|That was my reaction the first time I saw Remo Williams, too...|
My point is, there are some things in fiction that can be looked back at years later much to the amusement or disgust of the viewer. Depending on where you stand on the matter, this episode begins with a Hilary Clinton lookalike giving a speech to the nation as the Sliders look on in shock. That's right, they tried a gender swap episode. So, do they actually go for a more middle of the road "everyone should be equal" message or the more obvious cheap shot of using the gender swap to point and men and scream "Look! Look! A bunch of sexist assholes! Let us burn them into ash, the bastards!"
...considering the level of writing on the show, I don't think we're going to get anything that good,
Nevertheless, it is indeed Rush Limbaugh's greatest fear - a world run by women. Quinn reads from an Almanac that the President, most of Congress, most of the CEOs on the Fortune 500, and even the Pope are all female. Arturo brings up the fact that gender discrimination is no laughing matter, regardless of who has the upper hand. Wade chides him - even though, to this point Arturo's really been nothing but a perfect gentleman for the entire show, but whatever - and Quinn brings up the more pressing issue that they have six and a half weeks on this world and almost no money left. Thus, they need to find jobs.
Rembrandt takes up singing on the street while Quinn hits the phone books but is only able to find work as a nanny or as a nude model. The menfolk manage to finally get a motel room where Quinn introduces the Professor to the miracle that is Cheese Whiz just before Wade arrives to tell them that she'd gotten a job overseeing the computer installation in the Mayor's Office. She also brings the gift of her cash advance and some actual food, as well as the news that she might be able to get them jobs!
They go to City Hall where Arturo gets chided for his fake English accent (oh, production team, you so funny) by the mayor...Anita Ross.
...no, I'm not going for the easy joke here. Those of you who follow my Twitter will know exactly what I'm talking about.
While waiting for interviews, Arturo decides to very loudly wax poetic about the fact that anyone - regardless of gender - can be corrupted by power. According to another sitter, Danny, Arturo apparently has what is considered a very radical outlook. A journalist, he tells Arturo that if he can't get a job with the Mayor to give him a call - he might have something that will interest him.
Quinn, meanwhile, is taken in for an interview and treated like a piece of meat by the interviewer saying that Wade apparently has good taste. Nevertheless, he got the job. Arturo and Remmy, however are not so lucky...at least until Arturo is accosted once more by Danny who he leaves with. At a bar, Danny introduces him to a group of men who Arturo harangues on the values of equality of the sexes, saying that to allow either side domination would be to invite chaos.
Apparently because of this, they wanted to elect Maximilian Arturo the next Mayor of San Francisco.
|"Campaign to get me a role in a Peter Jackson trilogy."|
Back at the statue that Rembrandt has been singing at for pennies, he's called over by a woman in a pink convertible who seems to enjoy his singing. The woman, Serena Braxton, claims to know some friends in the music industry and offers to set up a meeting with them. And we all know that just makes Rembrandt's day. Though her ominous tone when he hops into her car really has me afraid we're going to learn of Rembrandt's untimely demise in a bathtub full of ice with both his kidneys missing.
Arturo is at a shopping mall handing out fliers and not taking to meshing with the public well at all regardless of gender - don't get me wrong, love his character, but there was a reason this man was cooped up as a physics professor in a university somewhere. But he at least makes the news, which means he is getting somewhere - as it's said, there's no such thing as bad publicity. Wade and Arturo throw off their customary barbs at one another to no end.
At the home of Rembrandt's organ remover, he's treated to a nice dinner and dessert before it becomes abundantly clear that she wants the Crying Man to put a little coffee in her cream.
|Doesn't matter, had sex.|
An idle threat, since FOX didn't give them the budget for pyrotechnics.
After Rembrandt's snu-snu, he's woken up and everything seems sunshine and roses. The phone rings and he picks it up, Quinn apparently calling the house on behalf of the Mayor and then not doing just job because he needs to catch Rembrandt up on the plot. They plot to convince Arturo that maybe trying to mess with the established social order in this case isn't a good idea.
Pulled away from his desk after a heated discussion with male coworkers, Quinn is shown a smear video against Arturo by the mayor. He and Wade step off to the side and Quinn accuses her of having contributed to the campaign - namely the jabs at Arturo not being able to produce any credentials to prove that he is a professor. He also says, in spite of her protests, that the entire thing has gotten out of control and that he's going to talk to Arturo, quitting on the spot.
Yeah, a brick through a window and a mean video is "out of control". Thank God these writers weren't writing for this show during the time of Twitter and Tumblr, because they would have had a field day.
|...yeah, I have no joke here. Don't look at me like that.|
Still at Serena's pad, Rembrandt has donned a robe and is cooking dinner when a man suddenly arrives - Serena's boyfriend. Or her ex, as it seems. They get into an argument, but the boyfriend ends up revealing that Serena's not a record promoter at all and that his relationship with her had been "abusive and degrading". The two hug it out, Rembrandt kind of awkwardly (and hilariously) standing there and taking it. Rembrandt closing out the scene with the most logical action anyone's taken hence far - "I need a drink".
Obviously, he'd read the script.
Back on the campaign trail, Arturo survives an assassination attempt. Later, Wade makes the comment that no one's ever heard of a female assassin. Insert Randy's monologue about female serial killers from Scream 2 here...which also had Jerry O'Connell in it.
Damn it, crossed the streams.
MadCap Crossed the Streams: 1
Wade also says that Arturo can't blame people for reacting the way they did. This is by far the stupidest thing that has come out of Wade's mouth to date. The man pulled a gun and fired it at Arturo with the intent of ending his life. He can very well blame the assassin for that. But nonetheless, Wade is allowed to go on and say that Arturo should not be opposing the natural order and because the script is written that way...he agrees with her.
Though Wade suggests that he pull from the race, he's determined not to as that would demolish all he has accomplished. The big debate looms ahead, however.
Returning to Rembrandt's subplot, he tries to explain his famous status back in his home dimension to Serena. We get what would, if the genders were reversed, be a whacky scene from a sitcom. But it really just comes across as uncomfortable, and I'll get to why in a bit. Needless to say, not being taken seriously and being treated as a piece of meat pisses off Rembrandt and Serena ends it, leading into him coming to the debate to wish Arturo luck just as things are getting on.
Arturo plans to pull a weeping during a question, so that he might throw the election but still save face for men so that his efforts were not entirely in vain. Also, from the twenty points he had in the beginning, he's apparently jumped to only five points behind Mayor Ross. Taking the stage, he takes a snide barb at Ross's opening statement before he pulls his emotions out front and center - claiming to be a nervous wreck from the campaign and having his feelings hurt by Ross's statements.
|The pissing contests between Wade and Arturo get old fast.|
The results come in and Arturo actually does lose. With a minute to go before the Slide, Arturo makes a final, impassioned speech to his campaign. He urges them to keep fighting for the principles he set out for them, that the war is not yet won and this is but one battle. The campaign manager leaves the Sliders conveniently just in time for them to slide and not have to have any awkward explanations last minute. But just as the group does make the slide...news comes in that the polls were actually in Arturo's favor, leaving poor Danny looking confused as he bursts in at the last minute to find an empty office...
The Sliders, meanwhile, have found themselves on a tropical paradise planet, and we close out the episode with Arturo going to get Wade a refill on her drink, a function he'll be serving for the next nine days or so...
This episode brings up a battle of the sexes plot and ends up paint neither side as looking good. Does it preach a message of equality between the sexes? Ultimately, I'd have to say yes, but it's very murky and not done very well, as well as being both buried under and used for what the writers would probably say is cheap comedy but really just comes across as uncomfortable and embarrassing all around. The gender swapped reality thing is a common trope in science fiction and has been used all too often to point out problems. The problem here, and in many other stories that use the same tactic, is that it's not actually being subversive. It's the writers beating the viewer over the head with an anvil.
People are people, and people are not simple. Are there sexist individuals in our society? Certainly, there's no denying that. But this episode would have you believe that all women - up to and including Wade - are a bunch of misandristic, domineering she-demons with no redeeming qualities whatsoever who have cowed the entire male gender into a docile state of servitude. By the same token, the history of this world paints men as having been stopped from starting all wars and that there's no world peace forever, trying to paint men as a bunch of testosterone-poisoned warmongering assholes...in spite of the fact that handguns are readily available on this world as the assassin who attacked Arturo showed. Also, there's a military, which is impossible to get into if you're a man.
Explain to me how there's world peace and yet there's still a military? Right, because war is an issue that can be caused by so many different factors such as land boundaries, control of resources, religion, political or civil unrest, and just plain and simple greed among many other very human factors regardless of what genitals anyone involved happens to have. Not that the writers thought of that before trying to shake their finger at us and call us shameful. They want to ignore examples of females starting war such as Elizabeth I, Cleopatra, Margaret Thatcher, and others. Men are a bunch of psychopathic monsters who need to be corralled and controlled, damn it!
This is not good writing, Sliders writers, you did not think this through and were happy to Strawman the hell out of everyone. This is something that, regardless of which gender is which, would not pass for good in a subpar sitcom.
If this were more comedic or at the very least had some self-awareness that that is what it's doing, I'd be more at ease with it. But no, this script was specifically written so that they could point a finger at society and say "I don't like what you're doing" with absolutely no subtlety whatsoever. This is putting people in a box and labeling them. It doesn't matter who you're doing that with - man or woman, based on skin color, religion, sexual orientation, whatever - you are taking that group of people and devaluing them as a whole. I'm not going to appreciate the fact that you're abundantly clever if you're a marginalizing asshole.
As I said above, people are not simple. You can't just write off all men as misogynistic pigs (or, apparently, you can and make half a million dollars off of it in a year) and you can't write off all women as soulless harpies. People are complex, multi-faceted creatures. While people as a whole are seemingly very easy to describe, individuals are not and rightly shouldn't be. It's just lazy writing to throw any one group under the bus, much less an entire gender either way you slice it.
Also another thing that bothers me, the status quo never is flipped. I don't believe that the people of this Earth's San Francisco should do it, but the Sliders should have some qualities that would counterbalance it. But they don't, because it's not in-character for any of the three male Sliders we've been introduced to thus far. Quinn is young and occasionally has his moments of brain dead stupidity, but is not a bad guy and is overall very friendly and personable to everyone he meets regardless of gender. Rembrandt is a roguish ladies' man, but is not one to even so much as kiss and tell much less treat women he cavorts with like pieces of meat.
And Arturo? Given the frankly moving speeches and his actions back in "Eggheads" concerning his late wife - how he treats her unto a goddess and does everything he can to make the life of her double as pleasant as possible in spite of the actions of his double against her - I absolutely dare someone to call him sexist.
...except in this episode, where they give him moments of that just to try and drive the point home. But it falls flat because of his attitudes before, and even several of the things in this very episode. The primary example that comes to mind is Arturo's campaign ad. In stark contrast to Ross's smear one against him, Arturo's sticks to the issues and his goals for the city of San Francisco, not smearing Ross.
Rule Number One: The characters don't change to fit the story, the story changes to fit the characters. Don't change a character because you're trying to make a point, regardless of what it is. And if you can't, then it's not a story you should have tried to tell in the first place.
So, really - while it tries to preach equality - everyone just ends up looking bad. This is also, I'm sure you won't be surprised to find out, the low point of the season for me. Ironically "The Weaker Sex" is the weakest episode. Who knew?
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