I caught a preview of Terminator: Dark Fate this week. Sarah Connor (pictured), human foil to the paradoxically endearing cyborg, played by Arnold Schwarzenneger, is one of my favourite fictitious heroines.
Linda Hamilton plays the character as convincingly as she first did 35 years ago, as a warrior mourning the death of her son, who is permanently on high alert.
What makes the Terminator franchise so popular? It’s hardly unique in exploring the uneasy relationship between people and machines. Some love it for the action and special effects. Others are fascinated by the ideas about time travel and alternative futures.
It’s the primal emotional pull of the movies that gets me every time, epitomised by those bumper-sticker phrases that exult human agency. The film pivots on the proposition that: “We can all change the future with every choice we make.”
There is a scene where The Terminator (model 101) explains the extensive weapons collection in his shed by talking about the probability of society breaking down, and needing to prepare to defend his family. It reminded me of a course I was sent on where we were being trained in business strategy for a VUCA world. The acronym is used by the US military: Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous.
My female protagonist in Rockstar Ending is fighting to change the future, too, although middle-aged schoolteacher Lexi would struggle to fire a weapon. And at least when you are taking on a Terminator it’s obvious that your enemy is an evil humanoid machine. Lexi’s challenge is trickier because, in her story, the boundaries are not so clearly defined – as you will soon find out.