Friday, March 14, 2008

Fear, desire and fembots (by Suzie)


      Whether high-priced call girls or Real Dolls or female robots, some men seem fascinated with the idea of a woman who will serve (and service) them without the requirements of a relationship.
       The latest issue of Bitch magazine has a fascinating article on "the evolution of the artificial woman." Not all serve men. Author Tammy Oler suggests the Cylons of the updated "Battlestar Galactica"* "come closest to embodying the cyberfeminist ideal of gender/identity liberation," as posited by Donna Haraway in "A Cyborg Manifesto."
      Gender stereotypes also take a beating in the new "Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles," a television show that takes up the story after the second "Terminator" movie. In terms of feminism, the show is not perfect, by any means. But it does feature the strong single mother Sarah Connor and adds the female terminator Cameron, sent from the future to protect Sarah's son, John, who can save "mankind" from the bad robots. 
       What Oler says about the movie "RoboCop" could apply to "BSG" and "The Sarah Connor Chronicles": They explore what it means to be human - and whether humanity is worth saving.
        Oler also talks about how pop culture combines the fear of women and machines in its depiction of artificial women. That's true of "BSG," in which the female Cylons are much more sexualized than the males. In "The Sarah Connor Chronicles," however, Cameron's beauty rarely matters in regard to the plot. She doesn't appear programmed as a femme fatale.  She is learning to perform gender.
        To set up the clip below: A ballet teacher told Cameron that "dance is the hidden language of the soul." This intrigued her. (It also intrigued fans who knew that the actor Summer Glau had been a ballet dancer.) We hear Sarah Connor talk about what separates terminators from humans, as Derek, a human who has fought the robots, watches Cameron with awe and fear. This is a "male gaze" with a twist. Viewers know that the watcher could just as easily be a woman and the terminator could be a man. The terminator can dance freely because she holds more power, including the power to explore her self.

*If you're a fan, check out the "BSG" link. The video is hilarious.