Gender and Dystopia Or: You’re Killing Me, Revolution

Posted: October 11, 2012 in Reviews, Theory Posts
Tags: , , , ,

This week, I was going to write the next of my dystopia posts, this one focusing on how gender works in post-apocalyptic dystopian worlds. I was also going to review the two most recent episodes of NBC’s Revolution (Yes, I’m still watching it). Somewhere along the way, those two posts merged to become something between a rant and a cry of despair.

To be fair, “No Quarter” (episode 3) had some interesting parts to it. We learned about Uncle Miles’s dark and twisted past (working for the militia — *gasp*!). And there was Mark Pellegrino. Was there ever Mark Pellegrino.

But. But. Did we see any character development in Charlie, who is supposedly our protagonist? Not so much, no. And then there was this week, AKA Abandonment Issues Week, although I think they called the episode “The Plague Dogs” or something equally pithy.

To be clear, I don’t have a problem with Charlie being a complicated character of emotional depth. I want that for her. It’s one of the qualities that is often lacking in female heroes because there’s this notion that a woman can’t be emotionally vulnerable and a badass (ahem, Katniss, ahem, Lisbeth Salander). However, the problem isn’t that Charlie feels things. It’s that her feelings come across as overwrought and are therefore very irritating.

And already, because Charlie is so very irritating, I’m reading comments about how the show would have been so much better if it was about Miles. A guy. And granted, we would probably see those comments regardless, but c’mon show creators, did you have to make them completely justified? Charlie’s the weak link in the show. She hasn’t developed as a character, let alone as a hero. That was the most exciting part about the show, that we had a female hero on a quest.

And it’s not just Charlie. Maggie AKA British Chick AKA iPhone Girl, depending who you ask, was a non-character before they offed her. How much more interesting would she have been if her backstory had been played out slowly and patiently, if her relationship with Charlie had matured and developed over the course of the last four episodes? How much might we have cried over her death, over Charlie’s loss of her? But instead, she was only a blip in the plot line and Charlie’s mourning of her was just another note of histrionics. Nora AKA Hot Chick from Miles’s Past has some potential (her revelation about her son was compelling), but I’m also seeing serious potential for her to devolve into the Sexy If Slightly Badass Love Interest category. Don’t even get me started on Charlie’s mother, whose absconding to Fort Monroe is as nonsensical a plot point as the random tornado in this episode.

But Charlie & Co. aren’t alone in this ridiculous post-apocalyptic portrayal of gender. (I’m looking at you, The Walking Dead. Right at you.) I know that the apocalypse means a shift in social structure and, in some sense, this means backsliding, especially in scenarios like Revolution where technology is defunct. But I’m troubled by the notion that this justifies an archaic view of gender roles, that heroines can succeed only in the company of greater heroes, that women would be immediately herded back into domestic roles — at best. And what worries me is the why of this. Is it just lazy thinking on the part of these writers? Or is these something of the wish fulfillment we sometimes see in apocalyptic fiction, the desire to revert to simpler times, in this case simpler times of gender inequality?

Yes, that could easily be reading too much into it and I hope it is. But honestly, I have to wonder — could the reason Charlie and characters like her don’t succeed be that we as a society don’t want them to?

Are you still watching Revolution? How do you feel about Charlie’s characterization? Who’s your favorite post-apocalyptic/dystopian heroine?

  1. “No Quarter”? lol I guess they’re still letting Kripke name the episodes, at least. Have you written any blogs about post-apocalyptic not-dystopians? like, Book of Eli, where society fails to rebuild? Also, speaking of dystopias, The Matrix?

    • Julia says:

      I was upset about the appropriation. If you’re going to reference a brilliant song, you’d better have a brilliant episode.

      I’m working my way to your regular apocalyptic post-apocalypse, which is the realm most zombie apocalypses inhabit. I actually haven’t seen Book of Eli, oddly enough.

      Man, The Matrix could get its own post. Technopocalypse and techo-dystopia? \o/

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