Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Battlestar Galactica and Its Troublesome Human Women, Redux

Ide Cyan sent me an interesting note about recent events on Battlestar Galactica, which, unfortunatley, I haven't been able to keep up on, as Jenn's the one who tapes things and we've both been out of town a lot (I plan to catch up when it's out on DVD).

Ide noted that the two main female characters in the series who are actually women (as opposed to robots) are both currently suffering from debilitating illness or injury. Adama, the President, has been dying of cancer since episode one, and now, hot fighter-pilot extraordinaire Starbuck has a knee injury that apparently has taken her out of fighting commission.

What the hell is up with these SF shows and their fear of women who actually kick ass? Andromeda wasn't bad: it had a woman captain, though she ultimately got booted to second by the new captain, who's a guy, and... well, I have some other problems with her now too: as the series has progressed she's gotten increasingly thinner and less butch. Firefly probably wins as far as diverse portrayals of women as actual strong, smart, people, but Firefly was cancelled.

What's so scary about putting a woman on screen who's not a stereotype? Who can take care of herself? Who's actually saving her husband and not necc. being saved by him (As Zoe saves Wash in Firefly)? Relationships between and among people are complicated, complicated things, and we don't all revert to gender stereotype. Think outside the box, people.

I think what continues to irritate me about BG is that they toted the gender-swapping of some of the main characters as being a huge deal, like giving 1/4 of your screen time to female characters was a big deal (well, 1/4 time of women characters not engaged in sex, 1/3 of the time if you include the sex). Yea. Real revolutionary.

What gives?

6 comments so far. What are your thoughts?

Anonymous said...

Just to play devil's advocate, Starbuck, in spite of her knee injury, totally saves her own ass when she's crash-landed on a planet with a hostile environment. Also, in spite of the knee injury, she's instrumental in foiling an assassination attempt. I don't find her to be a stereotype at all.

(I am, however, definitely thinking you're going to dislike a female character that you probably haven't seen yet -- talk about a female stereotype of the conniving, scheming woman who uses sex to manipulate men.) 

Posted by Amy Sisson

Anonymous said...

Understandable. I shall have to catch up on my episodes before I formulate my own opinion... just an interesting note that Ide sent in...

That'll be a great DVD catch-up weekend.  

Posted by Kameron Hurley

Anonymous said...

My roommate is a fan of that show so I sat down and watched an episode and I must say that I wasn't impressed. They seemed to have an overly simplified form of politics where someone can make one corny cliche speech and all of a sudden he's a powerful politician. I tend to get annoyed with shows that portray the masses as fickle and ready to change their views at a moment's notice.

Maybe I'm just putting too much thought into the show and that's why I don't like it. 

Posted by Simon Owens

Anonymous said...

If you actually see the show as a whole, the non-robot women characters are quite strong. While I didn't get the whole thing of Starbuck being holed up with her leg problem (if a race can build robots, shouldn't they have a quick solution for fixing broken legs?), she has been a very strong character--and in fact, it looks like she will be instrumental in helping humanity as seen in the cliffhanger/season finale.

As for the president. Yes, she is dying of cancer--but also she's been thrust into the role of president and has done a wonderful job at it, too. Some examples I'll note is how she has to deal with her strong (and male) military commander as well as her head political rival (ex-terrorist *and* male) that ran for vice president.

Posted by Christopher

Anonymous said...

Adama's the (male) commander of the fleet, not the President. The President is Laura Roslyn.

I like both Roslyn and Starbuck, and I think interesting things have been done with their respective illness and injury, but I find it galling that *both* of the two lead human women have to suffer from these handicaps, and none of the men do. Not Adama, not Apollo, not Tyrol. Baltar has mental health issues, but he is not physically sick -- Roslyn's disease, otoh, has lead to her perceptions being altered, *on top* of the risk to her life.

It's assymmetrical as hell. 

Posted by Ide Cyan

Anonymous said...

Adama's the (male) commander of the fleet, not the President. The President is Laura Roslyn. 

Damn. I just need to shut up about this damn series until I catch up with the DVD... ;) 

Posted by Kameron Hurley