October 13th 2006 Posted at BSG
Comments Off on Sometimes a Cylon is just a Cylon.
Rarely do I comment on articles appearing in Slate but Spencer Ackerman’s article about Battlestar Galactica supporting the Iraq insurgency is simply too much to let pass. Part of the problem is that the Iraq war comparison is so frakking obvious a high school freshman could make the analog – this is supposed to be insightful? And because it’s so obvious, I am sure the writers have thought about it. Once you dig a little deeper, it’s pretty obvious that Spencer is off (other than the obvious. Yes there is a war in the show and yes it has an insurgency.)
For the analogy to work, you need to believe that Cylon=Americans. Yet one of the things that the current Cylon approach (saving the soul of humanity) highlights is how utterly INSANE the Cylons are. Let’s look at it in terms of the calendar of events – Cylons plan a massive extermination of humanity. Even after killing off the billions of people in the colony they decide to hunt the rest of humanity in case they decide to come back and kill the Cylons. Yet eventually they change their mind and decide to save the souls of humanity. Why? Well Caprica 6 and Boomer had a lot to do with it. But with a back story like this the analogy completely fails. Instead it shows how frakked up the Cylons are as this is what passes for “compassion” among them. That’s right the armed occupation of New Caprica is Cylon compassion. In the first episode of the third season, Leabon (who has his eyes set on Starbuck) says, “I know you don’t value life but we do” which of course is complete false. It’s apparent that Cylons (who cannot die) don’t value life at all. I mean who killed billions back on the Colonies – the Cylons. The Cylons have always blamed humanity for their choices and their evil.
“In unmistakable terms, Battlestar: Galactica is telling viewers that insurgency (like, say, the one in Iraq) might have some moral flaws, such as the whole suicide bombing thing, but is ultimately virtuous and worthy of support. Wow.”
Except of course that’s not what the show is telling us at all. The suicide bombings are largely the work of Colonial Tigh who is concerned with one thing only – revenge on the Cylons and Gaius Balter for the loss of his eye. It’s important to remember here that the humans are the good guys who are captured and occupied by utterly insane robots. This is a theme that Manny Moto has explored before with Odessy 5 (which opened with the destruction of the Earth). Instead of trying to draw a parallel to Iraq, Spencer should think about the show in it’s own terms. The Cylons are Americans Spencer – they are insane robots intent on converting humanity to their monotheism, allegedly based on love. I say allegedly because it’s apparent that Cylons are incapable of agape, while they are pretty good at sex, it’s a clear example where they have adapted the form but not the substance of love. In terms of the shows narrative, it’s apparent that agape is an essential element in reproduction – which is why the Cylons are incapable of having children. Only Sharon Agathon was capable conceiving because “Helo loved her.”
“There is little end to BSG’s Iraq parallels. In the first episode, after the insurgency begins, the Cylon council debates how to respond. One Cylon, disgusted with his colleagues’ sentimental fears about losing hearts and minds, bellows, “How did you think the humans would greet us? With—oh, never mind.” We know, from Dick Cheney, how to fill in the blank: “With sweets and flowers.”
Really. What this particular scene shows me is that the Cylons are so completely unbalanced that they thought they would be able make nice after killing 99.9% of humanity. No rational would make that assessment (unless of course Spencer did we kill 99.9% of Iraqs? No. Ok I guess the analogy doesn’t hold.
Drawing this parallel doesn’t really get us anywhere. It certainly doesn’t provide any insight into the show because the parallel only works if you fudge your eyes and squint and completely ignore the true nature of the Cylons. They are running from one extreme to another (committing genocide and then deciding to save humanity) in a desperate attempt to bring some mental order to their severely sociapathic minds.
“It often seems as if the whole motive of the creative talent behind BSG is to make you feel uncomfortable about being an American during the occupation of Iraq.”
No. It doesn’t Spencer. It’s supposed to be about the nature of love (the difference between agape and eros) and the fact that the Cylons are completely incapable of empathy (agape). So they go through the forms of love (in sex and in converting the humans of New Caprica to their God of Love). But they know nothing about the substance of love and so find themselves frustrated by it. By focusing on the obvious things – Oh look an insurgency – this must be about Iraq – you miss the deeper meaning the writers’s are trying to convey.
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