Thursday, December 4, 2014

Heroic Women of Speculative Fiction #7: Sarah Manning of Orphan Black

Sarah Manning, played by the mega talented Tatiana Maslany
Reviewing Orphan Black's characters, particularly Tatiana's multi-faceted performances as  its vast basket of heroines and villains, is hard.  As Tatiana portrays the many clones in the series, I will just have to take one clone at a time.  So for this entry into my heroine series, we begin with the first clone we see in the series, Sarah Manning.  (Is anyone else salivating for season 3-I know I am)
Sarah is a complex character.  A true anti-hero in many ways.  She was not evil, but at the start of the show she is a mess.  She is mixed up with bad things and bad men. She wears tatty punk t-shirts and heavy eyeliner.  She pretends to be someone else ( tragic suicide clone Elizabeth Childs) to get some money and a place to sleep.  She is drifting through life and snatching for bits and pieces.  Sarah has a daughter that she loves, but she did not take her when she took up with one of her low-life beaus and was gone for 10 months  Some may have called this neglect, (Alison was quite vocal about this) but after you meet Vic, you also realize that no matter how messed up Sarah was, she was never going to expose her daughter to him.  Despite her vagrant life and flaws, she is devoted to those she loves.  She is scrappy and a quick thinker.  Her skills, never really challenged in life, are finally tested when she entered the circle of the clones.  Her strength and thinking expanded.  Do not back this woman into a corner, because she will fight back with the resilience of angry lioness, especially if you try to hurt her daughter, Kira.   The danger she faces from everything around her only makes her stronger.   
Sarah is accidentally thrust into the role of heroine.  She never tried to be one.  She just tried to survive.  Over the course of the first season, Sarah Manning evolved into a first rate hero, putting her petty drugged-out & grifter lifestyle deep into the past as she became embroiled in the mystery of her fellow clones.  She changed for the better, stepping up to protect her clone sisters and her family.  This was not just because she decided to give Alison back her 70,000 dollars, which at the time was Sarah's escape money.  She stayed because it was right.  Sarah, who always seemed to be close to her foster brother, Felix, reforged their relationship and the two could not be closer if they were blood related.  Sarah developed a new bond with her daughter and the equally mysterious, Mrs. S, who was Sarah's foster mother and protector of Kira. 
Instead of running away in anger, as she had done her whole life,  Sarah oddly found an emotional home as she bonded with her clone sisters.  She thrived on the conflict and danger.  Her character, which was so flawed and scuffed by inner turmoil in the beginning, evolved into that of a stalwart and true heroine.  She worked to unravel the secrets that threatened them and developed skills as a leader and warrior in the process.  Sarah began as a leather-clad punk wreck at the start of Orphan Black.  Sarah was lost, as so many of us are.  In the terror of her new life, instead of running she found strength and compassion to stay.  Like a reluctant butterfly, Sarah emerged from her punk leathers and became who was she meant to be.  Sarah fights for the good and for her family now.  That's why she is a hero. 
Next week, another entry of my heroine series.  Until then-read more fantasy!
Verna McKinnon  

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