Friday, May 8, 2009

Terminator 2...

I'm aware that writing this post may forfeit any legitimacy/dignity this blog has, but stick with me for a minute - this will be a short one.

"A feminist critique of the movie Terminator 2 you say? ludicrous! absurd!"

Honestly I was just avoiding real work and most of my responsibilities the other night and somewhere between procrastination and napping the Terminator showed up.
One of the problems with trying to think like a film critic (and maybe even more so from a feminist perspective) is that you can remove yourself from the actual entertainment that a movie is supposed to provide.
I'm guessing most people going out of their way to read a blog about feminist criticism would be hard pressed to call Terminator 2 entertaining - therefore I won't spend too much time trying to explain the intrinsic awesomeness of filmic devices like explosions, slow-mo, motorcycle chase scenes, time traveling robots, post-apocalyptic landscapes, and being able to reload a shotgun with one hand...
I love movies, I really do, sometimes even bad ones. It's true that sometimes it feels wrong to let myself enjoy action films - why is violence so captivating/why do I subscribe to such hyper-masculine notions of strength/why is it cool to wear sunglasses at night/why why why? There is probably an analysis in the making right here: trying to understand how it is that I can spend so much time in convoluted criticism of movies - like the fact that I didn't enjoy Garden State because it's "too accessible," (what the hell does that even mean?) - and yet I can sit down with a bucket of popcorn and have a great time with any number of guilty pleasure films (i.e. zombie flicks).

Alright, back to Arnold.
I'm not going to really review this one, I just wanted to throw out some thoughts I had when watching the movie in regards to motherhood. For those who haven't seen the movie there is a lot of attention given to protector/protected relationships. In the first film of the series it was the mother, Sarah Connor, who needed protecting from a heartless/emotionless robot assassin from the future. Sarah was to be the mother of a son who would grow up to be the leader of the human resistance against the bots. In the second film it is the same son, John Connor, who needed protecting, but this time by both his mother and a reprogrammed robot - also from the future.
One of the greatest tensions in the film comes from Sarah Connor's divorce of everything "motherly," turning her character into a fiercely independent, aggressive and cold person. The only thing keeping her alive is the knowledge that she must become as strong and prepared (military training, access to weapons) as possible in order to protect her son from the impending war between the humans and the machines. The end result is a mother who does not resemble a mother at all. The love for her son is obvious but with such a jaded exterior there are plenty of moments when our hearts bleed for a boy whose mother has been taken away from him; replaced only with a bodyguard.
The film also has something to say about fathers - although it's brief. At one point in the film during some introspective monologue-ing on Sarah's part she mentions how the robot protector from the future is actually functioning as a better father figure then any other man in John's life. The implications that a robot devoid of emotion could serve as a better father seems bizarre, but Sarah goes on to say that the robot will never leave John, never raise his hand against him. He will always be there to protect him. I guess in a strange way, those few lines say a lot about fatherhood, what we look for in a father, what we expect.
Well that's all I really have to say about the film - if nothing else I hope this post wasn't completely worthless. I really do think it's possible to extract a feminist critique out of films even as hyper-masculine as Terminator 2. There is definitely more I could go on about with this film - such as the mother/child authority complexes or the gendered notions of sacrifice, but I think I'll end here. Let me know what you think about all these expectations we have for mother figures (fathers too), as I really do think that this is one of the most important themes in this and many other films.


  1. interesting that our impulses are that aggressive/physical protecting is the man/father's job, and that the mother is being less motherly when she does that...

    akin to the backlash against career moms and stay at home dads?

  2. this is crazy! i have no idea who are you are but i'm currently writing an essay on a feminist critique of the original terminator and why it is my worst nightmare as a woman. it was really interesting to hear someone else thinking along the same lines even if it was about the 2nd movie. thanks!

  3. I really don't understand what your trying to say about this film...

    This fil has of the most beautiful, well thought out interiors, underneath an action-oriented exterior.

    Not only does it empower women as strong, intellectual and beautiful human beings, it also shows the depths a women will go to protect her son, and make no mistake, this would be beautiful had Sarah Conner been a MALE character or FEMALE character.

    The fact that the Terminator is functioning as a father figure is not saying HE IS better than a father, you have to take this within the CONTEXT of the film. John Conner never had a REAL father and never will, he's being chased by a ROBOT from the future, so OF COURSE he can't have a normal life and normal father, it is under THESE circumstances the Terminator SEEMS like a better father.