I was talking with my good friend Mart about my project of tracing the genesis of Raena Zacari (protagonist of my In the Wake of the Templars trilogy) through her strong female role models. Maybe the quintessential inspiration for Raena is Sarah Connor, the mother of the human resistance in the Terminator movies.
Mart is fascinated by Sarah in all her incarnations from Linda Hamilton to Lena Headey to Emilia Clarke, pointing out correctly that this is a woman who lost her roommate, her home, her lover, and the father of her child to a weapon from the future, then sacrificed her job, comforts, and any semblance of real life to raise her son to be a soldier who could save humanity.
My adoration of Sarah is much more focused. It all comes down to one moment for me, one set of images that riveted my attention and fired my imagination.
Yes, I’m talking about the chin-ups. They directly inspired a couple of moments in Kill By Numbers.
Every time I watch it, I want Terminator 2 to be all about Sarah. I am bored and fidgety through the scenes with John, whiny and delinquent, and his taciturn substitute father. I want to concentrate on Sarah, as she struggles to survive in a madhouse.
I wonder if every woman sees herself in that Sarah Connor: certain of truths no one believes, confined by narrow minds who refuse to see the evidence and would just prefer is she’d stay docile and predictable and quiet.
Maybe I’m reading into it, but you have to admit that Sarah is inspiringly resourceful. She figures out how to rearrange her furniture so she can keep her body in fighting condition. She manages to steal a paperclip with which to unlock her restraints — despite being handcuffed at the time. She’s come a long way from the soft, sweet waitress in the first movie.
Linda Hamilton is such an amazing actress that she can convey a lot about the character with little moments. There’s a skip in Sarah’s step when she first tucks the cudgel along her forearm and begins to run through the hospital hallways. There’s the shriek when the terminator steps out of the elevator and her feet skid out from under her.
And there’s the moment in the police car as they’re speeding away from the psychiatric prison. Sarah leans into the back seat of the police car. John thinks she’s coming to give him a hug, to thank him for rescuing her, when actually she’s checking him for injuries. Mart sees that as evidence that Sarah’s given up her maternal pleasures, but I see it as a soldier who’s survived the skirmish but knows the battle has barely begun.
A quick unscientific survey on Facebook revealed that Linda Hamilton is everyone’s favorite Sarah Connor. They might not all follow my preference for Linda’s biceps, but I can’t fault their taste.
You can feast your eyes on the first four Terminator movies in a box set at Amazon.
My other Raena’s Foremothers essays so far are:
What strong female characters have inspired you?