Sarah Connor is one of the most compelling female characters in cinema. I am reluctant to use the term “female character.” It is an apt description, but her gender isn’t what is so compelling, it’s the fact that it’s never addressed. She isn’t the ass-kicking Alice from the Resident Evil films, who receives her own slow-mo fight sequences as the men around her stare open-mouthed. Sarah Connor is a soldier. She is the mother of the human race, tasked with instilling in her son the skills he will need to lead and survive.
James Cameron earns his paycheck bypassing this convention, as is evident in how he wrote Ellen Ripley in Aliens. There is no scene where a slack-jawed male character has to say, “I don’t take orders from girls,” only to eat his words when the woman has proven her chops. Ripley just does what needs to be done. Like Connor, she is capable without needing to evoke male characteristics. They do this without sacrificing their femininity, and both have their moments of maternal ferocity. Ripley with Newt, and Connor with her son. Cameron is the godfather of the “strong female character,” although I feel that term is overused. Ripley and Connor were “strong female characters” before it was a buzzword, and they never drew attention to the fact.