Terminator and the Feminine Mystique

Posted: June 11, 2009 by Zee in Review

So I went to see the latest instalment in the Terminator series this weekend. I have always been something of a Terminator fan: I saw/was traumatized by the first movie when I was about 5 (GREAT PARENTING THERE, Mom and Dad!) and saw T2 around middle school. I admit I skipped T3 (as did most of the movie-going world…shudder…) but I have a big soft spot for the first two movies, if only because they have a kick-ass female protagonist.

I’m 110% honest here: I consider the Terminator movies to be the first feminist action series.

Let’s face it, as much as I love action movies, they’re pretty weak when it comes to chicks. Women in action movies are mostly damsels in distress or femme fatales– there are damn few heroines in the genre, which is a fucking shame. Princess Leia probably kicked off the beginning of positive, kick-ass women in action movies, but really, she’s one of a very, very small minority.

This is why Sarah Connor is so important to the action movie genre. She’s presented to us as the stereotypical damsel-in-distress during the first parts of The Terminator, but Goddamn it, she realizes the danger she’s in, she reacts to it, and she does whatever the Hell she can do to stay alive– but at the same time she doesn’t sacrifice her femininity. She falls in love with and becomes impregnated with Kyle Reese, and she mourns his death as a true partner, and as a mother.

Sarah’s role throughout the series is as “the mother”– John Connor is supposed to be “the prophet”, and she mostly does not matter…supposedly. Take as many Mary/Jesus comparisons as you will. This, however, simply is not the case. Sarah is, in many ways, more important than John, and that is not just because biologically without her he would not exist. After the death of Kyle Reese, Sarah is literally the only person in the world who knows what will happen in the next 20-30 years. She must live with that burden and shoulder it as well as she can, while still raising a child who has no idea what the future will bring.

The Terminator series has always been a great example of positive female characters in the action genre. Terminator Salvation upholds this standard: Lt. Blair Williams (Moon Goodblood) does nothing more than share a tearful kiss with her beloved at the tail end of the movie. Otherwise, she is a strong, independant, take-no-shit-from-anyone kind of gal. She appreciates a helping hand, but doesn’t expect anyone to rescue her.

In my opinion, Sarah Connor ought to be considered the patron saint of Action Chicks. Being an action chick does not mean compromising your femininity. It does not mean you must pull a “Mulan” (sorry, Vicki!) and try to be what you are not. You can only be what you are, and if the odds come down to it…

Bitch, kick some ass.

I’ve got your back.

ETA: My wonderful boyfriend gave me his mint-in-box T2 Sarah Connor action figure (http://www.toywiz.com/mcfsarahhat.html) after I expressed how much I admired this character. I knew there was some reason I keep that boy around…

  1. Vicki says:

    I stand firmly behind you on Terminator and T2, Linda Hamilton, we salute you. The Terminator series would be nothing without you.

  2. […] Arterial Spray Post: Terminator and the Feminine Mystique by Susana: “I admit I skipped T3 (as did most of the movie-going world…shudder…) but I […]

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