When I was younger than I am.

Because I’ve been discussing female characters with people recently:

The first character I ever remember wanting to be was Sarah Connor.

There were characters I thought were really neat before that. Carapace Clavicle Moundshroud. Puddleglum. Matilda. Gobbolino. Cray Boomershine. Trixie Belden. Sherlock Holmes. Robin Hood. Jem. Arguably the Overlook Hotel. If there hadn’t been characters I thought were really neat before that, I would probably have given up on reading.[1]

But the first character I ever looked at, and had that click in my brain where (if you were willing to put it into words, which you might well not be, because it is both special and possibly kind of embarrassing to even conceive of yourself in the context of being that cool) you think “Oh my god, I wanna be them”?

That was Sarah Connor. Not from the first movie. From T2.

I don’t remember how old I was when I saw it. I know I’d definitely been spoiled[2], so it was probably mid-90s at the earliest. And I think about the first time I saw her, and…

You’ve heard about how she’s crazy, and seen how even her own son speaks of her dismissively (partly affected, I will certainly grant you that, but still), and you see the people who aren’t locked up laughing about her. Laughing at her.

And then you look in at her, through the window. (I remember being faintly shocked at her muscle tone. Not put off, just… it had not actually occurred to me that women could be that ripped, just as when I was seven years old it had not occurred to me that men could hit women, and when I was four it had not occurred to me that people could believe in a different religion than the one I had heard about.) And she turns around, and…

“Good morning, Dr. Silberman. How’s the knee?”

She is not pretty. Her hair is stringy and messy; her face is distorted with exertion and disdain. She is angry and powerless and right.

I expect, that since I went in knowing as much as I did and had seen the movie up until that point, I was pretty sure she was not going to stay locked up. Chekov’s gun and all–no fully coherent movie spends that much time telling you that much about a character’s years of drive and stubborn resilience and regular escape attempts to have them end up being useless. So the I-want-to-be-her was informed by the fact that the powerlessness was by definition going to be a changing state.

She does not stop. She does not stop trying. She is not unafraid. She is not a Terminator; she tries to be at one point, and she cannot do it, and I think that is not a failure.

I don’t know that I’d want to read about her. I think I would get bored trying to write someone like her, although I may be off-base. But good god did she blow me away when I saw that movie, and I do love watching her.

(There is probably something to be said about the differing levels of engagement produced by books, movies, TV, comics, and games. I am not up to speaking on that yet, because it is complex and dinner is nearly ready.)

I note, finally, that I am very fond of those first two movies; Terminator is merely adequate horror, but T-2 is actually a good solid movie. (The third movie, for me, always brings to mind deep exasperation at undoing the No Fate truism of the movies so far, and King’s description of a blockbuster movie as sparkly but still somehow cheesy–like a dead rat encased in a block of Lucite. My reaction to the fourth movie is best summarized as saying that I saw it and was deeply deeply sorry.)

[1] I understand that Sarah Connor is primarily a character from movies, not books. Since I am being parenthetical, I will note that my first first-hand exposure to the Terminator franchise was in the form of a comic set after Judgement Day, wherein a new kind of Terminator had been developed that looked like a dog rather than a human. From this I garnered the essentials: Terminators wanted to wipe out humans, Terminators were disguised as humans and now as dogs (!), dogs could detect Terminators, and Terminators had red light flaring in their eyes when it was appropriately cool/spooky for that to be the case. I don’t remember if time-travel came up.
[2] Did you know that if you go in cold, there is actually no solid indication right up until the moment that the T-800 yells “Get down!” that he is the good guy and the T-1000 is the bad guy?

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