I don't entirely agree with this article from Slate. I particularly think this cliche of sci-fi and comic book geekdom needs to go:
Perhaps because science fiction has historically appealed to men who don't leave home much, the genre has often used alien mores and alien technology to rationalize pornographic depictions of near-naked women. (Think Jabba the Hutt forcing Princess Leia to wear that ridiculous gold bikini in Return of the Jedi.)
Sci-Fi movies are, at this point, a billion-dollar enterprise. You don't get that way by appealing strictly to "men who don't leave home much." Moreover, the comment assumes that women somehow fare better in, say, horror movies, in comedy, or in hip-hop movies. Geekdom has its troubles when it comes to rendering women. But all one needs to do is watch a few Spike Lee or Woddy Allen flicks to realize that this isn't about sci-fi at all. Anyway, that's just a personal pet peeve. Sorry for the mini-rant.
The part of the piece I found most convincing is the indictment of the rather casual way rape is deployed in the series:
Even more insidious than the lack of female friendships are the casual threats of rape made throughout the series. In Season 2, a "Cylon interrogator" attempts to violate Sharon, a Cylon pilot and the only East Asian on the show, but her husband Helo intervenes in the nick of time. In this season's "The Oath," Helo fights with a mutineer--"Frak you," he says (that's Battlestar's four-letter-word variant), and the mutineer responds, "Sorry, I'm saving myself for your ... wife." He means it. Rape is a trope on the show: Starbuck finds herself in a bizarre insemination farm on the Cylon-occupied planet Caprica, and Adm. Cain orders some cronies to rape and torture a Cylon in "Razor." Naturally the show doesn't condone rape, but it's discomfiting that the writers drop sexual violence into the script so often without comment. If nothing else, this pervasive threat--directed only at women--negates the idea that Battlestar conjures a gender-blind universe.
I found that rape scene with Sharon, particularly disturbing--and not in a good way. I'll be honest--I have yet to put my finger on why. It wasn't because I like the character. Joan, from Mad Men, is one of my favorites. But I thought the rape-scene with her and her husband was troubling in the exact opposite way. I don't know how to explain it except in the following, admittedly creepy, language--it felt necessary and organic, given who the characters were.
On BSG, evil comes so easy. So much of it passes without explanation or context. The rape scene with Sharon left me horrified--but not at what had just happened to this woman. Indeed, I felt almost no sympathy for her. It was like watching a sadistic cartoon, or something. And that made me really angry and ultimately horrified that someone would write a scene like that.
I think so much of this revolves around the fact that, in the past decade, the ceiling for writing and acting on television has been raised. I can't have watched "The Wire," watched "Mad Men," watched "Big Love" and felt as I used to. I simply can't go back. BSG isn't operating in the world that Star Trek: Voyager did. The game is the same, but more fierce. Measured against that backdrop, I think the writing, and acting, on the show is rather lackluster (skipping ahead in time, at the end of season, was incredibly lazy). When narrative isn't done in a particularly inspiring fashion, it seems that the first people to suffer are women, and minorities. It's no mistake that "The Wire" is not only one of the best written shows ever, it is also one of the best depiction of black people ever committed to television.
This will not be a popular thread. I understand that I have just pissed off half my readership. But you guys asked me to watch. You asked me to behold. I could never guarantee that we'd see the same thing.
UPDATE: "Suffer" refers to the quality of the writing, not the actual characters themselves. More aptly put, when the writing is bad, the writing of women and minorities tends to be really bad--or really just stand out.
We want to hear what you think about this article. Submit a letter to the editor or write to email@example.com.