Friday, February 5, 2010

Feminism in space: Part 2

Danger! Danger!

This post contains spoilers. See "Feminism in Space -- Part 1" if you haven't already.

What if society swapped patriarchy for matriarchy? Would the world be a better place?

The episode of "Lost in Space" entitled "The Colonists" raises these questions.

At the time this episode aired (March 15, 1967,) "The Feminine Mystique" by Betty Friedan had been out for three years and second wave feminism -- focusing on legal equality with men -- was in its early stages.

That context is interesting. Perhaps there's some social commentary by writer Peter Packer contained in this episode.

In almost any other episode, the boy genius Will Robinson can play on my team anytime. He's the one you'd want to team up with for a space scavenger hunt.

In this episode, however, the kid starts taking sexist pot shots at his sisters. It's the robot who steps in to defend the girls' intelligence.

OK, so this is a 10 year old boy -- and it was the 1960's. Still, where does Will pick up this kind of talk way out there in the universe?

Certainly not from his father -- Professor John Robinson -- who's all class. Professor Robinson is respectful towards other lifeforms and enjoys a warm, respectful relationship with his wife, Maureen -- who's also a scientist. He always calls her "darling," but with a ring of genuine affection, not sexism.

When we watch the roles of the Robinson women in other episodes -- we see that gender roles remain much the same -- even in space. The women are often seen preparing meals, doing laundry, and working in the hydroponic garden.

In "The Colonists," Robinson daughters Judy and Penny receive feminist instruction from Neolani while the men are forced to work to prepare a landing pad for the arrival of the rest her matriarchal race.

In the end, the Robinsons foil Nihilani's plan and the colonists are not able to land on the planet.

Neolani laments that she has been, "disgraced, humiliated by mere males." Upon her return to her home planet, she will be punished with cooking, cleaning, laundry, and child rearing.

Obviously, these females aren't so advanced because they still place no value on child rearing and housework -- in fact, they've made it a punishment.

Maureen Robinson's parting words to Neolani are, "It's not defeat to admit that men are just as good as women -- equality of the sexes has advantages you might have overlooked."

Is Packer's commentary really about matriarchy vs. patriarchy -- or -- does it depict his perception of feminists as "man haters." Maybe it's both -- or neither.

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