I watched the movie The Terminator the other night.
Despite it being one of ‘the’ great science fiction movies, I had never seen it before. I enjoyed it enough to watch through to the end but … we’ve come a long way in women’s equality and this movie proves it.
The movie starts well. The bad guys from the future send a (supposedly) indestructible cyborg back to our time to kill one Sarah Connor, a woman does something in our time to save the world. Kyle, one of the good guys from the same future, sacrifices his own future to come back to our time to save Sarah from the cyborg.
Going back in time to kill someone to change the future is a common enough theme in science fiction. It was used both before and after The Terminator.
What isn’t so common nowadays is how Sarah ‘saves’ the world.
How does she do it?
She has a son who leads the revolution that finally overthrows the totalitarian government.
That’s right. Her son saves the world.
It’s one of those paradoxical looping movies. If the terminator hadn’t come after her then Sarah wouldn’t have brought her son up knowing how to fight, and if she hadn’t brought her son up knowing how to fight then said son wouldn’t have been able to defeat the government, so no-one would have been sent back to kill her.
How it happens doesn’t matter. What does matter is that early in the movie Kyle tells her that she saves the world. For having a son who saves them.
I’m pleased to say that if they remade The Terminator today, this is one particular conversation they would drop or rewrite. Sure, tell her the terminator is here to kill her to prevent her son being born. That’s a common science fiction trope, and to most people perfectly acceptable. But don’t tell her she saves the world just because she has a son. Nowadays that isn’t acceptable.
Sometimes, it’s not what you say but how you say it.