Women in SciFi

Recently, my husband and I have been watching The X-Files, and have switched over to Stargate: Atlantis. Some of the early X-Files were great, mostly stuff before season 5. The later seasons got kinda… meh… and the new stuff? Doing the same stuff the last few seasons did, injecting humor and cheap jokes where there doesn’t need to be. But I digress…

One of the things that bothered me about The X-Files, despite it being a looooong running plot point, is Dana Scully as a Mother. In the cult-favorite show “Home”, Mulder even says, “I never pictured you as a mother.” (or something to that effect) And it felt like that was a big turning point in how we, the audience, was supposed to see Scully. Not this relatively young FBI agent looking to prove herself. Not a scientist who was supposed to look only at the facts. Not a doctor who could analyze the apparently supernatural and explain it in terms of physical or mental causes. A potential mother.

Another point that started to bug me later on was the whole Mulder-Scully relationship. Working and personal. Their working relationship was almost always the male-dominated type, with Mulder’s off-the-wall theories and speculations taking a front seat, and Scully having to provide mountains of evidence to the contrary. And Mulder STILL believing his “gut” instinct a huge percentage of the time. Never mind that she was so much smarter in so many areas, he ran off chasing hunches leaving her to play damage control. (And the personal bit? Well… seriously, can’t guys and girls ever just be friends??? Why is it always about sex?)

Anyway… as the series started to deteriorate in our eyes, we decided to try out Stargate: Atlantis. I wasn’t sure how I’d take to it, as I really, really did not like Dr. McKay in SG-1. He was so *arrogant* and hated that Dr. Carter (Major Carter? Dr. Major? I don’t know how these titles work…) might actually be as smart or smarter than him. But, 2 1/2 seasons in, I actually like his character. WTF?

Husband mentioned this today, and it really got me thinking. He said he really like McKay better than Carter, because he was a much more believable character. His role just seemed more authentic. So… queue pondering.

I think Carter’s character is authentic. I think the difference is that the personality of McKay is much more visible and known than Carter’s. Confident to the point of arrogant, white male. Knows he’s smarter than everyone in the room, and isn’t afraid to tell everybody why he’s right and they’re wrong. If they tried to write Carter’s character like that? She’d be called bossy or a bitch. They had to write her more like a typical female, even if she was frequently the smartest person in the room. Not as confident, needing to justify herself more, asking instead of telling, her abilities being questioned…

[Side note: I think how the handled Carter & O’Neill was much better than Mulder & Scully. They knew they couldn’t be together, so they weren’t. It sucked and it hurt, but they knew better. I think that’s more realistic. Of course, I’m not in life-or-death situations with other people, so maybe that changes things…]

Do I like Carter? Yes, a ton, I loved seeing a female on screen that was not only a lead scientist, but with the strength that comes through being in the military. I’m torn on whether or not I like how they wrote her. Is she believable? As a fellow female who once aspired to be a scientist, yes, I think so. Is she a good role model? For the current societal conditions, yeah. Could they have been more forward thinking, and made her more confident and out-spoken? Written her as what could be instead of what is? Oh yeah.

But I guess I’m not going to complain too much. At least women are making in on screen in roles that ARE believable, and ARE things that we can all aspire to. Even if it’s showing us how things are, the struggles that women do face today, at least we aren’t hiding these things. At least the women aren’t just there for eye-candy (although they usually are all depressingly in-shape and pretty…) and they’re showing that women CAN do these things. We CAN be confident, we CAN be heard, we CAN be taken seriously.

One step at a time…



America is not the greatest country in the world

Facebook kindly reminded me that a few years ago, I shared the opening clip to the TV show Newsroom. Here is the important part: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UkgJZntgaEc

I was resharing it on Facebook, and realized I could go on for much, much longer about how much this resonates with me, so I cut it short and decided to bring the babbling over here.

I think the part that resonates the most with me this time around is:
“We aspired to intelligence, we didn’t belittle it. It didn’t make us feel inferior.”

Shit is complicated. Unless you are an expert or have spent ungodly hours researching something, chances are you don’t know everything there is to know about any one given topic. You may think, “Well I know enough,” but that’s not true, that’s never true. One example, one deviation from the norm, that is not enough. Try to learn, try to understand, try to see things from another perspective.

I think I’ve spoken about this previously, perhaps not on here, but this relatively neatly loops together the backfire effect and the attitude of “educated” people to those who are not.

It’s so, so easy to pull one little fact that supports your belief and say, “Hey, here is proof that I am correct!” and leave it at that. And when someone tries to explain to you why you might be wrong, a couple things happen. One is that hey, they’re sounding kind of condescending, so you’re less inclined to listen to them. Another is that they’re potentially threatening one of your core beliefs, can’t have that! This is very strongly a part of who I am, and I cannot admit to being wrong! So all this combined with any opinions you have about the other person makes it so very difficult to have an actual discussion about anything without it devolving into a fight. (Or someone getting offended and leaving.)

I don’t know if it’s people don’t want to learn, people don’t know how to learn, or what. But there are a fair number of people out there that, even though they may ask “I don’t understand, can someone explain?” are unwilling to hear out the other side.

Take the “Welfare Queen” stereotype, for example. This was some made up concept (by Reagan?) to bias people into thinking that everyone on welfare was just lazy and taking advantage of the system. They don’t want to work if they know they’re going to get free stuff! Nevermind the people that have lost their jobs and need to figure out how to make ends meet for a few weeks or months in the interim. Nevermind the single parents who can only take a low-paying job because they need a flexible schedule. Nevermind the college students who get fucked by their schools and literally don’t have enough hours in the day to work and study. And nevermind the people who had an unexpected medical issue come up and have to choose between hospital bills, food, and rent each month. But goddamn it, one person freaking bought steak and lobster with food stamps, so everybody must be doing that. Fuuuuuuuuuuuuck that.

Intelligence is not something to be shunned. Trying to have a discussion is not something to be shunned. Not everybody is out to prove you wrong, and I’m not trying to say you’re a bad person for your opinions. (Usually.)

Can we all try a little harder to embrace these ideas?

Speculation on stories

I and a few others have been doing some heavy speculation lately regarding the new Osten Ard book, The Heart of What Was Lost. This is super fun. I have really been enjoying myself, as things I am usually interested in, I don’t have a ton of people who are also interested and/or care to speculate as much. So I’m very excited that OTHER people are excited, and we can all be excited together and bounce ideas off of each other and whatnot.

Although I have to admit, I was a bit concerned earlier today about something one of the other speculators said. One person said that there would be some answers in the next book. And then another person said that this was not cool, all this time was spent thinking and coming up with ideas, all for what?

And that really worried me. I thought we might have lost a person in discussions. Luckily, that appears to not be the case! *phew*

My response was simply that I think it’s fun to speculate, even knowing that what I’m guessing may be totally off base AND knowing that what I’m trying to figure out will be answered.

I mean, sure, there are books that I read that I don’t think about at all after I’m done. Of course I read fluff books, I can’t read serious stuff all the time. The brain needs a break! But all of a sudden, I realized that maybe this is part of the problem that I was talking about in Intelligence, problem solving, and Star Trek. In this instance, it’s more critical thinking than problem solving. Because yes, there is a problem, but unless you get an answer straight from the author about what is cannon, there’s not going to be much in the way of actual solving going on. It all wraps back around to people wanting to just have an answer handed to them.

In real life, sometimes that’s easier and faster. If somebody knows, and it’s going to take you more time to figure it out than to just ask, it’s justified. It’s also sometimes more satisfying to figure it out yourself, though. Maybe not everybody has this reaction. Maybe this is something we should focus on.

Intelligence, problem solving, and Star Trek

I know I wrote something somewhere about this, but for the life of me I have no idea when or where. Some time in the past year, and somewhere on the internet is as narrow as I can figure it. Totally helpful.

Some time ago, a few months I believe, I was speaking with a coworker about movies and TV, and coworker mentioned that he always liked Star Wars better than Star Trek, because Star Trek didn’t have enough action in it. Which is a totally fair assessment, and I completely agree with it. In particular, I’m thinking of Star Trek: The Next Generation, as that is what I grew up on. That is *my* Star Trek. (Picard is a way better captain than Kirk.) Part of the reason I like Star Trek so much, and this is something my father imparted on me early on, was that they were problem-solvers. There wasn’t some big rebellion going on and they weren’t fighting for their lives. They were explorers and diplomats and scientists and thinkers. Picard had roots in the classics, philosophy, archaeology, and had vast scientific knowledge on top of all of that. They didn’t whip out their phasers at the first sign of the unknown. They studied it. They learned from it. And if they were in a tight spot, they used violence as a last resort.

The problem I find is that a lot of people don’t find that entertaining. They don’t want to think, they just want to zone out. That’s why (I think) sit-coms and reality shows and pure dramas are far more popular. If you’re faced with a choice between how a relationship is progressing and whether or not an android has the same rights as a human, well, I think most people end up choosing the former to be entertained for an hour by. It’s the more relatable situation versus the philosophical ideas.

Don’t get me wrong, I like to zone out sometimes, too. I enjoy shows like Grimm and Vikings, or some of the superhero shows like Arrow and The Flash. But I also like Law & Order, Person of Interest, The West Wing, Newsroom, Stargate SG-1, Star Trek… All… slightly technical shows. They aren’t about the people so much as they are about content. (Yes, I realize NONE of these shows are current, except SVU. A pattern, I wonder?) The former shows I listed all have one thing in common: They all have clearly defined Good and Evil. The other ones? Not so much.

And that’s part of the enjoyment I get out of them, because it so much better mirrors real life. We don’t have clearly defined Good and Evil. It’s a constant struggle, and what you think is Good now, may not always have been Good, and may not be Good in the future. It’s important to take a step back and look at the other side.

I don’t think people are capable of doing that very well, as evidenced by some of the discussions I’ve seen and been a part of over the past year, mostly revolving around the presidential election.

I find myself wondering if our entertainment menu is a part of that. What we see on TV and in movies is supposed to mimic real life. But what happens when it doesn’t?

I remember hearing that it was a big deal when the first blacks started appearing on TV shows. And I see that big deal now with homosexual relationships. (Actual experience: A person said to me that he didn’t mind if people were gay, but it seemed like every show had to have a gay couple, and that was ridiculous! No, not really, I think to myself, but I don’t really want to have that argument with that person.) Our society is not all white, so to have a show that consists of nothing but white actors is not representative. Same thing for sexuality.

This isn’t a situation that will ever fix itself on its own. Producers are going to make shows that bring in cash, and simple shows are what sells. They aren’t going to make shows that get low ratings, because the networks won’t buy them. Writers can have all the ideas in the world, but if other people don’t find them interesting, what does it matter?

My only suggestion is this: That the writers keep on writing, and trying to get their ideas out there. Because there will be some good ones, some that will get picked up by some fluke, and we can continue to inspire at least some of the new generations to think critically.