Once upon a time in the land of fiction there were heroes. And those heroes would be smart and brave and resourceful, because that’s what made them the hero. They were expected to be handsome, honest and full of ingenuity in the face of the trickiest of situations. Of course, they would be men. The heroine only had to be beautiful, and be awarded to the hero at the end. Then some ground shifted in the narrative topography, and the qualifications for these jobs changed. In order to be a good enough prize the heroine now had to be brilliant and fearless and inventive. The hero, on the other hand, dwindled into an everyman figure. The result is a whole solar system-full of stories about girls who are the hero in every aspect, except that they’re not. Some nondescript dude, standing in for the reader, still gets to be the hero, while his prize exhibits all the qualities that should make the story about her.
Douglas Adams was a pioneer of this narrative seismos, when he created Arthur Dent and his fellow galaxy wanderer, Trillian. Adams gave us so many wonderful characters, it is easy to forgive the small matter that most of the women were the author constructing imaginary girlfriends. I’m feeling a bit Life, the Universe and Everything this week, so our Friday Hoyden is the space-hopping astrophysicist heroine of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series, Trisha McMillan, aka Trillian.
Trillian always knew when to stop putting up with Zaphod or Arthur. She had degrees in maths and astrophysics. She was the one who ultimately defeated the warrior robots of Krikkit. She didn’t mope about when her home planet was destroyed, she picked herself up and found a career in interstellar journalism.
Despite being really, really English in the books, and in the original radio series, Trillian was played as American both times the story has been committed to film. Sandra Dickinson played her in the 1981 TV series, and Zooey Deschanel in the 2005 film. I confess I don’t mind Deschanel in the role. If there was ever an appropriate time for all the quirky-geek-girl baggage she brings to be put into play, this would be it.
Here is Trillian via Deviant Art, looking much more like the description in the book.
Here is Trillian’s page on the Hitchhiker Wiki.
Do you have an image of who Trillian should be? (Parallel galaxies mean we can have as many as we like.) Is there someone out there who can write her as the hero of her own story?
Categories: arts & entertainment, fun & hobbies
My mind is blown. How could I have been a Hitchhiker’s fan for more than thirty years and never have seen this? You’re right: Trillian is the hero. Now I really want to read a version that makes this overt.
Trillian sticks in my mind as the first time I ran across the idea of university degrees being unsaleable in the job market (this was back in the early 1980s, after all). There she was saying, “Well, with two degrees in math and another in astrophysics, it was either this or back to the dole queue on Monday.” about travelling around the galaxy with Zaphod Beeblebrox. Plus, of course, there was her cool astronavigation and evasive manoeuvring skills, mainly gained from going around Hyde Park corner on a moped.
I liked her for lines like “we will be restoring normality once we’ve determined what was normal in the first place” and “we have normality: anything you still can’t cope with is therefore your own problem”.
Seconding Kaethe – this ‘woman is the hero but not idea’ is something I can see everywhere now (the Lego movie being a prominent recent example) but which never really occurred to me until you described it just now.
I have always had kind of mixed feelings about Trillian. I identify very strongly with her as described in the first book, but I really disliked Sandra Dickinson’s portrayal, and the Trillian of the last book (but then I didn’t like that book much at all).
I couldn’t get into Hitchhiker’s Guide. Started watching, but my sense of humour short-circuited with Earth being destroyed in something meant as a comedy. It came out right when I was an eighteen-year-old terrified that nuclear war was not that far away. The show didn’t grab me anyway, but that was too much.
Didn’t Adams have a reputation for being yet another groper and general harasser at conventions and the like? If so, I can’t say I’d be surprised at this treatment of Trillian. Not sure if that follows at all, but … yeah, just less than surprising, I guess.
I don’t know about Adam’s reputation, but Wikipedia says he’s been dead since 2001.
@Kittehserf – you may be confusing Adams with Azimov – the latter was well known ( and shamefully tolerated) for being rather grabby.
Adams’ widow and daughter are very protective of his works and legacy. They scuttled a planned Big Finish audio series featuring Duggan the detective from Adams’ Doctor Who story City of Death.
I didn’t respond because I was thinking “well, why would I hear something like that?”, but I must say it doesn’t tally with my impression of Adams, which has always been that he was very monogamous and quite homey. Asimov seems more likely.
Anyway, he didn’t do anything bad to Trillian, she didn’t settle for Arthur or Zaphod, and he even told some parts from her point of view.