July 23, 2011

Romance in Battlestar Gallactica? [review time]

Love is a strange and wonderful thing, Chief — you be happy you experienced it all — even if it was with a machine. -Gaius Baltar
Ok, I'm going to go ahead and be the girl here and talk about romance in Battlestar Gallactica, but it's not what you think. I'm not going to go all Team Tyrol on you or moon over how sexy Apollo is and how perfect he is for Starbuck and how I'd throw Dualla out of an airlock. Actually, I find most of the love subplots on BSG to be very trivial and unrelatable, but since I find the show to be incredibly masterful, I'm going to argue that these love affairs really contribute to the overall themes of the story. Because there is a pattern here. Some might say the drama between romantically involved characters was a filler addition to BSG aimed toward mass appeal, but I'm going to say that this drama was necessary to the show. I'm two seasons in right now and I find that it's the human relationships on the show that are fickle, shallow and unrelatable, while somehow the Cylons are capable of meaningful relationships, involving commitment, and inspiring of unconditional love.

Love subplots are common in Hollywood, where almost every blockbuster to roll out has a sexy love interest to keep things hot and flaming. There's a lot of cynicism towards the subject of the loveplot, but obviously a good romance can create tension and up the stakes in any movie: just ask any superhero - the first rule is that if you love something it can be taken away. This isn't just the case in crappy movies like Spiderman 3, but in the greatest of films as well. Just take a look at IMDBs top 50 rated movies of all time. The Godfather's love interest is blown up in a car bomb in Italy meant for Michael. Inception (which I'm surprised to find clinging to #8) is largely driven by Cobb's love of Mal and his refusal to let her go. Much of the tension in The Dark Night come from Bruce's feelings for Rachel, carried over from Batman Begins. What can I even say about Han and Leia, Neo and Trinity, Forrest and Jenny? If you don't think Fight Club's narrator loved Marla, there's something missing in your understanding of human relationships, and what tragedy is more heart throbbing than the wife of Brad Pitt's head in the box in Se7en? Might I also add that the name Arwen does not occur in The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, nor is she a major character in any sense in Fellowship or Return of the King, but Peter Jackson knew that the story would be strengthened by Aragorn's love for the Elven beauty.

So don't just say you don't love a good romantic subplot. That's not the issue here. The issue is that Anders comes out of nowhere and suddenly Starbuck's all psychotically depressed and willing to risk her life and that of the entire fleet's pilots to go back and rescue this dude she slept with a couple times and knew for maybe a week. That Apollo has a few wrestling matches with Dualla and suddenly they're in bed together despite her seemingly much stronger relationship with Billy. That Cally says she "cares about" Tyrol and flash a year forward, she's pregnant (I'm assuming with his child because I have not watched past season 2 - I felt it was implied.) And fair enough, these aren't issues central to the show and very little screentime is devoted to strengthening these relationships, but I don't think I can be the only one who just doesn't see the bond between any of these characters. It comes out of nowhere and seems flighty and impermanent. But you can tell me if Starbuck is still with Anders at the end of the show. Actually, please don't, I hate spoilers!

What really interests me here is that the same can't be said about Baltar's relationship with Six, or Helo's relationship with Sharon. Even the Chief's love for Boomer seems more real and relatable than Apollo's for D, despite the fact that he manages to get over it and move on. While it lasts, Tyrol is lovestruck and miserable, jealous and confused, just like any man who's found out that the woman he loves is really a robot. In fact, that sounds like most men in love period.
"How do you propose to do that? 'Oh look, a Cylon device.' 'Really? Well, how do you know what a Cylon device looks like, Doctor?' 'Oh, I forgot to mention I'm familiar with their technology because I've been having sex with a Cylon for the last two years now.'"-Gaius Baltar
Baltar has what I would argue is a meaningful relationship with his imaginary Six and the one he rescues from the Pegasus holding cell. He truly cares for her and when she is upset, he puts her before all of humanity, including himself. It's clear the Six feels the same way, because the model he was with on Caprica convinces all of the Cylons that crushing humanity was the wrong thing to do, and she does it for Baltar. Similarly, Sharon's love for Tyrol changes the course of the war. Don't even get me started on the model with Helo - he demonstrates unconditional love for Sharon and the child she is carrying and manages to put aside his fear and trust in her love for him, and in her goodness.

I'm not of the opinion that the loveplots in BSG are merely there for mass appeal and sexiness. Maybe the point is that these fake humans are better at playing human than we are, and that sometimes human relationships are flighty and shallow. Maybe in the destruction of their civilisation, the crew of Galactica have to focus on survival and reproduction - they don't have time and energy to devote to meaningful bonding. Or maybe they just wanted to inspire Starpollo and Duilly (?) fanfiction.

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