Monday, January 12, 2009

Felix "Gay-dis" Gaeta

I was bonding recently with a professor in my department over the awesomeness that is Battlestar Galactica. We agreed (as anyone does who's seen the show) that it's awesome, but she complained that its homophobia drove her crazy. Ever eager to defend my baby, I replied that I had heard they were outing Gaeta in the new set of webisodes, “Face of the Enemy” --to which she mumbled something and changed the subject. I felt a little dumb after this, like I'd boiled a complex issue down to a question of representation--if they have queer characters (finally!), then the show must be queer-friendly, right?

Obviously, there's more to it than that, but I don't want to downplay how shocking it still is to see two guys kiss as part of a mainstream TV narrative (even if they only get to be gay on the internet, like closeted rural teenagers). The show goes out of its way to demonstrate how okay everyone is with Gaeta's gay-i-tude, from Racetrack gently ribbing Hoshi (that's the BF) for how long it took them to get together, to Tigh's accepting their relationship as a reason to give Hoshi a raptor to go find Gaeta's lost ship. Furthermore, I really appreciated how Gaeta's sexuality was presented as more nuanced than the straight/gay binary--his romantic/sexual connection with the Eight seems real enough, but isn't used as a way to delegitimize his desire for Hoshi or his queerness in general. At the end of the day, though, I had much the same feeling that I did after watching “Razor”--the moments when the show explicitly addresses questions of sexual diversity just highlight the narrative's structural homophobia.

“Razor's” retrograde politics are pretty obvious--Cain's lesbianism is a sign of her over-the-top masculinity, and thus her failure to be a successful “parent” for the Pegasus. This fear of a queer familial structure is particularly striking when you consider the insistent comparisons made between Pegasus as the failed family (that has to sacrifice itself if the future is to survive) and the stabilizing force of Galactica's heterosexual parental dyad of Adama and Roslin. But even more than that, I think there's something really important in how the thing that the Cylons most desire in/from the humans is the ability to heterosexually reproduce. What makes the Cylons monstrous is their attraction across sameness and their ability to regenerate by means other than reproduction. “Love” is what makes Hera's and (maybe...) Nicky's conceptions possible, and it seems the show implies the same origin with the fetus conceived by Six and Tigh. If love = reproduction, what does that mean for queer characters? Especially when reproduction is the activity that marks you not just as straight, but as human?

I don't know--maybe I'm oversimplifying things. The way the Final Five are obviously in between human and Cylon shows a breakdown of boundaries between categories of identity that serves as a counterpoint to all this obsession with reproduction and family structure. And Baltar's effeminacy certainly isn't linked to any lack of virility on his part. And even if his desires are marked as perverse (which I think they pretty definitely are), I don't think the show pathologizes his investment in sexual pleasure for its own sake. We'll see--but I'm excited for Friday, and to see where all this goes in the next season, particularly w/r/t the relationship between Tigh and the Six.

1 comment:

Poppy Red said...

I think this is so interesting, and I have little to add because I am also trying to figure it out. The obsession with reproduction in sci-fi generally is something I'm really interested in.

Incidentally, *are* the Cylons monstrous? I mean, I know they are to the humans, but do we factor in reader response here? Surely the reader is more attracted to the Cylons than to the humans on the show (or is that just me?). Is this just the lure of the mysterious/monstrous? Or are we meant to identify with them? Isn't their belief in one god one of the ways we are meant to see them as like "us"?

I've always had a real problem with the Cylons wanting to reproduce so badly; I couldn't figure out why that would be important. I agree that it seems the show sees that as what makes a human, though that makes no sense, since animals can reproduce just as well, if not better. It always seemed to me that the Cylons were also better at regenerating, since it was a system that didn't take as many chances. Now that the system has collapsed, I understand its fragility better, but a question remains: how did the Cylons "evolve" in the first place, then? They are different from Centurians, which are man-made, but they also can't reproduce. Is there some magical missing step that made the leap possible? Are the final five the missing link? Why can't they make more of themselves? Am I being stupid? (Probably.)

If one were to see the Cylons as the truly queer characters, might their desire to be seen as human (or humanlike) be a reiteration of Judith Butler's theories about expanding the definitions of gender and humanity?

Finally, if love is what makes reproduction possible (and I agree that this is what the show has led us to believe), has new information this season changed that, and what is the show saying about love? To me, there's only ever been one loving couple on the show: Helo and Sharon/Athena. So I get that Hera's conception was made possible through love. But Tighe and Six? He, like, hit and tortured her, and since she was a prisoner, I don't see how their sex could not be called rape. And while Cally's doglike devotion to Chief was apparent, we saw how that turned out, plus now that Cally has been newly exposed as a lying slut, what does *that* mean about Nicky's conception? Finally, will Gaeta's recent assholism turn out to be another way for the show to express homophobia? (Incidentally, I think Gaeta's being an asshole, but Adam thinks he is completely in the right and understandable, so that last part is obviously open to interpretation.)