Sunday, September 27, 2009

Classics: SG1 1:3 – Emancipation

Plot Synopsis:

On the planet of Simarka, the team encounters Abu of the Shavadai, whom they rescue from a pursuing pack of dogs. Abu is grateful, but then is horrified to discover that one among their number is a woman. Sam is nearly killed for the crime of speaking and dressing in man’s clothes, but Abu pleads for mercy, and his father, the leader of the tribe, relents and welcomes them into his camp. Daniel is excited to discover a living remnant of the Mongolian culture; Sam is significantly less so, especially when she is forced to put on a dress and act the part of the subservient Shavadai female. Things get worse for Sam after she is kidnapped by Abu and sold to the leader of a neighboring tribe. There, she meets Nya, Abu’s love, and encourages her to stand up for herself. Unfortunately, Nya is caught by her father when she attempts to flee to Abu and is threatened with stoning. Carter fights Turghan in Nya’s defense, winning for her the right to choose her own husband.

The Ratings:

Overall: 3.7 – Unsubtle and unserious.

Writing: 3

The world-building in Emancipation is embarrassingly shoddy. Let me see if I got this right: In the distant past, the women on Simarka enjoyed some measure of equality; however, the threat of the Goa’uld ultimately convinced this society that the women should be concealed for their own protection. Over time, this policy of concealment evolved into a draconian legal code in which women were beaten or killed for deigning to speak. O-kay - and the women - who were once on a level with the men, remember – were completely fine with this? How stupid do you think women are?

Even in today’s most severely patriarchal societies, woman are subverting their oppressors all the time in their own quiet way. So where are those women in this episode? Why did it take Sam Carter and the blazing light of her indignation to convince the women of the Shavadai that perhaps they didn’t have to accept being dominated by the men?

Everything about this episode was just so unsubtle. It’s like the writer sat down with a checklist of feminist boogey-men and set out to include every single one. Beating women? Check. Selling women as if they were property? Check. Forced marriage? Check. Stoning for disobedience? Check. Obligatory veiling? Check. Preferring sons over daughters? Check. Even a potential rape was thrown in there, though fortunately, Sam was rescued before that could take place. I don’t deny that all of these things have been – and still are – issues in various parts of the world, but for heaven’s sake, it really hurts when you hit us over the head with that two-by-four!

Acting: 5

The regular cast did the best they could with the tripe they were given, but the male guest characters were played so utterly over the top that it was difficult – nay, impossible – to take them seriously.

Message: 3


I can’t believe this episode was written by a woman; she really should’ve known better. As it is, Emancipation is a giant step backward for Sam.

(No highlights this time because the episode was just that painful.)

1 comment:

  1. LOL! Yowch...

    Well I'm glad we're equally annoyed with this episode. It reveals an implicit Hollywood assumption that in the days before enlightened modern feminism, women really were "that stupid." They would never put it that way - they don't even realize that this is the assumption they have to make. But an honest reading of history reveals three things about the plight of women in most of our pre-modern cultures:

    1) They were generally no less happy than they are today (perhaps even more happy in many cases).

    2) They didn't consider themselves oppressed (not as a rule anyway...some cultures were oppressive, but, for example, in the west, women, despite having no role in government or the military, believed they had enormous power over their own lives and over their families).

    3) They were comfortable in their roles. Not until the likes of Gloria Steinem showed up (not even during pre-modern feminist movements lead by the likes of Elizabeth Katy Stanton) did women think there was something wrong with assuming traditional female roles in society.

    Yes, there were things about the way women were treated that were unfair. Yes, we have made important steps forward in the last two centuries toward addressing the needs of women in the modern world. Yes, it's lamentable when men abuse the natural power they have within a pair-bond that is progressing under normal gender assumptions (like it not, girls, the vast majority of women out there prefer for the men to be the dominant half of a pair...that's why women NINE-TO-ONE say they won't marry a man who makes less than they do...that's why women obsessively look for athletic, tall-dark-and-handsome guys, that's why marriages where the man does not take on a typically male profession are FOUR TIMES more likely to fail...I could go on, but it would get tiresome). But that doesn't mean this generation of women is the first to grow brains and realize how evil men are, and it doesn't mean this generation of women are happier now than they have been.