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November 1995, Week 2


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Film and TV Studies Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
Jeffrey Apfel <[log in to unmask]>
Fri, 10 Nov 1995 11:09:15 -0800
Film and TV Studies Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
text/plain (78 lines)
You wrote:
>What is interesting to me about the line of discussion regarding the
>Terminator flix is how the fascination with the cyborg body dominates
>discussion of gender/masculinity. Isn't the frame of both these
>developed around the need to buy time for John Connor, the boy, to
>into John Connor, the man--also the good father, the warrior, the
>of "human" (as opposed to machinic) civilization and order?
>The film offers us an image of a benevolent patriarch, an idealized
>of human (again not machine) masculinity but throws this image over in
>service to the pleasure that the viewer takes in the cyborg's body and
>antics. What is interesting to me is that the film is ostensibly about
>the cyborg reinforcing humanity's dominance at the top of the food
>The *narrative* is intended to reinforce this notion, and yet the
>spectacle subverts the narrative frame. Nobody in this discussion, it
>seems, has cared to comment, for instance, on how the idealized human
>represented in the form of John Connor because he is basically flat,
>bland, and indistinguishable in that role. He, in fact, makes a more
>interesting boy than a man, in the few glimpses of his heroic manhood
>which we are given.
>I wonder what comments about the representations of masculinity can be
>gleaned from the tension between spectacle and narrative in this
>Just some wandering speculations, no particular conclusions...
>Meryem Ersoz
>University of Oregon
Recognizing that gender questions and critical theory have a somewhat
leftish aura around them in the academy, let me bring to the attention
of some of the posters here the work of George Gilder, someone
typically associated with the right.  In Naked Nomads (mid-1970's) and
Sexual Suicide (also mid-1970's, reissued as Men and Marriage in the
1980's) Gilder makes very interesting points where gender issues are
concerned.  Comes to some of the same conclusions as, say, Camille
Paglia on innate differences (without endorsing pedophilia, though!).
Gilder, I think, would say simply this:  T2 creates a fictional future
in which the male principle has run amok.  Robots (usually portrayed as
males when you think of it) have taken over.  There is no room for the
nurturing principle--men have finally gotten "their way" in the sense
that the world is just one big, violent junkyard.
John Connor, however, somehow remembers that a male untamed by the
feminine principle is just a "naked nomad".  He is willing to fight and
die for something larger.  This is a bit of male fantasy, to be sure,
but it neatly encapsulates the male predicament: our strength is needed
to get things done, but we worry about being extraneous, of being
robots, of being machines.  So a persistent male myth permitting
closure on this anxiety is one in which the hero reconnects with the
side of himself which is grounded--the female side--so that he can go
forward in battle in the hope that it's not all absurd posturing.
So while one can look at T2 and say the narrative and spectacle clash,
using Gilder's lens they don't clash at all.  A part of Connor (and the
viewer) cries out for meaning that Sara only can provide.  But, let's
face facts here, a part of Connor (and the viewer) loves the smashing
and the bashing.  Men will be boys.
Jeff Apfel
"I've been waiting my whole life to fuck up like this."
    Michael Moriarty in Who'll Stop the Rain
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