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Credit: Paramount Pictures

Battle-hardened women and Linda Hamilton's return to the Terminator franchise

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Aug 10, 2018

Linda Hamilton rocking sunglasses and a shotgun at the seasoned age of 61 is content to live for. Hamilton appeared in a teaser image as the iconic Sarah Connor in another installment of the Terminator franchise, joining Jamie Lee Curtis in the pantheon of badass women over 60 who reprise their roles as battle-hardened women leading the way in their respective films.

It would be wonderful if this were more the norm than the rare occurrence it actually is. A battle-hardened character like an older Sarah Connor deserves to continue to fight her fight instead of being relegated to the side, because women still have much to offer as they get older.

Hollywood has plenty of problems, and the lack of older female action stars is definitely one of them. It feels reflective of how society values women as they age and their usefulness to a patriarchal society, their perceived utility being in relation to their ability to reproduce. Across varying intersectionalities, women continuously outlive their reproductive age, remaining important to society as workers, thinkers, and caretakers. Women don’t exist just to be objectified and/or impregnated by men. Older heroines present a situation in which the male gaze has to consider their strength and wisdom rather than just their physical appearance, which might be too much to ask.

Men can age and keep their value in a patriarchal society — in fact, their value often rises. They’re still seen as virile and potent, so of course, that means we have an overabundance of films with men as heroes, especially older white men. There is an entire movie franchise, The Expendables, that heavily centers on older white men getting back into the action. Arnold Schwarzenegger has been able to reprise his role in the Terminator franchise a couple of times as an older T-800 model, his age seemingly meaning nothing at all but some gray hair. At this point, it all makes Linda Hamilton's return long overdue.

Sarah Connor has just as much importance as the Terminator itself in the franchise, if not more. Aside from giving birth to the leader of the resistance, Sarah desperately tried to prevent Skynet from taking over, so she should definitely be back in a role that allows her to continue to have a direct impact on the story, her story. Without an older Sarah Connor, there is no Terminator franchise.

A 61-year-old Linda Hamilton in an action role is only the tip of this iceberg. There are older women of color who should be starring as the heroines who kick ass and take names in action, sci-fi, and other high-stakes genre films. Women of color are just as valuable to society themselves, often fighting the hardest and the longest for just the most basic of human rights. Angela Bassett could be leading a resistance army against sentient beings from another dimension. Michelle Yeoh could be an international super spy saving the world while on a covert mission in the middle of Russia. Older women of color getting their time to shine in these kinds of roles is just as impactful as their white counterparts. In a world where Maxine Waters is still fighting against oppressive forces residing in the White House and getting things done in real life, there most definitely should be older heroines on the screen.

After it was announced last year that Hamilton would be rejoining the franchise, James Cameron said, "As meaningful as she was to gender and action stars everywhere back then, it’s going to make a huge statement to have that seasoned warrior that she’s become return.” Cameron is right about how huge a statement the return of Sarah Connor is, not just to the Terminator franchise but to action roles in general. Society in general needs to change the way it values women as they get older, but it’s long past time for Hollywood to move away from ageism as a one-sided hindrance for actresses.

Hopefully, Linda Hamilton’s return to the Terminator franchise brings us the action hero we all deserve and will pave the way for many more close to her age well after. Everyone could benefit from older actresses on screen in roles similar to Sarah Connor. Older women deserve a chance to be in roles that allow them to exhibit all of the strength and wisdom acquired while navigating a world such as ours.

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