The Untold Truth of Terminator 2: Judgment Day
Aside from the literal threat of nuclear war, there’s another nuclear element that “T2” touches on quite a bit: the nuclear family. Of course, Arnold’s T-800 isn’t exactly John’s father, but he inadvertently takes on the role throughout the film. As Sarah says while watching Terminator with her son, “Of all the expectant fathers that have come and gone over the years, this thing, this machine, was the only one that lived up to it. In a mad world, it was the healthiest choice.” 30 years later, James Cameron would further emphasize this point, saying, “The heart of the movie is that relationship” (via The Ringer).
While the film undoubtedly challenges traditional gender roles, it often acknowledges that the T-800, Sarah and John are their own makeshift “family unit”. The T-800 enters the masculine ideal as a strong and powerful force of nature, especially when it comes to protecting his “family”. He’s even willing to sacrifice himself at the end of the movie to save John, which is what a good father would do. But the Terminator also admits he can’t cry. By contrast, Sarah has no problem showing her emotions in the moment, though she remains closed off to John for most of the film. That is, until the end, when she learns to become more of a mother to John than just a robotic sergeant.