Friday, March 27, 2009

Into the wild with BSG (by Suzie)

         Even if you never watched the new “Battlestar Galactica,” you may find the following interesting. I want to comment on gender, ethnocentrism and disability in the finale.
         Spoiler: The remnants of a human civilization and their Cylon (cyborg) allies settle on our Earth. They break into groups around the planet. Of the main characters, one woman dies of cancer, as expected. Another vanishes into thin air, not as expected. One goes off with her husband and child. Another is with her husband. A third is with a male lover. Three men end up on their own, but no woman does. Our society has a hard time imagining women on their own, not in relation to men.
         A man alone in the wilderness can prove his “masculinity,” i.e., traits that have been associated with men, such as strength and independence. Women may explore nature for various reasons, but they usually do it despite traditional notions of femininity.
         Artists often have depicted women in nature, usually for the pleasure of the male viewer, such as a naked nymph bathing in a stream. A fascinating commentary on this is Swedish photographer Annika von Hausswolff’s series “Back to Nature,” crime-scene-style photos of dead women in natural surroundings. Her work, which I saw as part of the Global Feminisms exhibit, may remind men that women in the wilderness can become prey because of their gender. Men may attack other men, but their gender is unlikely to be the main reason.
           Once, when I found myself in the neighborhood, I visited Yellowstone National Park in the late fall. I remember looking back on a trail, seeing a man ascending, and feeling a moment of panic. I was relieved when a ranger came along. Not all women think this way, but there are enough of us to make it an issue. For example, Melissa McEwan at Shakesville writes about TV shows that make some women uncomfortable by ignoring the risk of sexual assault.
           Back to BSG: The humans and Cylons decide to give up technology before heading into the wild, except for a few tricks they will teach the preverbal humans already inhabiting the planet. For more on the colonialism of the Colonial fleet, check out Hoyden About Town.
           It might seem odd for cyborgs to give up technology, but these wanted to be more human, and some felt love and devotion for humans. They already had given up the ability to reproduce and resurrect through technology. One of the show's themes was how enemies could leave war behind. In the end, the Cylons who had remained at war and who valued themselves as creatures of technology were all killed, and no one seemed to mourn this huge loss of life. The robots that looked less human went off on their own, but again, no one seemed to care.
         Amanda at Skepchick brings up the disability angle:
And then 39 thousand people all together decide to give up all technology? … 
 In one fell swoop, they created new disabled people and guaranteed deaths for others. What happened to those without good vision or hearing that was previously fixed with glasses and hearing aids? What about the diabetics? What about those with curable cancer?
           Without my glasses, I can’t find my glasses. And I hate the thought of whittling a catheter for myself. I have incurable cancer, but I’d still like to live a bit longer. Although there are people with disabilities who head into the wilderness and give up technology, we can’t afford to valorize and romanticize it the way others do. The BSG finale would have been no happy ending for the likes of me.