The Terminatrix Problem

Written by Robin Hitchcock

Kristanna Loken as the T-X or “Terminatrix” in Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines
On round one thousand seventy eight of the eternal “do the time travel rules in the Terminator movies make any sense?” debate, my partner and I decided the only reasonable course of action was a Terminator movie marathon [we excused ourselves from having to suffer through Terminator Salvation, because life is too short to watch that dull abomination more than once].
The time travel debate, of course, rages on, but watching the first three Terminator films in short order made their relative strengths and weaknesses all the more clear. [Or, in the case of T2: Judgment Day, relative strengths. That movie HAS NO WEAKNESSES.] I held out hope that Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines might have some new charms or interest placed directly next to its legendary big sister. It’s a movie I want to like more than I do, despite the crippling absence of Sarah Connor, awkward recasting of John Connor, and the distractingly aged Schwarzenegger. Oh, and James Cameron out of the director’s chair, half-heartedly replaced by some “I made one of those submarine movies from the early aughts, and no my name isn’t Kathryn Bigelow” hack (Jonathan Mostow).
I know now why you Botox
And then there’s that whole thing where Terminator 3 completely defies the defining spirit of the series “no fate but what we make for ourselves” and goes all predestination on our asses. You have a fate! You have a fate! EVERYONE HAS A FATE! Man, this movie has a lot of problems.
But allow me to expand on just one of them: The T-X, or Terminatrix, played by Kristanna Loken. Judgment Day had one of the most memorable movie villains of all time in Robert Patrick’s T-1000. Living up to that standard is a tall order. T3’s only answer for how to up the ante is boobies.
Inflatable boobies! [To be fair, they also give the T-X various and sundry additional powers like technopathy and plasma weapons, but they feel thrown against the lingerie billboard and they don’t quite stick.]
From a gender studies point of view, there’s a lot of potential in introducing the first female terminator. What are the tactical advantages of boobies? Why do robots (shape-shifting robots, at that!) even have gender identities? Why does the T-X have a “sexy” curvy endoskeleton?
That’s not how skeletons work!
Spoiler alert: none of these questions will be answered or even adequately addressed by T3. Instead, Kristanna Loken will do her best Robert Patrick impression whilst having boobies, and it will fall completely flat (pun perhaps subconsciously intended).
Nothing will ever be this scary.
There’s several problems with Loken (as well as the writers and the director) deciding to go the T-1000 imitative route. First, obviously, is that it’s essentially impossible to live up to the memory of Robert Patrick’s chilling performance. Secondly, it throws away the fascinating idea introduced in T2 that different Terminators have distinct personalities (thankfully, the Battlestar Galactica reboot would pick up their fumble).
And finally, a beautiful woman acting robotic just isn’t that notable in our culture of objectification.
Women are so often used as beautiful emotionless props it can be hard even for feminists to notice when it’s happening. In the era of widespread photoshop abuse, images of women are increasingly not quite human: everyone has the same glowy, flawless, fresh-off-the-factory line look.
3-D printed Natalie Portman
Emma Stone with upgraded robolashes
Olivia Wilde is a female pleasure unit.
She requires a new coat of paint.
These images should freak us out, but they’re all too easy to accept as honest representations of a inhuman beauty to which we should all aspire. This objectification is such a pernicious part of the cultural DNA that the usual rules of the uncanny valley don’t apply to beautiful women. When Robert Patrick played the T-1000 with inhuman rigidity and emotionless focus, it was terrifying. But when Kristanna Loken played the Terminatrix using exactly the same mannerisms, she was just another sexy fembot.
Ask your beautician about mimetic polyalloy, the new revolution in skincare
Even when something is as thoroughly pre-ruined as Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines, the patriarchy finds ways to make it even worse.

Robin Hitchcock is an American writer living in Cape Town. She always leaves the room when Sarah Connor starts carving “no fate” into a picnic table during T2 because she’s afraid to watch the nuclear attack dream sequence that comes next. 


  • Posted May 13, 2013 at 6:39 am | Permalink

    I’d always thought that being robotic was just much harder than it looked, I never realised that the reason that the T3 Terminator was as good as T2 was because we have idealised robotic seeming women already.

  • Posted May 20, 2013 at 1:47 am | Permalink

    Robin Hitchcock: Queen of Captions.