“Modern Bionic Woman, Retrograde Feminism”

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Annalee Newitz has a column with this title up at Alternet. Below is an excerpt:

… Now ultimate women’s lib heroine Sommers is back, all spruced up for the 2000s, and the results are rather strange. Thirty years have passed, and time seems to have gone backwards — except the bionics, which have been updated to a nanopseudoscience involving something called anthrocites. This time around, Jaime isn’t an independent career jock: she’s a 23-year-old bartender and college dropout who has just gotten pregnant and is about to marry her surgeon boyfriend. When she asks said boyfriend why he likes her, despite her lack of professional success, he replies, “You’re the one thing my father didn’t plan for me.”

This kind of weirdly retrograde treatment of Jaime and her relationship is all the more perplexing because the show is produced by David Eick, whose other show, Battlestar Galactica, is known for its strong female characters. Indeed, when Eick talked about Bionic Woman before the show debuted, he claimed it would focus on how we feel about women’s roles now that we know women can do anything men can. Jaime is hardly the kind of woman to tell that sexual equality story. She’s in a low-status, low-paying job, looking down the barrel of her future as little more than a rich man’s wife.

All that changes, however, when she gets into a nearly fatal accident and her boyfriend takes her to his secret lab at Wolf Creek, where he gives her a secret surgery that turns her bionic. Anthrocites in her blood mean she heals instantly; implants in her eye and ear give her super senses; and she has those superfast legs and a superstrong arm. Even her superpowers come to her via a sexual connection with a dude. And, it turns out, so do the superpowers of her nemesis, a bionic lady (Katee Sackoff, who plays Starbuck on Battlestar) who had sex with another guy who works with the ultrasecret bionic lab.

Now that Jaime has these new powers, however, she doesn’t have to be a bartender. What will she do with her bionic upgrade? Apparently, she’ll have to do exactly what the dude who runs Wolf Creek tells her. He points out that she has about $50 million worth of his equipment inside her body now, and he has a business interest in making sure she toes the line. So the entire premise of the show — that Jaime becomes a “saving the world” type — is founded on the idea that she has no choice because her body literally does not belong to her. …

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