Sliders: Stud Farm
Just when I thought the second season of Sliders couldn't get any worse . . . Compared to previous episodes, the one I'm looking at today isn't so bad. The plot has some good complications and the satire has some edge--but the acting is horrible and the accents are worse. The most annoying part, which has been the case all season, is the sheer sloppiness with which the director leaves clues. Take the above screenshot of a toy store window display. The main cast get a better view, but it is next to impossible for us "armchair Sliders" to read the same codes.
Or take the following screen shot, which was the best I could do before a character's head popped into view and totally blocked the board . . .
What a dad . . .
Sliders isn't the first storytelling vehicle to imagine a world in which men are a tiny minority. As my friend Bob recently revealed to me, single-sex societies are a minor trope in SF, and they are usually all-female ones. This alternate reality is no exception, thanks to an out-of-control biological weapon causing the deaths of billions of men around the world. In at least two developed nations, the few thousand who survived were locked up in breeding centres and told they had a civic responsibility to have sex with as many women as possible in order to repopulate the world. For some men, it's a hedonistic dream come true. For others, it's nothing but a nightmare.
For me, it's erratic world building. I just don't buy that a scientific community which could create a virus that targets only the Y chromosome (Seriously, would that even work?) never developed the technology for in vitro fertilisation. On the other hand, I do agree, in theory, that if you cannot come up with a way to divorce the unitive and procreative qualities of sex (Name that encyclical!), you can still do a lot of damage by degrading their union and making it the "love that dare not speak its name."
In this world, a monogamous relationship between a man and a woman is criminal offense. If a man wants to be faithful to one wife, he is unpatriotic--especially if he chooses someone whose age, health and even looks aren't ideal for producing children. And if a woman wants to keep the man she loves all to herself, she is selfish--especially if it means she could have several children while her friends have none. The social implications are so compelling that the producers' decision to set up a straw government for their villain is one of the Top 5 Cop Outs of 90s TV. The premise would have carried so much more weight if the pressure to be promiscuous had been purely personal.
But to be completely fair, we do see a bit of that in a subplot. One of our male Sliders is rescued by a beautiful widow whose deepest desire is to have a baby . . . and she really does seem like she'd be a nurturing mother. Her plea and his internal conflict are much more poignant than the story which gets most of the attention: the daring escape of two lovers to Mexico, where there is no forced breeding programme. And not just because we can all agree that the lovers are right to want freedom but will probably argue for the rest of our lives about single women having babies.
Your Turn to Slide: Have you ever felt any social pressure to have a different sort of family from the one you really want?