“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.

Kempe and Posthumanity

After she encounters Jesus in her time of sickness, Kempe devotes herself to living by God’s word. As a result, she does things like wearing white despite not being a virgin, or ceasing sex with her husband so she can live chastely. She also speaks of God despite being outside the clergy. Kempe therefore tends to provoke quite a reaction in other people, both contemporary and modern. Do Kempe’s transcendental experiences render her posthuman? Why or why not? How do people see her and her claims? In what ways are their reactions to her similar to or different than how people interacted with possible posthumans in other texts?

Throughout the book, Avram has discounted the value of Malkah’s programming in Yod . While Malkah counters that it “made the difference between success and failure,” did Malkah’s programming really help Yod (Piercy 429)? It allowed him to feel, but did that ruin his chance of being content with his life? Did it curse him to live as a sentient being used as a weapon? Would he have been better off without emotions?

Oryx and Crake 9/15

The Children of Crake were intended to live as immortal beings, as immortality comes from lack of fear. In order to achieve this, Crake eliminated an interest in art, reading, or religion. However, with the revelation that the Crakers built an effigy to summon Snowman home, this distinction is called into question. Has Crake really achieved immortality for his creations? Is his concept of immortality flawed? Is there a way for humans to become immortal?

Randomness in Oryx and Crake

In Chapter 2, Hayles asserts that we are currently undergoing a shift from the paradigm of presence/absence to one of pattern/randomness. She argues that though information is often perceived as a pattern, the concept of randomness is just as important to understanding information. The two work as complements to convey information. In Oryx and Crake, we see the catastrophic effects of attempting to regulate the world’s informational patterns. Bobkittens, for example, have adapted to attack larger creatures, not just the rabbits they were meant to hunt. The Children of Crake, however, appear to adhere to Crake’s exact conception of them. Of these situations, one free of randomness and the other governed by it, which is closer to the posthuman concept? Further, what is Atwood saying about the necessity of randomness?