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

Meeting Idols and Role Models

As noted in my last entry, my mate and I went to Chicago ComicCon in August, with the primary mission to meet Linda Hamilton and other women who have been role models of strength. Along with “Sarah Connor” these included her roommate “Ginger” Bess Motta, Kristanna “Painkiller Jane” Loken, Lindsay “Bionic Woman” Wagner and Claudia “Commander Susan Ivanova” Christian.

It’s really quite difficult, and likely not just because of the Mercury Retrograde (which is over now, but we’re still in the shadow for the next couple of weeks), to really discuss this. Photos and ZOMG! is about all I’ve managed so far. There’s always going to be a lot of emotion when you meet someone you’ve admired from afar for so long. But with some it was more difficult than with others. Lindsay Wagner was an emotional meeting for me in a different way, so that first.

As a teenager, I idolized Wagner’s Bionic Woman role “Jaime Sommers” much as I now do Hamilton’s “Sarah Connor.” I was, after all, very much the pacifistic, hippie Witch at the time, a strong female role model that eschewed violence was perfect. Certainly, the message that if one is strong enough, violence isn’t always necessary even in responding to violence, still holds for me. But I’m sure Wagner would be horrified by some of the choices I have made in my life, things I promote to defend ourselves. Certainly my 16 year-old self would have been!

During the panel with Wagner and Richard Anderson, who plWith Lindsay Wagner ayed her boss Oscar Goldman, the theme came up a lot. He brought up her sensitivity to violence, the ways that caused the show to differ from the Six Million Dollar Man. Prompted by a fan, Wagner described her character’s way of dealing with things as distinctly “feminine.” Any of my readers are likely to know that engendering such things pushes my buttons, but I certainly wasn’t going to get into it there. But it gave me much to think about, especially about my feelings of disconnection in meeting her and the feelings of sadness about it. Which was made all the more sad because my late mother was a fan, we had watched her show together, and it was perhaps the only action show we both enjoyed.

And, yet, as noted in a previous post, the character helped shape my interest in women’s strength and in the idea that being strong does give us a better chance to be safe in the world. Yes, maybe it even means not having to always resort to physical violence, because our options are greater, we’re less likely to feel we can’t avoid dangerous encounters if we are aware of our own power to get out of them if we do.
With Kristanna Loken
Strength, in all ways, is clearly demonstrated by the very first of the actresses I met, Kristanna Loken. While you all may know Terminator 3 was not may favorite movie, I did become a fan of Loken when she was in the television version of PainKiller Jane, a very different version from the comics, but with a lot of power and ass kicking. Loken’s passions are evident in her work with several charities, especially involved in helping children. Among recent movies she has made Darfur and is currently working on Love Orchard that confronts the issues of migrant workers whose families are often torn apart by current laws. Fans can become involved in this movie through the Kickstart link on Kristanna’s website as well as find information on her charities and other activities. Kristanna obviously doesn’t just play strong women in movies and TV, she lives it.
With Bess Motta
While we then waiting in line to meet Linda Hamilton, she went on break. Others in the line were gracious enough to let me slip out to meet Bess Motta, who was Ginger, Sarah’s roommate, in The Terminator. She was also one of the 20-Minute Fitness instructors in the 1980s, and is still a fitness instructor today. That she’s keeping up that part of her career is quite obvious, as she’s probably as fit or fitter than she ever was. She was a delightful person and seemed to be having a great time at the con herself.

The favor we got was paid, um, backwards as the women who were behind us and saved our spot had theirs saved by those behind them while they went to see Michael Biehn. I’d been warned that fellow fans in these lines might be nice during what may be a long wait.

Okay, so yeah…..here we go! Trying to describe meeting Linda. OMG! I can’t. It was amazing. As I was picking out phoWith Linda Hamiltontos and paying for the autographs with her assistant, he has commented on the shirt (the shirts got many comments, actually…including one guy who did ask if I had more than one on Sunday, which I did, btw). Linda quoted the “siempre como culebra” and explained to him that it was from T2 and what it meant. After that, it’s sort of a blur.

As the shirt was already brought up, I babbled a bit about The Sarah Connor Charm School, of course. And the prerequisite, “what an inspiration you were” stuff. When I noted the purpose of the SCCS, which is also the purpose of this blog, to pass on inspiration to other women to find their own strength, Linda said, “In the end the only thing we have is our own strength.” Gods, mine pretty much was gone, but I managed somehow to stay upright, get the Hugging Linda Hamiltonautographs and some photos with her. Oh, there was also a bit of “looking so forward to seeing you on Chuck” and her saying she was excited about doing the show too.

I also told her that I’d be back because I had a gift for her. This being my first con, and with some of the things written up, I wasn’t sure if this was okay, but she was open to it. The next day I did see her, Bess and Kristanna along with Michael Biehn very briefly as we went through for our professional photos which I still need to scan. We also went to the Terminator panel, with Linda and Michael, which was delightful. They were very open about not liking the later two movies all that much, he especially did not mince words. A number of fans seemed thrilled to know that the love scene in the first film was uncomfortable because they did have feelings for each other and spouses who knew it and were there. But for me, I was touched by several other women who told her how much Sarah Connor was an inspiration of stWith Richard Anderson and Lindsay Wagnerrength, especially one who told her that she helped her through a really difficult time in her life. This reflects what I wrote earlier. This is why these roles are vital to us, we need role models.

I did learn a few very important things to keep in mind if I go to a ComicCon again. The most important is stick to the panels and avoid the floor on Saturday. That’s when most people are With Michael Biehnthere. Yet, I did have a professional photo with a different photographer, who offered jpgs as well as prints, on the floor (the Terminator ones were where the panels were) with Lindsay Wagner and Richard Anderson. And the Terminator actors were all across from William Shatner and other Trek stars, so between the two the aisle there was jammed packed. We did manage to get back to seWith Claudia Christiane Bess and to see Michael Biehn. So, yes, I did get photos and autographs with two men, so see I’m not sexist because I have token male representation here! *snerk* Bess even asked us to pose with her for a photo for her FaceBook page!

The next day things were a little calmer. I also got to meeWith Lisa Loringt Claudia Christian, of Babylon 5, whose Commander Susan Ivanova was another ass kicking woman. And Lisa Loring, the original Wednesday Addams. Yeah, maybe not an ass kicker in the same sense, but those Addams, and Frump, women were not afraid of their own power. She was delightful to meet, and of all was the first of these celebrities that I was a fan of.

But, of course, the highlight was again seeing Linda, this time with the certificate from the Sarah Connor Charm School to present to her. She even remembered how I spell my name, for when she autographed the group Terminator photo she noted that Michael Biehn had spelled it wrong. (Bess noticed too!). I showed her the certificate and she seemed thrilled by the words, saying that she’d treasure it for ever.
Giving certificate to Linda HamiltonIt reads:

Certificate of Appreciation
Linda Hamilton
The Sarah Connor Charm School
thanks you for your inspiration to women
to be strong, prepared and save ourselves, our loved ones, the world

And then:

Linda Hamilton kissed meDo I even need to say there are no words?

Still living, still training and meeting an idol

So I’ve never managed to get into the swing of regular blogging since taking up Teh Project again. I’m still training, but I’ve not done a lot that is worth writing about in that respect. We’re hoping to get back to actual shooting classes come fall and winter, so look for reviews of those in the coming months. But writing offline has taken up a lot of my writing energy and while I do have something I plan to put on the web, it’s gotten a bit cumbersome for a blog post so I’ll be doing an actual old-fashion webpage for it…then blogging a bit about it here. That will be soon.

In the meantime, I’m preparing to meet a couple of my idols, my current biggest one, Linda Hamilton, and my teen years biggest one who I still adore, Lindsay Wagner. Yeah, Jaime Sommmers of the Bionic Woman may seem a bit pacifistic compared to my current stance, but she was an inspiration for strength and as I knew no one would make me bionic even if the technology was developed like that, the idea that being strong was something that could mean you didn’t have to fight actually inspired me to first pick up weights and start running. Um, okay, those “weights” seem pretty silly now, but it was a start.

Both are going to be at Chicago ComicCon this coming week and so am I. I’m beyond words excited to meet them and I will probably share some of that on this blog. However, the most immediate updates will be in the Sarah Connor Charm School Facebook page and LiveJournal Community.

What will likely get reviewed here, especially as I wish to put more of my interest in Celtic cultures and ancient women warriors into this blog as well as the contemporary and pop culture material that makes up much of it, will be Neil Marshall’s new movie Centurion that he’ll be screening and doing a public interview and question and answer session on (sadly the screening comes after, you get tickets at the Q&A as there might be more questions after the screening). Marshall is the man who gave us Rhona Mitra kicking ass in Doomsday so that this film includes “Pictish” women warriors may not end up badly. But I find anything that does go into Things Celtic tends to go real bad. And “Pictish” even more so…such as King Arthur featuring the “Woads.”

I am a bit picky about this stuff, as can be noted by two articles I have had up (and which could use some updating I’m sure) for awhile now. One on The Picts and the other on The Problem of the Woad itself. Oh, you might have also caught on about this interest when you saw the tattoos, huh?

When it comes to the on going debate about women warriors among the Picts or other Celtic (and as the article notes, I’m persuaded to refer to them as a Celtic speaking people) I’ve got the Outsider view; I’m neither on the side of those who say they were a common fixture of the cultures nor the side of those who say they were purely fiction. What we can prove is another matter. And so far I’ve found this exploration filling an introduction (mostly on the non-Celtic evidence) and two chapters.

So I expect this will be an all around interesting four days for me and that it will give me a lot of food for thought. And, of course, a way to combine the subjects here…which, of course, they always sort of do come together for me. As, should I ever finish this book I refer to as Teh Project and get it published, you’ll see someday. Or you’ll just have to see what future posts here offer.

Sadly, no one else from the Sarah Connor Charm School is going. I am hoping to meet more women so inspired though. I hope I’m not the only one who is preparing for this con by upping her weight training.

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

Reconnections

As I noted previously, when I started this blog it was to write about the warrior path from all the angles I approach it, the spiritual, the ancient literary and historical as well as the actual training and the pop cultural. But by the time I really started working on it, I had backed off of writing about spirituality and my historical studies for various reasons I won’t get into right now. I felt more comfortable writing about my training, about self-defense and about how Sarah Connor is a mega inspiration. I threw myself into The Sarah Connor Charm School at the same time I privately got back to work on a lot of very spiritual matters that I didn’t write about.

Of course, it all connects for me, when I go out shooting I feel An Morrígan, the Goddess I am oathed to, with me, as I do when I lift, when I run, when I work…all the time. But I don’t really mention it much. The pop cultural ties into the ancient literature for me as well and both tie into my training and my spirituality. Story has power, no matter the source. Sometimes, as I’ve written about, the power is very negative…and sometimes even negative stories end up having power. I need to get into that more here, I think. In fact, I have some ideas.

I think that a part of my problem in writing a lot of this is that I find very few others making the connections that I make. Oh, there are some…some of you reading this, in fact. But I learned several years ago that my outlook is different than a lot of other Pagans. I realized this when I was working on an article for a women’s spirituality magazine and I was told it wasn’t “Goddess focused” enough. It was to me! But the editor couldn’t see it. She saw that I included factual information about violence against women and she couldn’t see the spirituality behind it, even with all the woo I thought I was putting in. I suck at writing woo, apparently.

And now, as I take up a writing project about the warrior path for Pagan women, I realize that I’m not in the same space as most who claim similar interests. Part of it is that I do not believe that there were all these huge numbers of women warriors in the past, especially not in Celtic cultures which I am focused on. Oh, I believe they existed, but the evidence isn’t there to support it so I can’t SAY they existed…which is what so many want to hear. Or others want to say that lack of evidence proves they didn’t. This, of course, is where story comes to play for me. What do all these stories mean?

And then there are those who, always mind boggling to me, want to be some sort of pacifist warriors. “Warriors don’t really fight, you know. It doesn’t mean that.” Um, it doesn’t? These same people, mostly women but hardly all women, also usually try to transform An Morrígan into some sort of loving Soccer Mom, who protects the weak rather than demands effort from the strong. Sorry, it doesn’t wash with either the lore about Her or my own experiences. I can’t say whether other people’s experiences are valid, but based on all that is know about Her, I can question it. Especially with the bizarre “retellings” of Her stories which are so far from what is in the lore as to, well, break ones brain to read.

When An Morrígan claimed me I had to question a lot about what I believed about myself and my God/desses…and the world. It’s still often a long, hard haul. But it’s there. Everything I do in life is either part of it or, still, fighting against it. Everything.

Where my training and my studies have taken me in the past few years, since splitting from working with people who I now realize were toxic to me and through the death of my parents, is sometimes mind shattering. While I’ve been transforming for years, there have been leaps forced by the events in my life and healing I needed to do. And I do believe it has led me to the right place to get back to work on the writing project which will sum this all up.

So things might crop up here of a more spiritual nature or of more ancient “pop culture” of story telling over the coming months. We’ll see how the mix goes here, perhaps. And perhaps someday some of you will be interested in this thing that has started to eat my life. Maybe.

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