“Strong” Women and “Cowardly” Men: Expectations of Gender in Battlestar Galactica

In this paper, I intend to examine how Battlestar Galactica deals with gender and gender roles. In particular, I will focus on Starbuck and Gaius Baltar’s expressions of gender and how the show treats each character as a result. Starbuck in the original series was a man, but for the revival the character was reworked as a woman, while still retaining most key character traits. Thus, Starbuck is a gambling, hot-headed, rebellious ace pilot, who also happens to be a woman. While she is all of these things and no less a woman, she exemplifies a certain type of gender expression that Battlestar Galactica approves of. She excels through her masculine behaviors, which highlights a key fact. The world of Battlestar Galactica is not, in fact, a utopia in which gender is no longer an issue; it is a world saturated in masculinity, where the most valued traits are associated with men and strength, and things considered feminine are looked down upon. In order to show how this standard runs both ways, I want to contrast Starbuck, a masculine woman praised by the narrative, with Baltar, a feminine man shamed by the narrative. Though several critics have focused on what Starbuck’s character reveals about gender in Battlestar Galactica, what I found most interesting was how Baltar is condemned in the narrative for expressing more feminine traits. As Matthew Jones discusses in “Butch Girls, Brittle Boys, and Sexy, Sexless Cylons: Some Gender Problems in Battlestar Galactica,” Baltar does not fit in with the ideal of a brave, physical manly man, and is thus considered lesser in some way. Between Starbuck and Baltar, I can explore how a very specific gender ideal is being pushed in Battlestar Galactica. I also am considering working in an analysis of how Cylons view and express gender, but I am not quite sure what to focus on within that or how to approach the topic in a way that will fit with my work.

1 thought on ““Strong” Women and “Cowardly” Men: Expectations of Gender in Battlestar Galactica

  1. Hey Hannah,
    I think this is a great topic, especially because it deals specifically with the posthuman, but you are taking it in a more in-depth direction with gender, as we have seen in other pieces as well. One thing I wondered about is your explanation of Gaius Baltar. You describe Starbuck as “G a m b l i n g (I had to put spaces bc it wouldn’t let me post with this word – weird), hot-headed, rebellious ace pilot, who also happens to be a woman” but don’t necessarily offer how Gaius exhibits female qualities. If anything, I see how Gaius is a coward who is power and fame hungry, but afraid to be caught and therefore does unethical things to hide his faults – but how does this equate to feminine qualities? I can see your argument very clearly, and I am absolutely sure he has feminine qualities, I just think it may help your argument unfold more clearly if you state front up what qualities he has that makes him the “feminine” male character.

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