Thursday, March 01, 2007

Geekdom Strikes Back

You know, beneath my current incarnation as a cruncy hippie dyke, I am, at heart, a total geek. A nerd, a brainiac, a complete and utter dork (albeit the computer illiterate kind, a rare breed. I've only just learned how to defrag my laptop). As a kid my inherent geekiness manifested in my love for comic book heroes, specifically Batman. I was all about the Dark Night (Superman is so over-rated). In junior high, it was Star Wars. I saw the rereleases of the originals in the theaters; spent my lunch hours reading Tales from the Mos Eisley Cantina and The Courtship of Princess Leia. In high school I was obsessed with the X-Files; I taped every episode. I also discovered the classic sci-fi lit, Ray Bradbury, Isaac Asimov, Phillip K. Dick. But in college, after the X-Files jumped the shark, I kind of got away from sci-fi, got more into fantasy, Age of Sail/historical fiction, things like that. Hard sci-fi no longer had an appeal for me.

And then Winter started going on about this new show called Battlestar Galactica, which I'd never seen because I don't have a TV. But the library had the first season on DVD, so I checked it out.

"I'm not a heterosexual, but I play one on TV!"

Oh yeah, I've definitely got Lieutenant Starbuck as my desktop background now. Oh. my. frakking. gods. The woman is sex on a stick. Ten minutes into the pilot miniseries and I was already missing the plot, I was too busy having unclean thoughts about the cigar-chomping, poker-hustling hot shot flight instructor. Yeah she's nominally straight, but I've never seen such a superficially coded queer character before. They usually make you work harder at sussing them out. Kara Thrace is a freaking bulldagger. She's gayer than Rosie O'Donnell pitching for the Olivia Cruise Softball Team.

And I gotta say, I'm really kind of confused by her character. Sci-fi has always been an odd genre, in that it tends to be the genre of freaks and geeks and queers and misfits, the social rejects, the ones who don't fit. But it rarely reflects its audience: it's always about straight white people playing out stereotypical plots. Sci-fi shows and films have always had coded queer characters and subtexts; but as far as I know there's never been an openly queer character on a sci-fi show. They'll play around and tease with the idea, for an episode or two, but it's never just a quality that happens to be part of the character. So what are they doing with Starbuck?? She's this tough, military butch, with a self-destructive streak, unlucky in love, who worships Artemis and Aphrodite, for crying out loud. She's just so gay. Did they chicken out? Are they just tapping into that lesbian demographic? Are they setting it up so she comes out in a later season? What's going on here (bear in mind I haven't seen season two or three at all)?

But when I'm not ogling/puzzling over Starbuck, I loving every minute of this show. I love the wierd mix of advanced and archaic technology (so, humans developed artificial intelligence, but not laser eye surgery I guess, cause General Adama's still got spectacles). And I think incorporating religion into the show was a brilliant move; sci-fi (on TV anyway) almost never addresses that. I love how Cylon No. 6 looks like a Playboy centerfold and talks like a primitive Baptist. I like that the humans are polytheists, although their "polytheism" looks like every form of monotheism ever developed: congregations of people standing obediently in rows, passively observing an official mediator priest speaking for deity. Doesn't look like any polytheistic paganism I've ever seen, but people generally don't realize how completely ignorant they are of theology. I'm sure they thought having a black woman as the major religious official makes it totally radical and different, but it's about the same as every Christian service I've been to. At any rate, there's no clear-cut good guys and bad guys, although the Cylons are clearly pretty ruthless, but no more so than humanity itself. And they've probably got the best ever character-you-love-to-hate in Gaius Baltar.
BSG, of course, makes me wonder what kind of criticism has been done on the subject of sci-fi and queerness, and also the artificial intelligence plots it uses. The whole idea of robots turning on us brings up all sorts of fascinating ideas about our relationship with technology, what is natural, our own insecurities and anxieties about power and control. I do manage to think of things like that when I'm not imagining Starbuck violating all sorts of military protocol in those sexy dress grays of hers....

Yeah, it just feels so nice to rediscover my dorkitude again, have a whole new mythical universe to explore, and get a really great TV lust object in the bargain.


At 4:40 AM, Blogger DeniseUMLaw said...

Having given up television many years ago (just couldn't find time in my schedule for it (so now I *blog*, like I have time for *that*?)) I have only seen an occassional episode of BSG.

I'm thinking I'm going to have to rent this series... :)

At 8:59 AM, Blogger Winter said...

What happens when a lesbian character plays a straight character? It all gets a bit confusing. It is weird to watch possibly the most overtly butch lesbian character I've yet seen depicted on television played as a heterosexual.

At 8:54 PM, Anonymous roro said...

I wanted to leave an enthusiastic comment, but am too busy lusting over Starbuck.

I love the BSG. It has its flaws, sure - but there are times when it totally blows my mind. The beginning of Season 3, in particular. Oh my frakkin' gods. Lots to look forward to, young Skywalker!

I am a nerd too. Shut up.

At 8:56 PM, Anonymous roro said...

p.s. Freakin' blogger must have hiccoughed and deleted you from my blogroll, otherwise I would have been leaving nerdly comments WAAAAAY earlier. Sigh. If only Blogger was as flawless as Starbuck's biceps . . .


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