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[personal profile] bookgazing
Down for a lot of words about killer robots, ladies, and feelings? Then please join me for bi-weekly recaps of The Sarah Connor Chronicles.

Spoilers )
bookgazing: (Default)
[personal profile] bookgazing
Down for a lot of words about killer robots, ladies, and feelings? Then please join me for bi-weekly recaps of The Sarah Connor Chronicles.

Spoilers Follow )
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Look, look - the wonderful chaila of underline everything has agreed to return to Lady Business!

chaila's fan-vids, commentary and just down right, over flowing love were the driving influence behind Jodie's rapid consumption of the first series of "The Sarah Connor Chronicles", so we're excited to host a new post by her about this very cool, ruthlessly cancelled program. Come with us if you want to live...or at least have an interest in seeing ladies and robots and lady-robots shape the future.

On a purely descriptive level, Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles sounds a lot like a standard part of a sci-fi action movie franchise: Sarah Connor, her son John, and their allies attempt to prevent Skynet, a computer network that destroys the world in the future, from being created. Time travel exists, fighters come back from the future to help them, robots come from the future to hunt them, and sometimes things blow up. But TSCC spins off from its action movie franchise roots to tell a deeply human story that interrogates the basis of all "hero myth" type stories. What I want to focus on in this post are these deconstructive elements, the way TSCC explicitly and implicitly challenges the themes and tropes common in similar stories about "one chosen hero destined to save the world."

One way TSCC does this is by focusing on the surrounding characters, particularly on Sarah, which changes the entire shape of the story. Once the narrative is established as Sarah’s, the show introduces, or increases focus on, several regular characters in season two who in some way question or challenge the dominant myth: Jesse Flores, Riley Dawson, James Ellison, and Catherine Weaver. All of these characters have different viewpoints and beliefs about John and Sarah and about the future. This group of characters, who are not on Team Connor, add so many layers of depth and complexity to the show, and elevate it from a pretty good show about soldiers and family preparing for a future robot apocalypse, to a truly compelling, complex, graceful piece of television that deals with war, loss, robots, the preservation of what makes us human, and how who and what gets written in the book of myth is only a fraction of the story.

To keep this to a manageable word count (haha), I’m going to break it down by the characters I think engage with these ideas the most: the five (FIVE) major female characters in season 2--Sarah, Cameron, Jesse, Riley, and Weaver--and James Ellison. These characters question the recorded history of the future (which is a phrase that makes sense only in a show about time travel), and provide different perspectives on the present and the different options for preventing or fighting the coming war.

Note that this post covers the series as a whole, with spoilers!

Did I mention the FIVE major female characters and James Ellison? )

I will now end this unforgivably long post with two general observations about why TSCC is among my favorite shows ever. First, as I hope is now apparent, TSCC is one of the most female-driven shows I’ve seen, with multiple amazing complex women driving and determining the course of the story. Second, I’d argue that TSCC on a meta level can be read as one giant deconstruction of myth, a meditation on the way that myths or cultural stories function in our lives, particularly in war or times of conflict, how they get built and used and how they differ from historical truth, particularly how they ignore the messy and inconvenient parts that make the story richer and more complicated and more beautiful. TSCC puts all these parts back in, and it elevates the story to something else entirely. The show doesn’t have to be read this way; it can also be watched and enjoyed more straightforwardly as a show about humans fighting against and cooperating with machines, with multiple amazing, complex women. Either way, it’s pretty awesome.

Other Links

The Sarah Connor Chronicles - Series One by Jodie

Episode recaps and discussions at [ profile] sccchronicles_tv

Observations about performance and camouflage, femininity and domesticity, among other things, in season one by [personal profile] sanguinity

Vid: there’s a war going on for your mind, sarah by [personal profile] beccatoria
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[personal profile] bookgazing
DVD cover showing a Sarah Connor cocking a gun while crouching with her legs spread apart

Here we go again, right?

Looking at this image, it’s hard to deny that "The Sarah Connor Chronicles" is yet another TV program being marketed with tired, exploitatively posed pictures, designed to please straight male culture. While Lena Headey looks hot in this shot, the way she's posed caters to the priorities and gaze of dudes, and indicates to women that just because there are ladies in this program that doesn’t mean that women are welcomed into the fanbase. Get away from that DVD, woman!

In this picture, Headey is posed in a suggestive way with her legs spread to draw the eye to her crotch. That's enough posing for the straight male gaze already, but the image has still more sexual coding to give up. The combination of that crotch shot and the gun in her hands presents another example of how our culture delights in playing with and posing powerful, interesting female characters for the titillation of men. In images like this, guns are positioned as tools of attraction rather than of genuine power. In other words, Sarah may be holding a gun which makes her look powerful, but that power is undercut because of the combination of that gun and the crotch shot which clearly indicates that the important message of this shot is 'girls with guns are sexually attractive and men should get on objectifying them' rather than 'women with guns could take your balls off just because they feel like it'. In this image, Sarah presents as the strong, weapon carrying woman that she is but she is reduced by the way the camera focuses the male gaze.

In other shots on the UK DVD covers, Summer Glau is posed with guns, but in positions which realistically would make it difficult for her to shoot anyone. In this official image, her clothes are deliberately fixed to be suggestively revealing. And as someone who is currently in the middle of watching far too many programs where all the things I want are accompanied by the mass destruction of women in ‘interesting’ ways this image in particular is a bit hard to take:

Cameron's top half hangs from metal supports - she is naked, her long hair barely covering her breasts and below the waist she is dismembered with wires trailing

Dismemberment - just an inconvenient detail if a woman is naked.

Oprah shakes her head, says no and rolls her eyes

All of which means I feel obliged to start this post by suggesting that you not to write off "The Sarah Connor Chronicles" because of these images. I am really excited to talk about the first series of this program because, despite what these marketing images might suggest, this is a program with a healthy respect for women and an interest in female characters. I swear! I mean it has its complicated gender stuff, but look other people agree with me that it is also a program full of women doing interesting things. In between those DVD covers is an awesome story about a female protagonist, the people who are important to her, and killer robots from the future, one of which is here to look at her significantly.

Come on, don’t let some misleading marketing make you miss out on the bullet filled, female-focused fun! )

Reviews and Supplemental Material

The Unbearable Silence of Sabrina Perez
Let's Hear It For the Girls?
tight presents MASTERLIST (vids!)
32 Days of Awesome Women: Day 31 - Sarah Connor


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