Recently a well-written Washington Post article about the new Doctor was headlined “Of course ‘Doctor Who’s’ new star is a woman. Sci-fi has always been about progress.” First, I want to say it’s usually an editor, not the writer who comes up with the headline. And my problem isn’t really with the article. It’s with “Sci-fi has always been about progress.”
You can read the article here.
Science Fiction isn’t monolithic and is not always progressive. Even recent big buck films have made AI robots as hot chicks (Ex Machina, for example). Women who are cast in leading, strong roles are, not coincidentally, attractive (Scarlett Johansson in Lucy, Emily Blunt in Edge of Tomorrow). While I think SF is more progressive than many other genres, feet have to be held to the fire to give women more power in making these movies — not just starring in them. And we also have to come to grips that a woman can be powerful, meaningful, smart, and not be Barbie dolls. This isn’t to knock Jodie Whittaker or Gal Gadot (OK, that’s superhero and not SF maybe) or Blunt or Sigourney Weaver.
I haven’t seen Transformers (really!) but I have seen the images and animated gifs of Megan Fox and the car hood. ‘Nuf said.
We’re making progress, but we are also insisting that the progress be flavorsome. Sometimes we’re going to have to be uncomfortable. Sometime we’re going to have to cross our own boundaries. SF does that occasionally, but often only when the pressure is on (remember the lashback at having another old white guy as the last doctor).
One place where progress can happen very quickly is in independent film and the works of younger writers, directors, and producers. A perfect example is the low-budget movie “Another Earth,” starring Brit Marling as a real human with real issues. A shoe-string movie, it examines character, not bad-assness or sexiness. It’s about brilliance stunted, about the choices and mistakes we make and where they lead.
I’m really happy to see a time when Wonder Woman is a good superhero movie and she doesn’t answer to a guy (as has been the case it past versions). I’m glad to have seen Ripley fight like a badass in the first Alien movie (which is why my dog is named Ripley — though my dog is definitely not a badass). But note “Ripley” was originally written to be a guy. I’m happy to see Blunt shoot Tom Cruise in the face several days in a row (OK, anyone doing that is fine with me).
I’m also glad that “A Wrinkle in Time” is getting a chance, that Luke Cage isn’t “black entertainment,” and that the Black Panther isn’t a token black hero. I can only hope this is evolution and not just a trend.
But don’t back down on holding a lighter to the feet of those who make TV shows and films. They are like politicians, and are generally only going to make the shows and movies that benefit the industry.