Science Fiction Film & Television

Archive: Femmes Futures: one hundred years of female representation in sf cinema

Science Fiction Film & Television (2011), 4, (1), 79–100.

Abstract

Archive Femmes Futures: one hundred years of female representation in sf cinema Dean Conrad State of the art In It Came From Outer Space (Arnold US 1953), Kathleen Hughes appears as Jane in a single scene, delivering just a few lines; however, she features in most of the film’s publicity material – including posters (Wright 104), the cover of the 2003 Universal Pictures DVD release and the studio shot of her in a tight sweater, by which the film is most often recognised. She even appears, somewhat incongruously, in a swimsuit in the film’s closing credits. The fact that she features at all remains baffling, until one remembers that the film was originally released in 3-D, a fact highlighted by a number of the film’s taglines, including ‘Fantastic sights leap at you!’ It then becomes clear that the beautiful, blonde, perkybreasted Hughes was intended to demonstrate and exploit this ­technology. The axiom that a film says as much about the time of its production as about the time of its setting has particular relevance for sf, and nowhere is the genre’s function as a barometer for contemporary attitudes better reflected than in the changing roles for women and representations of the female. Comparisons made between sf projects across the years add weight to this observation. When Yvette Mimieux appeared in The Time Machine (Pal US 1960), the most prominent female role was her innocent Eloi slave, Weena. By the time of The Black Hole (Nelson US 1979), space had been made for Mimieux as female astronaut and scientist, Dr Kate McCrae. Weena herself has disappeared from the remake of The Time Machine (Wells US 2002), replaced by the more feisty, mixedrace Mara (Samantha Mumba). In Lost in Space (Hopkins US 1998), Maureen Robinson (Mimi Rogers), the wife and mother of the original television series (US 1965–8), has acquired a PhD; Nurse Chapel (Majel Barrett) from the Star Trek television series (US 1966–9) has been promoted to MD by Star Trek: The Motion Picture (Wise US 1979); and secretary Helen Benson (Patricia Neal) in The Day The Earth Stood Still (Wise US 1951) is transformed into Princeton professor Helen Benson (Jennifer Connelly) in The Day the Earth Stood Still (Derrickson US/Canada 2008). Science Fiction Film and Television 4.1 (2011), 79–100 ©  Liverpool University Press ISSN 1754-3770 (print) 1754-3789 (online) doi:10.3828/sfftv.2011.5

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Conrad, Dean