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Joanna’s Critique of The Terminator

Joanna Russ is an American Feminist writer. She is the author of many works of science fiction, within the subgenre of feminist science-fiction. Her most influential and consistently mentioned work is The Female Man. It chronicles the lives of four women, who all live in alternate worlds and interact with sexism in their own individual ways. Her views are often described as radical, in the family of feminist politics. For the purpose of understanding her perspective, I will do an analysis of her views to infer how I believe she would interpret the film The Terminator directed by James Cameron, and written by James Cameron and Gale Ann Hurd.

This film was one of the major Blockbusters in science fiction and embodies many of the same ideals present in Joanna Russ’s feminist critiques on the genre. Pertaining to her views on science fiction, Joanna Russ believes that it is formulated from observations of life as it is, or has been lived, as well as how it corresponds to math and science. She feels that most analysis used to measure the aesthetics often fall short in their interpretations of any work in close correlation to the genre. She furthers argues that science fiction is not fantasy.

This idea is grounded in the fact that science fiction, though fictional, is still based on physics and true to life facts. She connects the genre’s ability to interpret real time observations and distribute their moral value to the didactic nature of medieval literature. She feels this connection between Christianity and medieval literature is compatible with the relation science fiction has with science. Like good medieval literature must always center around the laws of Christianity, so must science fiction stay true to scientific law.

She feels that bad science fiction is the product of an author’s bias-unawareness of what is known to be true, or a lack of Faith in what most science fiction fanatics deem to be more than just fantastic speculation. Russ has often been noted for condemning those science-fiction writers who she feel are not devout in the belief that the scientific possibilities they promote in their works could ever be a reality. She is a firm believer that the faith in the idea bleeds through to affect the art. James Cameron is a prime example of the type of science-fiction artist Russ loves.

Every bit of his faith in his project is exemplified in the realistic nature of his film. The Terminator is more than just a film that launched the career of former body builder and current governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. It is the quintessential science-fiction film. A young woman named Sarah Connor is hunted down by a cybernetic killer, who has traveled back in time from the year 2029. In the future war between the Robots and humans, it is believed Sarah Connor will give birth to the leading general in the fight for the human race. On top of this, Sarah Connor is also heralded as a great military hero in the future.

This aspect of Cameron’s protagonist can very easily be corresponded to the ideals common in most of Russ’s work. Joanna Russ would like this film because it promotes feminist empowerment, while at the same time it maintains the woman’s social status as a female. This is seen in how Sarah Connor’s ominous future proclaims her as a great war hero, but she is also a mother who gives birth to a sun with an even greater destiny. This corresponds with Russ’s ideal that good science fiction relies on the nature of what is known to be true.

Though Connor is a soldier, she is also a woman who craves to be loved, and in essence is willed to love and mother a child. In the beginning of the film, Sarah Connor appears sensitive and fragile. As the film progresses, her character becomes more confident and determined. There is a scene where Reese, her protector and love interest, teaches her how to make a pipe bomb from household products. This is an example of her learning the war tactics of men, and the point of her initial crossover into the role of the great soldier she is destined to become.

Connor in essence is presented as the last hope for the human race. Even praised Reese, he struggles look past her myth into her humanity, until they first make love. I think, Russ’s perception of the triangular relationship between the Terminator, Connor and Reese, would be the main focus of her analysis. Reese initially is sent back to protect Sarah Connor. Unbeknownst to either of them, he inadvertently becomes the father of the baby he is sent to protect. Reese is still mortal, and continuously reminded of this fact when confronting the Terminator.

Sarah Connor is mortal, but she is also a great war hero fulfilling a prophecy. I believe Russ would feel Sarah Connor’s character is empowered in this film and Reese is actually effeminized; by this, I mean that Reese is actually the weaker of the two. In the greatest measure of manliness against the ultimate destroying machine, Connor manages to survive; and in the end, she is the one who kills the Terminator. While Reese, dead, has failed as a protector and the only purpose he served was to produce offspring.

The man and the woman switch roles in this way, and Russ would agree with this theory on a feminist critique of the film. In sum, Joanna Russ’s response to The Terminator would be one of great appreciation. This is based on the fact that the film remains true to scientific law, and human nature. It presents the female as the key source of continuing and protecting the human race. It also places the woman on a pedestal above man and the extreme extension of his misogynistic power, the Terminator.

Work Cited

“Joanna Russ. ” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. 11 Dec 2006, 16:29 UTC. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. 9 Jan 2007 http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Joanna_Russ&oldid=93599121

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