The Feminine as Savior of the World: My Experience of the film Terminator: Dark Fate
Updated: Sep 5, 2020
Sex and God seem to be themes I see everywhere these days. The reconciliation of these seeming opposites happens to be the focus of my research in fact. I look forward to telling you more about that soon as I complete the final work to secure my PhD.
In Jungian film theory, we talk about this concept that Luke Hockley calls the third image (Somatic Cinema: The Relationship Between Body and Screen: A Jungian Perspective, 2014). Maybe you’ve felt it. It’s the space between you and the movie screen where unexpected reactions or insights sometimes emerge as the images on the screen communicate with your unconscious.
Sometimes the meaning you make out of your film viewing experience has nothing to do with what the director or writer intended. That’s the most exciting part for me!
Terminator Franchise – Technology as the Masculine on Steroids and the Return of the Feminine
You could think about the Terminator movies as warnings about science and technology as a kind of religion, or warnings about losing our humanity. Or you could have simply enjoyed Arnold Schwarzenegger’s combination of robotic strength and quirky attempts at being human.
As a budding feminist who came of age in the 1980’s, I was preoccupied with the role played by Sara Connor in The Terminator (1984). She was totally caught off guard at being told she was the mother of the future savior of the world. At the time, I guess this represented huge progress for women – that she would bear the male child who would save humanity. Sound familiar?
Twenty-five years later
I lost interest in the subsequent sequels because the focus seemed to be on the special effects and what I now feel was an over-played hero’s journey motif.
I didn’t even know there was a new Terminator movie until someone told me that Terminator: Dark Fate had been released that day. I thought I’d check it out because Linda Hamilton, who plays Sarah Connor, had returned, along with Arnold.
So many things captivated me about this film. Typically, my awareness of a film working on my unconscious prompts me to see the film up to six or seven times. I’ve just seen Terminator Dark Fate twice, which means I’m still processing its meaning, but . . .
Without giving anything away, there is an abrupt dismantling of the notion of masculine as savior, which typically means male.
The location of Guatemala was noteworthy for me. The family culture was both patriarchal AND accepting of the strength of the feminine and women. Dani, a young Guatemalan woman plays the role her dead mother once played, as she cares for her father and brother. Then she is plunged into chaos, as she becomes the target of future terminators because she is a threat to the future technological takeover of humanity.
Grace, the augmented human (with terminator-like enhancements), is sent back to protect Dani. Her character is super interesting. She is boyish looking, noticeably flat chested, and struggles between the masculine rational orientation and feminine relationship orientation. For me she is like God’s grace sent in the form of the reconciliation of the masculine and feminine. Gladly, none of the female characters is sexualized, a theme I began noticing in Alita (2019) and Captain Marvel (2019).
A bitter Sarah Connor completes the trio, sarcastically expressing “Let someone else be Mother Mary.” She goes on to warn Dani that it is not she who is the threat to the terminators but her womb. I found this dialogue empowering. I have had to transform my own unconscious fear of oppression, especially by patriarchal Christianity, into power as I have come to realize that the amount of attention paid to restricting women’s reproductive rights for example has to do with the unconscious fear of the real power of the feminine. It turns out, it wasn’t Dani’s womb that was the threat; it was her.
The last thing I noticed was that there was not one hero that saved humanity. It was a team effort, a partnership approach. Riane Eisler, the author of Chalice and the Blade (1989), in her book Sacred Pleasure (2011), presents new evidence-based theories that suggest there was a time before patriarchy, when there was a more partnership oriented approach to social organization, where both the feminine and masculine, sexuality and spirituality were reconciled. Not only that, evidence suggests that patriarchy did not evolve as a natural part of evolution, but out of trauma caused by harsh climate conditions in parts of the world.
What’s the Point?
Something is happening out there in the world. There is a shift occurring as Eckhart Tolle in New Earth (2008) suggests 10-20% of the world’s people are increasing in consciousness, and this consciousness is needed to save humanity. An important part of this new consciousness is reconciliation of the masculine and feminine within us and between us.
There are reasons that certain films captivate us, but often we are not aware of the deeper reasons. Art has always acted as a doorway to what lies in the collective unconscious, and artists have always been the vessels through which new insights often emerge often without the artist’s knowledge.
I'm usually caught off guard when some odd and unexpected thought or feeling comes out of my unconscious. Now, I get excited when I see something that others may not see in film and I’ve decided to start sharing more. Would love to hear about your crazy experiences with film.