October 17, 2005
A column tackling gay issues, gay themes, and just general gayness in television.Out-takes
The queerest het I ever did see...
(The author wishes to apologize in advance for the quality of this column; I was drawn away home for a family emergency halfway through its construction, and as it stands, the argument is far less convincing than I might have wished it to be. If there is sufficient say what? response — or even if not, heck — anticipate a thematic second part in upcoming issues.)
I realize I'm the last person in the world to see the new Battlestar Galactica, and I realize also that this reflects badly upon me. But do not chastise me, gentle reader! for I have queued up the series in my Netflix line, and the DVDs will be fluttering their way to me, just as soon as the sixth season of the Simpsons and the second season of Dead Like Me have watched themselves.
|Seriously, it's like they assembled the most incredible cast of gorgeous funny-looking people they could get their hands on (except for Apollo, who is beautiful like a beautiful princess) and ended up being subtly pleased when the vast majority of them exhibited real acting skills.|
Now, I never saw the original Battlestar, but I am given to understand that the character of Starbuck was not always a lady — that the hotshot pilot character was, in fact, back in the day, a man. I was even given to understand this before I even started watching the miniseries, which meant that I had my extra-special gendar1 turned on her, to see what changes in both concept and execution when you take a character originally conceived as a man and swap her sex. And, in truth, not much does.
I'm always intrigued by characters who are so gender-ambiguous that you could theoretically replace them with a person of the opposite sex without changing much of their core characterization, and the new BSG's Starbuck makes that cut. Even without taking the original into consideration, Starbuck's got a fabulous gender-ambiguity to her where she's both very masculine and obviously female at the same time. While she might not be nearly as intriguing if she were a man — if for no other reason than the fact that it wouldn't be anything special — I feel you could have cast a male actor in her role and not changed a lick of dialogue.
Now, I realize that when I claim new-BSG Apollo/Starbuck is slash, most of you reading will have the reaction of most people I've told about my idea for this column — which is to say, how can that be? she's a she and he's a he! To which I reply, oh, my people, have I taught you nothing? Sex is biological; gender is performative. The primary gender divisions in BSG are not between male and female, but between military and civilian. Apollo and Starbuck may have different sets of plumbing, but both of them share the same gender — pilot.
|What makes queer queer has very little to do with what occurs between a person's legs, and very much more about what kind of social gender role a person performs, and whether the pairing of persons with certain gender identities is transgressive to current heteronormative standards.|
Part of my general problem with heterosexual couples as portrayed in television is that they're so often boring - boy meets girl, boy and girl do boy and girl stuff, boy and girl have babies, the end. Even science fiction (my anti-drug) finds this paradigm difficult to escape, as it creates strong women characters who become so quickly typical wives and mothers as soon as they find their Princes Charming. As I mentioned in an earlier column, one of the reasons I love Babylon 5's Ivanova so much is that she managed to avoid this, largely by relying on a gender that was not so much female as military; I have high hopes that Starbuck will win my heart on the same merits.
I'm going to be interested in seeing how the series itself continues on with this. On the one hand, the relationship has a little of that 'you were in love with my brother, but I was in love with you all along!' to it that gets so boring so quickly. But on the other hand, I'll be pleased if they can keep up the queer dynamic without compromising either character's gender identity — if Starbuck's love for Apollo causes her to start baking brownies and keeping house, for example, I'll have that TV off faster than you can say Edward James Olmos.
NEXT TIME, ON OUT-TAKES: Fascist heterosexuality and anarchist bisexuality; or, You Can't Give It, Can't Even Buy It, And You Just Don't Get It.
1Get it? Gen-dar? Like if you made 'gender' and 'radar' the same word? ... Geez, everyone's a critic.
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