Study Guide for Terminator II

1. Filmographic Data and Brief Annotation

Terminator 2: Judgment Day. James Cameron, dir., prod., co-author. USA: Tri-Star (release), 1991. Gale Anne Hurd and Mario Kassar, co-exec. prod. Stan Winston, make-up and Terminator effects. Industrial Light and Magic, computer graphic images.

Sequel to The Terminator (q.v.), in which Schwarzenegger's machine has been reprogrammed as protector of the savior of humanity in one possible (very grim) future. The state-of-the-art SpFx allow for a villanous terminator cyborg that appears either Modern or postPostmodern--and who usually looks like a very clean-cut Los Angeles cop, opposing Schwarzenegger's scruffy biker. In its quieter moments, the film raises serious questions about humans and our technology, families, macho, fate, freedom, ethics, and nuclear holocaust.

2. Major Cast

The Terminator: Arnold Schwarzenegger Sarah Connor: Linda Hamilton
John Connor: Edward Furlong T-1000: Robert Patrick
Dr. Silberman: Earl Boen Miles Dyson: Joe Morton

3. Questions and Comments

  1. Is Terminator 2 a family film?

    a. It is about at least two families.

    b. It may reinforce or undermine "family values." Either way--whose family and which values?

    c. Does it show an ideal father-son relationship from a boy-child's point of view? (I.e. [paraphrasing], "Daddy does what he's good for--sire Me--and then gets killed, and then reappears as My subordinate. Then I get a father-substitute who's a killer cyborg the adult I has programmed to protect and serve young Me, which he does and then, too, 'dies,' leaving Me with Mom.")

    d. Does Sarah Connor in Terminator 2 provide a good role-model for girls and young women of the 1990s? (She's come a long way, baby, from her first appearance in The Terminator--but was it in the right direction? [Consider carefully how you define "right" here.])
  2. Is Terminator 2 a subversive film?

    a. See 1.b above. If the nuclear family as it arose in the 19th c. and carried on into modern society is the backbone of Western society, and if Terminator 2 undermines the values of such families, it's subversive.

    b. If the USA is a Christian Nation (as opposed to, say, a secular revolutionary republic), and if Terminator 2 undermines Christian values, it's a subversive movie.

    c. If the police are the thin blue line separating decent society from chaos, and Terminator 2 undermines faith in the LAPD and other cops, it's a subversive movie. Ditto, if less so, for other basic institutions.

    d. If the USA needs real men who know what they're about and don't go touchy-feelie and introspective, is Terminator 2 subversive in the manner of The Terminator, asking men to question what "manhood" means?
  3. If Terminator 2 is undoubtedly an S. F. film--why? What themes, icons, or whatever give it "the look and feel" of S. F.?

    a. Is Robert Patrick's new-style Terminator more fantasy than SF?

    b. Could the basic story be told without time travel and cyborgs?
  4. What sort of ethnic/racial politics are going on with Earl Boen's Dr. Silberman and Joe Morton's Miles Dyson? (Is the Omnipotent Administrator a mild-mannered Jew? Were there many Black physicists involved in the instituting of nuclear warfare?)

    Terminology (pun may or may not be intended): In dialog with John Connor, Schwarzenegger's cyborg character identifies itself as a Cyberdyne Systems 101 device; feel free to call "him" that, "CSM-101," or T-800, if it's necessary to differentiate the original Terminator from Robert Patrick's T-1000. Also free free to fudge on just what a Terminator is: more robot than cyborg, I'd say, so I may say "cyborg robot" or "humanoid robot" (and avoid something as organic sounding as "android"); we can discuss terminology in class.