Saturday, April 3, 2010

More complaints about women in sci-fi TV

I just sat down to watch the first post-hiatus episode of FlashForward, because even though I mostly hate that show, it throws out enough cool sci-fi bits like "all the crows died at the same time" or "weird mysterious tower in the middle of Somalia and a big black cloud" or "the LHC did it," and enough really entertainingly batty moments like "main character lying on the ground shot and one of those alarm clocks with wheels rolling around in the puddle of blood" to keep me watching half-heartedly.

And I'm disappointed in myself for not even noticing this until ten episodes in, but the main characters' flashforwards are rigidly gender-segregated.

The men: One is in his FBI office dramatically figuring things out while masked people with guns hunt him down. One is searching for his daughter in war-torn Afghanistan (ugh). One is in a heated phone call about the fate of the world. One didn't have a flashforward, so, ooh, is he dead in the future?

The women: One is with a man who is not her husband. One is pregnant. One (it seems) is getting married. One is being drowned. And, uh...that's it.

And, OK, sure, it's not as cut and dry as all that. One of the men is on the toilet, ha ha. The daughter in Afghanistan (whose flashforward I don't believe we've seen) is a soldier. And then there are minor characters whose visions deviate from the standard set by the main characters.

But the overall pattern stands: the men are in action! They're doing world-shaping important things! The women are cheating on their husbands or getting married (or is she?) or being pregnant or being brutalized by men.

The show is also stupid in many other ways.

Also, if I were a TV show coming back from months of hiatus, I would find a better way to open the returning episode than with four minutes of almost unbroken shitty CGI.


Jack Crow said...

The women in Caprica, which is not a bad show from a production and stand point, and which shows signs of becoming a decent narrative, are nonetheless confined to one of only two roles:

1. Zealot conniver.

2. Indecisive feebling dependent on men, drugs or bit of both.

To be fair, the show is a tragedy, and the men go about making bad things worse, acting out their hubris on an interplanetary scale.

Also, the one female character (Tamara, who is still largely undeveloped) who has carved her own place out, virtually rescues her father by killing his digital self, and begins to reshape the sidereal world of a holographic net, also happens to be dead to the real world. She had to die, before she got either depth or agency.

Jack Crow said...


"production and narrative standpoint"

Ethan said...

I started to watch the pilot of Caprica when it first came out and fell asleep about twenty minutes in. It was because I was tired, not because I was bored, but nevertheless, those twenty minutes did not convince me to go back and try again. Should I?

Nice observation about having to die to get any kind of depth. It's pretty amazing how many women in our fictions "have to die" in order for some element of the plot to move forward.

I finished watching the episode of Flashforward, and it was kind of worse than I expected. It even expanded greatly on the woman-hating of the previous episodes, primarily by means of a) featuring a major female character being incompetent in exactly the same way three times and b) taking a character whose misogyny has been treated as an element of his villainy and removing his villainy without doing anything about his misogyny.

Luckily, it also featured this song, so it wasn't all bad.

Jack Crow said...

Caprica entertains, in part because the show's still finding itself.

The actors bring it, which is 90% better than the usual SyFy fare.

There's some incongruity between the way characters react to external events, in the first two episodes,but I think that's just the show's writers constrained by budget and form of the media.

Like "Burn Notice," or "Avatar," it's entertaining within its own context, even if its creators don't challenge the society at large so much as critique elements of it.

Ethan said...

Justin, somehow I didn't see this until just now. Don't know if you're checking back, but...huh, interesting.

The character on this show isn't exactly taking part in that storyline, because the people she's fleeing from in Afghanistan are actually powerful white Americans, but the show overall is gleefully exceptionalist and imperialist. "Somalia is a failed state. It hasn't had a functioning government since 1991" is actual dialogue from a recent episode, as is self-righteous pontification about US aid to African countries.

Your story would never make it out of pitch, and probably not even that far. Actually I could see most of the elements making it into a finished movie in some form except for the "male character...impressed into sexual slavery" bit. And, actually, the "respect and appreciation" part.