Sunday, March 8, 2009

History Boys and Battlestar Galactica

So here's the thing. I read Juliet Lapidos' critique of Battlestar as a feminist show at Slate.
I had a number of problems with it, not the least of which are smaller things, as in using the word "hybrid" loosely, when it has a very specific meaning on the show, and making assumptions about things (such as the nature of Starbuck) that are by no means clear.

But I was having a hard time nailing down why I disagreed with her main theme. I couldn't really define for myself why she was wrong, so in a wise move, I refrained from commenting. But I've still been noodling it over.
I think part of it is that she's trying to refute the claim that Battlestar is the most feminist show EVER or that it has reached feminist perfection. That's setting the bar high, to say the least, so that any argument one can find is an effective one. "See, Cally froze when they launched the mission, Battlestar's not feminist perfection after all!"

Then after I wrote my review for The History Boys at ArtsWest I looked around at other reviews to see how horribly wrong I got it. (I'm usually right on, I guess I'm paranoid.) I found two interesting things. One, it seems I've scooped the Seattle premiere. Two, I found a blogger who wrote quite a bit about the play, including an analysis of the literary references that Bennett put in the play and why some worked and some didn't. I didn't get a lot of the references, so what the blogger was talking about still can be found 2-3 inches above my head. But this is what the writer says about Miss Lintott's rant:

Mrs Lintott herself is, as she puts it, gender neutral: she is a comic figure who pops up sardonically to point out her own marginality, the fact that in order to exist in this world, she must forget that she is a woman. In her major speech she rails at the boys, asking them to consider how depressing she finds it to teach "five centuries of masculine ineptitude". This outburst presents an interesting revision of feminist protest. Mrs Lintott's complaint is that of the exasperated housewife: she is tired of being one of a long line of women who have historically followed men of action, "cleaning up their mess". The feminist argument is actually rather different: it claims that history has routinely erased the fact that women have contributed to the mess themselves.

That's where Battlestar works as feminist art. Starbuck is the best of the best of the best, sir! well as deeply flawed who makes bad decisions, good decisions for the wrong reasons, bad decisions for the right reasons, but ultimately affects what is happening. Same is true of Laura Roslin, Helena Cain, Caprica Six, Boomer, Athena, and on down the line. They are making history. That's why I'm not interested in counting if Jamie Bamber's floating in a river topless or losing his towel in the officer's quarters counteracts against the cylon resurrection bathtubs where women show up naked.

I think this show is beyond that. Feminist perfection? Of course not. But we still are looking at a difference in kind, not degree.

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