Quick Musings on the Depiction of Women in Science Fiction

Just some brief brainstorming as I work on my write-up for Ross Rocklynne’s “The Bubble Dwellers”…

The depiction of women in “classic” science fiction film is radically different from the depiction of women in the pulps.  You might even say the gulf is astounding. ::rimshot::

I can’t remember the names of all the bad black and white sci-fi flicks from the 50s I’ve watched with my dad, but for some reason while Hollywood was content to again and again show us shrieking lady scientists who are told by some square-jaw that they’re wrong about something (even when they were right) because they were a woman, science fiction writers in the magazines were cranking out all kinds of badass babes of whom Princess Leia was a cut-rate knock-off.

If you go just by what you’d see in the movies, you could easily conclude that old sci-fi was kind of stupid and bad and all the women were shrill Faye Wrays in need of rescuing.  That could not be further from the truth.  There have always been kick-ass women in sci-fi, and no, Joss Whedon didn’t invent them.

If anyone says  to you “Yeah, but it would be nice to have the woman save the man for a change!” you can tell them that space princesses have been leading armies and cutting their way through enemies with light sabers to save their beloveds since the 1920s.


Women Have Always Fought… With Lightsabers.

12 responses to “Quick Musings on the Depiction of Women in Science Fiction

  1. Not really sci-fi or “classic”, but I do remember Robert E. Howard had a few warrior ladies in his shorts. The two most memorable women in the Conan stories that I can remember (Belit and Valeria) were both warrior types who fought alongside him rather than the stereotypical damsels.

    • Howard is TOTALLY classic! And that really doesn’t surprise me.

      ::looks longingly at the stack of illustrated Conan I’m working my way towards reading::

      I’d say that Damsels are the exception and not the rule, but so far, NONE of the stuff I read in 2015 had ‘damsels in distress’. Kick-ass ladies who’d maybe bitten off more than they could chew, sure, but certainly no helpless wilting flowers.

      Even Offutt, whose stuff borderlined on bodice-ripper, had multiple kick-ass lady heroes who help save the day.

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  3. I was going to ask “Where do you think this treatment of women comes from?” but the more I thought about it the more I realized it’s Hollywood that is the exception here. Source material, the suffrage movement, current events like the World Wars…all largely to overwhelmingly pro-woman. So what the heck was going on with Hollywood?

    • Hollywood has ALWAYS been less forward thinking about race and gender than the rest of America, which is ironic because of how far left and progressive it typically is.

      • Yeah, but I demand a cause! It’s so…weird. 🙂 Is it the money? Fairy tale land escapism? You can multiply examples of regressive depiction forever: “injuns,” French, the gross indifference to depicting Asians, preserving discarded scientific theories…the older I get, the weirder Hollywood seems.

      • Disconnected double think of ideologues. Who knows? But I remember when Hollywood was patting itself on the back for finally giving black actors best actor awards at the Oscars, and I’m thinking “America has been making black actors wealthy stars by supporting them and their films for decades, and Hollywood is congratulating itself for just now finally giving one of them their little in-clique trophy?”

        Some people might take the tin-foil approach, blaming secret cabals or jews or something, but I really think it boils down to “liberal” Hollywood not being nearly so enlightened and unprejudiced as they think they are.

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