Thursday, September 11, 2008

This season's action dramas and feminism

Between Monday and Tuesday, I found myself being drawn into two action dramas, the returning Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles and the new Sons of Anarchy with one of my favorite actors, Ron Perlman.

I think one aspect that draws me into both shows is the strong female characters. In Terminator, Sarah Connor is like the MacGyver of modern mothers. She's resourceful, fierce, and a strategist who can survive just about everything. The competing Terminators so far this season are also women (if you can call them that) who are all the more intimidating because under the soft skin and big eyes are really killing machines crafted of an intricate network of wires, steel, and living tissue.

In some ways to me, the journey of the main Terminator, played by Summer Glau, is like that of women through history as she tries to prove her humanity in the face of the doubts of those around her. Last season she discovered art in the form of ballet, which gave the biggest hints that she was on the path towards becoming a human machine, and in the first episode of this season she declared her love for John Connor, and more surprising, she meant it. Through the machine's journey of self discovery, she is becoming more than a weapon, more than a tool, more than a machine, and because of her superhuman strength, more than an ordinary woman.

In Sons of Anarchy, it is clear that Gemma, played by Katey Sagal, pulls some major strings when it comes to her son Jax and Clay, the leaders of the SOA. She's not afraid to kill to get results, and she uses seduction, power, and quick thinking to get what she wants. She is cold and calculating, but you can tell she is tuned in when it comes to her family and will do what she thinks is best, no matter what it takes to see its fruition.

Dr. Tara Knowles has also been introduced as a strong woman. Not only has she had the courage to leave the jurisdiction of the SOA and come back to do good in her hometown, she also was intelligent and hardworking enough to finish medical school. It is clear there will be sparks between her and Jax, but it remains to be seen whether or not Jax will be up to being involved with such a strong, together woman.

Another thing I like about these shows, and it's somewhat controversial, is that the people who make the show are brave enough to put these women in danger. The mothers aren't June Cleaver. They make hard, and sometimes bad, decisions that impact the story lines of the shows. They get hurt, and sometimes women end up with a boot in their face or with an overdose coursing through their veins and making them froth at the mouth. But, instead of being victims who constantly need to be saved by the men around them, at times they save the men. I think this shows a maturity growing in Hollywood, where a gender paradigm is beginning to shift, and people are beginning to rethink the roles of men and women when it comes to power and protection.

If you agree or disagree on any of this, please feel free to leave a comment.

The Terminator series is available on Amazon and pretty much anywhere you can buy DVDs, and individual episodes of Sons of Anarchy are available for download from iTunes.

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