Terminator vs the Paranormal.

Ahmad Abuameir 

Prof.Jason Ellis 

ENG 240


The term “science fiction” is one of the most diverse and expressive terminologies in all of literature. It’s kinda like it has its own character to it with so many different ways to express it and we are still to this day adding new substances to the terminology it’s self “Science FIction” better know as “SF” is a seen as the literature of “change”. And an ongoing conversation. It’s seen as “Fiction dealing principally with the impact of actual or imaginative science on society or individuals or having a scientific factor as an essential orienting component”. Sf has been broken down by hundredths of different writers and authors. But I see the primitive and native definition broken down by the one and only Isaac Asimov “science fiction can be defined as that branch of literature which deals with the reaction of human beings to changes in science and technology”- Isaac Asimov. Which perfectly fits my argument.

Terminator one of the most fulfilling and quenticental Science Fiction films in the history of cinema. “The terminator” a 1984 American Science fiction film directed by the one and only (James Cameron)and starts the good old (Arnold Schwarzenegger) as the terminator “ a person or thing that terminates something” an assassin sent back in time from the year 2029 all the way back to 1984 to kill Sarah Connor played by the lovely Linda Hamilton whose son will one day become the one a true savior against the machines in the dark and gloomy post Apocalyptic future. When it is bad it is good. (Kyle Reese )played by Micheal Biehn a soldier sent to protect (Sarah).

Now to me that screams Science Fiction. This low budget flick at the time managed to capture a true science fiction experience like no other. A film that revolves around time travel that has killer Ai robots from the future with futuristic laser guns trying to undo or erase the future that humans caused. It just fits the narrative perfectly in practically every way possible or imaginable. “Reactions of human beings to changes in science and technology” humans were responsible for the collapse of humanity in the Terminator films. “Sky net” a fictional artificial neural network created by “cyber dyne systems” based Conscious group mind and artificial general “superintelligence system” that serves as the main antagonist for the entire Terminator franchise. Sky net goes on to develop itself into more sophisticated versions that ultimately gain an upper hand on humanity. Sky net was the world’s first automated defense network that would process information at a whooping 90 teraflops. That was the main controlling force behind all of the battle units. It would develop tactics and precisely coordination attacks which lead Skynet to have control over everything and anything. (Skynet became self-aware and view humanity as a detriment threat).

Terminator to its core is about a life long war between man and machine. Or you can go as far and call it the relationship between man and machine. Throughout our 13 online lectures when crossed main stories that feature the same idea or in the same realm of storytelling for example. “Reasons” by Isaac Asimov is about two intellectual scientists putting together a robot. The robot is unable to understand the fact it was pieced by two different humans. And it sees two inferior beings and concludes through its own reasoning. It builds its reputation up as being a profit among other robots at the station. The reason why I’m bringing this story up is “reasons” is considered an all-time SF classic story for the ages and is a reminder on what Science Fiction is truly about.

As time and time passes the true legacy of the 1984 Terminator slowly starts to deteriorate into oblivion. More and more articles are popping up claiming that “Terminator 1984” isn’t a true Science fiction story. But more of a horror/slasher type film. Now if that isn’t the biggest pile of bullshit I ever heard I don’t know what is. Maybe considering the return of the Jedi a good movie but that’s a topic for another day. And I’m here to prove that dead wrong.

Statements of Terminator not being a true Science fiction story but a horror story started around the early 2000s when we would get a half-assed generic Slasher film every other week. And that’s where the comparisons slowly started to creep in. Looking at this from the other side of the spectrum and why people make these nonsensical claims can be quite convincing at times even though most of the time it can sound delusional. 1. The comparisons to other slashers. People starting to refer the t-800 also known as the terminator as another unstoppable slasher like Jason Voorhees or Freddie Cougar. This is pretty damm easy to debunk. The T-800 is a specially modified assassin configured to accomplish one goal. It doesn’t go around murdering other people for amusement as like other slashers do. “That will kill anyone in its path, is relentless in its pursuit, and can’t be barged or reasoned with”. This is also debunked. The T-800 doesn’t go on killing sprees it has one target. In the first film yes multiple innocent people die. But that doesn’t make the T-800 a slasher the innocent people that due die is under the name of Sharah Conner a mistake made by the terminator. The T-800 isn’t a stone-cold killer. “ As usual in slashers, the police are useless, not believing that an inhuman killer is loose and providing no match for the villain”. This is typical storytelling you can find this in any genre or any form of media. Is it lazy writing. Absolutely, is it exclusive to horror films? Absolutely not. Just a cheap way of progressing the story or adding any form of tension between multiple characters. That type of narrative isn’t exclusive to the “horror” genre at all. Finally they final point these analysts try to point out “The door is even left open for a sequel, with the terminator arm that’s later found by Cyberdyne systems”. At this point they are forcing the narrative on how Terminator is actual slasher set in a horror universe rather than an SF adventure. This is a common tactic used in the film industry. To set up a sequel or to set up a grounded universe for other films to take place in therefore continuing the lore.

Before I dive deeper into this I want to set the standard definition for “horror” and what attributes are linked with this genre. Just like Sf horror has multiple definitions, The most basic definition of horror as a genre is: fiction that aims to frighten, disturb, or unsettle its readers (or viewers). This isn’t terminators’ main purpose, the film isn’t out to frighten or disturb you. It doesn’t make the reader feel “Unsettling”. It’s meant for the complete opposite. It’s meant to fully immerse you in this fiction Sf world. I’ve explained what SF. The “true” definition. But to me of stories are all about the immersive experience that intertwines with immersive storytelling. There’s a reason why Star Wars Is the most profitable Franchise of all time. Why Terminator is considered a classic of true cinema and possibly the most anticipated video game of all time “Cyberpunk 2077”. All these different forms of entertainment all have one thing in common and that’s “immersions” takes us to form shitty ass reality and puts us in a unique world with imagination being the only limit. 

And that’s what SF is to me and that’s what terminator is to be a True SF experience and a film where imagination is a character itself where the world is a character itself, not some horror fantasies or a “slasher” film. It has purple lasers for fuck sake how is that not Science Fiction.

A massive plot of terminator or really the main Emphasis of it. The story all together revolves around Artificial Intelligence. A standard for any Sf entry. And a machine that has a mind of its own belongs under the SF category not Horror. According to (Dr.Perkins) (2008). “Artificial Intelligence is a simulation of human intelligence processes by machines, especially computer systems”. In 2020 A.I is pretty common in our everyday life whether it’s a personal assistant on our mobile/handheld devices or something along the lines of a self-check-in. Terminator was released in the early 1980s and according to (Ray Bradbury) ” I define Science Fiction as the art of possible. Fantasy is the art of the impossible”. This beautiful fits in with the 1984 terminator. This was written in the realm of possibility who knew Artificial Intelligence would become prevalent in modern-day society and who knows how it will be prevalent in the next 20 for better or worse. How A.I and time Travel intertwine. Is a recipe for a classic Science Fiction story. 

Work Cited

CORNEA, CHRISTINE. “Frankenheimer and the Science Fiction/Horror Film.” A Little Solitaire: John Frankenheimer and American Film, by MURRAY POMERANCE and R. BARTON PALMER, Rutgers UP, 2011, pp. 229-43. JSTOR, www.jstor.org.citytech.ezproxy.cuny.edu/stable/j.ctt5hjd67.20. Accessed 19 May 2020.

Reeke, George N., and Gerald M. Edelman. “Real Brains and Artificial Intelligence.” Daedalus, vol. 117, no. 1, 1988, pp. 143-73. JSTOR, www.jstor.org.citytech.ezproxy.cuny.edu/stable/20025142. Accessed 19 May 2020.

Los, Fraser. “The Terminator.” Alternatives Journal, vol. 32, no. 3, 2006, pp. 24-26. JSTOR, www.jstor.org.citytech.ezproxy.cuny.edu/stable/45033209. Accessed 20 May 2020. 

Frick, Thomas. “Science Fiction.” Agni, no. 26, 1988, pp. 189-91. JSTOR, www.jstor.org.citytech.ezproxy.cuny.edu/stable/23008809. Accessed 20 May 2020.