Sunday, November 1, 2009

Going Out With a Bang…or a Whimper? The Women of Battlestar Galactica in Maxim



The Maxim article is entitled “Kiss Kiss Bang Bang: Battlestar Galactica’s Grace Park and Tricia Helfer aren’t done Destroying the Human Race – Now Drool over Our Explosive Shoot and Die a Happy Man.” Get it, everybody? Bang bang? Wow. Here’s a lovely quote from Grace Park, who played Lt. Sharon “Boomer” Valerii: “Our characters could screw humans to death, but that would be another show altogether.” Ugh.

What follows s a typical Maxim shoot: two very slim, greased-up girls (Boomer and Number Six) posing in the usual bimbo ways: finger in the mouth, arms over the head, thumb stretching the front of underwear down towards the vagina, and lying passively on the ground. The two actresses graduate in a page or two to being topless with underwear, but manage to show everything except for their nipples, which is kind of pointless. Park literally holds an Army jacket open across her chest, a centimeter away from her nipple. Now were just talking differentiation of skin tone between nipple and breast…we’ve seen London and France. Now were quibbling over smaller provinces.

I know that Battlestar Galactica (the new one) was not made to please feminists in particular…but it did. In fact, it was one of the most feminist shows of the last several years. Women characters like Starbuck, Athena and President Roslin were intelligent, resourceful, strong survivors. Starbuck in particular was exciting. Lovely as she was, there was never the gratuitous “I sleep in the nude” or “Flying Vipers makes me wild” scene, which would be expected to deflate any strong female character’s credibility by the first season. By “deflate” I mean to display the character in an overtly sexual manner to neutralize her stronger, or “mannish” qualities. To make her safer to be desired by men…feminized, for your protection.

                       Starbuck says: "Up yours, Vogue Magazine!" 

This display of flesh in Maxim magazine (Nov., 2009) is nothing short of the old “this isn’t objectification, this is empowerment!” game that publications play with female celebrities. Ever wonder why the “Young Hollywood” issues of Vanity Fair always display actresses provocatively draped around in lingerie and actors looking manly (and dignified) in suits? It sends the message that women are only valuable, bankable or interesting if they look good in next-to-nothing. Women only matter if they’re sexy. Men with a capital M) rely on talent alone. Do you think Bette Davis would have put up with this s*$#t?

I know, I know. The Cylon known as Number Six was frequently shown in skimpy dresses, or in sex scenes with Baltar…but that was her purpose. She was a femme fatale, a machine designed for the purpose of being irresistible to men. She was conscious of it, and she was playing her sexuality like a chess game. Yes, Starbuck has been in her own sex scenes, but it always felt like the logical conclusion to a relationship that she was involved in, and not just feel like sex for sex’s sake.

Admiral Helena Cain (played by Michelle Forbes) was a great character, symbolic of the empowered vibe of the show. Large and in charge, Cain was as fierce while running on a treadmill as she was ordering the torture of a Cylon. Even her death was awesome; she was unafraid, keeping her middle finger up, even to the end. Pick any of the female Viper pilots. The other scheming female Cylons. The women of Battlestar Galactica. Strong, not relying on their bodies, but their brains.

This issue of Maxim, released after Battlestar Galactica is dead (but well-remembered by her loyal fans) is like digging up your beloved Grandmother and then peeing on her. As my Battlestar DVD’s would have mellowed like wine, I must now always remember a last-ditch effort for notoriety by two of the show’s actresses, at the expense of the integrity of the characters that they played. And they were good actresses too, more’s the pity. It feels like they died to me. So, in the end, the Battlestar Galactica actresses endeared themselves to a few male fans, but have deeply disappointed women at the same time. Especially me.