Friday, March 20, 2009

Battlestar's Problem With The Gay

You know, this is what happens when you read stuff. You go having ideas. I just posted on Battlestar writer Jane Espenson's claim that there will be a gay character on the spin-off series Caprica. Furthermore at that link, Espenson says:

"Gaeta is entirely out to the crew, except that they wouldn't even have that concept. It's not an issue in their world.... I think he is someone entirely free of labels, who has probably had a number of relationships, mostly with males. But again, this would be unremarkable to his colleagues."

She's then questioned on why this is never explored or shown on the show, and says she agrees and wishes they had gotten around to it; that they made the decision about Gaeta too late in the game.

So after reading that I went and read this article at The House Next Door (via Nat) talking about feminism and misogyny in the world of BSG. Specifically, THND is fisking this article at Slate that claims that BSG is less feminist than most people claim. The writer at THND disagrees vehemently (so do I), and while making one of his points says this:

"This is not Roddenberry's Star Trek : The 12 Colonies of Kobol are no utopia. And going on the run from a hellbent genocidal enemy does not add to social cohesion. Battlestar Galactica explores issues of class, race, war, authority, governance, genocide, religion, politics, violence, revolution, prison, patriotism, torture, and the face of the Other. How could it not explore the twin issues of sex and gender?"

Well... inasmuch as he's arguing the show does - that it gives women roles that are terrifically complicated - it does, and yes it's not always flattering. They're human, warts and all.

But as you see in that quote I started with from Espensen, the one thing the show has gone out of its way to

a) avoid, and then
b) when it is sort of brought up in the periphery, make claims that the culture that BSG takes place in is so advanced as to have overcome those silly problems we still deal with in our reality,

is sexuality. What I mean is, on the one hand the show gives us characters that are allowed to be deeply flawed and show us our own reality in these flaws, but on the other, when the topic of bi- or homosexuality comes up suddenly they are enlightened and past such labels. And the show that has so much use in deconstructing and dealing with all of the human issues we deal with in our real world suddenly apparently has no such use exploring the issues we do still have with human sexualities.

Just sayin'. It makes me sad they never felt the need to dive into it, just a little. Alas. Small complaint towards a show this fantastic.


Michael Pomerantz said...

Yeah, you know, on one hand I appreciate the idea that out there in the BSG-verse having LGBT people around is not made out to be a big deal, they don't face adversity because of their sexuality. Hopefully our own society will get to a similar point.

But the show didn't have to have a Very Special Episode of Kara being berated for being a tom-boy to explore issues of gender and feminism. If they wanted to or it occurred to them earlier, there are stories they could have told to do with sexuality even when there's not rampant homophobia to deal with.

I think and wish they had got to explore that sort of thing. But I'm holding out my hopes for Caprica!

Brad East said...

Thanks for the kind reference; and I certainly agree: they explore every kind of "warts and all" complicated issue of human living, yet somehow take the easy way out that "nobody's got issues" with homosexuality?

My guess is, simply, that as an issue, they didn't think of it as something to address until too late in the game. But thanks for the insight.

Anonymous said...

Please let the boredom end
this season was awful
worse than a bad soap opera

Jason Adams said...

Catie, exactly, it didn't have to swallow the show whole or anything. But for a show that made so much room for so many current topics, it does kinda bum me that they took this route as far as gayness. As for Caprica I have very high hopes - I kinda feel like I was hard on Jane Espenson in this psot, so let me just say I love that woman, she's incredibly gay friendly, as far as I've been able to suss out she's the one that decided to bring Gaeta's gayness out so to speak in the webisodes and not leave it as simply conjecture, and I have total faith that she'll explore sexuality on Caprica knowing she's a executive producer on it. Love her.

Brad, thanks for commenting and coming over! great piece, really. I'm gonna keep on my stupid sopabox here and say that the topic of a gay character came up a few times through the run of the show and Moore & Co. kept being sketchy about it for a long time so they wre aware for awhile that it was an issue a section of their fanbase wanted to maybe have addressed. They did give us the wonderfully complicated relationship in Razor between Admiral Cain and the #6 whose name I forget that she turned on once she found out she was a Cylon. That stuff was great, and rich and twisted in the best ways that BSG has given us. I certainly don't want to downplay that. That was terrific, and gave a gay relationship as much drama as the straight ones were getting.

Jason Adams said...

And of course now that my brain is running on this topic I got to thinking about how even they found room to discuss abortion on the show, and how that could've (should've) even led to a discussion by the show of non-procreative sex. I mean, if Roslin is willing to sign a proclamation that abortion is illegal because they can't afford to lose possible human lives when they're facing extinction, why couldn't they have touched on the very real argument made here in the real world that sex (slash marriage) is just for making babies and that because homosexuals can't procreate they are somehow less.

adam k. said...

Hey all! I've come to this party way too late. I always post on Nat's blog, not having realized that BSG-wise, this is really where it's at.

re: the gay, I think this is all just indicative of how we as a society, including both the producers/writers and the viewers, are just less far along with issues of sexuality as we are with, say, issues of race and gender and feminism. Meaning, there just isn't as much of an impetus to have it come to the forefront on shows like this, where there's so much to deal with. It's just not as high a priority. There aren't nearly as many gays are there are, say, women.

And really there's just only so much they can do with a show this ambitious in only 4 seasons. It is a bit of a copout to only broach the gay thing in extra-episodal content like Razor and the webisodes, but I do give them credit for at least doing as much as they did. I, for one, tagged Gaeta as gay early on, and was so glad they followed through with that. To attentive eyes, he could easily have been read as gay the whole time. You just have to know the signs.

Actually, more problematic than the lack of gay, for me, was the fact that all two of the major gay characters (Cain, Gaeta) turned evil. Gay = evil? Really? Well, either evil or Cylon (the Six's name was Gina).

I'm actually glad they made Hoshi the boyfriend in the webisodes (even though Narcho's way cuter) since it gives us one good and wholesome gay who never turned on his friends and committed vicious war crimes.

BUT you could actually argue that Cain and Gaeta were driven to do what they did, in part, by the isolation they felt from a subtle homophobia that pervades any culture (and yes it was a cop-out to say there was no such homophobia when clearly most other kinds of prejudice do still exist in some way... but I still love the show).

Anyway. This could be discussed forever. Sorry for the long, long comment.

Joe Reid said...

I don't think I have an issue with them saying that their society was evolved past homophobia because it does jibe with the way society on BSG viewed gender. But we got to see the matter-of-factness with which women were level with men. I would have been nice to see that matter-of-factness manifested with gay characters too. It's not like they hadn't been building it around Gaeta and his hero-worship of Baltar anyway. That's a trigger that really should have been pulled. (And if we're being honest, Baltar's the kind of person who, in a post-homophobia culture, would have totally fucked a dude if it fed into his ego. I am writing fanfic and I feel completely gross.)

adam k. said...

Don't feel bad, Joe Reid. In my world, Baltar DID fuck Gaeta (like, back on New Caprica before the Cylons arrived, at which point Gaeta became disillusioned). I think they purposely structured some exchanges so you could read that into their relationship if you wanted to.

"You probably knew him better than anyone... back on New Caprica" (the way Roslin said that just sounded so dirty)

"Our little secret... signed with a very special pen" (phallic, anyone?)

"Goodbye, Gaius."

Baltar must've gotten bored with those harlots eventually, and you know he enjoyed Gaeta's jealous yet adoring gaze. I think they had a, shall we say, "special" relationship for a time.

Now THAT would've made a great webisode series.

adam k. said...

Although we did get to see some of that matter-of-factness with Helena & Gina in Razor. So that was nice.