Note: I wrote this as an tangent in the middle of a slightly more thought through and organized essay about my role within the patriarchy. This is a tangent, and just musings on connections my idiot brain has made between reality and a dumb movie that has resonated with me. In classic Michael Stevens fashion, it isn’t proofread, so if you quote me, please correct it if you don’t want to look dumb. Also, if something grammatically REALLY bothers you, please write a letter to Mark Zuckerberg about his (and his tech CEO peers’) role in the 2016 election and the downfall of serious, trust worthy, journalism.
I was thinking about my own masculinity from the lens of Terminator 2, one of my favorite action movies. I was talking about it at lunch with my friend Meg who pointed out to me that Sarah Connor should be read as a survivor of trauma.
Read the plot. After the conversation, it’s hard for me not to see Sarah Connor as the “Everywoman” kind of action hero who deals with everyday macro/micro-agressions from men on a magnified scale, where the stakes are as high as the survival of humanity.
Sarah Connor is every woman who gave her account of what happened that men decided not to believe. Fuck, she spends most of the movie getting gaslit.
Now there are way too many goddamn men in this movie, and I hope they do something about that in the next one, BUT, in this movie the men fall into categories that I think many of us need to recognize:
Sarah Connor = All Women. Linda literally made this shit so easy for us to understand…she is the ONLY woman in the film. I know that it’s weird that this one white lady is supposed to stand in for the myriad traumas that all women have suffered, but I didn’t make the movie, I just have watched it a lot. She’s the survivor. She burdened with being the teacher, the savior, and the victim and gets none of the future renown and glory that shitty ass John Connor gets for like 13 movies.
Skynet = Toxic Masculinity. Our programming.
The T-800, from the flash forwards in the future = Obvious Abusers and Toxic Men. The men we’re train to recognize as bad. The men we’ve all agreed are known toxic abusers.
The Terminator that get the skin treatments and travel in time = Abusers and Toxic Men. The men we are trained to identify as bad. The dude who, because he has skin and bleeds, we assume is human and harmless. Fuck he might be you.
T-1000 = He’s just like the above, but he’s proud of his abuse. Think like Gavin McInnes types.
Those dudes at the asylum that beat and gaslight Sarah = That’s probably the average of where most men tend to be. This is you if you use words like “friend zone” and talk about “making moves” on people who have not expressed enthusiastic consent. This is probably you in a room with no women, laughing at a peer’s joke about his “crazy bitch of an ex.” This is probably you in the office investigating your female co-workers concerns and saying shit like “No, I see what you mean, but I don’t think that’s like harassment…did he touch you?”
These characters I think fascinate me the most, because I find their brand of wrong doing to be the most common.
Characters that aren’t as toxic, but probably still need to STFU
The Reformed Terminator = Might be you after you deal with some of that faulty programming. What I like about this Reformed Terminator is that he is best used when he is a tool to signal boost Sarah’s more compelling arc. He’s not the fucking hero of the story. He’s a device. He’s not the most perfect ally, but he understands what is wrong with him, and shares his goal with Sarah.
The franchise is called Terminator, but it’s story is really centered on how Sarah’s survival guarantees humankind a fighting chance against tyranny. Similarly, we’re called mankind, but our story is centered on elevating the rights, lives, and voices of the other half of the world so that we can call this on world we have a good one…fuck I’m off-topic.
Kyle Reese = This is a character I’d like to identify with, but as the exposition character/protector, he’s also kind of like a perfect standing for keyboard white knights and mansplainers and male feminists who mean well, but will talk over you because they are “passionate” about what they have to say, but not about whatever it was that is about to come out of your mouth. He could also be the guy who is surprised to see you say #metoo. You’re like “of course.”
He may also be a victim of corrosive masculinity, but he still has to take a step back and recognize his own role in the resistance against the machines. Also, he should shut the fuck up because that’s why he dies in the first movie. Sarah’s ideas are why we’re even still here.
But Kyle talks too much and should shut the fuck up.
John Connor = I went back and forth on this, but ultimately I want to focus on the best version of this character which is Eddie Furlong’s clueless, bratty, messiah. John Connor is the dude in your women’s studies class who is very vocal about the fact that he comes from a female family. The good thing about him is that he could use his “powers for good” to end Skynet for good. The annoying part is you probably are doing so much emotional labor for this dude. He’s the type of dude that like probably never dealt with his mommy issues that you’re cool with, but he talks too much and should shut the fuck up.