Men and Women in the Chrono-nautical Universe
Here, we will look at some of the recent examples of time travellers in TV and movies and explore the reasons behind the bias towards men for these roles. More importantly, we will highlight the heroines who deftly defy the norm and the unique ways women have enriched the chrono-nautical universe.
|The Twelfth Doctor, Clara and the TARDIS|
Unfortunately, adventures through time and space can be so dangerous that every now and then they cost the Doctor his life. As a Time Lord, he can regenerate and return as a completely different person while retaining the memories of his former lives. Since the television show first appeared in UK in 1963, the Doctor has regenerated eleven times. He has been old, he has been young, but he has never been a woman.
|Dr. Brown, Marty McFly and the DeLorean|
Time travels offer second chances, but they don’t guarantee fairy-tale endings. While the heroic traveller changes history for the better, the tragic ones end up being the origin of the disaster they seek to prevent in the first place. Bruce Willis’s characters seem to have a knack for getting into such sticky conundrums. In “12 Monkeys” (1995), Willis plays James Cole who is sent from the future to the 1990’s to collect information about a deadly virus and the terrorist group that unleashes it. Due to technical malfunction, Cole arrives several years too early and is captured and sent to an asylum. In there, he tells fellow patient Jeffrey Goines (Brad Pitt) about the virus outbreak and the terrorist group in the future. In turn, Goines is inspired by what he learns from Cole and forms the said terrorist group, Army of the Twelve Monkeys.
|James Cole and Jeffrey Goines in the asylum|
|Old Joe meets Young Joe|
Not only are men the majority of time travellers, they are often chosen for the task even when both men and women are available to carry out the mission. In “X-Men: Days of Future Past” (2014), Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) is chosen to travel back in time to halt the creation of invincible robots called Sentinels. Female mutants including Storm (Halle Berry) and Blink (Fan BingBing) are available, but Wolverine, being one of the most popular characters, is a safer bet for ticket sales.
|Kitty Pride sends Wolverine’s consciousness back in time|
|An alien Alpha|
There have been suggestions for why men are the more logical choices for fourth-dimensional voyaging. Time travels are essentially adventures to unchartered territories, similar to Antarctic explorations or conquering the Wild West, which require some sort of cowboy toughness to survive. The limited freedom that women had in the past to travel, let alone by herself, also makes it awkward for a female time traveller to visit historical periods. As a result, women are bound to their timeline, not unlike Snow White, Sleeping Beauty and Rapunzel, trapped in one place, while the male hero roams about and saves the world.
Fortunately in the last decade, we have seen several exceptions to the otherwise male-dominated domain of time travelling. Among them, River Song (Alex Kingston) from Doctor Who is a most notable example. First appeared in the television series in 2008, Song is a human conceived in the TARDIS, and as a result, has the ability to time travel and regenerate just like the Doctor.
|River Song meets the Tenth Doctor (his first encounter with her)|
River Song, being an equal to her male counterparts, is a groundbreaking character in the realm of temporal navigation. In other occasions, female protagonists have been the agencies through which new twists in time paradoxes are explored.
In “Predestination” (2014), The Unmarried Mother (Sarah Snook) was born with a particular abnormality that allows the character’s life its mind-bending, bittersweet and ultimately tragic twist as a result of time travel. Do not be fooled by the apparently mundane plot of a secret agent travelling back in time searching for a criminal called the Fizzle Bomber. That’s only a veneer of a plotline that reviewers use to write about the movie without spoiling it. The true story is about the impossible turn of events that The Unmarried Mother experiences throughout the movie, and how the main characters in the story are related to one another.
|The Unmarried Mother participates in W.E.N.C.H.E.S training|
Although “Womb” is not considered a time travel movie, the story has a déjà vu element similar to the one featured in “Predestination”. In “Womb”, Eva Green’s character Rebecca is a woman determined to bring her boyfriend back from the past.
When her lover, Thomas (Matt Smith) dies in a car accident, Rebecca acquires his DNA and has the embryo of his clone implanted in her womb. Nine months later, the baby is born. Is that her lover, her son, or both? More importantly, how will Rebecca reconcile with this double identity when the boy becomes a man? The tension between her maternal and romantic love for the clone only increases as the child becomes an adult. Will all her pent-up feelings lead to that unholy union that you don’t want to see coming? Watch the movie and find out for yourself.
|Rebecca and Thomas on a road trip|
Female time travellers (such as River Song) possess as much wit and physical stamina as their male counterparts. In addition, having a womb enables them to bring someone back from the past or to keep a lifespan in a never-ending loop. In this respect, women may have proven themselves to be the more versatile players in the game of chrono-nautical gallivanting. Men maybe the adept time travellers, but women can double as time machines.
Contrary to conventional wisdom, female protagonists work well, and in some cases, better than men in time travel stories. If you have not seen “Predestination” or “Womb”, give these movies a try and see how women re-invent themselves as both masters and machines in the time travelling universe.