This week’s Danger Gal is Jamie Sommers, portrayed by Michelle Ryan, from the re-imagined Bionic Woman series. I know it’s not Friday, but since I slacked last week I figured I’d deliver this one a little early.
This new series is already catching some flak as reviewers make comparisons to its progenitor. Before we do anything else, let’s take off the rose-colored glasses, shall we? Before we start in on the new Jamie being a bartender, recall that the original Jamie Sommers was a tennis player injured in a hang-gliding accident. She was not the CEO of her own company or a highly-placed politician or UN ambassador.*
She played tennis and jumped off a cliff.
More importantly, First Jamie’s very existence as a character exists because she is sexually attached to Steve Austin, since she was his childhood sweetheart, a reunion thwarted by the two of them jumping off a cliff. Together. After all, a plain old regular woman, even an athlete, couldn’t keep up with the Bionic Man, so a bride had to be fashioned for Frankenstein. But I digress.
New Jamie, we’re told, has a presumably genius IQ despite being a college dropout and holding a low-status job as a bartender. New Jamie is also a mother, and not just literally, as we learn she is in fact pregnant prior to the car accident. In Classic hero myth fashion, Jamie is an abandoned child, but one raising her little sister. Also true to the hero myth quest, Jamie is a hidden heroine, unaware of her true abilities. Her true abilities are not what we think, however. They’re not her superhuman, cyborg bone-crushing abilities (although those are beyond cool). Her true ability is that she understands that “with great power comes great responsibility.” She struggles to remain human, and to retain a human conscience, something clearly not part of Sarah Corvus’ makeup or that of her creators. Corvus doesn’t want to be human at all anymore — would you if your lover shot you twice? Jae Kim’s character remarks on this in the second episode when he says that “the machine is nothing without the woman.”
This is going to be a show about women’s bodies. Annalee Newitz at Alternet makes some salient points on how this is addressed in the pilot. The first episode raises the issue of a heroine whose body is chattel, owned by men, something that is still happening today right in front of us: Just last week Salon Broadsheet reported on the cycle of teenage intimate-partner abuse of pregnancy and abortion. Unlike the 1970s version of the series which painted a rosy picture of a realized feminism (that we now know was just lip-service anyway), this new re-imagined series shows us the still very dysfunctional ways men and women relate to one another and then offers one way out of it. Jamie isn’t going to stand for doing things the old way, unlike Sarah Corvus.
I hope the show continues to move toward this emancipation theme since it threw down that gauntlet with Jamie’s ending dialogue: “If we do this, whatever this is, we do it on my terms. If that’s not OK with you, I know what I’m capable of now. So you send whoever you send, and I’ll bury one guy after the next. You understand me?”
This exchange begins with Jamie’s new boss (read: landlord who owns her body) pulling the anthrocyte strings by essentially saying “Miss Sommers, welcome to the game, little girl,” the game being a man’s world, where you either “lose or die.” He says it with such a world-weary look on his face. On watching this clip the second time, it seemed to me that “the cruel game” is the world that raw power has made, and people like Sarah Corvus who use strength with no conscience will fail. It’s only Jamie, a parent, who can channel that power into something constructive and create a new world.
All that being said, none of the reviews I read seemed to notice the guy that Sarah Corvus is now involved with — the guy who was stitching up a very long incision on his own forearm. I have to credit a friend who shall remain nameless (you know who you are) with pointing out that it may in fact have been Steve Austin. So, has Steve gone to the Dark Side like Dark Spidey? I’m sure the new Jamie will “bury him” as promised if he doesn’t see the light.
Check out these links for more reviews on The Bionic Woman:
*That’s the jobs my Jamie Sommers doll had. And, yes, she liked GI Joe better than Steve any day.