Amazon’s Undone and American Feminist Literature from the 70's

Well probably with a title like that I wont get many reads however maybe I can find a really salacious picture to attract more people

one woman lounges on a couch smoking a cig while watching another woman undress

So recently my wife and i sat down for a binge of the Amazon 8 episode series Undone. it’s the story of a young (caveat: to me anyway) woman who begins to experience visits from a dead parent who urges her to explore time travel and basically string theory to right what may or may not be a past wrong. Depending on how you look at it.

The series is done in rotoscope which looks amazing and may eventually eliminate real actors imo.

The woman in the series is a POC and an amazing fierce feminist, and also carrying around a lot of pain. Her autonomy and strength is breathtaking. A subplot of the series revolves around how her ability to come unstuck in time gives her an opportunity to redo painful outcomes for others that she has created through speaking “too much” truth in anger; basically by coming at things with more compassion. The old feminist in me gets uncomfortable with the idea that women’s anger needs to be held down and modified, however i was intrigued to see any study of women’s anger and other “negative” emotions as a focus on a public medium. Jury still out on that one.

I don’t meet a lot of women who have read Marge Piercy and I don't think I have ever met anyone who has read WOTEOT however I wonder if the creators of Undone have encountered it because there are a few similarities. its almost as if someone took Piercy’s book and time traveled it to the present. The downtrodden and oppressed woman in Edge has become the fierce and powerful woman of Undone. In fact, Undone’s Alma has a lot of resources and abilities that the protagonist of Edge would never be able to reach: education, supportive family, the ability to trigger current “wokeness” by men around her to stay on her feet and achieve her goals.

Also, the protagonist of Edge, Consuelo Ramos, potentially makes the ultimate sacrifice to protect the possibility of the utopian feminist future, making her a Jesus/Mary (or insert any other religion’s classic martyr) type figure, while Alma’s goals are far more personal and don’t seem to engage the future of anyone but her own family.

Which is probably good because you have to admit that all movies about time travel end up with horrendous holes in the plot.

Aside: Edge was extremely forward thinking in that Piercy used non gender specifc pronouns in her Utopian vision of the future and created a trans friendly world where people could be what they were or needed to be. This was strong stuff for the 70’s. In fact some people complained that Piercy included just about every feminist trope at the time in her alternative future. I recently reread it and i have to admit it hasn’t totally aged well, but still an amazing and imo important book.

In Lathe of Heaven, the protagonist, George Orr (I am pretty sure his name is a pun on his ability to literally change the future through his dreams) lives in a really rotten version of Portland Oregon (the book was written in 1971 and takes place in 2002) in a world of constant war and poverty, ruled over by the rich…..hmmm kind of hitting a little close to home here. Anyway the plot revolves around how George comes under the control of an evil psychiatrist who wants to “rule the world” like pinky and the brain by controlling poor downtrodden depressed George and keeps screwing it up. like really bad.

for me, the connection between Lathe and Undone is this idea that obviously first of all our relationship to reality is personal and we have zero awareness of what reality means to other people. The old saying “The personal is political” (also 70’s reference sorry young folks) can also seemingly be applied to reality! “Reality is personal” hmmmmmm.

this imo is an extremely timely construct as we are living in a time where we are told many different versions of the same “truth” and we have to decide to either disengage with the whole process or do the work to find a truth that we can feel with some certainty is solid. can we somehow braid our own reality out of the streams of information coming at us? and is that really truth? Is it very surprising that young people just emerging into the stream of information would have a very different construct of what truth or reality is, or simply decide to disengage from the constant cognitive discord?

Another connection between all three works is religion or mystical thought.

Undone invokes Shamanism and other mystical paradigms for containing/explaining reality (while managing at the same time to show how those ancient beliefs are often co-opted by white people) Organized religion also plays a part in Undone in a somewhat ambiguous way, which is another reason i love Undone, ambiguity is allowed to stand.

In Lathe there is a sort of benign overlord/deity figure whose nature evolves with the various realities.

In Edge, religion undergoes a feminist transformation in the future to a paganistic and mystical model.

the addition of the mystical and mysterious imo adds a special flavor to all of these works and is a part of our common humanity, a truly rich source for reflection and ideas.

in these times that seem so desperate it is encouraging to see that ideas, hope, progress and creativity is still in existence. these things give us food for ideas and a safe place to rest in between struggles in the real world. May we all learn from the past and use the good to create an alternative future!

Historically Curious, Queer, Aging, Anglophile, World traveler, lifetime researcher with a sarcastic bent

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