Sliders: A Woman's World
Did you know that there has been at least one production of The Tempest in which Prospero was played as a woman's role? It wasn't just because a serious actress really wanted to play the lead. Since, as far as I know, Alonso wasn't also reimagined as female, his overthrowing of his older sister was also grist for an ideological mill.
While I love learning about the new ways in which William Shakespeare's plays have been interpreted by different directors, I can't say I'm a fan of this particular twist. Of course, I'd have to watch a production before making a definite statement on it--but generally speaking, I bet against gender-flipped characters. I just don't think the two sexes are interchangeable.
This episode of Sliders seems to disagree with me.
How Hilary Rodham is known as "President Clinton" in a world where women run all the businesses, governments, churches and media, while the men stay home and take care of the children, isn't quite clear to me. Surely we're not supposed to think that all the famous leaders and great thinkers of our world have female doubles in this one, and that William Jefferson Clinton was born Wilma Jefferdaughter Clinton, while his famous namesake was born Tamsin Jefferdaughter. It may actually hit us harder to think that the world missed out on the gifts of unique individuals who just happened to be male, because of deep-seated, centuries-long prejudice against men. This was the point Virginia Woolf tried to make when she created the character of Judith Shakespeare, a woman with the same level of talent as her brother William but not the same level of success. Does this world have a Verginius Woolf who wrote about a Jude Shakespeare forever eclipsed by his sister Willa?
But it is asking too much of any TV series to tackle all these issues in a single episode. Sliders is doing the best it can with the limitations of its medium, so I will try to be fair. And I will start by taking the "President Clinton" joke as the pop culture gag it was intended to be and stop moaning that I can't find a pair of calipers big enough to let me measure this plot hole.
So how does our world look like with women in all the positions of political and economic power? Exactly the same. And implausible as that may be, it's the whole point. This episode is based on the assumption that there is no essential difference between men and women. So while we don't have the promised utopia of a warless world, neither do we have the guaranteed dystopia of "grass huts." In fact, Rome's grandest architectural achievement likely remains identical to the one we know, save for one teensy-weensy, itsy-bitsy spider of a difference . . .
Never mind that giant pair of calipers. I'll need Bat's distance modulus calculator for this black hole that just got ripped in the plot. But yes, I do get what the writers mean by this, and I've already pointed out what that is. They are insisting that there are no essential differences between men and women, and that chauvinism is ugly no matter which sex is indulging in it.
And so the males in the main cast find that the only jobs they are qualified for involve baby-sitting or nude modeling . . . that there is little they can do when female bosses say things that make them uncomfortable . . . and that the majority of men accept their lot in life because they believe that testosterone makes men "cycle" every twenty minutes, causing them to be hormonally unfit for anything serious. Instead of commiserating, however, their woman friend turns into what I can only call a female chauvinist sow. This is the real weak link of the episode: if she cannot see the wrong in the disdainful,
This Sliders episode is meant to be an exercise in empathy, showing the male characters what it feels like to walk in a woman's shoes. But it is an oddly specific pair of shoes, fit for a professional, corporate environment. The men learn that it's tough to be a woman in the workplace, in politics and in a sexual relationship with someone you're not married to . . . but these are hardly the pinnacles of the feminine experience of life. I appreciate what the writers are trying to do here, but what they've written barely transcends the level of a sensitivity training role play game.
Your Turn to Slide: What is one thing you wish the opposite sex knew about your own?