'Battlestar Galactica' Didn’t Need to Hit You Over the Head to Get its Point Across
Great art requires subtlety to have an impact.
I recently saw BlacKkKlansman by Spike Lee, and of course after completing the 2 hour and 15 minute movie, I thought of Battlestar Galactica….What, wait a minute? Let me explain.
Both of these works have ample political and social messages for consumption. One does it wrong, and one does it masterfully.
Spike Lee and George Lucas diminish their message.
Spike Lee, in my estimation, comes up way short. The agenda the film is trying to get across certainly appeals to me, but he hits you over the head with it. I don’t like that.
The most obvious moment takes place as David Duke addresses the Colorado Springs chapter of the KKK. He drones on about how we must ensure the survival of the white race and put “America First.”
The catch phrase perks up the room, and soon enough, the entire cadre is chanting, “America First, America First.” How clever.
You don’t have to spoon feed me the disdain I have for Donald Trump. I can turn on MSNBC for that, and I don’t even have to pay $13.
Of course, Spike Lee isn’t alone in failing to deliver a meaningful critique. Following 9/11, I was dialed in big time to all the transgressions of the Bush Administration.
On the other hand, the constant film criticism annoyed me to no end. Revenge of the Sith put it right in your face and blatantly alluded to the end of civil liberties and our republic.
But Avatar was even worse. Shock and awe and all sorts of references were littered throughout. You know what, I have the ability to think for myself, and when you do it for me, the message is diminished.
Then 'Battlestar Galactica' came along.
Instead, these films all came off as the hyper-biased reporters we hate so much on cable news. The only thing they do is reinforce our hate—whether it’s justified or not. Then Battlestar Galactica came along.
For those who don’t know, the human created slave race of Cylons have returned and wiped out 99% of humanity. Only in a far off galaxy, approximately 50,000 humans have survived, and they are on the run.
Now, that’s an existential threat. Still, uncertainty after 9/11 had us really feeling it too—as a potential mushroom cloud loomed over us in America. As things progressed, some of us thought that less so—especially as justification allowed Iraq, Torture, the Patriot Act, and Guantanamo Bay.
Battlestar Galactica made allegory on all fronts. Starbuck tuning up a Cylon before tossing him out an airlock, Commander Adama going beyond military legality in pursuit of victory, President Roslin stretching the limits of constitutional authority and equating dissent with treason.
It certainly sounds like Battlestar Galactica once again made the leap to the small screen (as originally charge after Star Wars came out in 1977). At least agenda-wise but that’s where BSG set a standard as great science fiction is supposed to.
What would you do?
As any of the obvious allusions were made, I never felt as though the creators were exercising judgement on the decisions the characters were making. On the run and going beyond the limits of human decency at times, Battlestar Galactica simply put you in the shoes of the characters, and the horrible decisions they faced.
I continually felt like, hey you’re George Bush, and 9/11 just fell in your lap —what now? And you can’t be wrong.
The delivery made me empathize with the people I hated and consider all they were up against. Of course, the fact that the characters were all very appealing really forced the viewer to go where he or she wasn’t used to going. Yes, that means being in a position to not simply see the Bush administration as war criminals, but people who may or may not have failed.
In short, what Battlestar Galactica does provide is a defense for the policies that riled so many of us. This amounts to much more definitive way to criticize. In other words, if your arguments can’t stand up to perspective from the other side, how valid are they.
In the end, though, my opinions didn’t really change. But I appreciated that BSG treated me like grownup who could consider the other point of view and still make up my own mind.
And they did it without imposing their views or bopping me on the head.
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