Women in Sci-Fi and Fantasy: Susan Ivanova

Inspired by Godard’s Letterboxes, I have decided to start my own list of my favourite female characters in science fiction and fantasy.

Susan Ivanova is number 16 in Godard’s list.

Number 1: Commander Susan Ivanova, First Officer, Babylon 5

I’m starting with Ivanova because she stands for a lot of things I like to see in female characters: she’s complex, has integrity, principles, and is excellent at what she does, which in this case is being a professional soldier and pilot.  She’s not on gratuitous display as a sexual object, either for a male audience or the male characters in the show.  In fact, although she has a black sense of humour, she’s a pretty intense, serious character most of the time, but I think it’s refreshing to see a woman being represented as deadly serious.  She has her demons: everyone in her family is dead, she’s secretly a latent telepath in a world in which telepaths are forced to join the sinister Psi-Core, and she finds intimate relationships very difficult to maintain.

My main problem with the representation of Ivanova is related to sexuality (and I think this is going to be an ongoing theme in this series!).  Ivanova’s character was (apparently) written and was definitely played by the actress as presumptively bisexual, but this is never stated, or dealt with directly in the show.  Then, on the one occasion that she does open up enough to begin a close relationship with a female telepath called Talia Winters, the narrative immediately takes the classic lesbaphobic turn in which the first hint of female same-sex sexuality leads to at least one character going EVIL and/or dying .

Oh well.

However, Ivanova is still a great character and the show never recovers from Claudia Christian’s decision to leave at the end of Season 4.

Classic quote:  “I am the right hand of vengeance and the boot that is going to kick your sorry ass all the way back to Earth.  I am death incarnate and the last living thing that you are ever going to see.”

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