I'm not saying it's hot feminism on toast, but I think it's got some interestingly feminist things going on.
One of the interesting thing about the Sarah Connor Chronicles is that it makes fairly explicit the problematic designation of "Strong Woman," or "strong female character". I've read some critiques here and there, which unfortunately I cannot remember the locations of to link to, and I'm not claiming these are my original thoughts, just that I think SCC provides a good example.
This is Sarah Connor. She's trying to stop ruthless cyborgs from the future from killing her son.
It's a second season promo poster1 and presents her only slightly more sexified than she generally is in the show. (She doesn't tend to arch her back for no reason in the show, or wear inexplicable belts.)
This is Cameron. She's a ruthless cyborg from the future, except she's been reprogrammed (shoddily, on which I have thoughts, but they're not relevant here) to protect John Connor. She's only slightly more sexified than she is in the show, since she doesn't tend to wear inexplicable belts in the show, and the all leather look isn't typical for her.
Both are obviously "strong women."2 Both are physically strong. Linda Hamilton does the iconic Sarah Connor chin-ups, and is portrayed as a woman who trains at every opportunity, honing herself into a weapon for her son's protection, and is one of the few TV women with muscle definition in her arms. Cameron, at one point, punches her way through a cinder-block wall.
Both demonstrate strength of will. Sarah has gone outside the law and accepted that she will never be part of society while her son is at risk. Cameron, obviously, cannot be dissuaded from her course of action unless a better one is presented to her.
Neither of them are particularly susceptible to emotion; Sarah allows herself affection for her son, but distrusts most emotional entanglements. Emotion is literally foreign to Cameron.
But Cameron, while a "strong woman" is obviously not any particular kind of feminist role-model. She's literally a fembot whose sole purpose is to preserve the life of one particular man. While she shows occasional tiny flashes of volition, she cannot conceive of making any choices which do not serve her prime directive. She was programmed by the John Connor of the future, and serves him single-mindedly.
Sarah Connor, on the other hand, is the decision maker on the show. John, her son, doesn't like the fact that her word is law, and occasionally challenges her authority, but he's not stupid enough that he can't recognize her experience is vaster than his own. You might critique the fact that her primary purpose is to bring John Connor, humanity's messiah into the world, but you have to acknowledge she hasn't faded into the background after the womb-work was done. It's her name on the opening title, and her story.
The difference is, obviously, agency.
1. Look at this lolarious season one promo poster I saw at WisCon. Talk about Market Research Fail.
2. Well, you could argue that Cameron is not precisely a woman: she's a cyborg, in that she has organic parts, but those organic parts seem to consist mostly of a skin covering grown over her metallic frame. Her adoption of female self-identification and presentation would seem to be mostly a matter of passing in society. But let us say for the moment that she is a woman.
ETA: Unrelated, but rather than spamming, have you noticed how many vids seem to have as their theme "random hilarious ways people can be smacked in the face"?
- Sarah Connor Chronicles and Strong Women