After three lackluster sequels, the “Terminator” franchise will return to the silver screen once again in 2019 with James Cameron as producer and Tim Miller (“Deadpool”) in the director’s chair. What sets this one apart from the last three? Linda Hamilton gets her groove back as the shotgun-wielding (arguably borderline psychotic) Sarah Connor at age 61. Behold the first promo shot:
I have little doubt Hamilton will deliver yet another fine round of some serious badassery any more than I had little doubt in the aging Schwarzenegger for the previous sequels. While I’m always open for surprises, I’m not holding my breath for this installment. It may not be the incompetent mess of its predecessors, but in no way will it have the intellectual cleverness of “T1” or the epic intensity of “T2.”
What made the first two films stand out were their solid emotional cores. “T1” centered on the love story between Sarah Connor and Kyle Reese while “T2” centered on John Connor finding a father figure in a relic from the future. The state-of-the-art special effects and well-choreographed action scenes would not be nearly as gripping without either of those components anchoring it. The sequels recreated none of that emotional chemistry and underwhelmed as a result.
Of course, that was back when Hollywood allowed carefully-crafted stories with dramatic themes and memorable characters to become films. In 2018, movies must serve a political or social purpose to have any cultural significance. As Screwtape put it, everything must be novel. That means all-female screenings of “Wonder Woman” and race-baiting professors scolding white parents for buying their son a “Black Panther” costume. That means good storytelling takes a back seat to propaganda. It happened to “Ghostbusters,” it happened to “Star Wars,” it happened to “Ocean’s 11,” it happened to “Lord of the Flies,” and now it looks like “The Terminator” has entered its SJW judgment day.
Given the all-female photo above, which tells us nothing other than Linda Hamilton’s ability to rock those aviator glasses like a pro, you can already imagine the litany of giddy things SJWs are saying. It goes something like this: “the future is female.” Writing at The Hollywood Reporter, Graeme McMilan says the promo shot gives the franchise a much-needed breath of woke air for one simple reason: THERE. ARE. NO. MEN.
McMilan states: “There’s another, less obvious, reason to get excited about the movie because of this image. There are no men in the photo.”
Like any true leftist disguising their sexism for woke-ness, McMilan then butchers the whole franchise by relegating pivotal male characters to little more than throwaway sidekicks at best or “male threats” at worst:
There were obviously men in the movies — Sarah’s son, John, is the Macguffin that gets the story going, after all, and there are both sidekicks (Hi, Kyle Reece! Hi, Old-School Terminator in T2!) and male threats — but at the center of it all, unmistakably, is Sarah Connor. She was the engine of resistance and change for the entire narrative and, for both of Cameron’s movies, the only character that really provided any emotional hook for the audience.
The lesson seems obvious — but it’s one that only appears to have been learned with the release of this new promotional image. When it comes to Terminator, arguably more than any other science-fiction franchise, the future is female, and always has been. The visual that audiences needed to see to have faith in any new installment isn’t of the eponymous robot threat, any number of grimacing male action heroes brandishing weapons while sweating, or a callback to earlier promo posters; none of that is what makes the series special. What is, is meeting the women who are going to fight back and save tomorrow.
As someone who did not get their knowledge of “The Terminator” films from Gender Studies 101, I can say with a firm degree of confidence the story never hinged on “women who are going to fight back and save tomorrow.” I know this for the simple fact that Sarah Connor would’ve died before the closing of the first reel if not for the protection of a certain brave and noble man named Kyle Reese, a soldier sent back through time by– wait for it– a male.
Back in 1984, before the days of “Fern Gully” meets “Dances with Wolves” in space, a 30-something James Cameron conceived of a story about an innocent young woman who learns from an inter-dimensional being that she would go on to birth the savior of mankind. His name would be John Connor (initials J.C.), whom she learns will lead humanity to triumph against a great evil. For that, an abominable force travels across dimensions to perform what can only be described as a retroactive abortion to stop this savior’s birth. Only when this young woman takes ownership of her fate does she overcome her enemy.
If this sounds in the slightest bit familiar to you, that’s because it’s a retelling of the Nativity story. Albeit imperfectly, Sarah Connor represents the Virgin Mary, Kyle Reese represents St. Joseph, John Connor represents Christ, and The Terminator is an agent of the great Satan: Skynet.
What’s most impressive about Cameron’s early works is the presence of strong matriarchal characters whose love for their young carry the narrative. His two great heroines, Ellen Ripley and Sarah Connor, shoot guns and kill bad guys not out of some manic desire to stick it to the patriarchy but to protect their most prized possessions: children. Sarah Connor fights to protect John Connor (both unborn and mature) while Ellen Ripley fights to protect her figurative-daughter Newt.
Though tough and certainly no-nonsense in their own right, neither Sarah Connor nor Ellen Ripley show disrespect to the men around them, or rather, the actual men around them. Effeminate, weak-willed men like Dr. Silverman and Lt. Gorman, they steamroll over. Righteous, heroic men like Kyle Reese and Corporal Hicks, they respect; actually, they depend on them for survival and vice-versa. In Catholicism, we call this the “complementarity of man and woman.”
Now granted, Cameron does give us a more masculine Sarah Connor in “T2,” a gun-wielding “I need no stinking man” warrior princess. But here’s the thing feminists won’t like: Cameron presents this as a flaw. Oh sure, he rolls with the idea that women need guns and self-defense to protect themselves (thanks for the hat-tip there, Jim), but in no way does he endorse the idea that Sarah Connor needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle.
If “T1” presented us an innocent Sarah Connor, then “T2” presents us with a brutalized Sarah Connor. Here, she’s a victim of terrible violence overcoming post-traumatic stress. It clouds her reason to the point of near insanity. She almost murders an innocent man in front of his own children, for crying out loud. Only when she confronts her fear by befriending the new and improved Terminator (Schwarzenegger at his best) can she rise to become the fierce matriarch again.
The story presents Sarah’s dogged independence as a weakness, not an asset. You may recall that pivotal scene in the director’s cut where she comes within inches of hammering The Terminator’s CPU to bits, nearly killing the one entity that can protect her and John from the T-1000. Recall the dialogue in that moment. “We can take care of ourselves,” she tells John as he protests. It is only when John, the future savior of mankind, asserts his authority that she backs down. Later, she comes to see that was a wise choice. Not only does this new and improved Terminator protect John’s life, it becomes the boy’s father figure. In the end, Sarah lays down her hate and even goes on to regard The Terminator’s heroic act of self-sacrifice as an example for humanity.
So, in actuality, the underlying message of “The Terminator” franchise is not “the future is female,” but rather “the future is male and female or we’re doomed.”