Lady-fying Science Fiction: A Study in Starbuck

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*** Credit for the idea for this article goes to my dear friend Brodie, who rightfully pointed out that I had a duty as a Sci-fi lady nerd to discuss the decision to make Starbuck a woman in the Battlestar Galactica reboot (2004-2009). Also, I will try to keep this as professional as I can, and keep the “I want to have Katee Sackhoff’s babies” discussion for another day.

*** Spoilers for Battlestar Galactica, obviously.

There has been a lot of discussion lately about the Ghostbusters reboot set for release in 2016, and by discussion I mean all-out war. The reboot will have an all-female cast of Ghostbusters, and either you are all for it, or you want to set Paul Feig’s house on fire. Even on this blog we have differing views on it (stay tuned for Racheal’s inevitable article on it). As someone who is fiercely protective of all of my sci-fi, and incredibly critical of any kind of remake, I certainly understand why people are not happy. Reboots of any kind are always going to be met with hostility, especially those with a cult following. The decision to have an all-female cast in particular has understandably added to this hostility.

Personally, I’m a fan of more ladies, all the time, always. Obviously, I will have to hold my judgement on the new Ghostbusters until I’ve seen it, but I am not averse to the idea of it being all ladies. Lady-fied productions of anything are something I love (I once saw an all-female production of Shakespeare’s Taming of the Shrew by Bell Shakespeare Company and I tell everyone I’ve ever met about it). Lady-fying classics is not the disastrous thing many seem to reflexively think it is, and can actually be a great improvement. Case in point: Starbuck in Battlestar Galactica.

For anyone who hasn’t seen the original series, it aired 1978-1979, and it’s great. I have fond memories of watching the whole thing in a caffeine and junk food-fuelled marathon at college. Upon its release, however, many criticised it for riding the Star Wars hype-wave, an argument strengthened by the Han Solo-ness of the character of Starbuck (played by Dirk Benedict). As a handsome, charming, flirty ladies’ man, Starbuck was the ultimate guy’s guy, much like many other male leads in sci-fi at the time (Han Solo, Captain Kirk, etc). This is not a bad thing. It is, however, something we have seen again and again over the years (Firefly’s Captain Mal Reynolds, Guardians of the Galaxy’s Starlord).

Ergo, the decision to make Starbuck a female in the Battlestar Galactica reboot was, for me at least, a breath of fresh air.

One of the anxieties I have about casting a female in a previously male role is always “Sighhhh they’re going to make her a dude with boobies.” I am always worried femininity will be sacrificed in the pursuit of satisfying fans. Luckily, our lady Starbuck finds the balance between the classic character of original series Starbuck, and the need for a strong female lead who is as 3 dimensional as her male co-stars.

Played by the beautiful Katee Sackhoff, Captain Kara ‘Starbuck’ Thrace takes up space unapologetically, is considered one of the best pilots in the fleet and does not sacrifice her femininity in order to find her place in this militaristic society. The classic Starbuck one liners and reckless attitude is still there, but in making the character a woman the audience is spared the kind of comments that can make any woman’s eyes roll so far back in her own head she can watch her own brain cells die.

It’s a definite improvement. It should also be noted that Starbuck isn’t the only case of lady-fying in the reboot. The character of Boomer and the President of the colonies, Laura Roslin, were both male in the original show, are female in the reboot, and both are amazing characters in their own right. So while Ghostbusters fans are hesitant to accept this new line up of characters, I would urge them to consider Battlestar Galactica as a success story.

Throw in the fact that this is one of the more cerebral sci-fi TV show in recent years, and the Battlestar Galactica reboot becomes a must watch for fan of TV, sci-fi or no.

Racheal – 

*** Was Scott Bakula in this? Because he is AMAZING

***You’re goddamn right I have a problem with the all-female Ghostbusters, but it’s not because I hate the lady folk or because I am exhausted by all this feminist demand for equality. Simply, I just don’t believe that female comic actors of today can speak to comic characters of the 1980s. To my mind, Dan Aykroyd, Bill Murray, Harold Ramis and Rick Moranis are peerless. The only thing that would have made the original Ghostbusters ensemble better would have been if John Belushi has lived long enough to be in the role which was written for him, rather than being the inspiration for Slimer (we might have had to substitute Bill Murray if that had happened though… so it’s a tough call).I don’t want to see anyone, regardless of gender, step into those suits or pick up a proton pack. It just shits me off that we have to try and ‘reimagine’ classic films, that the entertainment industry is arrogant enough to think that they can improve upon perfection. Melissa McCarthy also grinds my gears because I am over seeing female actresses who use their weight and appearance to make them ‘funny’, sorry, Rebel Wilson, I’m looking at you too. But yes, Lauren is correct, I will no doubt have more to say about this as time goes by. And look, I hope that the female Ghostbusters proves me wrong and that I have to eat humble pie. I won’t be holding my breath though.

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One comment

  1. Tim · September 10, 2015

    I hope it works…. I want it to work….. MUST KEEP MIND OPEN….

    Like

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