The Cyborg Has Failed
by Mark Harris
A friend once told me that she liked a man with a bit of dirt under his fingernails. This was as much about her distaste for the commodity of metrosexual as it was about her love for a gritty version/vision of masculinity. I think this is an inventive way of explaining one’s desire. I, too, like men with some dirt beneath their fingernails.
Of course, I also know that this particular strain of masculinity, like any other gender, is not predicated on biological sex. Nothing makes this more evident to me than Sarah Connor.
Yes, I mean the one and only Sarah Connor, the fictional character played by Linda Hamilton in the first two Terminator movies. But let us focus on Sarah Connor in Terminator 2: Judgment Day.
Sarah Connor is incredibly hot. We first see the renegade inmate doing chin-ups on makeshift gym equipment in a high-security psych ward. Muscles flexing, sweat dripping, skin greasy with hospital grime and hair unkempt, Connor turns to the camera and her captor with eyes piercing and cunning.
Connor is fucking tough. I get a strange sense of satisfaction when she knocks out the vile prison guard who, in a prior scene, had licked her face. Connor comes out of nowhere, treading silent, wielding a broomstick, enacting revenge in a brutal flash of wood, blood, and bone.
Connor is a visionary and a vigilante. After dreaming the end of the world while carving premonitions into a picnic bench with a hunting knife, she cuts across the desert in a speeding vehicle to assassinate Miles Dyson. Dyson is the inventor of Skynet, the computer that will eventually instigate a nuclear holocaust, Judgment Day. Carrying a high-powered rifle, Connor invokes a Valerie Solanas for the posthuman world; she must take aim at both man and machine. Moreover, while Solanas called for armies of women, Connor is a lone warrior. Not even the cyborg, the Terminator Cyberdyne Systems Model 101, can halt the impending catastrophe. Only Connor is fierce enough for that.
Connor repudiates the biblical sex roles foisted upon her body. Her womb is not just some vessel for John Connor, the Christ figure who will supposedly avert the end of the world. Instead, it is Sarah Connor who breaks free of the panoptic prison system, crawls through the muck and mire, survives the sharp metallic wrath of the T-1000, ruptures the Old Testament adages of Judgment Day, and changes the course of the future.
Connor is the anti-technology technology. The Terminators are beyond human; one is a meeting of machine and organic tissue, a true cyborg in the sense of the word, while the other is purely synthetic, liquid metal so advanced it emulates what it sees. Yet Connor destroys them both. Furthermore, she targets the very root of the problem. In an eruption of explosives, broken glass, and fire, Connor wipes out the faceless corporation that manufactures the deathmachines, and extinguishes its deathdrive forever. While it seems as though the T-1000 is always just a step behind, running to its frenetic theme song with arm-claws outstretched, it is in fact Connor who is always two steps ahead of machine, of corporation, and of man.
There is dirt beneath Sarah Connor’s fingernails.
Read more by Mark Harris in issue 7 of Lickety Split!