Danger Gal Friday: Aeryn Sun

“No offense, Human, but what can I possible need from you?” —Aeryn Sun

Aeryn SunAbigail Nussbaum over at Asking the Wrong Questions has written a fantastic comparison between Battlestar Galactica’s Starbuck and Farscape’s Aeryn Sun, the subject of this week’s Danger Gal Friday post.

Let’s get a few things straight. There are indeed few characters like Aeryn Sun, and there are even fewer female characters as well-written. Having said that, Starbuck’s flaws are her strengths — not every strong female heroine needs to be a perfect one. While I think Nussbaum makes some excellent points about how differently Battlestar Galactica treats its female and male characters, I think displaying Starbuck’s psychological problems takes the kick-ass heroine off her pedestal and gives her dimension.

But we’re supposed to be talking about Aeryn Sun.

One of the themes that concern me regarding strong heroines is their averageness. Among their peers are her skills attributed to being superhuman or is she an ordinary woman doing extraordinary things? Are her mad skills attributed to supernatural or technological intervention, or did she just work really hard to get that Black Belt?

Among her own people, Aeryn is just another brainwashed elite uber-soldier. On Moya, each member of the crew has their own unique traits. There is no “normal.” During the course of the series, Aeryn becomes romantically involved with stranded human John Crighton. Aeryn teaches John to protect himself in this strange new world, and John teaches Aeryn that it’s OK to be vulnerable in the strange new world of love. Their relationship subverts the stereotypical heterosexual relationship with John often acting as the talkative emotionally-open member of the duo and Aeryn the stoic detached one.

Nearly all of the female characters on Farscape stand out as active rather than passive. Carlen Lavigne in her critical essay Space Opera: Melodrama, Feminism and the Women of Farscape points out that on the living ship Moya:

its women, being prisoners on the run, don’t have the opportunity of being passive or needy – they are members of a science fiction action team, and as such, need to pull their own weight.

Aeryn Sun is not only a kick-ass female character, but a well-rounded one. She starts out strong and continues in that mode as she adds new skills to her repertoire.