Saturday, August 23, 2014

31 Day Battlestar Galactica Challenge, Day 23: Most Hated Scene (TRIGGER WARNING: FOR TALK OF RAPE AND SUICIDE)

From the second that the Pegasus crew is introduced, the writers of BSG wanted us to dislike them. The CAG was a complete asshole; Admiral Cain was a cold-hearted tactician; the rest of them were basically frat bros that were thrilled to have booze and wanted to brag about sexually abusing the captured Six they had aboard their vessel. Obviously having the civilian fleet with the Galactica made a huge difference in the attitudes of the military, prior to the Pegasus arriving, even though they did refer to Caprica-Eight as "it" and "thing."

When Lt. Thorne entered the brig to "interrogate" Caprica-Eight on the identity of the giant ship (to be later revealed by Pegasus' Six copy as a resurrection ship), I knew something horrible was about to happen, and then, right as the frat bros started wondering if Thorne would let them have a little taste of Galactica's Cylon, the lieutenant punched Caprica-Eight right in the face. I had to leave the room; I knew what was going to happen and just couldn't watch it. It wasn't until the show came to Netflix that I forced myself to do so, and I teared up, especially after Tyrol accidentally brained Thorne and Caprica-Eight was just sitting, bare-assed, on the ground, bawling and shaking. I haven't watched it since.

Now, that being said, I want rape to continue to be portrayed on television, but not in a setting-up-the-story sort of way. A lot of times, the woman victim is simply a plot tool or a reason for the main characters to get involved, and sometimes, we are never even given her name. In Battlestar Galactica's case, Caprica-Eight's rape* was used as a plot device: the people aboard the Pegasus have allowed their humanity to leave them in order to survive, and this action gives the audience a reason to hate them. It also propels the conflict between Adama and Cain, as the former makes it his mission to save his men from execution for the death of Lt. Thorne. It served a purpose, to show our own species' ability to dehumanize anyone** and anything that seems to or does threaten us. It is these times that rape is an important act to display to ourselves: to make us question why we would do anything so horrendous as take away a person's agency just to prove our own power. However, this line is a narrow one to walk; too often it's not effective and only adds to the culture that thinks rape is deserved or over-reported or trivial. I have to give BSG props here for going this direction, even though I felt like it was sort of dropped once Admiral Cain was gone: how did Athena deal with the trauma, other than visiting Doc Cottle to see if her fetus was okay? Obviously, with Gina, her treatment drove her to suicidal thoughts, agreeing to cooperate with identifying the resurrection ship only so, when it was destroyed, she would not simply download into a new body, to relive the experience again. But with Athena, her story arc does not seem to change, which is possibly due to the fact that the perpetrators (and those who allow such behavior) were soon killed, but from an emotional standpoint, it's a bit disappointing that we didn't see how she dealt with it.

But it's still too painful for me to watch. The sheer anger and simultaneous terror that arose within me is something that I don't really enjoy experiencing, and as a woman, who, you know, occasionally fears that some random dude is going to come rape me, that is enough for me that I don't want to watch it happen to one of my favorite characters in Battlestar Galactica.

* In an extended scene, it's shown that Tyrol and Helo actually interrupt the rape, not stop it, which makes it all the more harsh.
** It is important to note that both Athena and Gina (Pegasus-Six) are female models, so it does beg the question of what would have been done to the male models. It is rare that the male models are captured, but when they are, their treatment is not sexual in nature. Starbuck physically tortured Leoben in "Flesh and Bone," and Galactica left a then-suspected Cylon, Doral, to live the rest of his days on the Ragnar anchorage back in the miniseries. Even the two Cavils are spaced.

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