A while back, I wrote a post on Stargate and feminism, and said that I appreciated that the show at least tried to talk about women’s issues. Unfortunately, the episode in question, “Emancipation”, did it in the worst way possible, and it ended up being both racist and sexist. Sadly, “Emancipation” is hardly the only harmful episode in the first season. The other episode that stuck out to me is “Hathor”. In some ways, “Emancipation” is worse than “Hathor”, since the offensive material is so much more obvious, but at least “Emancipation” knew it was trying to address certain issues. In “Hathor”, one of the main characters is raped, and the show doesn’t even seem to be aware that it happened.
“Hathor” is my least favorite episode of the entire series, as it encompasses the very worst of science fiction and fantasy. This is yet another episode that attempts to show female empowerment, yet it’s filled with sexist clichés. It adheres strictly to the gender binary. And worst of all, a main character—and possibly numerous minor characters—are date-raped, and the episode plays off what happens as humorous.
In “Hathor”, the Goa’uld Hathor ends up at the SGC. As she is the first real female villain on the show to be evil incarnate, she is an evil seductress, because why not? She uses pheromones to brainwash all the men and have sex with them—and then she attempts to take over the earth.
Yeah, this episode was really terrible.
First of all, I have a few questions on how Hathor’s pheromones work, and the whole concept also seems a little cissexist. How is the show even defining the difference between men and women? Is it based on their physical body parts? Their amount of testosterone and estrogen? Their chromosomes? As far as I can tell, there are no humans in Stargate who don’t adhere to the gender binary. As this episode takes place in the 90’s on a military base, I can understand why there are no openly non-cisgender SGC personnel, and indeed, every person in Stargate is also unfortunately heteronormative until the spinoff show Atlantis. And even after Atlantis, there’s not much representation going on. Considering that this is a show based on biologically asexual aliens taking over human bodies, I find it entirely odd that everyone is cisgender. Even the Goa’uld, despite being genderless, all identify as strictly male or female and tend to be particular about which humans they take as hosts based on gender. This is something that Stargate does a bit better with in later seasons, but for now we have the villain Hathor, who not only adheres to the gender binary, but also enforces heterosexism. Her character is made more unbearable by being an evil seductress.
The evil seductress trope is wrong for so many reasons. First of all, our female villain is unnecessarily sexualized, to the point that just about every scene she’s in she uses her sexuality and pheromones to manipulate and enslave men. The other women are “good”, so they don’t use sex as a weapon of enslavement. And while I like that they are not overly sexualized—though they do at one point use their sexuality to manipulate the men under Hathor’s control—the message the show presents is clear regardless: a woman’s sexuality is evil, and men are helpless victims to it. This is also apparent because, if I recall correctly, Hathor is the only Goa’uld who has this power. Additionally, the pheromones that she uses during her seductions are not a drug that she slips to the men, or something she injects them with. It’s something that she literally breathes out through her mouth. It makes no sense.
Furthermore, not only is this sexist against women, “Hathor” is harmful to men. This reminds me of the recent Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. episode, “Yes Men”, which also had an evil seductress character. At one point in the episode, Sif remarks that women have a natural strength that men do not. What that strength is is never explained, though it seems to be derived from not having a penis, which is still incredibly cissexist on S.H.I.E.L.D.’s part. As far as I’m concerned, “Hathor” comes from the same mindset. The women are the ones who have to fight back against Hathor, while the men are Hathor’s helpless victims. This is also offensive, as the women are only presented as strong because the men are presented as weak. They aren’t strong of their own accord.
And the evil seductress trope is hardly the worst this episode has to offer. At numerous points in the episode, Hathor rapes Daniel Jackson. She additionally alters Jack O’Neil’s body against his will in order to turn him into a Jaffa—a Goa’uld’s slave solider. She violates both these characters in horrific ways. However, whereas Jack is presented more as a victim, Daniel is not. Never at any point do the characters, or even Daniel, mention that what happened is rape. Hathor has sex with Daniel numerous times during the episode while he’s under her control. Daniel could not have consented to Hathor since he was being brainwashed, yet as the episode ends, the show presents this as being more comedic and as something Daniel should be ashamed of. Rape victims are discredited so much in real life that it’s really upsetting that the show isn’t even aware that that’s what they did as well.
And no, Stargate is not just dismissive of male rape. As the show is literally about parasites taking over people’s bodies and forcing those people to do whatever they want—including sex—Stargate ends up with a lot of rape victims, and unfortunately, it doesn’t always address this issue very well. It’s been a while since I’ve watched Stargate in its entirety, but I can’t remember any other villain as offensive as Hathor. However, I’m a little peeved that Stargate enforces cissexist, heteronormative, and rape-apologist ideals as much as it does. We eventually do meet various other Goa’uld in later seasons—including one who identifies as male while in a female host—so as I continue watching the show, I can only hope that some of these issues will improve. Despite all its problems, Stargate is a wonderful show, but “Hathor” is certainly another episode it could have done without.