Monday, October 09, 2006

Die Hard With A Vengeance - Battlestar Galactica Version

There was some amount of perturbation among Battlestar Galactica fans of the pro-Iraq persuasion when it looked like the new season might possibly turn out to be no more than a negative commentary on the Iraq war, Hollywood style. This, despite the fact that in the NYTimes last year, the two executive producers of the show, Ronald Moore and David Eich promised never to hew to partylines, and in fact, to eschew any plotline which looked to be too transparently onesided, a decision that built them an audience of devoted fans on both sides of the political divide.

Still, the review in Zap2It for the two hour season opener looked like it was, indeed, going to move along these premises:
Occupation forces. Suicide bombers. An atmosphere thick with fear and distrust. These are just a few of the things that the third season of the Sci Fi Channel's Peabody-winning series "Battlestar Galactica" shares with the America's war in Iraq.
And it's true, that in watching the show, one could not but help think of Iraq often as several of the images on the show references themes that are often in our news, suicide bombers, police forces raiding civilian homes, hiding weapons on holy ground, prisoners in hoods and hands tied, references to torture and to Presidential refusal to acknowledge said torture, and many more.

However, to think that the show is portraying Iraq misses the larger point.

In fact, I don't believe the Iraq comparison holds past the surface look. Instead the show runners are using all too familiar images as shorthand to raise issues, anew, that all of us are familiar with recently from the news, in order to make us shake up assumptions, decrease our comfort zone and make the drama in the show feel more real. It's not about Iraq specifically, it's about situations and moral conditions and quandaries that arise in a struggle for existence - and not just any struggle. In this case, it is the absolute struggle for human survival - as only a small remnant of human beings are still alive to face the cylon (human looking robots) threat.

These are very real questions that arise in all war - and particularly a conflict with such stakes as what is being enacted on BSG. It's naive to think otherwise. Black and white is elided, the sides start mirroring each other, etc. Good and bad sides become complex. Boundaries slide away.

Using the paraphernalia of a familiar setting makes it feel more real and uncomfortable and more visceral to the viewer. And hence makes it more intensely felt drama.


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