By Emad El-Din Aysha, PhD
CONTINUED from yesterday…
A Parting of Genders, a Meeting of Minds?
When I began to dream up this article some time ago I’d stumbled onto a fan of MD’s on Twitter, a fellow Arab, Nayli Yasmeen (@nayli_yasmeen), and we got to talking about future SF roles she could do, adapted from classic SF novels. It was also at about this time that I discovered the incredible fan community out there on Facebook – I’m pre-social media, to my dying shame – and especially in the Far and South East of Asia, most notably Janice Milliano Caluscos (July Mackenzie Davis Fan) and Chris Renica Luna from The Philippines, and the super glossy Mackenzie Davis Việt Nam Fanpage full of gorgeous pics and clips. I’d like to add to the list a distinguished SF/horror writer from Africa, Mame Bougouma Diene, who’d commented earlier on my initial article on MD in Terminator: Dark Fate.
Nayli began researching potential novels to adapt (see below) while Janice posted a series of questions for me about MD, querying fans on how many of her works they’d seen and how available her movies and TV series were in their respective countries and which roles of hers did they like best and why and what they loved about her as an actress and person, etc. I’d originally only sent the questions to her but she convinced me to bring in everybody else and did a monumental effort gathering it all together. The consensus I’m glad to say was on Grace in Dark Fate, with Izzy and Cameron Howe trailing just behind. Lots of female and male fans and not all weighed towards the younger age groups too. They had similar opinions and from all over the world, including Brazil (Patricia Abreu) and Poland (Roza Baranowska) and, of course, The Philippines. I’ll list some notable comments below but the best and most detailed appraisal by far was Janice’s so I’ll begin with hers. Talking about ‘Super Soldier Grace’ she explained that “she is really amazing and in almost 4 decades of watching Hollywood movies, this is the very first time that I saw and watched an actress that played a badass role without having any history of it. Meaning to say, in real life, she isn’t really a tomboy or a badass like any other women out there.” Elaborating further:
As I recall and noticed, most of women who play badass role are those who are homosexual and bisexual in real life or became that after playing a badass role;which I think is opposite to Mackenzie. I mean, she just does her portrayal because her character needs it so but she’s actually different in real life.. I could say she is so flexible unlike the other actresses that look the same and act the same even off cam. That what makes Mackenzie so unique and different from them. I compare her real personality to Princess Diana because she is a little conservative and demure.
She is so professional and decent in making movies.
In addition to this, she is the only badass woman in a movie that doesn’t wear any make up especially in her fight scenes that is again, opposite to other actresses.
Janice added that “some actresses just show their private parts even if it isn’t in the concept of the movie but because they are just used to it. I never liked the way they fight in a scene. I never liked the way they are bombed yet they wear make up on.” She was insistent that she didn’t like:
… the cliche meaning of badass in hollywood that if you can make love with different guys, have tattoos on, carrying guns on your left and right, showing chest naked and other private parts just to say they are badass is a total disgusting and disappointing for me as a viewer. I want more and I only this saw decency but a real badass in Mackenzie’s portrayal.
Grace is the most beautiful, strongest, sexiest, tallest, and the most handsome woman badass in Hollywood though she’s neat. She doesn’t have any tattoo just to show her machismo in playing her role…
Speaking about MD herself she said: “I like everything in her! Her smile, her acting ability, her facial expressions, her pose/posture, her voice, any haircut fits her and makes her even more beautiful. I like her height too. I like her being clean and neat in her body. (No tattoo) I like her shyness and she is a little conservative too (I really like it. … When we talk about actresses especially in Hollywood, it’s difficult to find women that possess or that have these characters. She is still an old-school lady. I think. …” She added: “I also like how she stays quiet when it comes to personal life. She keeps it private and it’s respectful for me. Meaning to say, she remains/keeps something about her that would help her and her family for not having troubles and for having a good and peaceful life. That’s called respect. I like everything about her.”
THE LOVE INTERLUDE: Mackenzie Davis [left] and the late Princess Diana. Only a woman can catch onto the true nature of a woman.
Querying Janice on the age and gender groups that love MD, in her country and from the fans she’s spoke to, she said: “I think most women like her. Young and old women. (12-old age. For example until 50s) For men, I interviewed some ages 12- up to old years old maybe like until 60s. They also like her. Most of them say, she’s so beautiful and the best badass. But for now, it’s really difficult to answer. I believe, the beautiful truth about Mackenzie will be revealed more in the future.”
Similar sentiments emerge around the globe. One fan called her an angel, another (Zoila Reyes) said she “has a god inside her heart”, while Donovan insisted she looked prettier with less makeup on while Zriessa haryanty explained that short hair made her look handsome. Yuzu Mei said loved her voice, her eyes, her glasses and the many roles where she’s played a sweet, gentle, introverted girl, which is why Grace in Dark Fate came as such a shock. Another consensus point is that almost everybody surveyed wanted a new Terminator movie, starring Grace if not Grace alone: Popcyce, Zieneice, Pavis, Sadia Fazal, Hera Wijaya, Pingkan T, darlene, DONKAZ, g4b3_28, etc. Amanda Chen has watched 13 movies, 5 TV series and 5 short firms of MD’s but again her favourite is Dark Fate, on account of Grace, the first movie of hers she’d seen. (Amanda is from Taiwan and adds that many of her fans are women in the younger age bracket, and that’s despite the fact that MD’s movies aren’t that well known there, for language reasons).
I’d add myself to the list of course, with a preference for ‘prequels’ however to avoid Grace’s death in Dark Fate. Most of the fans loved the future war sequence in the movie, as I did, and preferred a movie set in the future. To quote Mame Diene in a similar vein he said:
I really like that movie, mostly for Grace. The first 45 minutes were probably some of the most exhilarating in movie history, but Grace carries the whole thing. Every one of her lines, especially with Sarah Connor are a classic, and her delivery is awesome. You said something about transcending the SF genre, she certainly does but does not come off as a victim at all. Agreed that Salvation was one of the better sequels, but Dark Fate is much better IMO because of Grace. T1, T2 and Dark Fate. Forget the rest. Great actress, I would totally watch a Grace prequel movie.
Mame also volunteered to write scripts for any such future movie, and I’d definitely recommend him for the job, the cosmopolitan cool dude, successful author that he is. It’s also clear that the fan base for Terminator: Dark Fate and Mackenzie Davis far surpasses North America and Western Europe to the whole Global South, so having Third World ‘input’ in the script will make it all the more authentic and successful.
A whole lot of the East Asian fans surveyed on Facebook loved that she was half-South African and a One Girl Can’s ambassador and in Kenya no less, getting photographed at schools with black kids, hugging and helping them. My Sudanese friend also correctly noted her ‘Dutch’ looks. (No wonder she looks like Charlize Theron’s adopted twin sister!) Dark Fate is pretty popular in Central Europe too. Jaroslav Olša, jr., an ambassador and the founding-father of the first Czech science fiction magazine Ikarie/XB, is also a fan of the movie, although he was disenchanted that the world displayed here didn’t fit into the original terminator series. (The original movie was very popular in Czechoslovakia, even under Communism). I also got the distinct impression Jaroslav liked Grace and for spiritual reasons too, adding that Mackenzie Davis “is a rightful heir to the previous Terminator´s action female lead Linda Hamilton”.
Now for some other suggestions for potential sci-fi epics MD can helm, beginning with Nayli’s research project from above. My own initial suggestion to her was Robert Heinlein’s novel Friday, named after the story’s heroine. She endorsed this and added: Boneshaker by Cherie Priest; God’s War by Kameron Hurley; oh, and Ellen Ripley if they ever decided to reboot the Alien franchise by remaking it!
Commendations for a More Equitable Future
In more detail, Boneshaker is a steampunk novel and set in an alternate history Seattle and I presume the character MD can play there is Briar Wilkes Blue, the main female persona in the storyline and one of the two main protagonists. The cultural setting for the novel is interesting too because there are important female Native Americans and the Russians still control Alaska. The novel itself almost got the Nebula Award and Hugo Award and did in fact win the 2010 Locus Award for Best Science Fiction Novel. God’s War is more space opera, set on another planet patching itself together after a religious war and populated with mercenaries and magicians aplenty. Chief among them is the heroine Nyx, an ex-government assassin and current bounty hunter who slices the heads off her designated targets. The book itself is part of an entire series and it’s been said that the world-building is influenced by Islamic history, so again its’ culturally interesting.
FEMINIST REJOINDER: Science fiction has been described as a boy’s club so we always need the eternally vigilant model-actress to keep the discipline in check.
As for Heinlein’s Friday, she’s a genetically engineered super spy-secret operative engaged in various missions, particularly as a courier, for a private sector intelligence outfit. (I presume her name is a reference to the super obedient Man-Friday). This would put her character on a par with La Femme Nikita, allowing for a variety of action-adventure stories but against the backdrop of the world Robert Heinlein created in this novel. There’s no overarching plot in the original novel as such but it shows you a harrowing future world of sex collective families, genetic discrimination (against her kind, presumed not have souls), political and economic anarchy and communications and ideological mania. I’d also wager that MD can relate to the character, again as an out of towner-immigrant since Friday’s is a test-tube-baby type of orphan who wants desperately to belong, even seeing her intelligence chief as a kind of father-figure. (Cameron has that relationship with her former boss at Cardiff Electric and at one point she actually lives at the company premises). My only qualm, and MD has to watch out for this, is the supposed feminism on display here, since Heinlein was all for women being treated equally, in the army, but had conservative views on such things as abortion and rape. (You can even see this in his classic Stranger in a Strange Land, practically the Bible of the Hippie movement. Gullible dopes!)
From the fans surveyed by Janice Caluscos, Jim David suggested that MD could play the heroine in Kathleen Kent’s Detective Betty series; I presume this isn’t SF, but worth a look nonetheless. I’d add the character of Juliette Ferrars in Tahereh Mafi’s young adult Shatter Me series, again a kind dystopian epic with a heroine that has remarkable abilities that could either threaten or bolster the existing male-dominated regime. Adapting the series would be interesting for all sorts of reasons, such as its innovative narrative style and the fact that the award-winning author is a Muslim, an Iranian-American. Admittedly Juliette is seventeen but, then again, MD is such a good actress she convinced you that her character in Breathe In – who is supposed to be 18 – was a sweet sixteen year old!
Another adaptation that could work in this regard is Ahmed Salah Al-Mahi’s Reem, a young adult dark fantasy story about a witch trying to force her granddaughter – the aforementioned Reem – to follow in her evil ways. The girl is blonde and blue eyed and obviously way too young for MD but, then again, look what Judy Garland did playing Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz (1939), despite the clear age differential. The important thing was the ‘absence’ of an innocence differential. And MD really knows how to tone up and tone down her musculature and bend herself into or out of shape. Moreover, the latest book cover that Ahmed has posted has quite a tall girl (painted by Julia Kovalyova) that is almost the spitting image of Mackenzie Davis from Breathe In, as I’ve pointed out on Facebook myself.
CONJOINED TWINS: A prototype of Reem in Ahmed al-Majhdi’s children’s epic and Mackenzie Davis in the flesh.
I could also imagine MD pulling off the feat of playing the girl warrior Jihad in Ahmed Al-Mahdi’s great post-apocalyptic steampunk epic Malaaz; malaaz means haven in Arabic, the name of the city-state where the story takes place. MD is a master of disguise and looks equally good in brown, black and red as well as yellow hair, and she knows how to make herself look physically small and emotionally fragile as well as tally tough and boldly sexy, as she did playing Petra in Freaks of Nature. (Petra is the legendary city in Jordan, the capital of the ancient kingdom of the Nabateans. I wonder who came up with that name for the movie, the scriptwriter or…?!) Jihad is brave and independent, raised by her father, the hardened leader of the bandit warrior Outcasts; she saves the hero’s life from early on and he only repays her much later on. Nonetheless, beneath that you feel a deep undercurrent of shyness and femininity in her. I’m reminded of Michelle Yeoh’s character in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000) since Jihad’s very stature as a warrior prevents her from being experienced in the complicated world of relationships and romance. As for the boy hero Qasim he is motivated to ‘become’ a hero, for himself and the people of Malaaz, in actuality to impress Jihad and prove he is worthy of her hand in marriage. It’s really through her, young girl that she is, that he becomes a man. Prior to this he was the intellectual type who was content to complain about the sorry state of society without actually doing anything to fix it. By contrast Jihad insists on joining in the final battle in his own steampunk war engine, despite his self-righteous protestations.
Last but not least there is the character of Helen from my own planned, still unpublished novel The Algeciras Chronicles. Sadly I had to take her out of the compressed-modified excerpt I published in The Worlds of Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror volume IV under the title “Lambs of the Desert”, but I’d love my novel to be adapted to screen. And I’m penning short stories about Helen as we speak and told from her perspective; sequels for the moment but who knows what else lies around the corner. Her character’s quite raunchy, I have to warn you, and I’m still fleshing out her background but she’s the most interesting character I’ve encountered in my writings and I suspect she has more in common with MD’s portfolio of characters than mere appearance.
Will have to wait and see if the publishers will even give me the time of day, let alone the movie producers. Hopefully her dedicated fans, and Mackenzie Davis herself, can intercede in the meantime!!!
Special thanks, again, to Ahmed Salah Al-Mahdi for the photo montages.
 A Russian fan of Carrie-Anne Moss once told me the same thing about CAM, that she respected her privacy and the fact that she didn’t get into nitty, gritty details about her family and upbringing. Same here, and I’m intrusive as they come.
 Posted 19 June 2020 on “Asian Science Fiction & Fantasy”, https://www.facebook.com/groups/522493307909638/permalink/1579740002184958/.