1 (edited by ireactions 2020-05-08 13:14:51)

Topic: Women in Sci-Fi

This thread was originally called Slut Shaming and SLIDERS: A Shameful History, but I've amended it to talk about all my favourite women in science fiction.

Origin: I remember the exact moment I gave up on the Slideheads Facebook group. It was when a poster called Kari Wuhrer a whore for her many nude scenes. Among SLIDERS fans is a shameful history of slut shaming, an attitude that any female expression of sexuality is to be condemned. SLIDERS fans should be above that, especially when what they deride doesn't even originate with women.

Hatred: Captain Margaret Allison Beckett (US Air Force) is unquestionably one of the most loathed characters in SLIDERS. Kari Samantha Ann Wuhrer is undoubtedly one of the most hated people in SLIDERS although she's despised slightly less than David Peckinpah, Keith Damron, Jerry O'Connell and Bill Dial.

Sluts: The charges against Maggie Beckett are that she's defined by Kari Wuhrer's physicality and little else. This is expanded to declare that Maggie and Kari are "slutty" and they exist solely to trigger sexual arousal in men with the series becoming crude, intellectually deficient and absurd. Kari has been dismissed as "a talentless bimbo" and called "a slut" along with any woman who has ever worn tight clothing or been nude in TV and film especially when it was done at the expense of creativity and imagination.

Fair and Unfair: The creative criticisms are resonable. The attacks on women and their sexuality are not; SLIDERS' depiction of Maggie's sexuality in Season 3 is in no way a rendition of any woman's sexuality. Throughout the back nine of Season 3, the male gaze where the camerawork, costuming and blocking are specifically to emphasize the breasts and backside of the women in front of the camera. That is not Kari Wuhrer's sexuality or even Maggie's; that's the male gaze.

Whose Attraction Is It Anyway? In addition, Maggie is regularly scripted as being sexually flirtatious with nearly every man who shares a scene with her, but the scripts don't offer any rationale for what it is about these men that attracts Maggie. In "The Exodus," Captain Beckett is a married woman who (supposedly) has extensive combat and espionage experience; yet she's inexplicably attracted to Quinn who, by Season 3, has become a dim witted college student. Maggie is drawn to a career criminal with the script disregarding that Maggie's husband was murdered and she's in pursuit of the killer.

Last Minute Casting: The attraction on display isn't Maggie's or Kari's; these are the desires of producers Alan Barnette and David Peckinpah. According to SLIDERS expert Temporal Flux, the Maggie character was not cast until the day before the filming of "The Exodus" when Alan Barnette charged into the office with a profile shot and shrieked, "Check out the tits on this one!" Wuhrer was hired. Crew members reported to Temporal Flux that during the filming of the back nine of Season 3, Barnette would not stop commenting on Wuhrer's breasts.

The Fantasy: Temporal Flux located deleted scenes for "Dinoslide," scripted by David Peckinpah, which reveal that Maggie was to give Quinn what was essentially a lap dance when trying to share body warmth. This behaviour does not convey Captain Beckett's militarism or survival skills; it conveys David Peckinpah's sexual fantasies as relating to Hollywood actresses.

Glass Cage: Despite this, SLIDERS fans have an alarming hatred for the Maggie character that is often directed at the actress in specificity and at women in general. Western society has not been kind to women; it was not until the 70s that women were not uniformly barred from all professions. Without entry points into the workforce, women in North America were educated to view attracting men as their only marketable skill and regarded in this way by men while simultaneously being scorned for having no other talents to offer.

Archaic: Film and television in the 90s retained this attitude with the expectation that actresses feature a minimum cup size and be within a certain weight class, often stipulated as part of contractual obligations. Women are not the villains in this commodification of their gender. Women were not responsible for SLIDERS' creative decay and if Kari Wuhrer hadn't been wearing that undersized green T-shirt in "The Exodus," it would've been someone else.

The Wheel Turns: SLIDERS fandom turned a corner in recent years, however, thanks to the sterling work of Annie Fish in THINK OF A ROULETTE WHEEL. SLIDERS fandom is still rounding that corner, but Annie started the turn, first with an appropriately alarmed review of "The Breeder" and then some insightful words for "Slidecage":

Annie Fish wrote:

So this week we have to look at Kari in a sports bra for 45 minutes. Which is just so infuriatingly unnecessary. Why would she wear that? Let’s lay it out: she wouldn’t. In no way would she wear that. She’s only wearing it so we can eyefuck her. Which is the reason she was cast in the first place. It’s the reason she replaced Sabrina Lloyd. This show is a sexist boy’s club, and it ‘knows’ what its audience wants.

Lost Potential: Annie taps into what will always frustrate with Maggie: the character is made to dress and behave in ways that don't serve to explore her as a military officer working with civilians. They only serve the male gaze. And it's a painful loss because Maggie Beckett is very possibly a fascinating character.

The scripted details of the character establish that she's a fighter pilot, a soldier and an intelligence officer. On paper, at least, Maggie Beckett is someone who does what the sliders do: she infiltrates unfamiliar situations to acquire information; she tries to blend into unknown situations and appear to belong when she knows that she doesn't; she's seen danger and combat and horror and madness -- but unlike the sliders, who are civilians without experience or training, Maggie Beckett has been tutored and refined into a human agent of violence and deception.

A Different Kind of Slider: There is potential for a fascinating contrast between her and the other sliders. Quinn fondly improvises while Maggie would demand planning. Wade wants to topple regimes while Maggie feels bound to uphold establishment organizations. Rembrandt wants to explore alternate cultures while Maggie wants to gather weapons and equipment. Arturo is focused on broadening his scientific understanding and Maggie doesn't understand anything he says and is terrified to disobey him. The sliders are haphazard wanderers to the dismay of a disciplined, structured, controlled individual like Captain Margaret Allison Beckett.

Retooled: Throughout Maggie's appearances in Seasons 4 - 5, her abrasiveness and wardrobe are toned down, but the characterization from devoted writers like Marc Scott Zicree and Chris Black fail to deepen Maggie. Instead, Zicree and Black are focused on giving Kari Wuhrer comedy, pairing her up with Cleavant Derricks' friendliness, giving her grief and tragedy, but only passingly exploring her skillset and values. In "Way Out West," Maggie sings, revealing more about Wuhrer's musical ambitions than Maggie. In "The Return of Maggie Beckett," the emphasis is more on Maggie's troubled relationship with her father than her identity.

Little of this builds on Maggie's military background even when the singing and even the breast implants could be for Maggie's covert operations to require being easily dismissed as a pretty but empty-headed girl when she's actually a woman of militaristic force and resolve.

Evolution: Since SLIDERS, television and film have leapt forward in presenting women within action stories. Jane Doe (Jaime Alexander) in BLINDSPOT is a cunning warrior, Kate Kane (Ruby Rose) in BATWOMAN is a resolute soldier, Liz Keen (Megan Boone) in THE BLACKLIST is a brilliant law enforcement officer, Kiera Cameron (Rachel Nichols) in CONTINUUM is a hardy action star and the recent TOMB RAIDER movie presented Lara Croft as a showcase for Alicia Vikander's impressive abdominal muscles.

Media has, in recent years, shown itself capable of depicting women with athleticism, coordination, strength and will in their physical presence -- whereas SLIDERS failed to provide Maggie with any of that. Kari Wuhrer isn't directed to convey physical strength as Maggie; she isn't asked to perform the role with a warrior's will or a pilot's precision or a soldier's bearing. She is a woman made to be a girl in a tight shirt.

Men: These failures aren't Kari Wuhrer's fault. She made the best she could out of a career of performing men's fantasies. She did it to pay the rent. The failures are due to the majority of these scripts being written by men who see women as objects of desire and arousal rather than as people with histories, ambitions, goals, longings and wishes outside of how they look and who they can attract.

Damage: These fantasies have also been harmful towards Wuhrer. She originally arrived in Los Angeles hoping to be a singer; her producer encouraged her to get breast implants as he preferred women whose breasts were visible from behind. He ultimately proved uninterested in her music and only in her image; Hollywood likewise offered her easy, fast money in direct to video erotic thrillers with hurriedly filmed nude scenes which she accepted in order to afford food and shelter. SLIDERS was another one of these jobs.

After SLIDERS, Wuhrer found more direct to video work but felt embarrassed by her breasts and would ask her lovers never to touch her there. In 2002, when filming another direct to video movie, one of her breast implants encapsulated shortly before a nude scene leading to her chest looking lopsided and a nipple pointing in the wrong direction.

Punishment: She had the implants removed, was hired for a soap opera and then fired when she got pregnant and gained weight. Fans despise Wuhrer for her filmography and its influence on SLIDERS as well as for harassing Sabrina Lloyd to the point where Lloyd quit SLIDERS. But surely Wuhrer has paid her penance after being mutilated, humiliated and unable to acquire even the male gaze driven work she used to find in playing a man's idea of a slut.

Double Standard: And also, there's nothing wrong with being a slut. There's nothing wrong with having as many sexual partners as you'd like; I've never met a man who wouldn't applaud other men for having had sex with high numbers of women, but women having the same count is viewed as a problem because men, all too often, view women as commodities instead of people. There is nothing mutually exclusive in being both someone with a wide and eventful sexual history and being a kind, respectful, responsible and reliable human being.

Wuhrer was not always kind or respectful, but that never had anything to do with her sex life.

My birthday is in October and if we could see slut shaming eradicated from SLIDERS fandom by then, I'd be grateful.

I cannot emphasize enough in the name of Maggie's green T-shirt, Maggie's wet top, Maggie's sports bra and Maggie's toothbrush that the views in this post do not reflect the consensus of the Sliders.tv community and should any consensus ever exist, it wouldn't be defined by my opinions.

Re: Women in Sci-Fi

They had crushes of the week in every Sliders episode going back to The Pilot.  It may not have gotten as ridiculous as Kari in Season 3, but it was just idiot execs at Fox demanding it.  TV execs back then were plain dummies, which is why the best science fiction was in syndication.

Re: Women in Sci-Fi

Network execs are still dumb, and the best science fiction is still elsewhere

Re: Women in Sci-Fi

I'd say that the SLIDERS writers and producers suffered from a common flaw among men: they didn't see women as people. They see women strictly in terms of what they have to offer men. The Season 3 writers saw women as sources of masturbatory imagery and sexual overtures and Maggie Beckett, to them, existed to provide exactly that and no more. As a result, the Maggie character is offensively shallow: why would a woman constantly bounding into danger wear such skin-baring, low-cut, exposing outfits? Why would a woman venturing into unknown cultures, whose survival could depend on blending in, wear such attention-drawing clothes?

Also, Maggie is so flirty with Quinn in "The Exodus" and Carlos in "Slither." But the show doesn't explain why Maggie is attracted to either one; it simply wants Kari Wuhrer's body thrust in the direction of a man. Maggie isn't being sexual in any way that reflects on her emotional or physical desires; she's sexual because that's the image a male producer wanted from the women on his show. There isn't any thought as to what Maggie wants, who Maggie is, what her goals and needs and ambitions are, what she'd work towards or what she'd choose to wear while doing it.

In the later seasons, it gets better, but it's still about what men would want from the Maggie character. Marc Scott Zicree and Chris Black write Maggie as a funny, pleasant, caring presence because they would like the women in their lives to be funny, pleasant and caring and they like giving Kari Wuhrer things to do. It doesn't say anything about Maggie.

Modern shows these days give female characters a sexuality that is their own, if that makes any sense. On BLINDSPOT, Jane Doe (Jamie Alexander) is attracted to Kurt Weller because where Jane Doe is a spy whose identity has been a moving target, Weller knows exactly who he is and who he wants to be and commits to that and inspires Jane to do the same. On SUPERGIRL, Kara Danvers is a little boy crazy and a bit of a fantasist, but it's also a way to escape her identity crisis and the stress of her superhero career. Sara Lance on LEGENDS has sex with any man or woman she wants because she's having fun and not tied down. It gets her into trouble sometimes when she lets historical figures seduce her and it's hilarious.

And modern media also succeeds in highlighting women physically by focusing on athleticism and ability rather than staring at the chest and backside; Adrianne Palicki on AGENTS OF SHIELD and THE ORVILLE is shown in action as an astonishingly limber gymnast. Rachel Nichols on CONTINUUM gets through sci-fi laser gun battles with impressive physical aplomb. Ruby Rose in BATWOMAN has the swagger of a boxer matched with the grace of a dancer. 

I think of Maggie in these terms myself. I've written a lot of fanfic using Maggie because, when writing my SLIDERS scripts, I needed a character who was a spy and it made sense to use Maggie rather than create someone new. In my head, Maggie is still played by Kari Wuhrer, but Maggie doesn't strut and thrust out her chest; instead, I see her walking with the weight of someone who carries more muscle than the average woman.

My vision of Maggie is dressed in a blouse that's reflective; she can undo some of the buttons to look casual or keep it buttoned to look formal. She wears a leather jacket that shields against the elements but can be swapped for a formal blazer. She wears pants cut to her figure; a jacket can obscure her legs or show them off. My Maggie dresses like Megan Boone on THE BLACKLIST.

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I imagine Maggie with a very sweet smile and quite the figure, but it's a feint; it makes men dismiss her as a pretty girl and not see that she could be a threat.

My version of Maggie isn't attracted to Quinn; he's 10 years younger than she is and he never even finished college. She sees Quinn as her genius baby brother, someone who can solve any and every problem, but who is painfully incapable of staying out of trouble. She is his bodyguard. She keeps him alive because she needs his brilliance; she saves Quinn so that Quinn can save everyone else.

My image of Maggie is that she doesn't mind casual sex for physicality and exercise, but she's been married for a long time. She loves Dr. Steven Jensen because of his commitment to truth, even painful truth, whereas Maggie, who has pretended to be a dumb cocktail waitress, a Communist secretary, an aspiring singer, a ski instructor and other roles in her spy work, has spent too much of her life pretending.

My view of Maggie is that she is driven to serve. If she weren't a soldier, she would have been a nurse or a city council representative or a public transit mechanic or a plumber; her father the General instilled in her a sense of duty to her fellow human being.

And my sense of Maggie is that she regards people who aren't in the military as a bit stupid -- ordinary people lack survival skills or the ability to set goals and march relentlessly to accomplish them and lack a strong sense of self-preservation that makes it necessary for her to protect them.

My personal vision of Maggie is that she is a spy, a soldier and a public servant -- and the fact that she has Kari Wuhrer's face and body is a factor, but people shouldn't ever only be their bodies. And I think this is a Maggie that Kari Wuhrer could've played well if she'd ever been given the opportunity.

Re: Women in Sci-Fi

Well at the same time, Sarah Michelle Gellar premiered as Buffy Summers and largely destroyed most female lead stereotypes.  The staff Sliders had for season 3 were atrocious, but that was Fox.

Re: Women in Sci-Fi

I wonder if this might become a thread about all my favourite action girls.

Sooo, watching Jerry O'Connell's very mediocre CARTER had me moving on to watching CASTLE. CARTER strikes me as a legally dissimilar photocopy of CASTLE, about a man from the entertainment industry blundering into crime solving with a no-nonsense lady police detective. Except CARTER foolishly made its leading man an actor with no applicable skills to fighting crime and whereas CASTLE features a mystery novelist who actually has something to offer a procedural series.

But I have to say, the appeal of CASTLE is Nathan Fillion's interaction with Stana Katic and Stana Katic's Detective Kate Beckett is another interesting model of what Maggie Beckett could have been. Katic is strangely similar to Kari Wuhrer at certain angles with the cheekbone defined triangle of Wuhrer's face and the reddish brown hair that frames her face just like Wuhrer. But CASTLE films and costumes Katic so differently: the angles on Katic are specifically to bring out her furrowed brow and laser-like glare as she glowers at Nathan Fillion's antics.

Katic's costuming is also terrific. In Season 1, she only wears a dress in two scenes. The rest of the time, she's clad in large lapeled coats, leather jackets, smart blazers, sharp blouses -- and there's some impressive subtlety in the tailoring where at certain angles, the camera picks up on the curve of Katic's back or the rounding of her cleavage, but it's always incidental, the result of Katic wearing clothes that have been fitted to her form.

Kate Beckett is very well-written. Admittedly, her character is just running through all the procedural tropes. But what makes the character comes alive is Katic playing off Fillion. While Fillion gets all the good wisecracks, Katic easily punctures his ego and the fact that she retains composure and focus when Fillion is being so funny -- it makes Katic's Kate Beckett seem like a focused, professional, clearheaded public servant with a crisp cool that is perpetually unruffled. Katic ensures that even when Beckett is annoyed, Beckett is still in control. Where Fillion is aggressively reacting, Katic is aggressively thinking.

There are many, many shots of Katic looking curiously around various crime scenes, her eyes narrowed pensively, her bearing thoughtful and and calculating, her face absorbing all information around her -- it reminds me of how Jerry played Quinn. It reminds me of Jerry's performance in "In Dinos Veritas" where Jerry is looking around The Cave, showing Quinn spotting all the entrance and exit points and coming up with a plan. Katic quietly conveys that Kate Beckett is a crimefighting genius whose cleverness is obscured by Castle's showboating.

Maybe Stana Katic should play Quinn Mallory.

7 (edited by ireactions 2020-05-10 13:29:57)

Re: Women in Sci-Fi

Years ago, I was working with a new guy in my office. This is unusual for me because my friends and co-workers are generally women and I have a strong aversion to men unless they're Temporal Flux, Slider_Quinn21, Transmodiar, Grizzlor, or dating / married to one of my friends. Andy, a junior high aged summer intern, asked me if I'd ever seen WAREHOUSE 13 on Syfy. He said it started out very badly but he loved it from episode 4 onward. He insisted that episode 4 was the greatest thing he'd ever seen.

I bought the Season 1 DVD set at this used electronics store and the first three episodes were a clumsy, awkward X-FILES clone filmed in Toronto for 1/3 of the budget with a lot of beige hallways, very much like Season 5 of SLIDERS. The cast seemed talented but unsure of how to characterize some thin scripting; Secret Service agents Pete Latimer and Myka Bering are put to work tracking down supernatural artifacts to contain in Warehouse 13, but they exhibit a strange lack of curiosity as to who created Warehouse 13, who runs it, how these artifacts function, etc..

The pilot episode of WAREHOUSE 13 seems like something that nobody wanted to make. The original idea was from Ronald D. Moore. The first draft of the script was by Rockne O'Bannon (FARSCAPE) and Jane Espenson (BUFFY, ONCE UPON A TIME, GILMORE GIRLS, JESSICA JONES) but Syfy bought it and retooled it with D. Brent Mote (DR. QUINN), then again with Espenson, then finally with David Simkin (LOIS AND CLARK, DARK ANGEL, ANGEL, CHARMED).

As a result, the pilot has the story elements of a paranoid, conspiracy-minded series of secret agents in a shadow government organization, the concepts of a madcap sci-fi/fantasy comedy, and the tone of simple, Nickelodeon children's show where the heroes look to find and contain dangerous supernatural objects and the questions of who they work for and why is not something kids would ask. It is inherently contradictory and confused, clearly the product of multiple writers working at cross purposes. It was weak and dull, but Andy struck me as a bright young man of interesting tastes, so I struggled to episode 4.

Listening to a podcast with WAREHOUSE 13 showrunner Jack Kenny, it seems he was also struggling. He was not involved with WAREHOUSE 13 until after the pilot had been filmed and the series had been ordered. Assuming control of the series, Kenny's version of WAREHOUSE 13 took until episode 4 to materialize when the show is livened up by a new character: a troubled, spunky 19-year-old computer hacker named Claudia who breaks into Warehouse 13 to demand answers to all the questions above.

Claudia is snarky, sardonic and quippy in the way young women on TV are when written by good men in their late 40s who write teenaged girls. ("Dude, just shut it down." "This is so not groovy!") Claudia is gifted with all the wit and charm of much older women, serving as an aspirational but relatable figure to young girls. No teenaged girl is like Claudia, but her daring braininess makes her a healthy role model.

Claudia sparked something in the rest of the cast that finally made the Warehouse 13 team cohere as an eccentric family unit with Claudia as the child among them. Claudia is daring and outspoken in a way that a junior high school student like young Andy likely found admirable. Claudia is capable and strong but deeply troubled in a way that a junior high student like Andy might view as making her accessible. Claudia is a driven go-getter and I know Andy's mother, a co-worker in my office, to also be a driven go-getter.

I have no doubt that Andy found Claudia sexy with her punk appareil and purple tinted hair and Allison Scagliotti’s slender, gym toned figure, but he obviously liked her because she was smart.

Claudia on WAREHOUSE 13 was a somewhat age appropriate crush for a junior high student and Allison Scagliotti was/is a pretty girl, but she was presented as a powerful girl, a skillful investigator, and an eager pupil in the art of paranormal investigations and, in my view, an extremely healthy sexual and romantic fantasy for Andy. Claudia was a portrait of a girl close to his age and with ambition, drive, ability and determination. Claudia is a bit like the Season 3 Wade who became some sort of superhacker that year.

I hope Andy found someone like Claudia in real life. I should ask his mother if he did.