Seven of Nine and Anise

In Stargate DVD commentaries, Peter Deluise described the short-lived Season Four character Anise/Freya as an attempt to replicate the popularity of Star Trek: Voyager’s Seven of Nine. He described both characters as “sexy female aliens” brought in to ramp up ratings among young male viewers. Then, he said, they decided their ratings were fine as they were, and they dumped Anise after a few episodes.

Let’s examine what Anise and Seven have in common so we may gain greater insight into what TV producers believe constitutes a “sexy female” in the eyes of young male viewers. I’m basing my appraisal on half a season of Seven and Anise’s handful of Stargate episodes, partly because that’s what I’ve seen, but also because the initial impact of the character is where we really see what the producers were going for.

Both actresses are tall, white, large-breasted, puffy-lipped and blondish. Both wear skintight and/or revealing outfits. Both have the personalities of sponges. Both have questionable loyalties. Both state their sexual availability to male characters on the shows early on. Seven’s body still contains Borg implants that have the potential to exert control over her will; Freya is actually the human host to a Tok’ra symbiote (Anise) who has the potential to control Freya’s actions.

Worth noting: Anise is clearly the dominant partner in this symbiotic relationship. It’s Anise, the Tok’ra, who is a scientist, who has knowledge, who contributes ideas: Freya only surfaces to deal with Jack, who doesn’t trust Tok’ra. Freya is always sweet and nice and gentle and cajoling. Eventually, Freya at least has the chutzpah to come onto Jack assertively, with a comment about Anise preferring Daniel but Freya not letting the symbiote get its way. And that is the beginning and the end of the human woman’s assertion skills. Everything else is the symbiote.

And don’t forget the “alien” status. Aliens – like mail-order brides from third-world countries who don’t speak English or know their rights on American soil – are presumed to appeal to men looking for pliant women they can totally own.

So, according to TV producers, young men want to see personality-challenged hot bodies who put out. As always, my question is: is that what young men really want to see? If so, how did Aeryn Sun ever score any points with the guys? Or Chiana? What about Starbuck? They each share a trait or two with Seven and Anise, but overall they’re very different. And they lasted longer.

Comments

  1. Graculus says

    And then there were the plans for the Jack-Anise-Daniel love triangle, because while conflict between your main characters is good, conflict over hot sexually available oddly-dressed women is a thousand times better! ;)

  2. MaggieCat says

    So, according to TV producers, young men want to see personality-challenged hot bodies who put out. As always, my question is: is that what young men really want to see?

    Not all of them, thank heavens. ;-) But there is a segment of the population that does find that appealing, and a lot of them are young and in that coveted 18-34 demographic. I think personal confidence level is involved in determining who finds that attractive and a lot of young people are extremely insecure. Not that a lot of adults aren’t insecure as well, but the percentages probably skew younger in general.

    I suspect the reason that female characters end up with these problems while it happens to males far less frequently is a difference between the roles that men and women are allowed to take in social settings. An insecure woman would probably be a fan of a secure, well characterized man because women are allowed and/or expected to take a more passive role in relationships. Men are taught that they are supposed to be the dominant one in any situation, so the insecure men end up going for the non-threatening female characters to make that happen.

  3. Patrick says

    One of the big problems, I think, is that TV producers don’t get that different men have different tastes in the physical appearance of women. But TV execs are convinced that there is one single type that has the broadest appeal, and have decided that this is the tall, white, blonde, big-breasted Nordic sort.

    The pliable, submissive issue is in much the same vein.

    I encountered a good example of this sort of thinking, in both areas, when someone offered their theory for Alyson Hannigan’s popularity. He felt that male Buffy viewers were more attracted to the character of Willow than to Buffy because Buffy, as a strong female character (see footnote), was intimidating, so they picked the “second-best” Willow who was less assertive, despite obviously being less attractive due to her lack of blondeness and smaller chest.

    It simply never occured to him that some men prefer tiny redheads, or that we identified with Willow’s lack of assertiveness.

    (Footnote: Buffy was a strong female character prior to Season Six. I don’t even want to talk about Season six.)

  4. Gabriela says

    Season Six was the end of my full enjoyment of the series. During and after that, I always felt uncomfortable with all of the characters, even though I still loved the series as a whole.

  5. Jennifer Kesler says

    That theory is so painful… yet not surprising.

    Of course, it doesn’t explain why some men found Buffy highly appealing. Either they weren’t intimidated, or they enjoyed being intimidated in their fantasy lives.

    As for Willow… I always felt that slaying stunted Buffy’s emotional growth. While she was spending all her formative years battling demons, Willow and her other friends were learning more about just being human and living. Willow was emotionally stronger and more assertive than Buffy – particularly when she dealt with Oz, or Tara (at least, early on), or with that guy who seduced Buffy and then dumped her in S3 (Willow cornered him, pretended to fall for his excuse, then totally called him on it and sent him running).

    So Willow might be less assertive than Buffy in many ways, but as a potential girlfriend… I actually think Willow would be more intimidating. Buffy was a little clueless about guys, having had so little experience with ones that weren’t vampires.

  6. Jennifer Kesler says

    I stopped watching during S6, because I just had this feeling I would lose my love for the characters if I kept going, and I preferred to quit while I still enjoyed them.

  7. scarlett says

    Its possible men actually admired strong women, and wanted an equal relationship? I never watched Buffy but I’ve met plenty of guys in real life who want a partner who can hold her own.

  8. scarlett says

    Oh, and I agree with Patrick’s theory about prefernce to a particular look, regardless of how assertive/submissive the person is – my ex loved redheads, saw everything ALyssa Hannigan was in regarless of what it was, simply because he loved that petite redhead look. (Did the same thing with Julianne Moore, too.) I think everyone has a natural ‘type’ they like to look at and it’s very, very diverse.

  9. Ifritah says

    I find it interesting that Freya is the submissive in the Anise/Freya relationship considering the mythological context. Freya is the Norse goddess of love and sex, true, but she was also the goddess of war and death. She led the valkyries, for crying out loud!

    Anise is… a white flower.

    Perhaps they were going for irony here, but…

  10. Jennifer Kesler says

    That’s a good point. At some point, they had actual consultants working on their mythology references, but by that season I suspect they were just opening up a Penguin Guide to Classical Mythology and picking names that sounded pretty.

    I guess you can tell how low my opinion of the post-Season 3 Stargate writing team is. :D

  11. E says

    Now, I know that SG1′s Vala is supposedly an attempt at cashing in on the whole Seven of Nine/Anise thing but…they haven’t quite got it right. For one thing, Vala has way too much personality and has yet to be compliant or pliant. She says what she wants and pretty much does what she wants, throws the occasional hissy fit and generally flirts with everyone (I’m talking to you, Samantha Carter).

    So…that makes me wonder, and perhaps I’m biased but is it due to the actress or the writing? Because even when they dumb Vala down, there’s a part of me that thinks she’s goofing on them and will eventually steal them all blind.

    Not to mention that the actress who plays Vala just seems like she could cash in the whole lot of them.

  12. E says

    D’oh, totally missed this:

    “So, according to TV producers, young men want to see personality-challenged hot bodies who put out. As always, my question is: is that what young men really want to see? If so, how did Aeryn Sun ever score any points with the guys? Or Chiana? What about Starbuck? They each share a trait or two with Seven and Anise, but overall they’re very different. And they lasted longer.”

    I think those three women you mention are what separate the men from the boys–in other words, boys want big breasts and little challenge. Men would prefer the challenge, the equal, the partner.

    And I believe that applies to real life as well.

  13. Jennifer Kesler says

    It’s really hard to say from the outside how much actors contribute, because it’s such a collaboration. I’ve seen actors on Stargate and thought they sucked beyond belief, then seen them on a decent show like DaVinci’s Inquest and been quite surprised by their performances. Which suggests that the people actors answer to have a lot to do with it – positively or negatively.

    That said, I think Claudia Black is a fine actor and I can imagine her doing whatever she can to keep her character interesting.

  14. Jennifer Kesler says

    Indeed.

    So within the “target audience” of young men, we find different tastes in women. And curiously, the challenging women seem to last as long on their shows as the non-challenging ones. Which suggests that the demographics that show you must have a vapid sexbot woman character are open to interpretation.

  15. merchantfan says

    Personally, I don’t think that Seven of Nine was such a terrible character. Sure, she had boobs for miles, but I think she had a personality. Her personality was a bit dry, but she did have some. She was really socially awkward and obsessed with work. And when she wasn’t captured or anything, she could hold her own in a fight.
    Her effort to achieve some sort of humanity was one of the things that helped make Voyageur interesting, like Data’s. I could relate, actually, to her ability to kill a joke and leave only awkward silence.
    So, I just think that’s she’s not on the same level as Freya/Anise.

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