Thursday, August 27, 2009

Sexuality in BSG.

I'm a bit behind on my comics because of my week long moving process, so I'm going to write about something else, instead. The title does say "and pop culture," after all. If this goes well, I may have some more non-comic posts in the future, especially during slow weeks.

Okay, so this came up in my post about female friendships in comics. I said not to get me started, but then James asked if I would start. So here we go.


Actually, I've talked about this a lot with one of my friends. Who would we like to see as The Token Not-Straight Character in BSG? The obvious choice is Starbuck, which is why Starbuck would be a no go (Billy would also have bee obvious). I personally vote Eight, but Eight 's line seemed to be particularly defined by her relationships with men, so meh! Dualla would have been good, or Roslin (though I loved the Adama/Roslin romance, and how it portrayed in a beautiful, tender, realistic way the development of love, romance, and a sexual relationship between older people) or Hot Dog (nope, had to spawn a kid), or Tory or... well, lot's of people.

But we eventually decided that the best would have been Lee. Why? Because it would have messed with peoples' ideas of what gay men "should" be. He's a soldier (suck that, DADT), a statesman, and a hero. He's a "manly man," and not overly effeminate (not that there aren't effeminate gay men, and not that I think there's something wrong with effeminate gay men, but if you want to mess with peoples' preconceived notions of stereotypes, you don't want the butch woman to be the lesbian - Starbuck - or the effeminate man to be the gay one. Not that there was an effeminate man on the show. Besides maybe Baltar. Cough.) Also he's a dude, and most Token Gay People tend to be women, and they're only Token Gay during sweeps week, so they can mack on other femmey women for ratings. Personally, I hated Lee. He was probably my least favorite character of the entire series, but a lot of that was because of his relationship with Starbuck, so maybe I would have liked him better as The Token Gay.

So now that I've rambled about who should have been the Token Not Straight Character, let's look at the ones we did get (spoilers):

1) Six, particularly her Caprica and Gina versions. Caprica really only had a threesome with Baltar and Three, so I don't think that should count. I'm also not sure that was Caprica, but I got confused by all the Sixes. You know the one. On the ship. In the bed. With Baltar and Three. She was a bad guy. And Gina detonated a nuclear bomb and killed a bunch of people. After having been tortured and raped for awhile (and was only Not Straight in the extended cut). Neat!

2) Three. But she got boxed, so that's some negative reinforcement for you. Also the whole threesome thing, which could be done in a very interesting "we don't think of relationships the way you do, you backwards humans" way, but wasn't.

3) Admiral Cain. But only in the extended version, and oh yeah SHE WAS A BAD GUY. Ahem, caps lock. A brutal killer. Shot people in the head for disagreeing with her. Super.

4) Hoshi. But only in the web series. The lone example of a decent portrayal of a non-straight person, if only because... well. Besides becoming Admiral at the end, he didn't really do much. Or express opinions. Or have screen time.

5) I saved the best for last. Felix "I'm Bastard" Gaeta. I lied before when I said Lee was my least favorite character. Gaeta was. To be fair, I hated Gaeta right from the very start, even before his whole mutiny thing. Oh and the VP to Baltar thing. He was a slimey, jealous bastard right from the start. And then he was VP to Baltar, and responsible for the death of how many people (I so loved the moment in the web series when we found out about that)? But it's okay, Felix, you didn't know. He was willfully blind, to the detriment of everyone, and I can't stand that sort of character trait. He's, arguably, one of the least sympathetic characters in the entire series. And if you felt sympathetic for him for anything but the whole leg-loss situation (which he then used as an excuse for later behaviors), please tell my why. I'd really like to know. I was actually satisfied when he was executed, which is saying something. So there we go. Plus he was only Not Straight in the web series, which was, coincidentally, the only time we saw a same-sex kiss on the show. Props for it being between two men, but boo because one of those men was Felix Gaeta.

There we go. That's what we were given. And here's why it was disappointing:

One of the beautiful things about BSG is that it was able to be an allegory for and a mirror in the face of our own society. It made us think about things. Things from the very obvious "what would you do for food" to the nature of what makes us human. It tackled subjects like torture,, terrorism, religion, democratic process, and abortion in very cutting edge ways that managed to both remind us of our culture and yet be something totally different. It made the bad guys monotheists, and then made them not as bad as we thought. The moment Roslin made abortion illegal was when this really hit home for me. I loved her. I wanted her to be my president. She was obviously, in my mind, the sort of liberal-leaning, civil-rights-loving, ass-kicking woman I wanted to my White House. And then she took away a woman's right to choose. She did it for a reason, and that reason was explained well, and her thought process was painful (kudos to Mary McDonnell), but here she was doing the exact opposite of what I thought she would do.

And it made me think. When you've only got forty-thousand people left, what's more important? The species or personal freedom? (I still say personal freedom, but that's okay.)

If they can handle the most divisive topics of our time in such a brilliant and bold way... why was everyone heterosexual? Why were the people who weren't heterosexual relegated to the web series and extended cuts, and why were most of them bad guys?

Rick Berman's old answer to the question of "why is everyone in Star Trek straight" was that it was a non-issue. It was evasive, since the complete lack of any representation in the twenty-fourth century made that non-issue a glaring oversight. But Ron Moore never said that. He even talked about including sexuality in the show. And it was a very sexual show, which focused several episodes on storylines revolving around, in no particular order: Starbuck and Lee, Starbuck and Sam, Helo and Athena, Chief and Cally, Chief and Boomer, Baltar and Women, Adama and Roslin, Cat and Random Drug Guy, Adama and Roslin, Billy and Dualla, Lee and Dualla, Starbuck and Leoben, Starbuck and Zack, Tigh and Ellen, Baltar and Caprica... I'm sure there are more. Storylines that were central to the entire arc of the series.

And so... and so I'm left unsatisfied. Could you imagine an episode where Roslin outlawed homosexuality? After all, if the survival of the species is tantamount to her, so much so that any pregnant woman is required by law to carry to term, you'd think she'd follow with the whole "homosexual relationships tend not to produce offspring so easily" thing. There could have been debates, gay couples that showed up with their kids, arguments about surrogacy and adoption, et cetera et cetera. It's not like they didn't have time for this, there was pretty pointless episodes/storylines along the way that could have been replaced with that storyline.

Maybe it would have turned into a Token Gay Storyline. And maybe not, because the writers on BSG were some of the best writers out there. Like I said, the tackled pretty much every modern issue interestingly and in a way that was obvious without being preachy.

So it would have been nice to have someone besides the villains, the barely-there dude, or the deviants be the people in same-sex relationships or having same-sex hookups or even just declining a Baltar advance because they're not into guys. It would have been nice to have something beside the usual parade of negative portrayals.

I guess I should at least be happy Cain wasn't pregnant.



  1. Thanks for that (sorry for getting you started, I can never resist, bad habit), BSG's my favourite show probably ever and I always find critical analysis of it interesting. It does seem the only big issue to have been dodged by the series, I was especially confused by the "confinement" of the Hoshi/Gaeta relationship to the webisodes. Sheepishness like that wasn't like them.

    PS, I'm pretty sure "threesome Six" is Caprica judging by those three character's interactions elsewhere in season three like when Baltar dumps Caprica for Three above the Algae Planet.

    Again, sorry boss. And ta.