Monday, February 15, 2010

Battlestar, Caprica, SF and Gender

First, to all of those college students who are in a mad quest to write a paper about "The Cask of Amontillado," the ending Italian phrase means "Rest in Peace." Do note that it is not something the protagonist with a vendetta would normally say. It is, however, something a priest is likely to say. Hmm, there's a poser.

And on to the topic the post is really about. I've had a chance to catch-up with the latest episodes of the SyFy Channel's new series Caprica. For those who don't know, the show takes place prior to the events of Battlestar Galactica (BSG), and does include some sequel information (after some pushing from those involved with the money).

If you're a fan of BSG, then you've already been through the "Starbuck is a girl" issues. No offense to the original Starbuck, but I thought the change was quite clever. Also, if you're a fan of BSG, you already know that many of the strongest and powerful characters in the series were female. Villains and Goodgals alike.

This might not seem unusual to new fans of the SF genre, but for those who date back to the stone tablet days, having strong female characters is a bit unusual. In the old days, they were mostly restricted to falling in love with Captain Kirk, screaming, falling, and wearing short skirts. Often, all of these occurred in a single Star Trek episode. It seemed females just couldn't be a part of SF.

Then Ripley appeared, and things changed (Aliens). Okay, even today the short skirts remain. But most everything else has changed.

I won't go into gender and SF. Many words have been written on the topic, and if you've not read them (this includes those students looking for something to cut and paste in your essay due at the end of this week), take the time to read the books and articles about the new role of females in SF.

Instead of venturing there, and listing articles and books, I'll jump to Caprica. At first glance, like BSG, the show seems hard and manly, full of murder and swearing ("frak"). But after an episode or two, the male anger fades into the background, replaced by teenage, female angst. The real focus of the show is on teenage girls, one of which who is a robot, and another who has no body, and a third who seems to be torn about how to interact with her robot/cyberghost friend. A quick glance at the promo photos and cast photos in this post highlights the real demographic of the series: young females. Yes, it is still aimed at males as the "Apple" photo reveals, but it is also focused at the female viewership.

For an SF series, this is unusual - at least it is historically, the last five years have seen many changes. For fans of SF, this is great news as it means there are new fans of the genre, and what appears to be a growing number of fans. And really, it is a direction the genre should be heading.

All of the above is nothing new nor surprising. As I said, it has been happening consistently over the last few years. What is interesting is how many males have not noticed. Why? I suspect because the genre is reflecting society, and is at last catching up from the Dark Ages of the genre. With any luck, as in the past, real life will imitate art and the gender barrier will continue to decline culturally based upon the acceptances of new females roles in the genre.


Rick said...

Maybe I'm just getting older, but it seems like they could come up with something a little more exciting with all that money they have to play with. Role reversals just seem a little overworked. I've read so many books where the definition of creativity goes like this- imagine putting a woman in a formerly man's role, wouldn't that make the story more interesting? The thing is I don't think so. Then again, I don't watch tv.

Cairo said...

i don't think that's the point here... the lead characters in caprica aren't just token females that have been added to spice things up with generic role reversal. the show caters more to a female audience, specifically a teen audience, with its inclusion of 3 young teenaged female leads and the issues they face.

although i haven't been too impressed with the show in general, i find the increasing inclusion of females in science fiction to be a great thing.

as for making the story more interesting, well heck yeah it does, we're more interesting to begin with. :)
then again,