Technological Madness: “Terminator” and Transcendentalism

I know, it seems incredibly outlandish for me to relate Transcendentalism to The Terminator film franchise, but what the heck, I’m gonna go for it!

Transcendentalism says that technology is bad, and only cause more problems for society.  It ends up running us, and not the other way around.

That is basically the plot for all of the Terminator movies, so I have no idea how that ties into Transcendentalism whatsoever.  (Just kidding, it actually does relate.)

In this post, I will be diving down into Cyberdyne and Skynet, and I’ll be finding a way to weave Transcendentalism through the original film, Judgment Day, and Rise of the Machines.  (I’m not counting Salvation because Arnold Schwarzenegger wasn’t in it, and I just flat-out didn’t like it.)

In the original 1984 film, titled The Terminator, a cyborg sent from the year 2029 (portrayed by Arnold Schwarzenegger) hunts down his target named Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton.)  As The Terminator is about to execute Connor, a man named Kyle Reese (Michael Biehn) steps in for her protection and helps her forge an escape.  He explains to Sarah that he comes from the future where an intelligence network, Skynet, has initiated a nuclear holocaust of mankind.  He tells her that only her unborn son, John Connor, can save the resistance from the machines, and that in order to keep that hope alive, he must keep her alive.  This ties into Transcendentalism because technology ends up running society, just as Skynet ends up running the entire post-apocalyptic world.


In the 1991 sequel film, Terminator 2: Judgment Day, Sarah Connor now is an inmate of an insane asylum, and John Connor (Edward Furlong), 11, lives with his foster-parents.  Skynet sends a T-1000 from the future (portrayed by Robert Patrick) to Connor and end the resistance once and for all.  But meanwhile, the future John Connor sends a reprogrammed T-800 (Arnold Schwarzenegger) to protect his younger self.  After breaking Sarah out of the asylum, The Terminator and John Connor learn the identity of the creator of Skynet, who is an employee for Cyberdyne Systems, and must deter him from making Skynet self-aware.  This ties into Transcendentalism because the technology that Miles Dyson (Joe Morton) creates is bad, and in the end, it ends up running society.  Dyson sacrifices himself to destroy his research, and The Terminator sacrifices himself in the end so that his technology cannot be used to recreate Skynet.  The Transcendentalist influence here is that technology must be carefully watched, so it does not take over our everyday lives.

In the 2003 sequel, Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines, John Connor (portrayed by Nick Stahl) is a grown man living off-the-grid in LA.  Although the technology of Skynet was destroyed, he still believes that the future war between the Resistance and Skynet has not been thwarted.  Skynet sends from the future a model T-X (Kristianna Loken) to kill Connor’s future lieutenants of the Resistance, since Connor cannot be found.  But the Resistance sends a reprogrammed T-850 (Arnold Schwarzenegger) to protect the T-X’s targets.  After Cyberdyne Systems was destroyed in the previous film, the United States Air Force took over the production of Skynet, and is led by Lieutenant General Robert Brewster.   Skynet becomes fully aware and takes over many machines to ultimately kill John Connor, and to destroy the human world.  But The Terminator defeats the T-X, and sacrifices himself for Connor’s safety.  This film ties into the philosophy of Transcendentalism due to the technology of Skynet.  Technology is harmful to others in the eyes of Transcendentalists, and Skynet represents how technology can make us lose sight of what is important in life.

I know it’s very far-fetched and completely repetitive, but the ongoing message of Transcendentalism in the Terminator film series is to not let technological devices run our lives, because if we do, the end result could be catastrophic.




3 thoughts on “Technological Madness: “Terminator” and Transcendentalism

  1. Hey, this is a pretty awesome relation. I actually watched all the Terminator movies one time or another, and I gotta say, the movie never even crossed my mind when it came to Transcendentalism. Nice job!

  2. I was actually surprised myself while writing because I didn’t think that something so hardcore sci-fi could relate to Transcendentalism, but somehow it does. I really like the underlying message of the series, and it goes to show you that even the most outlandish idea can be broken down on a philosophical level.

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