ultimate Sarah Connor action figure and noted to my husband that although in photos the shirt looks black, it’s green. This is also true of McFarlane Movie Maniacs Sarah Connor.  But up until this discussion, I would have sworn that the Hot Toys 1/6th figure had a black shirt, but out of curiosity I just shined a really bright light on it and……it’s green. A darker green than the other two figures. And, yeah, you can see that on the website. Somewhere all these licensed action figure makers got word it was a green shirt.

So was Sarah’s tank top black or green? Well, I think someone needs to ask Linda at some point, I volunteer if someone wants to pay for my ticket to….I think Austria at the moment. Or if she does cons after and I can get to one. Meanwhile we do have an answer in screen worn prop listings: Black or green?   Apparently it was GRAY!

So…is that a black T-shirt she has this time or not?

Final Girl or Action Hero: Will This Finally Be an Actual Female-led, Feminist Terminator Movie?

First official photo of  Natalia Reyes as “Dani Ramos,” Mackenzie Davis as “Grace” and Linda Hamilton as “Sarah Connor” in Terminator 2019

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, Sarah and Maxwhile 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.

While some of us, of all genders, where hooked by the transformation of Sarah Connor, a lot of the male audience was focused on the Schwarzenegger’s Terminator, whether it was  the monster of the first or the hero of the second. Some seem to, disturbingly but not surprisingly, identify more with the monster. This demographic was where Cameron likely saw the money coming from, the myth of the young white male target audience that is even harder to kill than a Terminator (although recent box office successes of Wonder Woman and Black Panther are giving some hope). It was certainly where merchandisers saw their money coming from. While there were multiple, many unrelated to the movie in any way, Terminator figures as well as a John Connor one, made by Kenner between 1991 and 1997 there was never a Sarah Connor figure. We did not get a Sarah Connor figure from T2 until McFarlane’s Movie Maniacs 5 came out with three variants 13 years after the movie. Surprise, they did well enough that several other figures have been made since from the truly horrible Sideshow one in 2007 to the outstanding Hot Toys 2009 and N.E.C.A. 2015 figures.

Hot Toys Sarah Connor, Dryad Designs Morrígan

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.

Since then some men have clearly learned that the Strong Female Character doesn’t have to be One of the Boys and exist only in the company of men. Notable cases in recent times are, of course, Mad Max: Fury Road, Star Wars: The Last Jedi and Black Panther, all were written and directed by men (with women among the production staff, at least), but all featured multiple, diverse (including older) strong female characters that spoke to and worked with each other. Of course, all were were both subject to toxic “fan” attacks over this aspect (as well as over race in Black Panther, which also was an issue they had with TLJ). Both Kelly Marie Tran and Daisy Ridley of of TLJ were driven off Instagram due to these “fans'” harassment. A group of such “fans” claimed responsibility for that attack had also attempted to undermine the success of Black Panther and failed spectacularly.

These are the movies I had thought we had coming back in the 1990s, strong, capable and, yes, muscular, women following in Sarah Connor’s footsteps. But more of them in any given movie or show. And diversity in strengths, characters, sexuality, race, size, appearance.  Ah…how naive I was.  We are still only barely getting this now, despite the examples noted above, despite how upset so many misogynists are. The reality is that in all movies, but especially action, women are still not equally represented, no where close.

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.

James Cameron STFU!: Strong Women Do NOT Need Men’s Comparisons

Sarah and Ripley Shushing Cameron
By Axel Medellin –used with permission*

**Spoilers for both the first two Terminator movies and Wonder Woman….just in case you need them ***

James Cameron really needs to stop making feminist fans feel embarrassed to love Sarah Connor!

Because that’s what he’s doing with this tone-deaf attacks on Wonder Woman. Cameron apparently fancies himself to be Ares, as he sees Wonder Woman as his archenemy. Or more likely, he just thinks he’s God’s gift to “strong women” movies and just can’t take any competition, especially from a female director, while he’s apparently veiling for the Most Misogynist Faux-Feminist Male Filmmaker crown, currently worn by Joss Whedon

After that first attack on Wonder Woman in August, when Terminator 2: Judgment Day got a limited run in 3D format, Cameron was schooled by WW director Patty Jenkins. It’s clear he still doesn’t understand, as he double down on his statement a month later and got schooled by Wonder Woman (and Madame President) Lynda Carter. Never mind the absurdity that he is complaining about Wonder Woman being too sexual and an appeal to “….appeal to 18-year-old males or 14-year-old males…..” when he is promoting his future sequels that feature the females of a non-mammalian species as being half-naked with “tits.” Something he himself has said makes no sense but he felt was necessary, and very in keeping with the exploitative sexualization of native women which such White Savior Among Noble Savages trope movies like Avatar are centered on. Because, you know, at least it makes some sense that Diana has breasts, those weren’t just added in for those teen boys (many of whom seem to bitch that they aren’t big or shown enough….because, you know, for a costume based on the iconic strapless bathing suit, it’s pretty much Hoplite armor and there isn’t even any cleavage, yet you still recognize that its WW which was a great compromise and maybe one of the best things to come out this movie in the long run, as DC artist now are running with the idea)

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!

I was never really all that thrilled that he was involved at all with the upcoming Terminator reboot. Yes, I love the first two Terminator movies, but they do fall short of what they could have been and that, I believe, is completely at Cameron’s feet. I am glad he’s not hands on in this, but the problem is that he has instead built a team of all male writers, at least one of whom made a damn mockery of the character of Sarah Connor, a male director and left it to be run by two producers who also made a mockery of Sarah Connor, even though at least one producer is female. So while I’m glad Linda Hamilton is coming back as Sarah, I’d be much happier if it were with Gale Anne Hurd and William Wisher along with some female writers and a female director anxious and able to show that Jenkins success is not a fluke. I am really not hopeful this is going to be a remotely good movie. I hope she’s got an escape clause if she decides it sucks. Because with the team they have and talk of “passing the torch” I’m afraid it’s going to. I will watch it for her, right up until they kill her off.

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.

Wonder Woman 1941
Wonder Woman in the beginning

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 2 should 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.

It’s a big deal for there to be a blockbuster female-led action movie when female-led action movies in 2016 were at 3%, in a year that had a record-breaking, “huge” (sarcasm quotes) 29% of the 100 top grossing films being female-led, 37% over all.  Yeah, today, it’s still a big deal when women lead films at all, let alone action films. But, remember, Cameron did not make T2 female led. So….he has no business opening his mouth on this.

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)

That Cameron is so focused on how beautiful Gal Gadot is has a certain creepy quality as he is comparing her to his ex-wife. But it is true that Sarah was not “dolled up.” That her hair got messy, that her clothing was practical from a modern standpoint (unlike the original bathing suit, Diana’s costume in the movie was, as I noted above, totally practical from an ancient Greek standpoint). She showed a lot of skin, though, for all the better to show the muscle (and, yes, I’d have loved to have seen more muscle on Wonder Woman, along with a beauty queen face as is standard in the comic today).

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 Diana's battle-perfect hairbeautiful 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 

The Real Sarah Connor is back!

Now don’t just kill her!

So, I was wrong about it being clear Linda Hamilton would not be brought back as Sarah Connor in the Terminator reboot. On Sept. 19, 2017 James Cameron announced that she will be back. I like being Sarah, heading outwrong about things like this, it’s one of the great things about tending to be a pessimist, I am pleasantly surprised more often than horribly disappointed. You might think I’m completely thrilled and you’d only be a little wrong about that.

I am. But, given my nature as I’ve just pointed out, I’m also only cautiously so. There are several things that make me feel this might not be as great as it could be. Again, I do hope I am pleasantly surprised…but I think there will need to be some changes from information we have for that to happen. It, of course, doesn’t help that for 26 years I’ve wanted this and can imagine what would be perfect….and perfect becomes harder to match once you’ve built it up that long. ~:p

So here are a few things that bother me and/or hopefully will be worked on.

  1. It seems that Cameron is using the phrase “passing the torch” an awful lot in regards to bringing back both Arnold Schwarzenegger and Linda. He noted an (oddly phrased) “eighteen-something” actress being sought for the lead during his announcement that Linda was coming back.
    While it’s awesome to have another, even more than one (preferably more than one, really…female action characters are still often token even when they are leads still,) new female character, this sounds an awful lot like Sarah will make a brief, probably Swan Song, appearance and then be done. Or at the very most kept way in the background.  But, yeah, killing her off somehow seems likely with the whole “passing the torch” emphasis. This is not what we want!
    I can’t speak for all SCCS members, but I’m sure that most want what I want which is to see Sarah centered in this new trilogy, in the entire thing. Yes, with other strong female characters…and some show of diversity. He’s taking about the importance of a older seasoned warrior, but needs to remember that doesn’t mean it’s time to kill that older seasoned warrior. We want new characters and Sarah!
  2. Where are the female creators?
    At this point we have production designer Sonja Klaus and producer Dana Goldberg, a Genisys producer appear to be the only women behind the scenes.  There is not a single woman in the writers room! Not one! So still far from a balance and the number of those involved in horrid sequels that need to be forgotten is higher to.  “…no, not like that!” And still all men in the writer’s room.
    We have two female characters mentioned, hopefully more and not one female writer? I can tell you that without input from women female characters tend to fall flat. Yeah, even Sarah Connor could have been better written, although I think Linda’s ability to play her fixed much of what could have gone sour with a weaker actress, in the first place. That Cameron doesn’t even really get women is clear in his assessment of Sarah as a “terrible mother” instead of a mother whose need to protect might have made her less nurturing that he seems to think mothers should be. And he sort of missed the other arch, where she and John find each other again.
    If you are going to get another male writer how about William Wisher?
    But along with some women!
    Seriously, get some female writers! And while you’re at it….
  3. Get rid of Josh Friedman!!!! Now!  I mean, fine, let him “Dance with Smurfs” there’s nothing there for him to damage it’s a bad, racist idea all around, but get him away from Sarah! What he did to the character of Sarah Connor was horrific and yet not surprising from a man who said “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.” (Philadelphia Inquirer June 14, 1995) He should never have been allowed near the character and certainly should not be again!
  4. I also do not want to see all the strong women who are prominent in this be white. Also let’s not have all the writers be white either (I do not know all of these men, so I don’t know whether they are or not at this point, but some WOC are needed to write WOC).
  5. Cameron’s comments about Wonder Woman also bring up concerns which relate directly to the issue of there being no female writers and Friedman believing all women should think the same way and that that is different than men. And that is any idea that all women should be the same ….specifically all “strong women” should be the same… even if these two men are somehow working together while having opposing views of how all women should be. Let Sarah/Linda be Sarah as she’ll have evolved. Let other women be themselves.
    Get some women to help figure out how women might actually be rather than what men think they should be.
  6. On the flip side, don’t pit different strengths against each other. Cameron’s WW rant also makes me concerned that we’ll see the “women can’t get along with each other” trope as well. With Friedman involved, maybe even make it about how a woman “who is strong in different ways than men” is better than the “flinty” Sarah.
    Just do not fucking do that!
  7. Give Sarah and other female characters a lot more depth than Cameron indicated, in his WW attack, he can understand women have.  Sarah wasn’t a “terrible mother” she was a mother focused on protecting her child rather than on nurturing him because of the extreme circumstances. Again, give Sarah a lot of fucking screen time to develop her and ….hire some female writers to help you out with that.
  8. Just don’t forget that there of the multiple fanbases for the first two Terminator movies women who are focused on Linda as Sarah Connor are a strong and loyal one. Many of us were waiting for a hero like her back in our 20s and 30s and found her an inspiration. We still want a hero like her, well,we want her, our age or older now that we’re middle age. We still know we can kick ass and we want to see someone like us on screend doing so.  Younger women start to figure out that they will get older, too, and love to see older women kicking ass so they know the always will be able to.
    Many of us loved the Vuvalini of the Many Mothers in Mad Max: Fury Road. We loved Robin Write as Antiope and other middle aged (although younger than some of us) Amazons in Wonder Woman, which we’re not happy Cameron felt a need to diss. And we were overjoyed to see Carrie Fisher back as General Leia in the new Star Wars movies, I mean, words just can’t express it (especially now, having lost this not only talent actress but a outspoken, ass kicking woman all around).
    But we don’t want to just be cheering briefly for such characters and see them mostly fade into the background and, often, die (of course, most of us want a respectful and heroic death for Leia, but wish fervently that she could have lived through the end of the trilogy). We have no intention of fading into the background ourselves, so we want to see Sarah Connor centered in these three movies.
    Kill her off and most of us will not be back for the rest of the movies. It’s that simple. Sarah Connor is the only reason some of us are fans.

Seriously, this could be the greatest thing in movie history for me. Or it could be a shit show.  Without women having direct input from behind the scenes, I think it’s likely to end up the latter, even with Linda.

 

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.

 

Saigh’s bio

Sarah Connor and Other Action Heroines will Kick Ass at the Artemis Film Festival!

So yes, we’ve sucked at doing this regularly but….I had to come on here becasue I couldn’t help but get seriously excited when I heard of the Artemis Women in Action Film Festival happening in Los Angeles April 24-26, 2015!

They have been fundraising to make this happen at WomenKickAss.com and now have the funds for a single screen so it is a go!  They are trying to raise enough for at least a second screen and maybe a third!  Please, if you can, help out, if not snag that link and share it around!  The fundraiser ends on March 19!

ETA: And there will be a Twitter Party on March 19 from 7pm – 8pm PST!

Because this is important!  If we’re going to get more movies with women action leads, we need to support and celebrate the effort and show that we are an audience to be reckoned with!  And it’s vital that we have more of these movies out there, because it’s not that we just want them, its that we need them!  At any age and we especially need this to grow so young women and girls can see women as equal, in all ways! We need this festival to thrive!

There will be competitions for films and screenplays and women of action films will be honored!

This includes Linda Hamilton receiving the Artemis Action Icon Award! Well, who else would it be?  Because for so many of us, even after more than two decades she just really is The Icon!

Actress, stunt woman, author Angela Meryl will be receiving the Artemis Stunt Unsung Heroine Award and stunt  woman  and stunt coordinator Maja Aro will be receiving the Artemis Stunt Warrior Award.

You can see a message from festival founder, actress and stunt woman Melanie Wise in this video.  Please remember that the Women Kick Ass fundraiser has been extended to March 19 and therefore you still have three days to join in and make this event really take off!


The Women Kick Ass Project from Artemis on Vimeo.

Of course, if you can help out and actually go to it ….well, if I could I would! So do it! 

(cross posted at Shadow of the Hooded Crow Blog)

It’s about the pain, or what we want to do with it

 

Polaroid of Sarah(I know, I’m cheating again, reposting something from a year ago posted in my own blog. But as this is focused on Sarah Connor/Linda Hamilton and I want to remind myself that this is to go in the article section, here it is again)

In an interview at the MCM London Expo last May (which tells you how long I have been thinking about this), Linda Hamilton remarked regarding fans wanting to be like her Terminator and Terminator 2 character Sarah Connor, “I was playing a character in a hell of the world’s making. She’s in so much pain. Why would anyone want to be like that?”

My immediate reaction, which I did briefly express in comments on that page, was, “Well, because we’re ALL in pain and we’re looking for a role model to help us figure out how to deal with it.” I don’t know that in all these years of wondering “What Would Sarah Do?” and before and after looking for role models to match her, I really thought of it that way. But, really, isn’t that exactly what it all comes down to?

We all have pain. We may not lose our mother, friends, lover and many surrounding us to a machine from the future, but we do lose those we love to other terminators throughout our lives. We may not face the fact that our child is going to be entering a known dangerous future, where he’ll be burdened with saving humanity, but those who have children (their own or those of others close to them) are faced with, at best, their unknown futures, and sometimes very real and immediate fears for their lives and safety. Our pains might not be quite interesting enough to be a subject of a movie, and when they are they are usually such direly depressing movies that we don’t watch them, but they are real.

“Escapism” really often is about watching someone else have pain that is more interesting than ours. At times perhaps it is escape we are looking for, to see someone go through something that just makes us, for an hour or two not think about our own. But I think many of us “fangirls” and “fanboys” of particular, especially action, characters, often do so because we like the way those characters deal with their pain. And while we would not want their pain as well, certainly do not wish those horrors upon ourselves and our loved ones, we want to be able to deal with what we do face in a similar manner.

This means that the fiction we tend to prefer may well say something about how we wish to cope with or solve the problems and sorrows in our lives. Those who mostly watch comedies might prefer search for laughter to soften the blows of life. We who favor action, horror or science fiction movies probably want to cowgirl up, face things down and carry on. Of course, most of us probably want different coping methods at different times which is why some of us have varied tastes in our fiction.

I think that Sarah Connor is revolutionary in this way, as much as she is for her physique and prowess with arms, in that she gives women that role model to carry on and do what needs doing. And, indeed, that strength and fighting skills were part of her answers is revolutionary as well. The training, the preparation, the choosing to become a warrior, rather than just remain the reactive Final Girl, these things are hard to find in female characters, especially in film.

It’s not hard to realize that the fictional “solution” to pain focused on female audiences has often been, in one way or another, to be saved. Whether it’s the lighter offerings of romantic comedies where the heroine is in a bad relationship or none at all until she meets the right guy who helps her out of her current situation or the darker action where the heroine’s very life is in peril and the hero must risk his to save her, this has been a standard message. It’s been there for a long time, whether the saving of the damsel is the main story or just a side-bar of the hero’s journey. There have, however, long been plucky heroines who have saved themselves in many cultures, sometimes even by taking up arms. Some even trained hard to do so, but this has been rare and still is.

Even when we’re not being taught that we must wait for our Knight in Shining Armor to come sweep us to safety, we may be taught to just wait. Many of our more physically active heroines, after all, are endowed with the power to solve their dilemmas from some outside source. Whether it’s the Bionic Woman’s science fiction enhancement or Buffy’s supernatural vampire slaying powers being awakened or so many comic book heroines who go may run the gambit between “science” and mystical, we may well wish for suddenly being gifted with the power to take on our own problems. Even those heroines born with powers can instill the same desire, their typical “alien” identity often calling out to our own feelings of being alienated, that we might wake up to the realization that we are special and do have powers we never expected (that many do believe this these days, in the Otherkin phenomenon, is a can of worms I probably shouldn’t open). (I’m not going to say there are not similar male characters, just that there does seem to be more of a balance between them and those men who take action for themselves.)

But the truth is, Otherkindred aside, we’re not going to get those powers. So, certainly, we have heroines who have no powers but persevere. Ripley and a parade of Final Girls in horror films never prepare to any real extent. Ripley in Aliens goes through some weapons training after the threat has been established, but that’s about the most we ever see in any of these movies. This gives us hope that any woman could survive, given enough attitude. And so, we can survive our own trials, we’ll face them as they come.

As women we are supposed to constantly fear sexual violence, and so we have “good” examples of women saving themselves with attitude and ingenuity. In fact, we have an entire B-movie genre, the Rape Vengeance movies. I Spit on Your Grave is, of course, the representative of this genre. Like other Final Girls, the heroine doesn’t prepare and her sense of power is continually tainted with terror while her success is often dependent on just plain luck. It gives us a gratifying sense of vengeance, but no real role model.

Similarly, the cinematically superior, but inaccurately (or was it meant to be ironic?) titled, The Brave One, followed a similar formula replacing rape with the death of a loved one (which in a world where women are trained to see men as protectors this alone gives a similar sense of vulnerability) and the hillbilly hell setting with the dangerous urban world that the character had always lived in but seemed to be previously oblivious of. Many women related to Jodie Foster’s character’s fear and her striving to protect herself and avenge her lover, but instead of offering a role model of developed strength we get one of continued fear and powerlessness. She substitutes a gun she never learns how to use for real power, for real preparation, she never really gains control, she remains reactive and in terror to the very end. She is perhaps a good example of how many of us do deal with our day to day trials, scared, unthinking, out of control, nearly hysterical, sometimes getting lucky in our blind actions but never acting with strength. Again, a message society often tells women we are and can never get beyond, irrational, vulnerable, even when we do manage to enact our revenge.

In The Terminator Sarah starts out like Final Girls and those who are gifted with powers as just one of us, someone most of us can relate to. She works a very typically female shit-job, she is in college but there is some sense that she’s not really found her path yet, she’s stood up by a date with someone she apparently barely knows; she’s nowhere and we’ve all been there. Fate intervenes and she does find out she’s special, but instead of getting gifted with a power which will make her tasks easier, she’s given the burden of knowing she’s to bear a son who will be a great leader but in a world of utter hell. She’s a Final Girl, reacting, whining and scrambling in a situation she’s unprepared for, with tragedy after tragedy striking in just one night as her best friend, her mother and her lover, along with many others are killed. But in the end she makes a choice, to stop whining, to stop being reactionary, to prepare her son for what he must face by preparing herself. It might not be a totally independent decision, for she is told that she was the one who trained her son of the future, but for that young woman who “can’t even balance my checkbook” it was a big one.

We don’t see that preparation, but we see the results from the moment Sarah appears in Terminator 2. We see her chinning in a situation where maintaining any fitness level would take such a stronger degree of commitment than any of our own issues with motivation at getting to a gym can compare. She soon is picking locks and taking out orderlies with the skills she learned. These things tell us she prepared. And to those of us whose desire is to face our problems by being prepared, she’s awesome. Hard, inside and out, yes, but there are times this is needed. Hair triggered, but even “out of control” she’s got power because of her training.

It might seem strange that a character who onscreen never faces the threat of serious rape, face licking sexual abuse is as much as we’re shown (even the non-sexual beat down from the same orderly was not shown in the original theatrical release), has become an icon for many to prepare against sexual violence. It’s actually that she never is shown to be so imperiled that is at the very core of why she’s so inspiring. In a world where women are considered constantly at risk of sexual assault, she actually represents a woman who isn’t at the same degree of risk. Even in taking the gross face lick, there’s a strategy, she’s biding her time for what needs to be done, and that insult isn’t that important in the long run. Even taking the orderly out, though there might have been some feelings of rightful revenge, is more about getting him out of the way to deal with real problems. The threat of sexual violence is something to be dealt with efficiently and quickly, not pondered upon, just get the problem man out of the way and move on.

It has been pointed out that her muscle and Krav Maga skills would be pointless against the machines, but that doesn’t mean they were pointless in her training. We can well imagine that in the “man’s world,” a literal jungle, where she sought out paramilitary training, there were men who would have gladly taken out their violence upon a lone woman. She may well have been a rape survivor during the early days, that may indeed be an added pain, one many of us share, that is never revealed. But considering the future she and her son face, there are greater threats. So, the skills needed to deal with those men are acquired with the skills needed to deal with the future threats, again, when the threat is presented, get the problem man out of the way and move on.

Likewise, muscles, guns and hand-to-hand combat skills, which many of have been inspired to pursue (and some of us where before but just found our role model) might not help any of us with most of the problems we face. But the fact is, sexual violence is a threat that women live with everyday, the statistics remain high that we will be assaulted in some way by someone, stranger or “loved one,” at some point in our lives. Many consider it just a fact we have to contend with. It’s not our only problem, it’s not a problem most of us actually face on a daily basis (although some might fear it almost constantly), but the truth is, it’s a major burden lifted from your life when you feel just that much less vulnerable than you did before.

Knowing that should it come up, you have a good chance, that you are prepared, that perhaps that asshole who thinks you are a victim is the one that should be worried more than you, it does change how you handle other things. Living in fear, feeling that at least half of the world could take you out in a moment, does not empower you on any level. Sarah showed us that such threats can be just something to get out of the way should they come up. Until then, you can do what needs to be done to deal with the other shit in your life. So she becomes a symbol of the ultimate preparations against any sort of assault we might face.

This is, as I’ve noted before, the greatest travesty of Terminator Salvation, that the franchise that gave us this ultimate role model of strength, turned around and made the one female character who could have carried on that legacy into just a victim. A victim who needs a big strong Knight to save her. That demonstrates the very thing that Sarah Connor represented our journey away from.

And when it comes to other problems in our lives, Sarah can still offer us hope. We can face the loss of loved ones and still strive towards our goals because she did. If our tasks seem hard and overwhelming, we can stoically strive on, with out whining (or at least not for long), without faltering, because, well, she got through her burdens and, even when there seemed no hope, fought to find a better solution. Certainly she mourned her dead, she went from just conceiving to very pregnant in the last scene of Terminator, but she shows eventually you pack up your dog, gun and Spanish dictionary and head head out to prepare for what’s to come.

Of course, there is another factor in dealing with the sadness issue at hand in what Sarah inspires for us. Moments of sheer joy. It’s the endorphins, baby. Working out, martial arts/self-defense training and defensive shooting training all give us strong endorphin dumps. It might not solve the problems, it might not cure the source of the sad, but it certainly is nice to have those periods of elation.

So, Linda (although I’m sure you’ll never read this) and others who ask this question, this is why we want to be like Sarah. No, we don’t want her burdens added to our own. We just want her strength, which you demonstrated so well, to handle them. Strong and hard, sometimes too alone and shut-off but we can find our way back to love too, sometimes ranting and raving at a world that can’t grasp the hard truths, always prepared, with a plan, getting the small problems out of the way so we can deal with saving the world as best we can.

And it’s kind of nice if we can groove on some endorphins and look our buffist while we do it, too.

Copyright © 2010 Saigh Kym Lambert