Sunday, July 24, 2005
The Whiteness of Space
I just Netflixed the new-and-improved "Battlestar Galactica" TV movie, which I really enjoyed. As soon as the first season comes out on DVD, I plan to watch the rest. S P O I L E R S However, I was very struck by the fact that the humanity that was saved when the lost colonies were destroyed by the Cylons is distressingly WHITE. Boomer (who was a black man in the original series) is an Asian woman now, but, as is also revealed at the end of the movie, she's not human at all... But a Cylon spy. Similarily the XO, Colonel Ty, is now a craggy white guy. There is a communications officer (shades of Uhura) who is a black woman, but she's -- so far, at any rate -- a very background character. The actor playing the new Adama, Edward James Olmos is a Mexican-American actor, but his children (namely "Apollo" and Zack, Athena seems to have been forgotten) are not being played by overtly Hispanic actors. So, what am I saying? I'm saying I miss the helicon days when TV producers felt compelled to have at least one "token" African-American actor in every show. The future that my TV used to present looked a lot like my neighborhood, only better. Because somehow I got the sense that in the futures of Battlestar Galactica and the original Star Trek series we all got along better. We'd conquered all this stupid "race" stuff and had become a world government that was really all about the human race. Lately, it seems like TV science fiction deals with race in the future by pretending that if you show a couple of black characters in the background we'll all just assume everything is hunky-dory. I'm thinking of Babylon 5, which was also notable in its whiteness. The exception there, of course, was the doctor, who was actually a "whiter" replacement of a very black African-seeming doctor who appeared in the pilot episode. I think it's especially striking in Battlestar Galactica because of the obvious replacements. I was always a fan of the original Boomer, but the new one was growing on me until it was revealed that she wasn't human. Similarly, it's frustrating that the producers or director or casting people or whoever is in charge of this decision didn't think about having someone in the command circle (besides Adama) who isn't lily white. I also think this struck me because the new Galactica is so much more based on a real military ship (with CAGs and XOs, etc,) and the modern military is fairly highly integrated. The scene at the end of the movie when Adama gives his impassioned speech about finding Earth, I scanned the crowd for color. There was some, but... well, for me, it wasn't enough. And I'm just some white girl from Minnesota.