Thursday, November 16

Battlestar Disturbs Intentionally

Source: SciFi Weekly

This is just a short note regarding Toni Reynolds' recent letter on prisoner treatment on Battlestar Galactica ("Battlestar's Shackles Offend Viewer").

I, too, was disturbed by the image of a black man in a neck collar being prodded to and fro like a herd beast.

But then, this is not the first time Galactica has sought to intentionally disturb. Especially where prisoner treatment is concerned. The Number Six Cylon agent originally discovered aboard the Battlestar Pegasus was beaten viciously and sexually assaulted, with graphic footage that hearkens to the plight of abused and assaulted women everywhere. Helo and Chief Tyrol are bound and then brutally beaten in their Pegasus brig cell; the normally iron-toothed Col. Tigh is shown reduced to a scurrying, pathetic version of himself in the Cylon detention center on New Caprica; Dr. Baltar shrieks with agony in the interrogation chair aboard the Cylon Basestar; and so on, and so forth.

We should also note that the Athena version of Sharon has been yanked about in a neck collar numerous times, so it's not like these devices suddenly appeared in time for the diseased Simon's scene in the last episode. If we're more shocked by Simon in the collar than Athena/Sharon, it's only because historically, in America anyway, we have a shameful photographic history of African slaves being kept in similar bondage.

I won't guess at the underlying motives of the producers; suffice to say that if their intent is to disturb, it seems to be working. But then, good science fiction has always sought to disturb, in one way or another. And the best part is? Battlestar seldom preaches. There is no overarching moral point pounded into our heads with a ball-peen hammer. It is left to us to decide how and why we are disturbed, and what lessons might be taken away from a particular episode, regarding a variety of social, political and humanitarian issues.

Brad R. Torgersen
sub-odeon AT comcast DOT net

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