Today I read the Hugo Award nominations. Blade Runner, by virtue of it starting with the letter B, was the first film listed in the category “Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form.” I know I shouldn’t be surprised, but I admit that I was.
I was looking forward to this movie. I posted back in May 2017 that I wanted to see it. In fact, I was really disappointed when I couldn’t see it on release day. I was terrified that it would no longer be in theaters when I finally got to see it on October 28th. And honestly, that fear was justified. It should not have lasted that long.
I just finished watching the movie “Arrival” which I really enjoyed. This didn’t really surprise me as the protagonist is a strong woman who is also a Linguist and it was a Science Fiction story about first contact. Now I admit, I made the obligatory “E.T.” and “Close Encounters” jokes during the film, but in general, the movie was engaging and interesting. I enjoyed the twist (spoiler: there’s a twist…) and was fooled along with most everyone.
I don’t know why I’m so surprised. But I was holding out hope that Fox would have learned its lesson from “Firefly” and actually let a good SciFi show carry on. But no.
Instead, they handled “Almost Human” in almost exactly the same way they handled “Firefly.” It’s like they have a playbook for how to kill a good show:
Air the episodes out of order, so that any over arching theme is confusing at best and most likely destroyed at worst.
Make sure that the episodes that introduce the characters most effectively are buried somewhere in the middle of the season, since you’re already airing them out of order. That way any casual viewer will see no reason to give a rats ass about what’s going on.
Skip weeks with no information on when (or if) the show will be back on the air.
Then return with a show that clearly should have been aired earlier in the season because, well, because you can.
Don’t bother with PR. If the fans cared, they would watch.
And when they do watch, ignore them.
Make sure that whatever ads or PR you do do for the show focuses solely on violent car chases or robots getting blown up. Because the only demographic for SciFi is 18-year-old male. And those same males only like car chases and blown up robots. Oh and maybe a sexbot or two.
Maybe they’ll add to their playbook:
Cancel the show and act surprised that fans give a shit.
Nora Ephron didn’t direct Science Fiction movies. But her death is a loss to all of us, and especially women. She made movies that women like, movies for and about strong, caring women.
Science Fiction movies, on the other hand, tend to be for, by, and about men. Even when women are in them, they are either glorified sex objects or men with breasts. Part of the reason Sigoourney Weaver was so funny in Galaxy Quest was because she was playing the only role women have had in most Science Fiction movies — the phone operator. It was especially ironic to cast her in that role when she’s best known as Ripley in the Alien movies.
But Hollywood seems to forget women all the time. When the Avengers came out, 40% of the opening day tickets were bought by women, and yet the only strong female character was reduced to acting as a dogs-body and gopher for all of the other “real” super heroes. Why is this and why do women tolerate it?
Yes, Ripley is a powerful female character, but even though I can name dozens of strong female protagonists in SciFi books, I can’t name even ten strong female characters in movies. Here’s what my husband and I came up with. We were able to come up with 9 when we included TV as well.
It’s just sad to me how difficult it was for both of us to find examples of strong, powerful women in Science Fiction movies and TV. I’d love to hear from you if you can think of others. Please share in the comments.
I would love to see a movie made of some of the strong female characters that abound in Science Fiction. It’s not that they aren’t there, it’s just that Hollywood doesn’t want to make movies about them. I’d love to see Friday on the big screen, or Petra Arkanian (Ender’s Game) or Cordelia Naismith (Barrayar – Vorkosigan Saga).
Starring Kelly Macdonald, Billy Connolly and Emma Thompson
Directed by Mark Andrews, Brenda Chapman, and Steve Purcell (Buy soundtrack)
Brave is going to have a special place in my heart because it’s the first feature film my son watched all the way through in the theater. (I don’t count Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull because he was only a few months old at the time, and slept through the whole movie.) He and his father went to see Cars 2 last summer, but only made it through about 30 minutes before they had to leave. So, in order to be sure that we got to see the whole movie, we resorted to bribery (if he sat through the whole movie he got to go to Barnes and Noble afterwards) and chocolate raisins. And that worked. I’m not sure how much he really got out of the movie, but he did sit and watch the whole thing, only asking interminably if it was over yet during the credits. And I think he even liked it.
Brave is a fairy tale, but not an insipid or sexist one. It is the story of a young girl trying to find her place in the world, which was not the same place her mother wanted her to enter. This is a common theme for both girls and boys — their choices might not be the same as their parents’ and they have to figure out a way to reconcile it.
I particularly liked that this was a story about a girl. Pixar has been fairly boy-focused up until now, and I admit I wasn’t confident that they would be able to pull off a female main character, without going the Disney route of “reading” to prove she’s smart (Beauty and the Beast), annoyingly jealous and bitchy to prove she’s tough (Tinkerbell), or dependent on a big strong man (Snow White, Cinderella, Jasmine, etc.). So I went in expecting a standard girl-wants-to-be-boy type plot.
“Children of Men” (2006)
Starring: Julianne Moore, Clive Owen and Chiwetel Ejiofor
Directed by: Alfonso Cuarón
This movie came out a while ago, but I was lucky enough to see it in the theatre, even though my local theatres don’t usually play art films or nearly any film that isn’t first run. I don’t like to have to drive to Seattle just to see a film, so it’s nice when the local theatres get something new.
I learned of “Children of Men” from a friend who isn’t a fan of Science Fiction. She had seen it and told me I had to see it, no matter what. And she was right. As I said to her “this is why I read and watch Science Fiction.”
“Doctor Who: The Complete First Series” (2005)
Starring: Christopher Eccleston and Billie Piper
I grew up on Doctor Who — Tom Baker, Peter Davison, and all of them. I loved it. So when it was announced that there was going to be a new series made, with a Doctor “from the North,” I wasn’t so sure about this. But I was quickly convinced.
This first series includes all the fun of classic Doctor Who, but in modern era with modern CGI and effects. This is not the cardboard cutouts and giant pepper shakers of old. No, even the Daleks have been upgraded!
Rose is the new companion for the first series, and she is wonderful. She’s tough and smart and not afraid to talk back to the Doctor, especially when he’s being a dork.
The two episodes “The Enemy Child” and “The Doctor Dances” won the Hugo award for best short program in 2006. I still hear the child saying “Are you my mummy?” and I cringe. And seeing a gas mask freaks me out a little.
I loved these DVDs. We rented them first, and then I got them for Christmas. So I watched them again less than a month from the first time I watched them. They were just as wonderful the second (and then third) time I watched them.
Firefly was an amazing television show. It was created and developed by Joss Whedon, creator of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. The premise of the show is that mankind has spread out across the universe and this has resulted in anarchistic regions almost like the old-West. There was a big war that the Federation won, and the heros of this show were on the losing side. Now they live on the fringes of society, spending most of their time running from authorities, getting into and out of trouble, and having adventures.
The great thing about this show is that it’s so diverse. Yes, it’s Science Fiction, but it’s also a Western. Plus it’s got drama and humor and a wonderful ensemble cast. In fact, it’s the cast that really brings this show home. There are a lot of people who travel on Serenity, from Mal Reynolds (Nathan Fillion), the discontented captain to Innara (Morena Baccarin) the prostitute who uses one of Firefly’s attached shuttles, to Simon (Sean Maher) and River Tam (Summer Glau) two fugitives from strange blue-handed, creepy “men-in-black”.
Fox, in its infinite wisdom, cancelled this show after only a few episodes. This was a huge blow to television SciFi, especially as Farscape was also cancelled. Since it was cancelled so quickly, it’s a very good chance you didn’t see this show, but if you can buy the DVD you won’t be disappointed. There are so many open ends waiting to be filled in, it could go in many many directions, which makes it very exciting.
Plus, Joss Whedon is releasing Serenity in the summer of 2005. This is very exciting!