Thursday, September 29, 2005

The Sham of Female Power on Battlestar Galactica

Tricia Helfer, AKA Number Six, at Dragon Con 2005I remember back in the early 80’s when I was still reading comics there was a move towards making them more “adult.” They started calling comics “graphic novels” and they upped the violence. And when they upped the violence, all of a sudden there was violence against women that wasn’t there before. Every woman -- heroine, villain, or “civilian” -- was now a potential rape victim, an actual rape victim, or was in an abusive relationship. On the surface you had mentally and physically strong women that could stand toe to toe with men. But it was a lie. Women were being impregnated by “alien entities” (Ms. Marvel), having their bodies taken over and being made to sleep with villains (Storm), being beaten by their spouses (The Wasp), or were victims of childhood sexual abuse (two characters in The New Mutants). That’s when I abandoned comics. As a woman, I couldn’t support this. The writers of these books had made it plain that not only was I not their target audience, they had open contempt for my gender.

Twenty years pass. It’s December 2003 and I’m watching the Battlestar Galactica miniseries. I hear that Starbuck is now going to be a woman and I’m not happy. Two strong black men, Col. Tigh and Lt. Boomer, have now been replaced with a white man and an Asian woman, respectively. I’m not happy, but I watch it anyway because I want to see how bad it’s going to suck. The show starts with a blond bimbo vamping some guy while his space station gets nuked. Wow, this is sucking more than I thought was possible!

Then it gets good.

Baltar turns out to be complex, both funny and wretched. The female president is kind, but not weak. Adama is wise, but still military. Everybody doesn’t get along and everyone isn’t good at his/her job -- just like in real life. Galactica goes on to become a full-fledged series. I start to like the show, but there are nagging undercurrents that remind me of those damned misogynist comic books.

On the surface Galactica has a host of strong female characters. Strong to the point of being emasculating ball-busters. But with the exception of Laura, the mother figure, this so-called female strength is all sexual, and in a show designed to appeal to males, it is inevitable that the women’s sexuality will become a liability for them.

Let’s look at the so-called empowered females of Battlestar Galactica:

Laura Roslyn: She’s the president, but she has terminal breast cancer. So part of her femininity is destroying her.

Starbuck: She’s the best pilot in the fleet, but she’s a whore, a victim of child abuse and according to the podcast of The Farm, the Cylons removed one of her ovaries.

Number Six: She’s physically powerful, but she can’t get Baltar to love her and that’s all she wants. The Number Six on The Pegasus, “Gina,” has been routinely gang raped, according to the podcast.

Sharon: She’s also physically powerful, but she’s “a woman without a people.” She appears to have truly turned against the Cylons, but outside of Tyrol, Helo and Adama, no human trusts her. Sharon is also the victim of an attempted rape and she’s spending her pregnancy in a prison cell.

Cain: As an admiral, she wields great military power and has rank over Adama, but he still holds the all-important moral high ground. We know that Adama would never sanction rape as an interrogation tool on the Galactica. The fact that a woman is in charge of the Pegasus and she condones this makes Cain doubly odious.

Yep, all a sham.


Florida Voter said...

Keep in mind that even though the female characters are probably more powerful than they are on most television shows, the main writers are, after all, MEN... ;-)

Florida Voter said...

BTW, what movie is 'Release the Kraken' from???

Michelle Pessoa said...

Yeah, FV, the writers of the show are very clear about who the show is for. In the podcasts they openly say that they know the demographics of who is watching -- predominately guys -- and that's who they write for.

"Release the Kraken!" is from Clash of The Titans. ;)

Luke Cage said...

I love the new Battlestar Galactica, but I had my issues with the show as well. Pretty much the same as you did. I wasn't for them making Starbuck a woman, and changing the nationalities of 2 characters. Actually, I was very surprised they did it considering that they could've sown up their contribution with having an asian and a brotha on there.

And I know as a man, if I was disturbed about the apparent sexual and physical abuse that Gina had to endure for the sake of interrogation and gratuitous fun, then I know a woman was absolutely besides themselves. I loved this post and your commentary on the super heroines, great observation. Especially the one about Storm.

I too left comicbooks sometime ago, but not for that reason. I stopped because of the lack of stories and inflated prices per issue. During a time I called the gimmick age. Gold embossed covers and stuff. What was THAT all about? -lol