Extant, Transcendence, and Who’s Talking To Whom

The concept of recent sci-fi movie Transcendence– what if a human’s brain becomes an A.I.? – fascinated me, and I enjoyed the film. What bothers me is that despite one of the two main characters being a woman, Dr. Evelyn Caster, I can’t remember, in the entire movie, any woman speaking one-on-one with any other woman. About anything. 

I understand men outnumber women in the hard sciences, but Evelyn has not a single woman friend to support her in a crisis? I also understand that writers can’t throw in scenes solely to show a character has friends. Yet, somehow, men in the movie talk to one another, not only to women. It wouldn’t be so bad if Transcendence were unique. But in so many action, sci-fi, and suspense movies, and often TV shows as well, women interact primarily, if not exclusively, with men. Even in romance movies, where women are shown as having female friends, the only topic the women typically discuss  with each other is men. I can’t help wondering whether film and television writers and directors truly believe this is how women’s lives work.

One reason I love the new CBS show Extantis the relationship between main character Molly and her best friend and physician Sam (Samantha). I started watching Extant because of the mysterious pregnancy aspect. No surprise, given my love for the book Rosemary’s Babyand movie The Terminator. Extant is well acted, with compelling plot lines, and I love the Sam/Molly dynamic. Molly trusts Sam, and Sam puts herself and her career on the line for Molly. When drastic circumstances push them into conflict, they strive to understand one another through the depths of their anger and fear rather than becoming enemies or, worse, engaging in the emotional equivalent of a hair-pulling fight. Or, worse still, engaging in an actual hair-pulling fight, which I’ve never seen two women do in real life, but have seen several times on TV.

Women colleagues have played a pivotal role in my life. Soon after I became a lawyer, I had a case opposite a woman attorney who also had just started practicing law. Each time we appeared in court, we waited our turn among about thirty other lawyers – nearly all men. The opposing attorney and I argued vigorously in court, but before and after we talked about being lawyers, our law schools, and where to find good pantsuits (most stores sold only skirt suits at the time). We ran into each other at professional events after the case was over and eventually became friends. Ten years later, I stood up at her wedding. Other women attorneys generously shared information about finances, hiring staff, and computers when I started my own law practice.

In my writing life, too, women have been wonderful advisers and friends. Through social media, I met New York Times bestselling author Melissa Foster, who invited me to join a thriller book launch she organized and gave me marketing advice. Through Melissa, I met Chicago-area horror author Carrie Green. Carrie and I had a blast presenting a panel at Chicago Comic Con called Girls Gone Gore. (The title was Carrie’s idea – mine was much less exciting – Women Writing Horror.)

Men, too, have been wonderful mentors and colleagues to me, and I owe several a great debt. So my point is not that women are better friends and mentors to women than men are. My point is that women arefriends and advisers to one another. If I saw more stories like Extant that portrayed women as the real people we are, with professional and personal relationships with one another that are as strong and varied as men’s are, I would go to movies and watch television a lot more. I suspect a lot of other women would to.


Lisa M. Lilly is the author of Amazon occult best seller The Awakening. Her poems and short fiction have appeared in numerous print and on-line magazines, including Parade of PhantomsStrong Coffee, and Hair Trigger, and a short film of the title story of her collection The Tower Formerly Known as Sears and Two Other Tales of Urban Horror was recently produced under the title Willis Tower. If you’d like to be notified of new releases, including The Unbelievers (The Awakening, Book 2), click here to join her email list. To pre-order The Unbelievers for Kindle click here.