Wonder Woman Rant Redux – muscle, space and physical feminism

Six years ago I wrote the post Wonder Woman—a rant from Goddesses to costumes to Goddesses which remains my most popular post ever. *sigh* (because while I’ll always throw in pop culture material regarding physical feminism and all, that’s not the precise focus of my blog even if story is and these are our stories) And as it started getting hits again recently, likely due to people looking for things regarding the new movie, I figured I should add a review to the movie.  But  as I had not made any commentary regarding Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman when Batman v. Superman came out, have been pretty actively avoiding doing so, really, I realized I really need to get the physical feminism issues of this out of the way so I can review Wonder Woman without discussing this aspect.

But first, please let me note that I am really excited about Wonder Woman, it’s way past time to finally have a stand-alone superhero movie for a female character!   To boot, it’s also important that it is being directed by a woman!  Be nice if there were more women in the background, it sucks to “take what we get” but hopefully it’s a step. IF it succeeds. And there is evidence that it is not meant to, that it is being under promoted and it is being released at a bad time in regards to established competition.  

If we want more this movie must succeed strongly!  Pleas go see it, multiple times if you can!  Yeah, use capitalism to our advantage, by the Dr. Pepper! (don’t like Dr. Pepper…yeah, me either, but the cans are what might be worth the purchase)  Buy T-shirts!  Uh, but we have to have our limits, please, PLEASE do NOT buy the fucking diet bars!  Talk and post about the movie!

Let’s make this a huge success and at the same time demand more!  More! More female superhero stand-alone movies!  More female led superhero TV shows! More female directors of both! More female writers of both! More female producers of both! More female show runners!   Also more diversity over all…. women of color, trans-women!

And yes…..More muscle!  

Can someone point me to the original source?!  I found this tons of places via Google but have failed to find the origin.

Part of not writing about this for the past three or four years is just other things going on, but also not wanting to get into the accusations of body-shaming Gal Gadot.  So let’s get a few things clear here:

  1. I in no way wish to body-shame Gadot. This isn’t about her really, she just landed in the middle of an ongoing issue, especially as she never sought out the role. It is about the choice by Zack Snyder, and anyone else involved in casting, to actually pursue her for the role for it despite the fact it was for a character currently shown as largely muscled. This is on the casting not her. I am sorry if her feelings have been hurt, but also see #3 here.I am also sorry she got attacked for her breast size, which is in no way an issue for me. (however, in her defending that someone should inform her that the cutting off a breast thing was likely propaganda created by forcing the Iranian *ha-maz-an “one fighting together” into similar sounding Greek term which conveniently made it sound horrid to Greek women who might want to become one. Certainly, there is no way it would help women draw a bow, quite the opposite, and certainly no evidence that the Sauro-Sarmatian female warriors who probably were sometimes called this did so, especially as they were expected to marry and have children when they gained adulthood [sound familiar?  yes, Amazons were likely among the war bands I am studying, of course] 2,500 year-old Alt-Facts are no more true than modern ones) Yes, perhaps WW is often shown with outrageously large breasts but as they are irrelevant to her ability as a fighter I really do not consider it important. Muscles matter, however.
  2. Discussion of the bodies of actors playing superheroes is not focused only on women, but has
    long been going on with men. The attacks on both Michael Keaton and George Clooney when they were cast as Batman were really before the internet took off and may be forgotten by many and since overshadowed by the, not unrelated, snarking on the rubber batsuits. This is a rather extensive post exploring Batman’s physique, including the actors from Adam West up through Christian Bale from Gotham Alleys. Ben Affleck’s and Henry Cavill’s muscle mass has been up for discussion on the interwebs as well, never mind that they got more upgraded muscle suits to help them out (difficult with bare harms and shoulders of WW’s costume, of course).
  3. Despite the usual cries (from privileged people regardless of the issue) that there should be no “oppression Olympics” oppression is not equal. Some forms of oppression are worse than others. And within particular form of oppression there is definitely a difference, that’s actually the very nature of oppression.  Yes, being “skinny-shamed” or even “societal-ideal-body-shamed” might hurt the individual’s feelings and that is real for them, it is not the same as a largely muscled woman who is
    shamed for “looking like a man” and who is (as is relevant to this issue) unable to get a job in film or TV because they are too muscular, which happens, and that is, honestly, not the same as someone being fat-shamed by being denied all sorts of jobs, being forced to buy an extra seat or not be able to fly at all to not being able to get appropriate healthcare and sometimes dying from that.As thin actresses are favored and get jobs all the time, bitching that muscular actress are left out of a role essentially designed for them is not thin-shaming, it is discussing muscle-shaming. On the other hand, almost all the defensiveness about “thin-shaming”in this situation is really thinly (no pun intended) disguised fat- or muscle-shaming the latter of which is displayed here.In a nutshell, it is simply not thin-shaming to demand that other types of women’s bodies be seen in movies especially when the character is already established as having a body that does not meet the societal ideal.
  4. As a continuation of the above, there is more going on here than one woman’s body shape. It’s the whole damn message that, again, the Women’s Health piece drives home, that women are supposed to be thin and only thin. There is a very narrow (yeah, pun is intended here) range of acceptable body types in the media, especially in any sort of leading role. There is a constant message that women must take up as little space as possible.This was notable to me in watching Batman v. Superman, right down to the first encounter between Affleck’s Bruce Wayne and Gadot’s Diana Prince when he towered over her intimidatingly (while Affleck is 6’4″ and Gadot is 5’10”, canon Batman is 6’2″ and the modern canon (we’ll get to this) WW is 6’0″ which is not as notable a difference, and height is easily managed in film so this could

    have played far differently. Again, while already very muscular, both Affleck and Cavill are made almost absurdly large with their suits and in the way they are featured, while Gadot appears diminutive, even while doing “large things.”

    This size disparity is, of course, also found in the comic at times, but is, frighteningly, perhaps mostly geared towards kids as in  Justice League Action.  The message given to girls by always portraying female heroes as a always being able to be strong but thin remains a message to not take up space, to fit a societal ideal that most of us do not and which girls and women harm themselves daily to try to achieve. While also being strong? Can this message be denied here at all when there is a damn tie-in to a weight loss product?

  5. This has been one of a long line of very thin women being cast into muscular roles, a role that is now known for being muscular just as (even more so, really…far more so) Sarah Connor was, where the actress was put into a position of proving she was gaining enough muscle to do so and we are told repeatedly that she did despite all evidence that she doesn’t. Now, again, this seems to get close to thin-shaming, but again it’s about the spin that is put on the issue by the promoters and puts the actress, who surely would rather not be there, into the spotlight to try to prove a point about what women’s bodies are “supposed” to look like.I also can sympathize, I do not put on a lot of muscle even though I work out specifically to attempt to.  So if it’s a matter of not having a mesomorph-dominant  body I get it. I’m totally an endomorph/ectomorph cross.  So why not cast an actress who already does?  Because not all women have difficulty putting on muscle, just as not all men can put muscle on easily!But there is another factor. Are these women actually getting the sort of fitness training that builds muscle.  The Women’s Health piece (I’m not giving them yet another link) claims Gadot said “that she’s been doing “a thousand and one things” to gain body mass in preparation for the role, including kung fu, kickboxing, and jujutsu.”   So, you know, fighting arts is great for preparing for such a role but they do not exactly put on mass. I can only assume those thousand and one things included weight training but, of course, that also has to be done right even for someone genetically inclined to put on muscle.And, here’s the kicker, there’s a long term gas-lighting (no, really, that is what it is) technique in the fitness biz of telling women that “women do not bulk up like men but you must work out to make sure you do not bulk up like a man.” Or even the ever growing popularity of “lift like a man but don’t look like one, just starve yourself.” (no, I am not linking to any of this shit, it’s too easy to find as it is).  It’s so fucking common.  And this little game of “oh, she’s really muscular for a woman, this is is what a proper muscular woman looks like” is a growing part of that gas-lighting.

    This gas-lighting is so pervasive and has been going on so long that women truly believe they can’t bulk up and that they must also avoid bulking up as much as possible. They also believe that a “toned” look, one of the most horrific jokes in fitness, on a woman is comparable to a body-building physique on a man. This is not just cis-women who believe all this (and I do apologize for how cis-centric this all is, the subject makes it difficult to be more diverse at this point) so most people do believe that Gadot (and other actresses put through this), for a woman, has “really bulked up.”

    (Want some great reading on how how sports media plays into this gas-lighting check out Body Panic: Gender, Health and the Selling of Fitness by Shari L Dworkin and Faye Linda Wachs and Built to Win: the Female Athlete as Cultural Icon by Leslie Heywood and Dworkin)

  6. This movie is tied in with a fucking weight loss product!
  7. Sorry Women’s Health (no, not linking again), but while you can be strong and thin bigger strong people will still be stronger!  Simple physics!   “Oh, but she’s super-powered.”  Yeah, so is Superman and if there is any superhero who doesn’t need size on his side it’s Superman…yet he keeps getting bigger so….  STFU!  You’re just espousing sexist sizism that dictates women must strive to be as small as possible with this sort of shit. (I’d also be interested in whether under the circumstances of Superman’s superpowers, the yellow sun, which makes virtually nothing a real resistance for him, if such a creature would have much muscle mass at all. Anyone? ….and make it something more than an opinion because I don’t care so much to give that time, thanks).We know the Amazons trained. I expect muscle. It appears there will be in some of the Amazons, although I have yet to see boxer Anne Wolfe or MMA fighter Madeleine Vall in costume yet.
  8. A fucking weight loss product!
  9. Wonder Woman is certainly not about weight loss, she has instead, happily gained both height and weight. The Golden Age WW was, indeed, a rather tiny 122 lbs at 5’8″.   The New 52 WW is 165 lbs at 6’0″ -but honestly she often looks more muscular than that likely would.
  10.  So this movie, which should be about showing women are strong and powerful as superheroes, who can take on men, monsters and armies, is still giving us a message that this better be done while avoiding taking up too much space. Brought fully home by the fact that, they tied it into a fucking weight loss product!
  11. We have a legitimate expectation to see more varied feminine bodies on screen and that does include ones which are muscular especially when the character is already know to be and is supposed to be physically powerful!
  12. We have a legitimate expectation to see women taking up space in movies! And everywhere!  We have a legitimate right to take up space!
  13. We don’t want your fucking weight loss products!

Again, the take away is that this might annoy many of us ,but it is vital, especially if we want to see female superhero muscle to support this movie!  Which looks like it might be very good, despite this. Which is why I wanted this out of the way before I saw and reviewed it.

But also success means more female-led superhero films, more female directed superhero films, hopefully more female produces superhero films. And other such action films, maybe too!  Because right now the myth that women’s action movies do not bring in money, something which they seem to want to prove by not promoting WW as much as they already are Justice League. We have the promise of a Captain Marvel, which will be the first female-lead stand-alone Marvel offering in 2019.  Can we hope for others to follow? Only if we make this big!

In fact, this doe not need to be the last Wonder Woman of our times. Superman and Batman have had too many actors to count (well, okay, I’m too lazy) playing them since Kirk Alyn (who preceded George Reeves) and  Lewis Wilson (who preceded Robert Lowery who preceded Adam West), respectively.  Meanwhile, actually making it to screen Gadot is only the third live action actress, following the well known Linda Carter TV series run in the 1970 and the Cathy Lee Crosby pilot movie that ran the year before Carter’s series was picked up instead. There’s a lot of room there for more women playing Wonder Woman. And TV is another option.

And as Supergirl is slated early for a third season on CW, which is picking up more DC titles and which has already been established is a different Earth than the DC movies with different actors playing the Flash, I think it is now the time for them to finally do a workable Wonder Woman with a different and buff actress playing her.  And without resorting to the dreck of the previous series attempt and remember that even bits that might work for raised-since-a-young-age-as-a-“regular-girl” Supergirl is not going to work with raised-to-be-a-warrior-since-birth Amazon  Oh, she might love sharing ice cream with her bestie but not to cry over her “lost love.”  While we’re at it, let’s make sure her best friend is Etta Candy (or if they met way back, Etta’s granddaughter or something) and make sure she is fat and athletic and a fucking badass as she should be and never actually the joke she could have been (and I’m waiting to see how the movie does with her)…and never, ever have her mention wanting to lose weight because Etta does not give a fuck about your fat-shaming standard!  Oh, yeah, Diana should be bi too, because finally what was really quite obvious has been officially acknowledged. And also she must fight Nazis. I’ll discuss the taking her story back to WWI instead of WWII when I have actually seen the movie, but the original Wonder Woman came to the Man’s World during the World War II to battle the threat of Nazis. She has had to battle Nazis cropping up at various times. We have a real Nazi problem right now, we need her fighting Nazis now!

So we need to make this move HUGE and then voice our desires to see such a show come up soon.

Go to the movie, take friends, go lots of times if you can, take more friends! Post and promote, if they won’t we have to!  Buy products, but not the fucking diet bars!  Let’s remind them that women bring an audience!

ETA: I just had this go through my feed!  I guess they were just waiting to promote it (or something), so another way make this big and get more WW and more of other female superheroes is participate he shit out Wonder Woman Day

 

Wonder Woman, with muscle, punching Trump mural in Pilidelpha

Women Kick Ass at the Artemis Film Festival!

If you’ve been reading awhile you know that along with exploring the Gaelic warrior path, I just love female action movies…what ones there are…. and they exist …and are unappreciated in the mainstream. So I couldn’t help but get seriously excited when I heard of the Artemis Women in Action Film Festival happening in Los Angeles April 24-26, 2015!

They have been fundraising to make this happen at WomenKickAss.com and now have the funds for a single screen so it is a go!  They are trying to raise enough for at least a second screen and maybe a third!  Please, if you can, help out, if not snag that link and share it around!  The fundraiser ends on March 19!

 ETA: And there will be a Twitter Party on March 19 from 7pm – 8pm PST!

Linda HamiltonBecause this is important!  If we’re going to get more movies with women action leads, we need to support and celebrate the effort and show that we are an audience to be reckoned with! And it’s vital that we have more of these movies out there, because it’s not that we just want them, its that we need them!  At any age and we especially need this to grow so young women and girls can see women as equal, in all ways! We need this festival to thrive!

There will be competitions for films and screenplays and women of action films will be honored!

This includes Linda Hamilton receiving the Artemis Action Icon Award! Well, who else would it be?  Because for so many of us, even after more than two decades she just really is The Icon!

Actress, stunt woman, author Angela Meryl will be receiving the Artemis Stunt Unsung Heroine Award and stunt  woman  and stunt coordinator Maja Aro will be receiving the Artemis Stunt Warrior Award.

You can see a message from festival founder, actress and stunt woman Melanie Wise in this video.  Please remember that the Women Kick Ass fundraiser has been extended to March 19 and therefore you still have three days to join in and make this event really take off!


The Women Kick Ass Project from Artemis on Vimeo.

Of course, if you can help out and actually go to it ….well, if I could I would! So do it!

(cross-posted on The Sarah Connor Charm School Blog)

An Morrígan and Sarah Connor: Pt.3 Our Gods and Heroes in Pop Culture

If we’re going to talk about Pop Culture in Paganism, I think we should discuss the flip side, Paganism in Pop Culture. Given my own interests, I’m going to stick with the Gaelic Gods and heroes in movies, TV and related media. Novels would make  it such a huge undertaking that I can’t even begin to think about it other than a couple of mentions. Really, I’m going to just skim the surface here, because there’s a lot out there already. And all of it goes from sucking to really, really sucking.

Some are optimistic about Pop Culture depictions of the literature, Gorm Sionnach finds hope that greater positive interest might be gained by more modern exposure to the stories. On the Norse side of things, where there has been as Gorm Sionnach also noted much more exposure, Dr. Karl E. H. Seigfried expresses a positive opinion of the Marvel Thor comics, as well as discusses the continued popularity of Norse mythology in Pop Culture. Certainly the series Vikings has met with much positive reactions among Heathens, although I have seen snipes in various groups along with the praise. And there is no denying that the many decades of Tolkien’s popularity has been a “gate-way drug” for many into Heathen ways.

Of course, one of the things I think I personally like about Tolkien’s work is that he based his based his stories on the lore and cultures, yet the “names have been changed to protect the ancient.” That sort of fictionalization I’m a bit more comfortable with. Do with it as you will, but skip the actual names.

Over the past few years there has been much talk of movies based on Cú Chulainn and the Táin Bó Cúailnge. One attempt, Hound by Breakthru Films, appears to have been “on hold” for about three years. It’s unclear what the future is. Michael Fassbender was talking plans for a movie as well, last year, apparently with his 30something self playing the boy Cú Chulainn.  Depicting Cú Chulainn as an adult is likely going to be only part of the problem. I, of course, am just so looking forward to more misogyny thrown at Medb. (you really did catch the sarcasm there, right? At this point I don’t want to be too subtle).  And that is, of course, as far as even scholars get to so I don’t expect any film writer to do much better. (for an academic look that doesn’t do this, see my review of Dominiguez’s book and then see the book. I also discuss this a bit in ‘“By Force in the Battlefield”: Finding the Irish Female Hero’ publication pending)

There have been, of course, several novelizations of the story, I’m just not going to try to round them all up. Morgan Llewellyn’s perhaps the most famous. There is also a new graphic novel by Will Sliney, Celtic Warrior: The Legend of Cú Chulainn also with an oddly adult looking, but thankfully beardless, CC. Of course, Medb is a pencil with boobs in a painted on bodiced dress…so period.  Considering the rich descriptions given in the Táin itself, you’d think an artist would actually have some fun using those descriptions. I don’t get it, this is just standard comic book art, at its most sexist at that.

This is not to say there aren’t modern pop culture depictions I haven’t enjoyed. I quite love the power and atmosphere that Horslips created in their album The Tain even if some points could be picked apart. This album just hits me in the feels real hard. However, I fear that when compared to such musical attempts that these movies will be more in line with the truly horrid The Tain album by The Decemberists complete with Andy Smetanka’s equally horrid video...although at least CC looks like the boy not an adult man.Of course, my love for one and dislike of the other may also just show that I’m old. Well, okay, so there was one I liked.

There is also another movie, The Curse of Macha, which is supposed to come out sometime this year. It seems to have absolutely nothing to do with the story it’s titled for, perhaps fortunately. I have also heard that a Finn Mac Cumhail movie and/or graphic novel is being made. It remains to be seen what any of these projects will become.

I suppose when it comes to a big reason why I doubt that a lot of Pop Culture exposure is going to have a positive resonation for Gaelic Paganism has to do with what’s happened so far. We can, of course, look to the more “mainstream” Pagan, with it’s Wiccan and Witchy focus, and the fun they’ve had with newbees coming in with their heads filled with The Craft and Charmed during the ’90s (and probably still). But I can look closer to home.

While Gorm Sionnach is hopeful to see more of the Morrígan in the upcoming American Gods series, I am hoping that She is not going to be expanded. Of course, American Gods is one of the few novels featuring Gods which I rather love (and here’s the first place I get to mention Linda Hamilton, as she mentioned it as one of her favorite novels of all time during the panel discussion at Chicago Comiccon 2010, making us co-fangirls!), as I think it raises some interesting questions, and I didn’t utterly hate his depiction of Her although I’m glad it was brief just in case. That means I have issues with the HBO series because of a tendency to hate movies based on novels I love. But, no, She’s rather been used and abused too much in pop culture, in my opinion.

“Morrigan” either as title or name and always mispronounced (although in the same way most Pagans also do) is actually real popular in pop culture. I’ve already ranted on, a good bit, about DC Comics Wonder Woman depiction in what is, sadly, my most popular post. In comics the title, along with some of the other Túatha Dé Danann have appeared in Marvel…apparently a bit more positively.

Darkstalkers
Morrigan Aensland in Darkstalkers

If you Google “Morrigan” the first links and images you will get do not relate to the Goddess at all, but to the green-haired, bat-winged succubus from the video game Darkstalkers. She was born in Scotland 300 years ago. I’m not sure anyone is at this point confusing her with the Goddess. But that may be coming.

Dragon Age
In Dragon Age

It has happened with another popular game character with the name, a mortal shape-shifting witch in the game Dragon Age. Doesn’t seem too confusing, does it?  A few days ago, while gathering material for this post I came across a very popular page for the Goddess, which along with a great deal of general Pagan fluff and misinformation about Her, had an entry about “Morrigan” the “daughter of Flemeth” and so forth. Presented, and shared I saw, as if it was information about the Goddess. Yes, no confusion there. Mind you, not that much more inaccurate that many other Pagan writings about Her but…

Hercules/Xena
In Xena and Hercules

On TV we have had a “Morrigan” show up in Xena and Hercules. And here we again can look at another example. I think we might want to ask how much many Hellenic Reconstructionists loved these shows liberties with their Gods on a regular basis. Which means I suppose I shouldn’t bitch too much about the inventiveness they took with the pan-Celtic mishmash they added later.  Yes, all in campy fun. But the truth is, I still meet up with people who confuse the shows’ “mythology” withe actual Greek mythology, which has long been available. Again, not real hopeful that confusion isn’t an issue.

Sanctuary
In Sanctuary

More recently there was Sanctuary‘s depiction of three enslaved sisters used against King Arthur, that typical and mistaken conflation with Morgan. Also, Scottish rather than Irish, so perhaps Darkstalkers comprised some of their research too.

 

Lost Girl
In Lost Girl

Also on the SyFy channels is a show I really would like to have liked. Lost Girl, after all, has one of the few bisexual main characters found in the mainstream media. Of course, she’s a succubus, which brings it’s own issues for me.  There is also the matter that (here we are again) Linda Hamilton appeared this past season and is scheduled to appear again. As a Valkyrie, apparently.  I really want to love anything she’s in. And I did watch the episode and she was great in it and looked awesome….love leather jackets, so…  But the general liberties taken with a plethora of folk legends and lore are annoying even before coming to the fact that “the Morrigan” is the title given to the leader of the Dark Fae, one of the two groups trying to get Bo, the lead character, to take sides. *sigh* Really?

Of course, I’m just a downer on this stuff, even when it’s just the culture and not the Gods or legendary heroes. I have issues with anachronisms and out right inventions made out to be history or lore. I have already blasted the way the Picts are, well, depicted in CenturionI could do the same with other movies, such as King Arthur. I adore Brave, but largely despite it being placed in Scotland….it could have been placed in any place or time.

While more knowledge about the Gaelic cultures in our mainstream might be nice, I think that any story using our beloved literature or history will be muddied with what sells. While I know some are bothered by Pagans who use Pop Culture icons in their practice due to it being commercial property, I am far more worried about our culture and lore being made into commercial property.  Of course, in either case what will be will be. More people will still know “Morrigan Aensland” than will know the Daughters of Ernmas and some will confuse Them with the daughter of “Flemeth.”  Perhaps at some point someone will do a really good rendition of one of our stories. But I fear, I remain pessimistic on that.

If you have missed them the first two installments were Part 1: Deities and Icons and Part 2: Warrior Cults and Charm Schools.
I also have added Part 4: Training

 Text copyright © Saigh Kym Lambert 
Art from linked pages owned by the licensed owner and used here for critique purposes

An Morrígan and Sarah Connor: Pt. 2 Warrior Cults and Charm Schools

As I noted in An Morrígan and Sarah Connor: Pt. 1 Deities and Icons I had been planning before the blogosphere explosion to write a bit about how the Sarah Connor Charm School and  Hooded Crow relate for me. About why I am doing both, where they meet and where they don’t. To do so was actually probably sparked when I was told that someone had proclaimed the Charm School as a Gaelic Heathen warrior group. As it was at a time I was trying to get more attention out about my Hooded Crow project, I think it was especially annoying. Of course, it would come as a big surprise to all those Christian women I work with in the Charm School, and probably Pagans of other cultural involvements.

So having reiterated that the SCCS is not a Pagan group, I shall now admit that it actually started out as a Pagan joke. And now may be responsible for this Pagan project. In fact, I’m starting to reconsider what I said that They never used Sarah Connor’s image, because I think They did quite a bit to kick me in the ass….even if none have ever copied her appearance. Because right when I needed it, there it was.

Linda Hamilton as Sarah Connor in Termintor 2
It was probably this one

Never having seen The Terminator, I didn’t pay much attention when a friend, a mentor on the warrior path, and his roommate were talking about the second movie about to come out. I seem to remember them focused on Arnie and machines. *yawn* Later that day, I was a bit surprised when I visited other friends (at the time) who were not, AFAIK, Arnie fans anymore than I was, to find that they were all excited about Terminator 2 as well. Then they showed me her photo in a magazine (remember those things? ah, yes, tell me the machines aren’t taking over, after all). Linda Hamilton, dressed in black and with all that muscle.

You know how you don’t know you were looking for something until you find it? Yeah, one of those moments. Or rather it built, I sought out the first movie, got to the new one the first chance I got. The first moment when Sarah is on the screen doing chin ups was probably when it really hit. This was something I was looking for, I just hadn’t known it.

There are people who probably do great without story and imagery to motivate and drive them. I’m not one of those people. I am very driven by story and image, I need to put things in my head to work towards.  While I had found enough to get me into martial arts and physical training to be on this path I found myself on, much was rather anachronistic and much was unformed in many ways. Especially as a woman on the path, with a male mentor who had a world of images and stories through the ages he could go on but which tended to make those like me feel marginalized.

Yes, there were other strong women fictional roles before then, including Ripley of the Alien franchise. But Sarah was different, because there was a multitude of layers about here which were meaningful for me. Okay, maybe I wasn’t that paranoid about machines and I never had a kid, the latter being a strong connect for some of my friends, but pretty much everything else. Despite a fantastical story line, she was very real, very everyday. Just one of us.

The key thing was her character arch, which might be one of the best ever created in movies. Yeah, I might be bias. She was just like most of us have been at some point, directionless, working a dead end job we hated and felt inept at, not exactly winning at love. She wasn’t a warrior, she didn’t start out with knowledge of how to fight, she wasn’t granted super powers. In the first movie she is totally a Final Girl, with two notable exceptions. One is that she survived having sex, but then she does have to have this kid as it’s sort of the point. But the main one is that when the monster is finally dead, rather than sighing with relief and trying to return to a “normal life” despite the trauma, she heads south of the border pregnant, with a gun and a dog and looking for training. When she appears again she’s crazy, trained, physically strong. To the point that she, herself, may be more machine, but you can see her arch continue as her relationship with her son begins to heal in T2.

The combination of physical strength, fight training and preparedness were things I realized where intricate to making a civilian warrior. A bit of craziness might not hurt either. Because this was where I felt directionless at the time this movie came out. Obviously, I wasn’t going to be transported back to the Iron Age. I also had health issues which made being a professional warrior of any type, law enforcement, military or firefighter (which  had at one time wished to do), impossible. Um, okay, I also have an issue with authority which might have gotten in the way. It helped to see the survivalist presented. And a woman at that.

Of course, there was the muscle. I was struggling with fitness, in part due to health issues (some of which got worse in the year or so before the movie came out) as well as being a scrawny hard-gainer. I was studying a martial art, which included some fitness (although probably shouldn’t…I have several issues with that now), was lifting, running. I was having problems with figuring out what to do and how to do it. I had long ditched the standard fitness advice to women, for it was (and is) about diminishing, getting smaller and weaker, not about strength. Therefore I was reading bodybuilding magazines and books, but that often left me frustrated, because of being a hard-gainer (but I did learn the term “hard-gainer”).  Sarah offered  more realistic physique than the bodybuilders did. Oh, still very different than I could and Linda Hamilton was not a hard-gainer, having obtained that look in a very short time. But still more real. At some point along the line I did decide to figure it out by become a personal trainer…which is it’s own twisted tale.

This was the practical side, which I don’t feel I was at all grounded in before. And which is vital to the warrior path. Which also needs to be grounded in the present day, even if the reasons we do it are in the future (and, no, probably not Skynet or Revenants, so it’s best to be ready for anything).

So I was pretty obsessed, using this story and imagery to motivate me as I continued with my growing physical training and with continuing research on Gaelic culture and religion. And now, back to how the Charm School started as a Pagan joke.

The same people who first showed me Linda/Sarah’s photo were working on a parody Pagan newsletter not long after the movie came out (or maybe even had started before, time slides). It was going to satirize various excesses of the Pagan community. I was at first trying to come up with something mocking some other folks I knew, but, well, sometimes it’s more fun to joke about yourself. And so, “Sarah Connor Charm School” and an “ad campaign” for this “warrior training program” bloomed. The parody ‘zine never happened, but the Sarah Connor Charm School remained a running joke.  Which spread among many of my other friends from various circles.

As I got online, I kept referencing the joke with real life friends who already were in on it and it grew to those I “met” online. Indeed, many women had been inspired by the character in similar ways.  We made up a batch of T-shirts, we discussed fitness, martial arts and self-defense, a bit of prepping..I started a LiveJournal page for it.

Meanwhile, I kept worshiping the War Goddesses, yet felt forbidden to speak Their names or talk or write much about Them, which often became uncomfortable (especially as others were not so forbidden and, well, some of the information spread was…well….). I worked within or Outside a variety of groups, started a warrior group within an organization which has fortunately written me out their history from what I understand and so will remain nameless here, tried to start up some other things which got too distracting and off my path…..  I returned to the wilderness, with the internet my primary way of keeping involved in things Celtic Reconstructionist. I kept trying to build what that was, continuing my own studies and training.

In the mid-aughts, there was a big strive to get CR well defined and a group of people I was friendly with got together on that. Including the two people who first showed me “Sarah’s” photo. It was over all a stressful time in my life, my Mum died during it being at the center of my own chaos and hell. Within this group of people, there was a lot of ego clashing and underhanded ploys for control which I unfortunately got too caught up in. It was just a real clusterfuck. Then something happened among these people that was sort of “off-topic” but a major ethical and spiritual deal breaker for me, regarding oaths I had taken….and then was abused and mocked for taking a stand on. I was already sick of the ego plays, power grabs and fighting. I said “fuck it” and walked away.

Oh, some CR-types stuck with me as friends and were as disgusted as I was, of course, but I wasn’t all that active in “the movement” any longer. I even stopped at all using the term CR, although I, of course, continued to use that methodology. I kept doing my own thing, “labeled” for the syncretic tendencies of being Scottish focused and married to a Heathen, kept working with Badb, Macha and the Morrígan……but for online connections and networking I threw myself more into The Sarah Connor Charm School. It was, after all, a hell of a lot more fun than what I’d been dealing with. At a time when my life was continuing to be less fun. My Dad and several dogs and horses all died during this time period, too (all for natural causes related to age).

I started a website which I eventually got a domain for, started a Facebook page, met more and more people, especially women, who were inspired by her. Many who were not Pagan, who I probably wouldn’t have worked with on such things if I had done something Pagan focused…but also Pagans who are dedicated to other Gods or are not dedicated to particular Gods or are more ….well, there’s a lot of variety.  And we talked more about fitness and training and prepping…and we developed the Honorary Degree thing where we celebrate real strong women and girls (and now boys with the John Connor Award and heroic
A kiss form Linda Hamilton after I present her with "award" for the inspiration she givesanimals with Max’s First Line of Defense Heroes). I even took my ideas developed for a Pagan warrior group and removed the religious and cultural material, replacing it with basic charm school type liberal arts and with Sarah related languages (as she had trained in Central and/or South America) for the curriculum. The physical, prepping and even arts stuff was already in there. (and for all those mighty, mostly male, Pagan “warriors” who complained my ideas were too tough…we now have someone systematically using it, thank you very much!).

And, of course, I got to go meet Linda Hamilton and give a token of all of our appreciation.

I also cracked down on some training I hadn’t gotten to yet, having a job where I could afford it and perhaps more time and energy due to less drama. You can, of course, read about some of that here, here and here. And wrote stuff *wavesingeneraldirectionatblog*  I had already included research in pop culture female action heroes, physical feminism and related topics in my studies long ago, but I got a deep focus on that during this time.

And then it happened. Writing I had put on a back burner, or really the freezer, and didn’t know what to do with I took out, heated up and started working on. Making several changes, including writing about the War Goddesses. Suddenly, it was vital that I write and talk about Them. A lot. I then put that on the back burner, but only that far, because I felt the need to work on an extensive but shorter piece. Which, when finished I suddenly found a place to submit it to. Then more possible places and more things are out in editors’ hands. And all to one degree or another related to the War Goddesses. And then I realized I needed to make the “online shrine” and change the name of this blog to match.  And, of course, a FaceBook page for it and two related groups Clann na Morrígna and Ban-gaiscedach na Morrígna (I fear LJ is becoming a thing of the past, but I have an older group there just called Hooded Crow which you need to message me to join and really isn’t used as much). And two related At some point I’ll probably put a page outlining the training program up, but if someone is already doing the cultural-religious stuff, then that’s already posted.

And in doing so, I have become more involved in doing things within the Pagan/Polytheist communities, but choosing where I hang out and who I do them with. Sometimes, now that I’ve been away from certain prejudices, with some association with folks I wouldn’t once have. Finding common ground where They want me to.

I think that stepping way from the drama and focusing on the Sarah Connor Charm School stuff helped clear away a lot of bullshit. It also led me to meet and learn from some really wonderful women who I might not have had the time and energy to get to know. It’s helped me move along my own path more than the work I had been doing trying to build a general CR focused “movement” which did often leave me with little energy for the warrior stuff.

So, this is exactly how these two things tie together for me. Of course, they are, I’m not big on separating parts of my life all that much.  I figure Hooded Crow will always be smaller than the Charm School, given that the focus on CR methodology and one group of Goddesses combines for a less interest. Even though it’s less gender specific (SCCS has a lot of male supporters, but the “school” itself is for women…it should be realized, as I have said before, men have a lot more stories than we do already).  Right now it’s mostly just my thing, anyway, while the Charm School has become a lot of women’s thing.

And if you missed it please see  An Morrígan and Sarah Connor: Pt. 1 Deities and Icons part 3 is on it’s way (EDIT is now up Our Gods and Heroes in Pop Culture), I’ll be less focused on Sarah Connor (although Linda Hamilton will get a mention) and instead discuss Gaelic Gods and Heroes in pop culture, especially the Morrígan (although in general that should be “sort of”).  (EDIT: also now have An Morrígan and SC: Pt. 4: Training)

copyright © Saigh Kym Lambert

An Morrígan and Sarah Connor: Pt. 1 Deities and Icons

 A few weeks ago I was going to write a post about the relationship between my path following the War Goddesses and my pop culture interests and involvement in the Sarah Connor Charm School. I hadn’t gotten around to it, because it’s a busy time of year on the homestead and I was supposed to spend my writing time on an article which has a deadline (and I give myself an earlier one so I can get some feed back from a few trusted friends before sending it off). But it’s raining, and while I suppose I could be doing house work I’m not, and the article is in rough draft and I need a break before editing it so…here I am…

Meanwhile, during the time I wasn’t writing that I started to see links posted on  FB about some explosion about Pop Culture Worship on the Pagan Blogsphere. It wasn’t happening in any blogs I read nor were any Pagans I know who are students of pop culture (yes, this is studied), in fact, none of them seem to have piped up on it yet. I suspect one is watching for a research paper at this point. ~;p So I didn’t pay much attention until it did land in a blog I do read. I discussed some there, although by the time it landed in another blog I read, my interest in chatting had faded.  The first link has a lot of links to much of what was written before, although it seems to have continued going all over the place. I’ve only read a few, mostly just skimmed, most I haven’t.

And I’m not really going to get into the argument. There are too many things that came up that I could, but most seem to partially come from 1) perhaps caring a bit too much about what the fuck other people are doing. Yeah, I can go there, but I’m old and tired now, it doesn’t interest me much unless it affects my work in some way (like liars I have associated with and people who are claiming things about Gaelic culture that is insanely stupid). 2) Most of these opinions are expressed without a real understanding of certain aspects of pop culture studies that, well, I’m too old and tired to go into the entire background of here. It could take books, after all, then I’d have to come around to what has been said and where that fits or doesn’t. The overwhelming concern with pop cultures as “consumerist” is part of why I see no point really getting into it as that both over simplifies pop culture and also forgets the agendas of survival (in a different economic system) behind many of our old stories). There isn’t as much difference between modern pop culture and the popular cultures of the past as I think some people seem to think, just shortening the term doesn’t give it a different meaning. But I’m too old and tired to give 30 years of work in one blog post.  3) This idea is certainly nothing new. I’ve been around too many fucking Discordians and too many “Jungian Archetype” Pagans, often mixed, for far to fucking long to get my panties in a bunch about this. Where were you all talking about this 30 years ago?  Really, you’re just discovering this?

So I’m mostly going to discuss this in regards to, well, me…this is my fucking blog after all. And, of course, this post, which was partially planned already, may seem a bit defensive. Oh, well.

Of course, only one of the those blogging might read my blog, maybe. Has links to here anyway. But others might see that this blog mixes pop culture and spirituality, read that I have a Sarah Connor action figure on my gym shrine and such and come away with the idea that I worship Sarah Connor. Sorry, that would be weird (especially as I’ve met Linda Hamilton and it would be all weirdly conflated and how weird is that for her? Hells, it seems to have taken time for her to come to terms with the whole icon thing as it is). So here’s the deal, some of us make personal spiritual connections with pop culture without worshiping them. Deal with it.

The Sarah Connor figure on my shrine doesn’t represent any Goddess, They are represented by a statue, a modern artist’s interpretation of an Morrígan. “Sarah” is there to be a modern representation of warrior woman, not just this one character but a general, well, archetype. Yes, while I am a hard polytheist about my Gods, I also see the power of archetypes. I don’t worship them either. She’s there to be, as the character is for me, something to strive towards. And it’s important to me to have modern representation, not just those out of the Iron Age. Because I don’t live in the Iron Age.

Sarah Connor action figure and Dryad Design Morrigan statue

That, of course, goes with much of what else I do. My primary interest in training on the warrior path is modern, I might like sword training, but for me it’s not as practical as shooting. I try to do both, of course, because it allows me to honor the past and be ready in the present. Mind you, sword training can be practical, as my knees continue to age it might be more so for I might carry a cane as often as I do a gun. But in general, I’d just as soon have the gun too. I’m not role playing.

There seems to be some concept that if we focus on modern pop culture images that They might use it to connect with us. Well, yes. I just don’t see the same problem with that that others seem to have. And I also don’t think we can avoid it. See, I’m of the mind that it happens all the time already. Look at “alien abduction” and the similarities with Fairy encounters of the past. I’m personally not with the Whitley Strieber camp that that means the Folk, let alone the Gods, have been aliens all along. I believe instead the Folk show themselves to people in ways that those people might identify with, as it’s useful. It’s going to happen, we are products of our time.  And They are timeless.

Back in the days when my head was sort of stuck in the past, I had two things happen to me. One was a meditation in a warrior path workshop where we were told to approach a mirror and see ourselves as the warriors we wish to become. I actually approached expecting to see myself as my imagining of an Iron Age warrior, but instead I was pretty much dressed much as I was dressed, not much unlike Sarah Connor actually but for colder camping conditions. Unlike as I was then, in MA and not having made peace with guns, I also had firearms. It was a clear reminder to me to stay in the present.

Shortly after that I met one of the War Goddesses. Before this They always appeared archaic. This time, She was wearing a black wool skirt just below the knee, black tights and sensible shoes, a black sweater, neatly tailored black leather jacket and a beret. Same face I knew but the tattooing only faintly showing, same tri-colored hair but shorter and Her braids not as noticeable; She could have been mistaken for a human if one didn’t look closely. I’d been doing research on the IRA at the time, so I recognized this. But I also got the message here, “I am of Ulster at heart, but of all time.”  Mostly I still see Them in more archaic garb, but, again, it was a time when I think I could have fallen into too much romance of the distant past and I needed to be reminded not to.

No, She hasn’t appeared dressed as Sarah Connor, but if She did it wouldn’t be the same as me suddenly worshiping the character. After all, She’d have Her own face as I know it and tri-colored braids. It would be simply another form for the Shape-shifter, it would be up to me to reason why. After all this, it might even be a joke. I know better than to take everything seriously now.

 

Oh, wait, I’ve changed my mind

Yeah, I’m going to run off a few thoughts about the whole “pop culture is different from past popular cultures.” In order to avoid writing the book that this could take, I will probably get a bit disjointed. I also realize this is going to be at least two blog posts to get back to my original plan.

I do not know that there was ever a Goddess actually worshiped by the pre-Christian Irish titled the Morrígan. I don’t know for sure that there were Goddesses named Macha, Badb or Anand or if any would have born the title if They were. I don’t have one single myth. Anyone who calls the Irish literature “mythology” is mistaken. It’s not.  You can wish it to be, but it’s not.  It’s literature, written by Christian monks. And, at the core, that’s the only thing we really know about it.

We know it correlates to place names, but we don’t know what that means. So we know for some reason Emain Macha exists, but…we have multiple stories about why. (Meyer et al) Ronald Hutton’s take on this is that “It looks as if the authors knew nothing of her except her name, and were inventing stories to go with it.”(Hutton) Now, personally, I don’t believe that they created all these stories out of thin air, but the fact remains we don’t know. All these stories may well be complete fictions created with Biblical and Classical stories in mind, as the Monks certainly knew the latter as well as former,, or they may be older Irish stories with some Biblical and Classical elements added. That the Biblical elements have been included is indisputable, it’s just a matter of what they’re introduced to. The Classical can be debated, are these similarities from common Indo-Eureopean threads or directly lifted? This depends on if you follow natavist or anti-nativist thinking…or, like me, tend to be a bit in between. (Wooding)

The debate about the literature and it’s possible connection to pre-Christian ideas is going to go on. Most of us work around our doubts, find what we believe to be the voices of our Gods there, even when we have dismissed notions that any of these clerics purposely tried to keep Pagan ways alive. They had many different agendas, but I doubt that one. Yet, we still find power there because at least part of it is a continuation of the culture, even if the culture we get it from was decidedly Christian. Folklore still told by the people also changed, we have no idea what it was in the centuries before it was recorded even later than the literature. We hope, we pray, and it has meaning for us despite this.

For a lot of scholars, btw, it’s fiction. Interesting, telling of the time it was written, but fiction. I’ve seen Pagans get huffy about it, but that’s what it remains for many who have delved very deeply into it.

The simple truth is that all stories we have, no matter how old, no matter if they were through story telling or written down, have people with agendas behind them. Especially when they get written down. How different is it for a scribe 1000 years ago to keep himself alive by writing a fake history that pleases a king and a writer today who writes something marketable so she can try to make a living?  I suppose some will find major differences, but I don’t.

When we read the warrior tales, we see some really repugnant behavior, much which goes against the values expressed in the contemporary legal systems, from the heroes of the tales. This includes Cú Chulainn and Conchobar, of the Ulster cycle (something which I’ve been focused on lately a bit). Does this mean it’s our own sensibilities that are offended? As I said, much would go against the early Christian laws. Or might we think that the scribes had little interest in showing these Pagan warriors in a good light. Is this any different from a screenwriter who believes women should not behave “like men” getting license for one of the very characters he once complained wasn’t his definition of appropriately feminine? There are always agendas behind stories.

But story is always more than the agenda of those who create or tell it. Every person makes it something different. In feminist critique there is the concept of coding (or filtering). Whether it’s ancient tales (this has been used greatly in studies of folk tales, or modern.(Radner) People code things, change the stories in their own heads, in accordance to their own experiences. It isn’t only a gender thing, although that’s where most of the study has been, but also class, culture, sexual orientation, religion….pretty much everything that makes us different from one another. Diana Dominguez uses this method in her study of Medb, looking at how women, as well as the men usually focused on, might have coded these stories.(Dominguez)  I think over all studies of Irish literature could benefit from this form of  critique, again not just the gender issues. What do people get from it based on their backgrounds is as important to consider as what the creators might have meant.

What I’m coming to, and there could be so much more here, is that the differences between old stories and new ones exist but perhaps not as greatly as some think. It’s just our distance from one as compared to the other that makes it seem so. Rather like how so many people are surprised by every little finding that shows people have always been people, we always seem to think those in the past were greatly different than us. Everyone is different, but that’s just one way we’ve always been the same. ~;)

Seeking Inspiration

I think we’re now way beyond any idea that I’m talking about worshiping Sarah Connor or any other pop culture character. Let’s get to what spiritual meaning might be found separate of worship. Because that’s a big deal for me.

As I said, I believe story is important. It shapes us since were children and, yes, our stories come through TV, movies and comics as much as through books and far, far more than oral telling or even live plays.  Some people are geared to it more than others, some spend vast amounts of time role playing, cosplaying, writing fanfic, participating in fan clubs, going to cons. Some of us spend hours reading media critique and writing it. There are people who are not mindful of their media intake at all, perhaps the majority. But some of us know we are affected. We also know others are affected and we worry about it.

Yeah, some of that’s a “woman thing.” And I think that’s another issue that comes up for me. While men on a Gaelic warrior path have tons of old literature depicting their heroes as heroes, although I do hope they question some of the “heroic” acts described, you know such as rape, as I woman I’m not left with much. Despite the popular belief that there are lots of women warriors to be found, there really aren’t that many. And the one who has the most material about her is the villain of the piece, although I personally code her as more heroic than the Ulstermen she fights, all things considered and Dominguez”s study gives lots of reasons why. There are a couple of other women warriors who show heroism, one you’ll find in some links I’ve given already, but their tales are very short. One really is no more than a paragraph. This, btw, is the topic of the article I have been working on, I’ll let you know if it gets published.

So along with also looking for modern day role models, we sometimes just looking for role models. Any. And we’re not going to just be looking in the past. Are there real life ones we could be looking to instead, shit yeah! In fact, the Sarah Connor Charm School has developed a strong focus for honoring such women.  But Sarah Connor sums up all of that in one fictional package. And, of course, it brings up that she isn’t completely fictional, because she’s all of us. In all of us. Yes, including the paranoid conspiracy theory parts, in at least some of us. *ahem*   Again, there’s that archetype thing.

I feel I’m in pretty good company here. After all, while we are not a  “Gaelic Heathen warrior group” as I’m told someone described us on a Pagan radio podcast, many CR women who walk the warrior path seem to be interested. The reality is that it a very mixed bag, with many of our most active members being Christian. On the academic side, Dominguez has also written about modern warrior female warrior icons, “It’s Not Easy Being a Cast Iron Bitch”: Sexual Difference and the Female Action Hero and Tough and Tender, Buff and Brainy: A New Breed of Female Television Action Hero Blurs the Boundaries of Gender. Because we need to explore what the warrior woman means to us and to the culture.

This is turning out long, I have already accidentally published it and those reading on feeds may well have too much insight to my strange habit of stealing my own FB posts as notes for a blog. ~;p I intend to actually get back to the original post I was going to make in a separate post (EDIT: which is now up: An Morrígan and Sarah Connor: Pt. 2 Warrior Cults and Charm Schools).  I guess I got sucked into the way more than I thought I would, but I’m leaving the above, where I claim I won’t do that, where it is. (EDIT also Part 3: Our Gods and Heroes in Pop Culture takes a look at the reverse issue)  (EDIT: also Part 4: Training)

Oh, another note, of all the posts on this blog, the Wonder Woman one is more popular than all the other combined, by many times. I do think that tells us something, too.

———————
Kuno Meyer, trans. ‘The Wooing of Emer’“Tochmarc Emire,Archaeological Review 1, 1888, English Irish para. 30 pg. 151-152,

Geoffrey Keating (Seathrún Céitinn), Foras Feasa ar Éirinn: The History of Ireland Vol. 2, David Comyn, Patrick S. Dinneen, eds., London: David Nutt, for the Irish Texts Society, 1902–1914 English Irish Section 28

John O’Donovan ed. and trans., Annala Rioghachta Eireann: Annals of the kingdom of Ireland by the Four Masters, from the earliest period to the year 1616. Library of the Royal Irish Academy and of Trinity College Dublin Pt 1 English, Irish M4505-M4546

Edward Gwynn, ed. The Metrical Dindshenchas Vol. 4, Dublin: Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies, 1991 (org. 1906) English Irish Poem 12

Ronald Hutton, The Pagan Religions of the Ancient British Isles: Their Nature and Legacy, Cambridge, MA: Blackwell Publishers, Inc., 1995 pg. 154

Jonathan M. Wooding’s “Reapproaching the Pagan Celtic Past – Anti-Nativism, Asterisk Reality and the Late-Antiquity Paradigm Studia Celtica Fennica VI, Finnish Society for Celtic Studies, 2009 pg. 51-74

Joan Newlon Radner, ed., Feminist Messages: Coding in Women’s Folk Culture, Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1993

Diana Dominguez. Historical Residues in the Old Irish Legends of Queen Medb: An Expanded Interpretation of the Ulster Cycle, Lewiston, NY: The Edwin Mellen Press, 2010

copyright © Saigh Kym Lambert

[I] cast [my] lot with the Fianna: to have rivers, wastes and wilds, and woods, and precipices, and estuaries

Blue Heron in flight The title comes from a passage in Standish Hayes O’Grady’s translation of The Colloquy of the Ancients, “Verily the younger son elected to cast in his lot with the Fianna: to have rivers, wastes and wilds, and woods, and precipices, and estuaries.” (it is on pg. 69, The Irish “Rue do roga in mac ba só . beith ré Féind, ní himargó, foithri, fássaigi, feda . aibhne is alia is indbera.” can be found Whitley Stokes ed., Acallamh na Senórach I,  Irische Texte vol 4, part 1, 1900  pg. 71)

The passage tells of brothers dividing Ireland, the elder’s share were the houses, domestic herds, riches and civilized men. After the elder’s murder, the younger avenged him and took all of Ireland back, giving the leadership of the Fianna to Morna, eventually to pass to Finn MacCumhail, of course. It’s a phrase that struck a cord for me, the indication is that the younger son preferred the wilderness, for he chose it, and that this was seen as an equable division. For the wilderness always seems preferable to me and I have come to see it as the best place to cast my own lot, while so many have turned their backs on it.

I have lived in urban areas, but at one point even then I identified as the Outlaw, one of the wilderness, acting as an Outsider in a couple of Druid groves to which I never actually belonged. One became a very formal role. However, when this arrangement ceased to be, mostly due to my acting on behalf of the members as I should and becoming scapegoated by them (which too may be fitting for for that role), I made the mistake of trying to go Inside. As many others do, I became interested in trying to create some sort of community, broadly based with many roles. A focus on culture. It burned me out. It wasn’t my place.

It seems that for most Gaelic Polytheists there is a strong focus on the civilized culture of the Gaels and finding ways to recreate it or even who claim that they live in some form of Gaelic community (I’m referring to those who are here in the US). Some are very focused on recreating what they see as Pre-Christian society, although most of our information is actually well into the Christian period. They are trying to reconstruct the concept of the túath, often complete with the class system. Others look to the later and modern Gàidhealtachd/Gaeltacht. In both cases there is often a lot of, rather necessary, adaptations which I found I am not comfortable with.

I don’t live in the Gàidhealtachd, I do not live anywhere where it once existed; I simply live where some from those lands, with those languages, immigrated. And gave up their language and culture to assimilate because that was the option they saw best at the time.  I can’t pretend that I am truly part of a living culture nor can I create a childhood of “Gaelic traditions” despite having both Scottish and Irish ancestry (along with French). There is a generation between myself and my last Gàidhlig speaking ancestor, two generations between myself and my last Gaeilge speaking one. Like my father who was Québécois they saw assimilation into “America culture” very important for survival and the survival of their children, especially in light of the discrimination that they experienced first hand.  I might see this as sadly short-sighted, but I can’t pretend it wasn’t what happened.

 This is not to dismiss the importance of the cultures, then or now. We must learn about them to understand them. We must support the living cultures so that they can grow and continue, including keeping the languages going. But this is different than claiming we are living in them, unless we are actually living in the Gàidhealtachd, something which is not an option for most of us.

But would I fit in these cultures if I were born to them? Outside of what we must now accept are Victorian fantasies of multitudes of women warriors fighting as equal to the men, um, not so much.  I’ve already noted that accounts of female warriors in the literature are predominantly Outlaws, aside from Medb and her sisters and Macha Mongruadh, who were instead Queens. Not common, everyday, in the community soldiers.

The more I read and reread the writings of McCone, Nagy and Sharp as well as sections of the literture, the more I am convinced that these warbands constituted more than just a way-station for young men between fosterage and gaining inheritance and adult status.The the Fianna/díberga were fully a counterculture, albeit one of the wild, to the more civilized culture that they protected. And a very Pagan one possibly well into the Christian period. I believe we must try to understand this wild culture too, as much as the civilized one we know more of. We might never be able to know enough about it, but this is the situation we have with all Pagan Gaelic culture…we have no direct information from those living it, our “myths” are not actually myths but Christian literature. This, as I keep noting, why we “Reconstruct,” because we do have to.

Uprooted tree in our swampThis also brings to mind the popular debate about whether Gaelic Paganism is a nature religion or not. Many other cultural Reconstructionists are much clearer that they are not, as some are very urban religions often in conflict with nature. There does seem to be some of that in the more Gaelic ways which are more mainstream and focused on the culture. The romanticism that all of Celtic religion is based in nature, rather than a defense from nature, is, well, romantic. But the Outlaws were of nature, so I can keep that romanticism all I want. Even while actually living with it, understanding why there is often a hostility to it from those who didn’t and don’t have the luxury of seeing it from afar while in their safe houses or apartments, eating food they picked up from a grocery they traveled paved roads to go to and really being separate from that nature they claim to love. Of course, some of us get very romantic about hardship even as we’re in it….some of us cal ourselves homesteaders.

This is the land I belong to now, although my people are late comers. I don’t own it, it owns me. I can’t tame it, it wilds me. It feeds me, it homes me, it both protects and challenges me and I care for it as best I can. I am of the rivers, well brooks anyway, “wastes” and wilds and woods, although the closest precipices are a bit of a hike and I’m rather far from any estuaries. But lots of fresh water swamp. We share it with the deer, the coyotes, the fox, the bear, the stouts, the squirrels, the beaver and countless birds. This is my religion and if not culture then it is my community.

copyright © Saigh Kym Lambert

Getting ready for the big Revenant Cataclysm

 Everyone’s talking about the Zombie Apocalypse*. Okay, not everyone, a friend recently asked what was meant by that, but a lot of people are. Sometime between the release of The Night of the Living Dead in October of 1968 and Joss Whedon’s recent reason some might want to vote for Romney, as in he’ll finally bring the fun to us, this has been code for what is otherwise known as the Shit Hitting the Fan (SHTF) or The End Of The World As We Know It (TEOTWAWKI) among many preppers and just gory geekery among the geeks. As someone who falls into both catagories, yes a geeky prepper, I have often used the term, despite the fact both words are wrong. And the first is both inaccurate and culturally appropriative.

The actual term, in my not so humble opinion, should be “Revenant Cataclysm.”

First, let’s get “apocalypse” out of the way. Until recently, and it is given as a definition now, it didn’t mean a horrible event, it just means “revelation.”  You know, like in the Biblical book Revelations. It means the revealing of the cataclysm, not the cataclysm itself. Okay, got that? That’s easy.  We really could ditch the religiously-tied-in modern meaning and instead just say what we mean. “Cataclysm.”

“Zombie” was never used in Night of the Living Dead. No, not once. It appears, however, to come to the current usage through fans of the movie somewhere along the way. But it is a grossly inaccurate term and culturally insulting. I’d been trying to figure a way to really get into this, but felt it was beyond my scope. However, Amy Welintz broaches what a real zombie is, and reasons the term may be so prevalent, in “A Zombie Is a Slave Forever.” I have yet, but there is also a collection of essays called Race, Oppression and the Zombie: Essays on Cross-Cultural Appropriations of the Caribbean Traditionedited by Christopher M. Moreman and Cory James Rushton for those interested in exploring the issues further. And I think it needs exploring.

Revenant” which means “returned” is any of a number of types of animated corpses. In most European lore, these are solitary appearances and usually only visit loved ones. However, the term is actually broad enough I feel it fits better. You know, if you need something besides “undead” or “living dead” …the original movie term.

Of course, I have failed in my attempts to get “Zombie Apocalypse” replaced with “Revenant Cataclysm.”

And, so, here I have to admit I do hang with those who do use “zombie” on a regular basis. I have friends who do Zombie Kickball, who do Zombie Walks and Zombie Races. I am considering doing one of the races myself, because I like to run but competition bores me unless there is some fun added. I have even recommended a phone app for runners. I love a plethora of “zombie” movies….from the very good to the very, very bad. I also am friends with several fiction authors, almost all of whom have at least one zombie story of some length published or being shopped.  No one in this group is taking my suggestion of Revenant very seriously. *sigh*

As a prepper, I also admit to using it as a code for SHTF and to talk about preparedness. Of course, for the most part my homesteading blog is where the build of prepping comes up, like the food issues. Using the ZA or, rather RC, concept makes it sound more fun. You know, more shooting, guilt free shooting as your targets are already dead, that sort of thing. In the real world after SHTF it’s likely to be far less fun in that way.
CDC graphic

Even the CDC’s Office of Public Health Preparedness and Response jumped aboard the idea a couple of years ago, although they seemed to get nervous about it when we had some weird cannibalistic crimes earlier this year. But the general idea is that if you’re prepared for the Zombie Apocalypse, you’re prepared for anything. Of course, they don’t get into the fact that in the RC you’ll need weapons and in general seem to miss the fun parts of it. However, when I took a bit of a breather from writing this I happened upon a story today that the U.S Marines and Navy are using the Zombie Apocalypse scenario for training.  So there you go.

Of course, the CDS’s advice is what most “prepping” looks like, at least the prepping done by the non-preppers. This is just everyday stuff you should have set if you do not identify as a prepper.  Preparing go-bags, preparing food, water, clothing and sanitation for hunkering in. Things like that. Things that you should already have had before Sandy hit this week, so that you were either ready to evacuate or stay put with the possibility of no electricity for awhile.

When it comes to the long term, preppers or survivalists, go rather beyond this all. Food storage, which can be anything from the “bunker-style” MRE collecting to the “homestead-style” production and traditional preserving (we’re on this end) but for many there is the in between mode using canned and dry goods from warehouse stores being very common, is a key factor. Never mind getting through a week-long crisis, what if it’s years? And, of course, weapons. Because if it is years how are you going to defend what you do have from those willing to take it by force? Weapons are not brought up in the short-term preparation because so much of it is about leaving the home and going to shelters…shelters which generally won’t allow you to bring weapons. And for those hunkering in, instead, these are situations that most believe will not last long enough for looting and raiding.  But, of course, we know that they often do. I do, personally, recommend learning to defend your home, which means don’t just go out and buy weapons but know how to use them and know how to secure your premises so that you are less likely to have to.

As the Revenant Cataclysm is actually not the most likely scenario, then what are we preparing for. This, of course, varies from prepper to prepper, often very widely. And, yeah, there may well be some that actually are preparing for the undead coming to eat their brains, but we won’t discuss the nutritional value that those particular organs might have nor not have. Some are preparing for nuclear destruction, those are the folks with the hardcore bunkers, but some of us more homesteady types figure that’s not really worth surviving because it would just be surviving. Not living. I want to survive something I can live in after. And nuclear war is bad for the horses, which don’t fit in bunkers like dogs might, if there are no horses then I see little point. Which is also why, despite my serious (obsessive) fandom, I don’t discuss Terminator Cataclysm.

There are those who expect some sort of cosmic cataclysm, such as was expected due to computer failure on Y2K and now most are waiting for the “Mayan Apocalypse” December 21, 2012. The problem with that is that the Mayans say it won’t happen and, frankly, I’m going to believe them rather than the rather odd combinations of folks who are convinced it’s the end of the world. Again, there’s that cultural appropriation thing.

There are certainly an awful lot of preppers, some proudly using the term “survivalist,” which most of us find uncomfortable due to it’s identity with such types, who are expecting the government to turn on us at any moment. This scenario went totally over the edge when Obama took office. You know he took all our guns away, right? Oh, wait. No, actually he has since signed two laws expanding concealed carry. It must be a trick, however, as these folks are still claiming that’s what is in store for us if he wins again. However, I’ve never been that type (but that might change if Romney gets in, because I think Whedon is on to something even if he’s using That Term *pointsbackuptovideo*).

A lot of us homesteading types, many of whom are far left of the “gov’ments gonna come take our guns” (ggctog) types actually figure The End Of The World As We Know it has come already. The economic systems we’ve had foisted upon us of global economy and factory food production is utterly failing, as is our dependence on unsustainable energy which also has led to Climate Change (which led to Superstorm Sandy and will to others). We’re fighting back by eating locally and even growing our own food and looking for better sustainable ways of commerce when we do go outside our locals. We are working to fix our petroleum habits and, over all, lower our carbon footprints. This, again, isn’t as exciting as fighting Revenants trying to eat our brains, and is far more for the homesteading blog. For the most part, these efforts are actually to try to make these transition into what follows less violent and less cataclysmic. Some folks don’t even own guns. However, others of us see that there is likely to be some upheaval; if for no other reason that we know some of the ggctog types who make I wish for them not to have all the guns.

So, no, I’m not expecting the Revenant Cataclysm, but I do believe that being prepared, in all ways, for it does indeed mean being prepared for anything that will come. Except nuclear annihilation but that’s why it’s called “annihilation.”  As it probably won’t really be as fun as having walking dead people to shoot at, we can at least have fun with the preparations. But, seriously, I’m asking you, let’s work on this term. Revenant Cataclysm really needs to replace Zombie Apocalypse. Go forth, prepare and fucking push this term! Alrighty!

Meanwhile, you probably don’t want to get me on what Pop Culture has done to werewolves.

————————–
*yes, I know, Wikipedia is a lazy citation, but almost everything else does seem to be advertising someone’s ZA product and I have a cold so I don’t care. Also, WP does seem to do okay on Pop Culture stuff…being a Pop Culture medium that those heavily into Pop Culture seem to get serious about.

 copyright © Saigh Kym Lambert

It’s about the pain, or what we want to do with it.

In an interview at the MCM London Expo last May (which tells you how long I have been thinking about this), Linda Hamilton remarked regarding fans wanting to be like her Terminator and Terminator 2 character Sarah Connor, “I was playing a character in a hell of the world’s making. She’s in so much pain. Why would anyone want to be like that?”

My immediate reaction, which I did briefly express in comments on that page, was, “Well, because we’re ALL in pain and we’re looking for a role model to help us figure out how to deal with it.” I don’t know that in all these years of wondering “What Would Sarah Do?” and before and after looking for role models to match her, I really thought of it that way. But, really, isn’t that exactly what it all comes down to?

We all have pain. We may not lose our mother, friends, lover and many surrounding us to a machine from the future, but we do lose those we love to other terminators throughout our lives. We may not face the fact that our child is going to be entering a known dangerous future, where he’ll be burdened with saving humanity, but those who have children (their own or those of others close to them) are faced with, at best, their unknown futures, and sometimes very real and immediate fears for their lives and safety. Our pains might not be quite interesting enough to be a subject of a movie, and when they are they are usually such direly depressing movies that we don’t watch them, but they are real.

“Escapism” really often is about watching someone else have pain that is more interesting than ours. At times perhaps it is escape we are looking for, to see someone go through something that just makes us, for an hour or two not think about our own. But I think many of us “fangirls” and “fanboys” of particular, especially action, characters, often do so because we like the way those characters deal with their pain. And while we would not want their pain as well, certainly do not wish those horrors upon ourselves and our loved ones, we want to be able to deal with what we do face in a similar manner.

This means that the fiction we tend to prefer may well say something about how we wish to cope with or solve the problems and sorrows in our lives. Those who mostly watch comedies might prefer search for laughter to soften the blows of life. We who favor action, horror or science fiction movies probably want to cowgirl up, face things down and carry on. Of course, most of us probably want different coping methods at different times which is why some of us have varied tastes in our fiction.

I think that Sarah Connor is revolutionary in this way, as much as she is for her physique and prowess with arms, in that she gives women that role model to carry on and do what needs doing. And, indeed, that strength and fighting skills were part of her answers is revolutionary as well. The training, the preparation, the choosing to become a warrior, rather than just remain the reactive Final Girl, these things are hard to find in female characters, especially in film.

It’s not hard to realize that the fictional “solution” to pain focused on female audiences has often been, in one way or another, to be saved. Whether it’s the lighter offerings of romantic comedies where the heroine is in a bad relationship or none at all until she meets the right guy who helps her out of her current situation or the darker action where the heroine’s very life is in peril and the hero must risk his to save her, this has been a standard message. It’s been there for a long time, whether the saving of the damsel is the main story or just a side-bar of the hero’s journey. There have, however, long been plucky heroines who have saved themselves in many cultures, sometimes even by taking up arms. Some even trained hard to do so, but this has been rare and still is.

Even when we’re not being taught that we must wait for our Knight in Shining Armor to come sweep us to safety, we may be taught to just wait. Many of our more physically active heroines, after all, are endowed with the power to solve their dilemmas from some outside source. Whether it’s the Bionic Woman’s science fiction enhancement or Buffy’s supernatural vampire slaying powers being awakened or so many comic book heroines who go may run the gambit between “science” and mystical, we may well wish for suddenly being gifted with the power to take on our own problems. Even those heroines born with powers can instill the same desire, their typical “alien” identity often calling out to our own feelings of being alienated, that we might wake up to the realization that we are special and do have powers we never expected (that many do believe this these days, in the Otherkin phenomenon, is a can of worms I probably shouldn’t open). (I’m not going to say there are not similar male characters, just that there does seem to be more of a balance between them and those men who take action for themselves.)

But the truth is, Otherkindred aside, we’re not going to get those powers. So, certainly, we have heroines who have no powers but persevere. Ripley and a parade of Final Girls in horror films never prepare to any real extent. Ripley in Aliens goes through some weapons training after the threat has been established, but that’s about the most we ever see in any of these movies. This gives us hope that any woman could survive, given enough attitude. And so, we can survive our own trials, we’ll face them as they come.

As women we are supposed to constantly fear sexual violence, and so we have “good” examples of women saving themselves with attitude and ingenuity. In fact, we have an entire B-movie genre, the Rape Vengeance movies. I Spit on Your Grave is, of course, the representative of this genre. Like other Final Girls, the heroine doesn’t prepare and her sense of power is continually tainted with terror while her success is often dependent on just plain luck. It gives us a gratifying sense of vengeance, but no real role model.

Similarly, the cinematically superior, but inaccurately (or was it meant to be ironic?) titled, The Brave One, followed a similar formula replacing rape with the death of a loved one (which in a world where women are trained to see men as protectors this alone gives a similar sense of vulnerability) and the hillbilly hell setting with the dangerous urban world that the character had always lived in but seemed to be previously oblivious of. Many women related to Jodie Foster’s character’s fear and her striving to protect herself and avenge her lover, but instead of offering a role model of developed strength we get one of continued fear and powerlessness. She substitutes a gun she never learns how to use for real power, for real preparation, she never really gains control, she remains reactive and in terror to the very end. She is perhaps a good example of how many of us do deal with our day to day trials, scared, unthinking, out of control, nearly hysterical, sometimes getting lucky in our blind actions but never acting with strength. Again, a message society often tells women we are and can never get beyond, irrational, vulnerable, even when we do manage to enact our revenge.

In The Terminator Sarah starts out like Final Girls and those who are gifted with powers as just one of us, someone most of us can relate to. She works a very typically female shit-job, she is in college but there is some sense that she’s not really found her path yet, she’s stood up by a date with someone she apparently barely knows; she’s nowhere and we’ve all been there. Fate intervenes and she does find out she’s special, but instead of getting gifted with a power which will make her tasks easier, she’s given the burden of knowing she’s to bear a son who will be a great leader but in a world of utter hell. She’s a Final Girl, reacting, whining and scrambling in a situation she’s unprepared for, with tragedy after tragedy striking in just one night as her best friend, her mother and her lover, along with many others are killed. But in the end she makes a choice, to stop whining, to stop being reactionary, to prepare her son for what he must face by preparing herself. It might not be a totally independent decision, for she is told that she was the one who trained her son of the future, but for that young woman who “can’t even balance my checkbook” it was a big one.

We don’t see that preparation, but we see the results from the moment Sarah appears in Terminator 2. We see her chinning in a situation where maintaining any fitness level would take such a stronger degree of commitment than any of our own issues with motivation at getting to a gym can compare. She soon is picking locks and taking out orderlies with the skills she learned. These things tell us she prepared. And to those of us whose desire is to face our problems by being prepared, she’s awesome. Hard, inside and out, yes, but there are times this is needed. Hair triggered, but even “out of control” she’s got power because of her training.

It might seem strange that a character who onscreen never faces the threat of serious rape, face licking sexual abuse is as much as we’re shown (even the non-sexual beat down from the same orderly was not shown in the original theatrical release), has become an icon for many to prepare against sexual violence. It’s actually that she never is shown to be so imperiled that is at the very core of why she’s so inspiring. In a world where women are considered constantly at risk of sexual assault, she actually represents a woman who isn’t at the same degree of risk. Even in taking the gross face lick, there’s a strategy, she’s biding her time for what needs to be done, and that insult isn’t that important in the long run. Even taking the orderly out, though there might have been some feelings of rightful revenge, is more about getting him out of the way to deal with real problems. The threat of sexual violence is something to be dealt with efficiently and quickly, not pondered upon, just get the problem man out of the way and move on.

It has been pointed out that her muscle and Krav Maga skills would be pointless against the machines, but that doesn’t mean they were pointless in her training. We can well imagine that in the “man’s world,” a literal jungle, where she sought out paramilitary training, there were men who would have gladly taken out their violence upon a lone woman. She may well have been a rape survivor during the early days, that may indeed be an added pain, one many of us share, that is never revealed. But considering the future she and her son face, there are greater threats. So, the skills needed to deal with those men are acquired with the skills needed to deal with the future threats, again, when the threat is presented, get the problem man out of the way and move on.

Likewise, muscles, guns and hand-to-hand combat skills, which many of have been inspired to pursue (and some of us where before but just found our role model) might not help any of us with most of the problems we face. But the fact is, sexual violence is a threat that women live with everyday, the statistics remain high that we will be assaulted in some way by someone, stranger or “loved one,” at some point in our lives. Many consider it just a fact we have to contend with. It’s not our only problem, it’s not a problem most of us actually face on a daily basis (although some might fear it almost constantly), but the truth is, it’s a major burden lifted from your life when you feel just that much less vulnerable than you did before.

Knowing that should it come up, you have a good chance, that you are prepared, that perhaps that asshole who thinks you are a victim is the one that should be worried more than you, it does change how you handle other things. Living in fear, feeling that at least half of the world could take you out in a moment, does not empower you on any level. Sarah showed us that such threats can be just something to get out of the way should they come up. Until then, you can do what needs to be done to deal with the other shit in your life. So she becomes a symbol of the ultimate preparations against any sort of assault we might face.

This is, as I’ve noted before, the greatest travesty of Terminator Salvation, that the franchise that gave us this ultimate role model of strength, turned around and made the one female character who could have carried on that legacy into just a victim. A victim who needs a big strong Knight to save her. That demonstrates the very thing that Sarah Connor represented our journey away from.

And when it comes to other problems in our lives, Sarah can still offer us hope. We can face the loss of loved ones and still strive towards our goals because she did. If our tasks seem hard and overwhelming, we can stoically strive on, with out whining (or at least not for long), without faltering, because, well, she got through her burdens and, even when there seemed no hope, fought to find a better solution. Certainly she mourned her dead, she went from just conceiving to very pregnant in the last scene of Terminator, but she shows eventually you pack up your dog, gun and Spanish dictionary and head head out to prepare for what’s to come.

Of course, there is another factor in dealing with the sadness issue at hand in what Sarah inspires for us. Moments of sheer joy. It’s the endorphins, baby. Working out, martial arts/self-defense training and defensive shooting training all give us strong endorphin dumps. It might not solve the problems, it might not cure the source of the sad, but it certainly is nice to have those periods of elation.

So, Linda (although I’m sure you’ll never read this) and others who ask this question, this is why we want to be like Sarah. No, we don’t want her burdens added to our own. We just want her strength, which you demonstrated so well, to handle them. Strong and hard, sometimes too alone and shut-off but we can find our way back to love too, sometimes ranting and raving at a world that can’t grasp the hard truths, always prepared, with a plan, getting the small problems out of the way so we can deal with saving the world as best we can.

And it’s kind of nice if we can groove on some endorphins and look our buffist while we do it, too.

Copyright © 2010 Saigh Kym Lambert

Terminator Salvation and Physical Feminism at TEOTWAWKI

We went to Terminator Salvation Saturday night and it was an awesome movie on almost every count. Well, written, with the exception to be addressed here, well cast, well directed, with good nods to the first two movies and, of course, state-of-the-art special effects. I’ve reviewed it for The Sarah Connor Charm School (link will change later when it, probably cobbled with this, is put on the other website). But there is one thing that must be addressed here.

The scene, in fact, exemplifies, negatively, the very reason I have this blog and started the SCCS. Because while today we have to learn to defend ourselves because good men are not always going to be there to save us and we shouldn’t expect them to and law enforcement might be callable in most cases but an awful lot of awful things can be done to you in the time it takes for them to get there, which in some places is longer than others but is always a long time, when the shit hits the fan and society breaks down it will be worse. I’m not of the school that says all men are potential rapists, seriously, some men are just not, but when society breaks down those who are will feel more free to act. There are, indeed, some men today who do not rape simply because they do fear punishment, along with it being easier for men who already don’t care to get away with it, these men will rape, kidnap, torture and kill as well.

This is why I’ve always made the connection between physical feminism and preparedness. This is one of the things I hope to get across in this blog as it goes along, along with addressing our needs today. Because the needs are basically the same, it just will be even more dangerous. As women, we must prepare ourselves to be our own champions at all times (and this is not to say it won’t be more dangerous for men, as well, but it seems that more men in the survivalist/preparedness movement are gearing up for it, while not all women are…some are, this is good, more need to).

*SPOILER ALERT* This will spoil this one scene, but as it doesn’t give away anything more, I would hope those who have not yet seen it will consider reading this, if not, please return.

In the scene, Blair Williams (Moon Bloodgood), the character most of us had the most hope for in carrying on the original Sarah Connor’s (Linda Hamilton) legacy*, has survived bailing from her plane when it is blown and has met Marcus (Sam Worthington) and he goes off while she begins to dress her injuries. She puts her Desert Eagle off her body and moves away from it before she is confronted by three men, one of whom has, of course, acquired her gun. She does tell him he should have chambered a round and takes it from him and begins fighting them. Just as I hope for a real kick-ass scene, she is quickly over powered and Marcus must come and save her. With her hardly having fought at all.

Now, of course, he needed to save her to carry the plot. But why in this way? Why make her a fucking moron? Why make her an ineffective fighter? There are so many ways this could have been done differently and carried the plot the same way.

Why not have her injured and he needed to save her by stopping her bleeding? Or at least have a machine be the danger, as really these men where just humans? Or if it needed to be an attempted rape scene, and noting the danger is actually a good warning to put out there, why not have her be more efficient, at least let her take out most of them, and Marcus only come in the end when one might have gotten a drop? Three against one are, after all, bad odds…but at least let her, a warrior, be more effective, not so totally helpless against three men who were clearly not real fighters. But really, have her have her frigging gun on her, not having been so stupid to be in open territory without it. That one thing is just mind boggling to me. You do not walk away from and of your weapons in such a situation. Ever.

This message, that women are just plain victims and always will be, needing men to save them is atrocious. It should never have been in a movie franchise which started with a woman who went from being a Final Girl (spunky and can save herself but not a trained warrior) to choosing to become a warrior in the end (which marked the first movie as unique, really, because she is going off to prepare, having already taken the measures of a gun and a dog, something Final Girls do not typically do).

This has basically ruined what was an otherwise great movie, well not quite as great as the first two, but a really good action movie, for me. And one that had such potential. There are many otherwise good female roles, the older and obviously takes -no-shit leader of a group of survivors, Virginia (Jane Alexander), the various women in various positions in the Resistance, yes, even Kate(Bryce Dallas Howard, who does a marvelous job of reclaiming a character who had been rather horrible in the very badly done Terminator 3), yes, rather cliche cute, smart kid, Star (Jadagrace). Blair Williams could have been a real icon for physical feminism and for prepared women, but they chose to portray her as a warning for how “helpless women are by nature” instead.

In fact, such a scene as this, which shows the danger and the need to be prepared, done with Blair winning the fight, with her having her weapon and blowing the hell out of the would-be rapists, perhaps recovering from the wound Marcus had already had to save her from, would have taken this movie from a good action film to an amazing women kick-ass must watch over and over obsession for me that the first two movies are. But no, while it’s a good action movie, worth seeing for that, and Christian Bale saves the character of John Connor from the emo legacy that Nick Stahl and Thomas Dekker created and remade him as the real Sarah Connor’s son, it doesn’t get added to my rotation. I won’t watch it after every viewing of Terminator and Terminator 2 (which I run frequently, sometimes to sit and watch and sometimes as background while I do other things in the house). And it could have. It might have even held a special place because of such a scene, a scene that both reminds us that TEOTWAWKI will add to our possible peril AND remind us that we do not need to hope that some man will be there to save us. That we can champion ourselves.

*Yes, in the end of T2 Sarah fell short of the saving shot and the T800 needed to save her and John. It’s an annoying event for many of us, done simply because Schwarzenegger had to be the hero of the piece. And yes, he takes on the mere humans during her escape, but she was doing okay until he himself drove her back towards them. The end of the movie was marred, but this scene is even worse. And, of course, we always have the fact that in the fist movie, Sarah saves herself in the end, the man protecting her already dead and so she had to champion herself.

Copyright © 2009 Kym Lambert

Some great entertainment stuff from Athletic Women Blog

Rob Mars of Athletic Women Blog tells us about a really exciting looking movie coming up called Rigged starring Rebecca Neuenswander as a martial artist who is brought into the world of underground fighting taking on male fighters. Neuenswander may be one to watch, she’s been given kudos for her acting as well as her fighting and powerful physique; she’s a former TKD fighter so she knows what she’s doing there and packed on 20 pounds of muscle for the role. She’s also an executive director of HALO, which helps orphanages worldwide, so she has a great heart too. Check out Mars’ review here, along with the video he includes, and I bet you’ll be waiting for your chance to see it too.

Mars is rightly horrified that I left out the ever buff Jessica Biel in my list in my last entry….in my defense I will note that she’s a tad too young for the main character but another who is perfect for a younger partner role. She is one of my favorite strong female actresses, but, you know, anyone who is born after I graduated from High School is just too young for the starring role in my TV series. *snerk* Another post shows a video of Biel’s training, check it out!