Lately, I keep hearing the same thing from different people in the Stargate fandom: they’ve just met yet another guy who’s a casual viewer of the show, and he not only sees Jack/Sam as a real relationship, but likes it.
“Jack/Sam” refers to the “not exactly” pairing of the show’s only female with the now-departed character played by its former biggest star. Military regulations forbid the characters from having any sort of serious friendship or dating relationship, but the people who make the show have been trying to hint without crossing lines for a number of years.
Most of the vocal online fans are women – which is more a symptom of online demographics than a representation of the actual audience. Among these fans, the reactions to Jack/Sam span quite a range, including:
- It’s true, star-crossed love,
- It’s stupid, and it’s made Sam into the poster child for Why Gals & Their Hormones Shouldn’t Be In This Man’s Military, and
- What Jack/Sam? You mean that scene in Season 4?
Even now that Jack is off the show, the writers are still hinting (or are they?) and the online fans (mostly female) are still arguing (yes, me, too). But as the show gains in popularity among guys, and the guys go back to watch the episodes they missed in the past, I keep noticing and hearing from others that a lot of these guys not only view the relationship as real, valid and mutual, but like it. This flies in the face of what I’ve always been told in the film and TV biz: irrelevant romance is shoved into films and shows for women viewers, while irrelevant sex and nudity is wedged in to please men. Jack and Sam are so many miles away from even the implication that they’re doing it offscreen, so if what I was always told is true, why do guys like the relationship?
Maybe it’s the same reason every fairy tale gives the triumphant young hero a Princess/fair maiden at the end of his quest. Is Sam just an updated version of the idealized woman who awaits you at the end of your long, hard journey? And could this help to explain why so many devout Star Wars fans hate Luke Skywalker? He completes the hero’s journey with flying colors, but still gets no princess – and no respect.
What exactly is the princess of archetypal hero myths? She’s not a real love interest, since the reasons the hero loves her are never explored. She’s a symbol, possibly like today’s real-life trophy wife. An object of status to impress other men. Maybe that explains why the whole idea of women characters as “love interests” is such a turn-off to women. After all, it’s not much more satisfying to be wanted as a trophy than to not be wanted at all. This could also explain why more than one man has expressed sympathy for Sam that she can’t have her man: they’re extrapolating the hero’s quest onto her, and like a man, part of her prize package for heroic deeds should include the prince of her choice.
Maybe some of the issue boils down to women viewers wanting emotional truth and consistency in stories while male viewers are satisfied with symbols. If this is true – and it’s just a theory, but I might as well follow it to its logical conclusions – it begs the question, why would women take the characters and stories more seriously than men do? Is there a fundamental difference between men and women?
I don’t think so. My best guess is that for longer than any of us can remember, men have been defined by what they do, while women are defined by who they do. Boys grow up knowing they’ll have to complete some sort of quest, even if it’s just “make enough money to survive”. But even when girls are raised with the same sort of expectation from parents, they get a lot of metamessages from society that a lot of people will never notice their accomplishments unless they trip over them. The same people who identify men solely by occupation will in turn identify women solely by their husbands, even when the women are the more successful of the couple. “She’s married to so-and-so, you know, that guy who fixes cars down at Wherever. I think she’s a lawyer, or works at a law firm, or maybe she was just telling me she sues a lot of people, I don’t know.”
In a world that views men and women so differently, it’s no surprise if women and men view stories very differently.