While driving to work this morning, I was listening to classical music and musing on the design of cars and spaceships. I don’t mean real spaceships, of course – I mean the kind you see in movies, comic books, pulp fiction and television – the good stuff. I also started thinking about mens’ taste in women, and how the styles of disparate things tend to conflate at different times. With that in mind, I decided I was going to put together some images from different years (or small spans of years) of the top spaceship of that time, the top car of that time and what were considered the top sex symbols of that time to see if they clicked.
Here we go …
We’ll begin with 1929 and Buck Rogers. The spaceship was still in the “could have been designed by lonely housewives” era. Fairly sleek and only a few doodads stuck to the outside of the ship. For our car, we have a 1929 Duesenberg – also pretty sleek, formal and yet also sporty. Whether Buck’s spaceship had leather seats, I don’t know. For our sci-fi beauty, we have Col. Wilma Deering, Buck’s erstwhile companion and drawn as a classic beauty of the era – rounded face and graceful lips.
By 1936, Flash Gordon has burst onto the scene in the first of his film adaptations. The spaceship isn’t much different than Buck Rogers’ craft, though perhaps a bit sportier (check out the chrome!). Dale Arden, as played by Jean Rogers, conforms pretty closely to the earlier beauty standard, and the car isn’t terribly different from the 1929 Duesenberg, though you’ll note the nose is slanted back a bit.
1950 brought the film classic (?) Destination Moon. Destination Moon at least played at being hard sci-fi, though the design was definitely of the moderne period, with the sleek spacecraft. The beauty of 1950, Erin O’Brien-Moore was pretty sleek herself, and shows how tastes were changing at the dawn of a new decade. The car is a bit more compact than in the 1930’s, but in this case it looks like the spaceship designs are beginning to presage developments in automobiles.
In 1956, Forbidden Planet put earthlings in a flying saucer (guess those captured German scientists were finally earning their keep). Beauty isn’t much changed from 6 years ago, and the car, a 1956 Chevy Bel Air, is not yet exhibiting the giant fins that will grace vehicles in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s.
By 1966, Star Trek has premiered. The Enterprise is unlike any spaceship audiences have seen before, and also notable is that the sole beauty of the cast (unless you include Sulu) is a black woman! Nichelle Nichols typified late ’60s beauty – curves and tall hair. The cars are becoming more slick as well – away from the tail-fins and into the muscle car era.
The next big leap, in this case back in some ways and forward in others, was 1977’s Star Wars (you might have heard of it). For the first time on film, we get a real sense of the “starfighter” – fighter aircraft in space. Yeah, the Star Destroyers were pretty iconic as well, but you really can’t beat the X-Wings and TIE Fighters for capturing the imagination of kids in that era. Our beauty is, of course, Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher), who really found herself thrust into unfamiliar territory in her slave girl costume. The 1977 Ferrari pictures seems to have a similar profile to those X-Wings.
One last stop, and a leap forward to one of my favorite sci-fi series – Red Dwarf. Not American, and played for laughs, it introduced a completely utilitarian (and grandiose) spacecraft in the eponymous Red Dwarf. By 1994, we had maybe my favorite of all the sci-fi beauties introduced on this post – Chloë Annett as Kristine Kochanski (I like my women smart, beautiful and with a wry sense of humor) and the fairly utilitarian Rover. Substance over style in 1994 sci-fi.
Okay, there’s many more I could do – various incarnations of Star Trek, Alien, etc. I’ll leave further explorations to others.
4 thoughts on “Women, Cars and Spaceships … A Retrospective”
I like this project, but you need Senator Leia for 1977.
Personally, I would add for the 1980s Erin Gray of Buck Rogers. Her spandex outfits pretty much kick started me into puberty. (And for kicks, the Porsche 944)
And I would suspect that Jeri Ryan of Voyager had the same effect on '90s youth.
I liked your pick, but it always sort of threw me off that she was the 2nd Kochanski on the show. The original was sort of shrewish looking (and sounding)
I was going to use Leia from Star Wars, but Slave Leia is a “thing” now, so I went with her.
In terms of Erin Gray – yeah, very good choice. I also wanted to use Maren Jensen from Battlestar Galactica, but those were chronologically pretty close to Star Wars, and since this was a goof and I had limited time, I left them out.
If you're going to use BSG for a woman in the series I'd suggest Katee Sackhoff as Starbuck in the new BSG for a aughts woman. I think that butch and buff look is iconic for the aughts not just in her but Laura Croft from Tomb Raider among others. Not sure what the iconic car for the period would be.
Personally I'm wondering what it says about me that Dale Arden played by Rogers could be my favorite of the women picked.
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