bardic_lady: (starbuck - beyond insane)

Works Cited

Aaron, Michele. The Body's Perilous Pleasures: Dangerous Desires and Contemporary Culture. Edinburgh: Edinburgh UP, 1999. 


Angeli, Michael. "Six Degrees of Separation." Battlestar Galactica. Prod. Ronald D. Moore and David Eick. Dir. Robert M. Young. Sci-Fi. 29 Nov. 2004.


Barr, Marleen S. Alien to Femininity: Speculative Fiction and Feminist Theory. New York: Greenwood, 1987. 


Brown, Jeffery A. "Gender, Sexuality, and Toughness: The Bad Girls of Action Film and Comic." Action Chicks: New Images of Tough Women in Popular Culture. Ed. Sherrie A. Inness. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2004. 


Early, Frances H., and Kathleen Kennedy. "Introduction: Athena’s Daughters." Athena's Daughters: Television's New Women Warriors. Ed. Frances H. Early and Kathleen Kennedy. Syracuse, N.Y.: Syracuse UP, 2003. 


Early, Frances H. "The Female Just Warrior Reimagined: From Boudicca to Buffy." Athena's Daughters: Television's New Women Warriors. Ed. Frances H. Early and Kathleen Kennedy. Syracuse, N.Y.: Syracuse UP, 2003. 


Eick, David (story), and Ronald D. Moore. "Kobol’s Last Gleaming, Part I." Battlestar Galactica. Prod. Ronald D. Moore and David Eick. Dir. Michael Rymer. Sci-Fi. 17 Jan. 2005.


Eick, David (story), and Ronald D. Moore. "Kobol’s Last Gleaming, Part II." Battlestar Galactica. Prod. Ronald D. Moore and David Eick. Dir. Michael Rymer. Sci-Fi. 24 Jan. 2005.


Graphia, Toni. "Bastille Day." Battlestar Galactica. Prod. Ronald D. Moore and David Eick. Dir. Allan Kroeker. Sci-Fi. 1 Nov. 2004.


Graphia, Toni. "Flesh and Bone." Battlestar Galactica. Prod. Ronald D. Moore and David Eick. Dir. Brad Turner. Sci-Fi. 6 Dec. 2004.


Heinecken, Dawn. The Warrior Women of Television: a Feminist Cultural Analysis of the Female Body in Popular Media. New York: Peter Lang, 2003. 


Helford, Elyce Rae. "Feminism, Queer Studies, and the Sexual Politics of Xena: Warrior Princess." Fantasy Girls: Gender in the New Universe of Science Fiction and Fantasy Television. Ed. Elyce Rae Helford. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2000. 


Hills, Elizabeth. "From ‘Figurative Males’ to Action Heroines: Further Thoughts on Active Women in the Cinema." Screen Magazine 40.1 1999. 


Inness, Sherrie A. Tough Girls: Women Warriors and Wonder Women in Popular Culture. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania, 1999. 


Kirkland, Ewan. “A Dangerous Place for Women” BSG and Philosophy: Mission Accomplished or Mission Frakked Up? Ed. Josef Steif & Tristan D. Tamplin. Chicago, IL: Open Court, 2008


Larson, Glen A., and Ronald D. Moore. "Miniseries." Battlestar Galactica. Prod. Ronald D. Moore and David Eick. Dir. Michael Rymer. Sci-Fi. 8 Dec. 2003.


McNair, Brian. Striptease Culture Sex, Media and the Democratization of Desire. London: Routledge, 2002. 


Moore, Ronald D. "33." Battlestar Galactica. Prod. Ronald D. Moore and David Eick. Dir. Michael Rymer. Sci-Fi. 18 Oct. 2004.


Moore, Ronald D. "Water." Battlestar Galactica. Prod. Ronald D. Moore and David Eick. Dir. Marita Grabiak. Sci-Fi. 25 Oct. 2004.


Ney, Sharon, and Elaine M. Sciog-Lazarov. "The Construction of Feminine Identity in Babylon 5." Fantasy Girls: Gender in the New Universe of Science Fiction and Fantasy Television. Ed. Elyce Rae Helford. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2000. 


Ng, Laura. "’The Most Powerful Weapon You Have’: Warriors and Gender in La Femme Nikita." Athena's Daughters: Television's New Women Warriors. Ed. Frances H. Early and Kathleen Kennedy. Syracuse, N.Y.: Syracuse UP, 2003. 


Pozner, Jennifer L. "Not Your Mother’s Heroines." Sojourner: the Women’s Forum October (1997). 


Robinson, Carla. "Colonial Day." Battlestar Galactica. Prod. Ronald D. Moore and David Eick. Dir. Jonas Pate. Sci-Fi. 10 Jan. 2005.


Robinson, Carla. "You Can’t Go Home Again." Battlestar Galactica. Prod. Ronald D. Moore and David Eick. Dir. Sergio Mimica-Gezzan. Sci-Fi. 15 Nov. 2004.


Sackhoff, Katee. Battlestar Galactica Convention. Burbank Airport Marriott, Burbank, CA. 18 Nov. 2007.


Simpson, J. A., E. S. C. Weiner, and Michael Proffitt. "Butch." n1. Oxford English Dictionary. Oxford.

"Tough." Def. 4, 5b. Oxford English Dictionary. Oxford. 


Tasker, Yvonne. Working Girls: Gender and Sexuality in Popular Cinema. London: Routledge, 1998. 


Thompson, Bradley, and David Weddle "Act of Contrition." Battlestar Galactica. Prod. Ronald D. Moore and David Eick. Dir. Rod Hardy. Sci-Fi. 8 Nov. 2004.


Tracy, Kathleen. The Girl's Got Bite: the Original Unauthorized Guide to Buffy's World, Completely Revised and Updated. New York: St. Martin's, 2003. 


Vlaming, Jeff. "Litmus." Battlestar Galactica. Prod. Ronald D. Moore and David Eick. Dir. Rod Hardy. Sci-Fi. 22 Nov. 2004.


Vlaming, Jeff. "Tigh Me Up, Tigh Me Down." Battlestar Galactica. Prod. Ronald D. Moore and David Eick. Dir. Edward James Olmos. Sci-Fi. 13 Dec. 2004.


Weddle, David, and Bradley Thompson. "The Hand of God." Battlestar Galactica. Prod. Ronald D. Moore and David Eick. Dir. Jeff Woolnough. Sci-Fi. 3 Jan. 2005.


bardic_lady: (starbuck - beyond insane)

Opposing the Binaries

            In most of these binaries, Starbuck is coded masculine, yet she is in fact a woman, played by a female actor. Because of this conflict, the expected binaries must be re- evaluated for their empirical truth.

“Female action heroes confound binaristic logic in a number of ways, for they access a range of emotions, skills, and abilities that have traditionally been defined as either “masculine” or “feminine.” As female characters who take up the central spaces in the traditionally “masculine” genre of action cinema, they derive their power from their ability to think and live creatively, their physical courage, and their strategic uses of technology” (Hills 39).


Starbuck shows all these aspects of power over the course of the first season of BSG. Her ability to think creatively is particularly showcased when she is brought into the strategy session in HOG. Adama tells her he needs her help because he needs “serious out of the box thinking” (HOG). Once she has joined the planning team, Adama explains that she was brought in because she is not “weighed down by conventional thinking” (HOG). In other words, her help is necessary because she is a creative thinker. The plan she crafts is successful and, though she cannot actually fly the mission, it is primarily thanks to her creative thinking that the Colonial Fleet will have enough fuel to continue on in the series.

            Though it could be argued that after a major holocaust any survivors would learn to live creatively, since to do otherwise would mean death, Starbuck’s particular brand of creative living goes beyond developing new homes and new ways of providing food. She uses her creativity to save the lives of other survivors through her superior piloting skills and her ability to look at situations from a different perspective. In the Miniseries, during the final battle between the Cylon and Colonial forces, Apollo’s Viper is damaged and it appears that he will be left to die, since he has no way of returning to Galactica before they retreat to safety. Instead of choosing to retreat and have the certainty of saving herself, Starbuck conceives a radical maneuver to use her own ship to propel his back to the ship and shelter. The maneuver is dangerous and requires extreme precision to avoid head-on collision and death for both participants. Starbuck, however, is so much in control of her ship that she can manage the rescue in the midst of a violent space battle. Her creative life choices save Apollo’s life.

            Starbuck’s physical courage, is demonstrated in a bar fight aboard the Cloud 9 in CD. She is clearly marked as injured, moving with a limp and using a cane, but she still participates in the fight when her wingman becomes involved. As a visibly injured person, she has more obvious weaknesses than an uninjured combatant. Her opponent has an easy target, which he uses to take her down, and she keeps fighting, turning the sign of her injury, her cane, as a weapon. It takes great physical courage to go into a fight where one knows one is at a disadvantage. In Starbuck’s case, a bad fall or hit could exacerbate her injury and put her out of commission for more time or even permanently. With all this information, she still defends her comrade.

Though the premise of BSG frequently deals with the dangers of technology and the

ways in which technology misused can turn on its creators, Starbuck’s uses of the technology available frequently mean literally the difference between life and death. In CGH, it is her ability to interpret a Cylon Raider, a fusion of technological and biological, that allows her to escape the barren moon on which she is stranded and rejoin the Fleet. Confronted with a mix of veins and wires, circuitry and flesh, she is able to intuit connections between the Viper with which she is familiar and the foreign Raider, then use her piloting skills to her own advantage. This ability to correctly link an alien system to something within her area of expertise shows a technological awareness that is very powerful.

However, it is not merely the power of female action heroes that labels them as something outside of the binary definitions of masculine and feminine. “The female action hero poses a challenge to gendered binaries through her very existence: … most particularly, her labour and the body that enacts it, mark her out as ‘unfeminine’” (Tasker 69). Starbuck’s work, being a pilot, a soldier, and a mechanic, is labeled by our culture as unfeminine. This attitude is evidenced both in the smaller percentage of women in the actual military and the smaller number of women in such roles in media. However, despite the lack of perceived ‘femaleness’ in her job, Starbuck’s body is in fact extremely feminine. The Cylon agent, Number Six, is shown in various states of undress and her garb is always extremely revealing, but her build is tall and thin and flat-chested. Lt. Sharon “Boomer” Valerii is equally boyishly built, though she is dressed in pilot garb most of the time, as Starbuck is. As a mature woman in a high-profile career, President Laura Roslin is typically seen in business suits that do not accentuate her female attributes. As well, she is diagnosed with breast cancer, attaching a stigma to her body as diseased and therefore not sexual. By comparison, Starbuck has curves that are visible even in her typical attire of khaki pants and double tank tops. She has the largest breasts and hips on the show, therefore objectively and disregarding any question of occupation or personality, Starbuck has the most female figure. Despite this, she is perceived as the most masculine woman on the show because of her chosen career and actions.

Starbuck is not the only woman warrior whose body and personality do not work together under the gendered binary. Body awareness is a major concern for young women in modern society, but the culture resists women who are fully aware of and present in their bodies in all situations, as women warriors are.“Regardless of context, [her] body is wedded to her sense of self and is always relevant to the action at hand” (Early 59). Starbuck is always completely physically present. When she is jogging, she runs without what some would consider a typical feminine concern for sweating or staying out of the way. She encounters a tour group and her response is not to try to get around it without disturbing the guide,  it is to yell “Make a hole” and continue on her chosen course (Mini). When leading a stealth team, she is in the lead, her footfalls silent and her balance forward on the balls of her feet, indicating readiness and an immediate capacity to spring into action (BD). Her sense of self is always directly tied to her physical readiness as she shows in 33. When told to take stimulants to allow her to remain awake during a span of more than five days without sleep, she talks about how the stimulants would affect her vision and her piloting capabilities. Without those qualities, she feels she would not be Starbuck and therefore would not be fit to perform her duties.

In her article “From ‘Figurative Males’ to Action Heroines”, Elizabeth Hills discusses the dichotomy between ‘masculine’ profession and female embodiment.

“As an active, heroic and technologically competent woman she is more similar to action heroes than she is to traditionally passive heroines… However, this does not make her 'figuratively male' Being composed of the speeds of action rather than the speeds of passivity, active heroines such as Ripley are becoming something other than the essentialized concept of Woman held in a mutually exclusive relation to Man Furthermore, if action heroines become empowered and even violent through their use of technology, this is not to say that they are somehow no longer 'really' women, but that they are intelligent and necessarily aggressive females” (Hills 45-6).


In her unique and eloquent way, Hills sums up the issue with the debate over the relative masculinity of action heroines. Regardless of their behaviors, action heroines are women. They fulfill the characteristics of the female sex. Whatever else she may do, Starbuck is genetically female, possessing the female reproductive organs (a fact explicitly addressed in the second season episode “The Farm”). To say that she is masculine or a “pseudo-male” because her attitude and personality do not meet a specious and exclusive definition of femininity is ludicrous and narrow-minded, yet people persist in forcing each gender into a constricted pigeonhole.(Hills 38) “Modern action heroines are transgressive characters…because their coexistent sexuality…destabilizes the very concept of gender traits as mutually exclusive” (Brown 50).


Female Role Model

            The concept of the woman warrior as a stand-in for a man, so far removed from ‘femininity’ as to be unrecognizable, relegates the woman warrior to a position in which a woman should not wish to emulate her, because to do so is to betray her gender. That viewpoint derives straight from the perception of gender as divided into mutually exclusive binaries. If a trait is locked to one gender or the other, any person who exhibits a characteristic designated to the other gender is a freak or a mimic.

“If the action heroine is a figurative male, the importance of signs such as muscles, self-reliance, competence, and control within the economy of masculinity is not really undermined but reinforced. But if the action heroine is read as a dominatrix the exclusivity of gendered traits is truly brought into question because one set of gendered signs does not replace the other; instead, the boundaries are confounded because they are combined” (Brown 69)


Brown explains that dominatrix in this context is not a sexual fetish term, but a description of a confluence of power and gender that allows for interpretations without restrictions of binary thinking. Specifically, a dominatrix is able to be both physically and socially powerful in a way that is traditionally reserved for men, without losing any part of her essential femininity. By describing woman warriors in these terms, one can hold a woman up as an example of power without trespassing into male spheres, giving each individual the opportunity to manifest the qualities he or she feels without reproach.

This system of thinking allows a much broader scope of role modeling, making Starbuck able to be described as “a role model for young women: competent, responsible, assertive, and confident, albeit appealingly flawed” (Early 55). Her competency is established in the Miniseries when even her nemesis, Colonel Tigh, admits to Adama that she is the best pilot he has ever seen. This thread is solidified when she is assigned to instruct new pilots, as one would have to be proficient to teach skills to newcomers (AOC). This also supports her status as a responsible part of Galactica’s crew, ensuring the continuation of the pilot corps in the aftermath of great devastation. Her assertive nature is displayed in 33 when she scolds Apollo for allowing his emotions to detract from his performance of his duties. Despite these positive qualities, Starbuck is far from perfect. She drinks and brawls and her abrasive personality brings her into conflict with her superior officers. By presenting her as less than perfect, however, the character is made more relevant. Humans are not perfect, if Starbuck was, she would be beyond the compass of attainability for a viewer. This way, she is relatable as an equal.

All the way through the season, Starbuck is fully present and in control of her own body, which is unusual for a female character. Often women are portrayed as being uncomfortable about their weight or their shape, stemming from Western culture’s obsession with the female body as imperfect. Starbuck counters this

“not only because of her lithe, muscular body, but because she is entirely comfortable living, fighting, and loving inside of it. Unlike most television women, she neither denies nor exploits her own sexuality. What better model for positive female behavior could we present to girls maturing amid insistent virgin/whore stereotypes, and in a culture in which eating disorders run rampant” (Pozner 13).


She is only shown as uneasy with her body when her activity is curtailed by injury. In every other situation, beginning from her first appearance on the show. Her athleticism is displayed in her morning jog around the ship, while her choice of running gear, baggy sweatpants and sweaty tanks, presents her as a woman who is not concerned about flaunting her sexuality, giving credence to her commitment to the activity (Mini). Later, after the injury that takes her off the pilot roster, she remains comfortable enough with her body to change in a co-ed bunkroom without making apologies for her appearance. Perhaps the most telling example of her physical comfort is her choice of clothing for the Colonial Day party at the conclusion of that episode. She wears a dress, the only time she is seen in a skirt across the run of the series, that is short enough to reveal her knee injury. She is not embarrassed by the scars of battle, she displays them because they are a part of her. This straightforward attitude towards her body is empowering and offers a welcome change from the typical media approach to the female body.

In most respects, the woman warrior, and Starbuck in particular, represent a change from common stereotypical attitudes about woman. She continues the trend set up by Joss Whedon in Buffy the Vampire Slayer, as explicated in an interview with  Kathleen Tracy. “This movie was my response to all the horror movies I had ever seen where some girl walks into a dark room and gets killed. So I decided to make a movie where a blonde girl walks into a dark room and kicks butt instead” (Tracy 6) The blonde is frequently, due to societal expectations, seen as the weakest, least powerful member of any group. There is a perception of blonde women, particularly those who are petite in stature, as vapid and unable to protect themselves. That perception is overturned, both in Joss Whedon’s seminal girl power drama, and again in the character of Starbuck. The actress, Katee Sackhoff, is a blonde and it was suggested early in the casting and filming process that, as a blonde of under average height, it would be impossible for viewers to take Sackhoff seriously as an action character. At a Battlestar Galactica convention in November of 2007, Sackhoff noted that the producers insisted that her blonde hair be cut very short to suggest a more butch appearance. Over the course of the show’s four seasons, Starbuck’s hair got progressively longer and no one doubted that she could still kick any butt she wanted to. By subverting expectations, Sackhoff and Starbuck expanded possibilities for the blonde in the eyes of popular media.

All of these qualities combine to answer Marleen Barr’s question, “How can women co-exist with men, retain their female characteristics, and function as powerful individuals?” (Barr 61). Starbuck models many good qualities that any person would be wise to adapt. Her perseverance through her struggles in CGH and her persistence in working through her injury over the next five episodes are a testament to strength. Her comfort in her own body serves as an example to those who are cowed by a media intent on telling people why the way they are is wrong. She exhibits a commendable self-sufficiency that should encourage women to rely on themselves instead of depending on another person to fulfill their physical and emotional needs. And her professional pride makes one want to find a skill in which she too can shine and be proud of her efforts. Starbuck stands as a symbol of the heights to which a woman may aspire if she does not allow herself to be stopped by artificially imposed binaries and expands to her fullest potential.

bardic_lady: (Default)

Lustful versus Loving

Between lustful and loving, some argument could be made that Starbuck shows signs of both behavior traits. However, when she is shown as loving, it is a flashback to her fiancé in AOC, at least two years prior to the time of the series. One may argue that that part of her personality has changed and in the series she is purely lustful, as evidenced by her willingness to fall into bed with Gaius Baltar as the beginning of KLG1. At the beginning of CD, Starbuck made her disdain for Baltar evident, coming into his lab and disarraying his blood samples, with no respect for him or his work. When she informs him of his election to political office, her words are “no accounting for taste”, indicating the low opinion she has of him.(CD) The only explanation for her decision only a few days later to sleep with him is that she has a lustful personality and was interested in sex, regardless of with whom. Lustful also falls on the masculine side of the chart.

Because of her ability to control her own sexuality and the fact that she does not subordinate it to anyone else, Starbuck runs the risk of being the kind of deadly female that Michele Aaron warns about, saying “the connection between women’s deviant or independent sexuality and her deadliness is so strong that it haunts all representations of strong women” (Aaron 74). However, Starbuck’s sexuality is not connected to her combat abilities at all. Her kills take place from the cockpit of her Viper, with no evidence of so-called ‘feminine wiles’. When she is not in her ship, as with the sniper mission in BD, her kills remain unconnected with the fact that she is a woman in control of her sexuality. Her targets are those who threatened her entire race, there is no personal sexual connotation.


Strong versus Weak

A distinction is made on the chart between masculine strength and feminine weakness. No explanation is made of whether these qualities are meant to be physical, mental, emotional, or some undetermined blend of all three. Though “strong” and “weak” are somewhat subjective descriptors, there is no doubt that in any case Starbuck fits into the strong category, also sometimes described as “tough”. The Oxford English Dictionary defines tough as “capable of great physical endurance; strongly resisting force, injury fatigue, etc.; not easily overcome, tired, or impaired; hardy, stout, sturdy” (“tough” 4). This obviously describes Starbuck in CGH. Both her mental and physical strength and determination are shown, when she single-handedly crosses a barren planetoid after suffering a devastating injury. Though her oxygen is depleted, she struggles through rocky and inhospitable terrain, finds the Cylon Raider that was responsible for her crash, lobotomizes it, figures out its controls, and flies it back to Galactica, having thought of a way to prevent her comrades from shooting her down as an enemy combatant. Her ability to interpret completely alien controls and her presence of mind in labeling her ship as a non-combatant demonstrate a clarity of thought in the face of adversity that is certainly indicative of mental fortitude. Her physical strength is clear as she walks and climbs through her pain and reduced oxygen towards an unclear form of salvation. Unlike the traditional heroine who waits in her moment of crisis for the hero to come and save her, Starbuck pushes though the pain and rescues herself.

In this respect, she once again follows in the footsteps of Xena, “a heroic woman who does not rely on a man to save her when trouble occurs [making] her tougher than virtually all women in similar action-adventure shows” (Inness 161). In the last battle of the Mini, not only does Starbuck rack up a lot of kills, she rescues her (male) commanding officer, a reversal of the classic damsel in distress trope. In AOC and CGH, though Starbuck hopes to be rescued, she doesn’t rely on Galactica to save her, she makes her own way to the downed Cylon Raider, figures out how to hotwire and fly it, and comes up with a plan so as not to be shot down upon her return to the Fleet.

But it is not only in moments of extreme distress that Starbuck is able to rescue herself, she is more than capable of defending herself and her fellows at all times and in most situations. “Rather than depend on men to protect her, the new woman warrior mastered violence. She was not restricted in how she used her body or her weapons. She could match any man’s physical prowess, command of technology, rationality, and leadership” (Early 5). As discussed, her physical prowess is on display in CGH, in her ability to overcome pain and injury to achieve her goal of escape. Her command of technology is evident both in her ability to hotwire alien technology and in her consistent control of her Viper. She is the best pilot in the Fleet, even those who disapprove of her personally, like Tigh, have to acknowledge her superior skills. Though she was earlier described as more emotional than rational, her aptitude at strategy, demonstrated thoroughly in HOG, indicates a degree of rationality that easily matches her fellow strategists, Tigh and Apollo. In terms of leadership, her abilities as flight instructor speak highly of her leadership abilities, as does a discussion she has with Tigh in BD about the way she chooses to run pilot briefings. Tigh criticizes her decision to incorporate humor into her presentation style and she mentions having learned about different leadership styles in officer candidate school. Her knowledge and incorporation of different methods of leading indicates a strong aptitude for the position she claims she does not want. Despite her disinterest in command, she pushes onward, as she seems able to do in all circumstances.

Because of this almost superhuman ability to move forward, “she presents a myth of invincibility. Like her male cohorts, the tough woman is portrayed as impossible or nearly impossible to defeat…In a culture where women are often considered the ‘natural’ victims of men, tough women rewrite the script” (Inness 8). Starbuck is never the victim of a man. The only time that she is defeated involves a gender neutral piece of technology and in the end, she rips out its brain and uses it to save herself. Far from being a victim, she is consistently the rescuer, protecting the weak and those in need of saving, proving that she is the strong one.


Dominant versus Submissive

McNair’s chart next addresses a divide between masculine dominance and feminine submission. Dominance refers to control, whether of a situation or another individual, and, in the case of Starbuck, can also relate to another OED definition of tough, “resolute in dealing with opposition; vigorously uncompromising; severe” (“tough” 5b.). Starbuck’s dominance is established during her interrogation of the Cylon Leoben in Flesh and Bone. Physically, despite her injury and the necessity of a cane, she is dominant from the moment she first walks in simply because she can walk in, while Leoben is handcuffed to a table and cannot move. Leoben’s behavior is ingratiating, smiling and attempting to make personal conversation, while Starbuck is terse and sticks to the facts that she needs to discover. As the interview progresses, Starbuck becomes more dominant, using tactics like distracting her subject with food in order to attempt to provoke a response and condoning and instigating violence as an interrogation technique. Use of violence could be construed as a way to establish dominance where force of personality and diplomacy fail, or as a way of ensuring dominance and showing mastery of a person or situation. The more Leoben is tortured, though Starbuck herself never touches him, the more clearly she is the person in control, as he cannot lash out at her.

Though that situation may seem particularly harsh, given the involvement and acceptance of torture, it is only the most overt sign of dominance that Starbuck displays.  Her social dominance is in play in many other situations as well. “It is necessary…to take into account the ‘tone’ of a text…noting that the same metaphors of softness and hardness in play in male-centered texts are at work in action films starring women” (Heinecken 27) In 33, the first episode of the series proper, Apollo seeks Starbuck out because she has refused an order to take a dose of stimulants. He approaches her cautiously, circling the topic, and his speech pattern is uncertain, containing frequent “um”s and pauses to cover him glancing at her to check her reaction. When she turns him down firmly, his approach to her is conciliatory, not the actions of a superior officer being refused by his junior. When he continues to address her warily, she is the one who steps in and dresses him down for his attitude which she characterizes as soft and too friendly for the CAG. He is stunned into silence and does not break her challenging gaze until she laughs and breaks it first. It is obvious throughout the sequence that Starbuck is the dominant in their partnership, the hard one, while Apollo is soft and submissive.


Predator versus Prey

The final category compares the predator to the prey. In a typical situation the masculine is assumed to be the predator and the feminine the prey, an assumption with its roots in hunter/gatherer society where the man was responsible for hunting and the woman, untrained in weapons, could easily be prey for the untamed wilderness. Being a predator implies being willing to hunt and kill for the good of one’s society. In a technologically advanced and fairly androgynous society, like the one represented on Galactica, it is just as easy for a woman to be a predator.  Starbuck “is tough because she is willing to do what other people will not—including using force when necessary” (Inness 118). Her predatory nature comes to the fore in BD when terrorist Tom Zarek takes a group of Galactica crew hostage on a prison ship. Adama’s orders specify as few deaths as possible to liberate the prisoners, but Starbuck, in the interests of preventing further incidents, is prepared to assassinate Zarek. Apollo is able to diffuse the situation without killing Zarek and though the hostages are safe, she takes her shot anyway, with the aim of protecting her people. Though at the time Apollo is hailed for his solution avoiding further violence, by the end of the series, it is clear that many problems that occurred would have been avoided had Starbuck’s predatory instinct been heeded.
Part IV

bardic_lady: (starbuck - beyond insane)

Competitive versus Caring

The first category on McNair’s list is competitive versus caring, competitive being the masculine trait and caring the feminine. It is clear throughout AOC that  Starbuck cares about the respect of Commander Adama and her relationship with him. She is willing to take on a job that reminds her of the death of her fiancé, an event for which she feels responsible, in order to keep Adama’s respect and goodwill, proving that she puts his commands above her own comfort. Despite this evidence of her caring, Starbuck is still primarily a competitive character. In BD, when Adama prepares to send a strike team in to rescue a group of hostages, Starbuck fights to be allowed to lead the team. Her argument centres on her status as the best shot left in humanity. She zealously guards that status, as well as being the best pilot in the Fleet, channeling her anger and fear into honing her skills.

One of the reasons that these binaries are evident is the society in which they exist. Because modern western society views men through one lens and women through another, any contrast between any man and woman is seen as absolute truth for all members of each gender. Sherrie Inness describes the problem using the characters of Dana Scully, of The X-Files, and Clarice Starling, of Silence of the Lambs, as examples of women in a male-dominated field.

“Depicting Scully and Starling in all-male environments tends to highlight their toughness; they can compete with the boys. At the same time, however, they are seen as exceptional women; thus, their toughness is understood not to be a common trait of women” (Inness 97). The environment aboard Galactica is very different. There are a number of other tough fighting women constantly present on the show, so the divide between ‘masculine’ and ‘feminine’ characteristics is not as broad. There are at least three other prominent female pilots in season one and more are added later in the series. All three are shown to be competitive and tough and none are treated as if this behavior is abnormal. Boomer, a raptor pilot, is shown playing in the same card games as Starbuck. Though her killer instinct is not the same, she is a tough and determined woman. One of Starbuck’s recruits, Louanne “Kat” Katraine, is shown quickly rising through the ranks of the nugget class, easily becoming the dominant and best pilot in her flight group and continuing to push for better and better assignments. By FAB, she is already leading a squad of the Combat Action Patrol (CAP), as evidenced when Adama relays instructions directly to her. Though Lt. Margaret “Racetrack” Edmondson only appears in the final two episodes of season one, she is immediately established as a tough no-nonsense character who is more than capable of  fulfilling her duties. Outside of the pilot wing, Sgt. Hadrian, a Marine who acts as Master-at-Arms of Galactica. She acts as chief investigator of weapons related mishaps on the ship and, as such, is designated the task of discovering how a Cylon saboteur succeeded in a suicide bombing on a military vessel. (Litmus) The tribunal she convenes is harsh and brutally honest, landing a young deckhand in the brig when he is caught in a lie, though he clearly has nothing to do with the attack. Because of these examples of tough, competitive women who stand shoulder to shoulder with Starbuck, it is harder to see her as exceptional in that respect. The trait is obviously not limited to men in this universe, so there is no reason to view Starbuck as masculine because she happens to possess it.


Rational versus Emotional

According to McNair, being on the competitive side of the binary makes Starbuck a masculine character; however, in the very next category, she places on the feminine side. McNair splits the genders between masculine rationality and feminine emotion. Though her rationality is on display in HOG, when she plots out the strategy that defeats the Cylons, her emotions often get the best of her. In the Miniseries, her anger causes her to lash out physically at a superior officer, earning her a stint in the brig. It is Colonel Tigh who flips the card table over first. If Starbuck was able to maintain her rationality, he would be entirely to blame for the situation and she would be able to walk away. Instead, he makes a gesture that might be interpreted as threatening and she hits him. Because his gesture wasn’t specifically directed at her, there were others at the Triad table, her decision to strike him counts as the first blow, making her completely culpable and earning her jail time.

Historical narrative stories suggest that a woman with access to weaponry will abuse the power as soon as it is available, likely due to her unfamiliarity with the sphere of violence and her ‘naturally’ more emotional and addictive nature.

“the image of a violent woman brings additional social fears to the forefront… the underlying fear of a lawless, unconstrained, uncontrolled woman…Apparent in the concept of the monster woman is the idea that the violence the female monster embodies is lacking in thought, rational motivation, or principle” (Ng 111).


Starbuck is often chaotic, her personality guarantees that she walks the line between rules and breaking them, but most of her actual violence is thoughtful. Being a sniper requires precision and thought, as well as the patience she never displays in her personal life. Her motivation in all of her military related violence is very clear, to defend her friends and her people. From the Cylons’ first appearance in the Miniseries, they make it extremely clear that they have no qualms about killing humans, in fact, their stated mission is to exterminate all human beings. The obvious response to this kind of genocidal attack is to meet it with violence and Starbuck is a weapon loaded and aimed at the Cylon forces.

It is good for the forces of humanity that they have Starbuck on their side, as being her enemy is a certain ticket to devastation. However, this attribute can be disconcerting to a modern audience. “The tough woman is disturbing to her audience because she often acts or shows the potential to act on her aggressive emotions. She is also alluring, however, because she embodies women’s desire for power, self-sufficiency, and autonomy” (Inness 24). There is no doubt that, despite her sometimes unstable self-control, Starbuck has all three. In terms of societal power, Starbuck is established in BD as the next in line to be Commander of the Air Group (CAG). That status as second-in-command of the pilot wing of the military makes her essentially the fourth in command of Galactica and therefore of the entire human military. In AOC, she acts as flight instructor and tells her students that “Pilots call me Starbuck, you may refer to me as God” (AOC). The power she wields is significant, especially in a world where the entirety of humanity is on the run from a much more powerful force. In a world spun out of control, any power any person can use becomes that much more valuable. Her self-sufficiency is unquestionable. She survives alone on an oxygen-less desert moon and creates her own mode of escape with no help from anyone else. Her status as secondary CAG also implies a degree of autonomy. She is able to give her own orders, implement her own strategies. Her autonomy is particularly evident in BD where she commands a strike team of Marines on a rescue mission. She determines the strategy once they have entered the hostile ship. She fulfills all the categories Inness outlines as women’s desires, establishing herself as an exemplary pattern of womanhood.


Aggressive versus Gentle

In all the remaining categories on the chart, Starbuck registers as strongly masculine. Between aggressive and gentle, she is clearly aggressive. She starts fights and gets into people’s faces, as she does in AOC when she begins pilot training with the new recruits. One of the recruits is talking to another while Starbuck is speaking and she moves away from the podium and leans down, putting her face about seven to ten centimeters, to deliver a scathing reprimand. Her willingness to get into another individual’s personal space is a sign of aggressive behavior which, when added to her previously noted tendency towards physical violence, clearly shows her to be an aggressive and therefore, according McNair’s chart, masculine individual.

In common modern parlance, a woman who exhibits numerous masculine characteristics is described as butch. Though the term originally only referred to a masculine style of dress, it has been adapted to incorporate ‘masculine’ behaviors on the part of a woman. Though in terms of dress Xena is the opposite of Starbuck, wearing a short skirt and armor which accentuates her female figure, the characters share aggressive tendencies which are generally considered butch. “Xena evidences far more butchness in behavior. Unashamedly violent, displaying anger without hesitation and often gleefully, and uncomfortable with verbal or physical displays of emotional closeness or weakness, Xena’s actions and attitudes typify the hypermasculine hero” (Helford 149). Starbuck is in no way ashamed of her violent tendencies. In the Miniseries, when Tigh has flipped over the table, it takes her less than a second of reaction time to decide to strike him and execute her attack. She has to be physically restrained to keep her from continuing her attack. In AOC, when her class of nuggets fails at their first attempt at Viper flight, her tirade to them demonstrates a degree of glee in her anger. She doesn’t simply yell or repeat the same complaint over and over, she is precise and varied in her insults, suggesting that she derives some sort of enjoyment for having exactly the right terms to shred the object of her wrath. Starbuck’s discomfort with closeness is mostly visible in her body language and quickness to disengage when put into a position where emotions might be shown. In the Mini, when she has believed that Apollo has been killed and then he shows up alive, her first response is stunned delight, which leads to the pair standing, hands clasped. There is a moment where it almost seems like one of them will admit to being pleased to see the other and then she clears her throat and pulls away before the situation can get too emotionally deep.  All these behaviors are coded masculine, even hypermasculine, yet they are exhibited by a woman without apology or any hint that she finds it unusual to be this way. Perhaps even more telling, none of the people around her find it odd.

 Xena is not the only warrior woman before Starbuck to display traits that read to the modern audience as aggressively masculine. “She [Ivanova] shows many characteristics typically associated with men… She is a hard drinker…, enjoys a bar brawl using fists and bottles, and threatens all and sundry regardless of rank with everything from physical violence to cunning practical jokes” (Ney 227-8). Starbuck starts drinking upon her second appearance in the Miniseries and continues to do so throughout the series. She seems to drink anything put in front of her, though she is most often seen drinking something that resembles a scotch on the rocks. (CD) She is never drunk in the first season, that is left to Tigh, but her choice of liquor again clearly marks her as unfeminine in the eye of a modern viewer. Women are typically expected to drink the lower alcohol content “frilly” drinks, martinis and blended fruit drinks, leaving the straight up hard liquor to the men. As previously mentioned, Starbuck takes part in several fist fights during the first season and she is very competent at taking items in her surroundings, like beer bottles and her cane in CD, and using them to her advantage. As for threats, Starbuck revels in threatening her pilots to keep them in line. When she leads a briefing in BD, she scolds a pilot for consistently bumpy overly fast landings. She makes a reference to his hurry being in order to get back to his bunk and masturbate and insinuates that if he messes up again, she will remove his masturbating hand. Though her threats usually come with a little bit of humor, they are still said with the gusto of one who knows the power she holds as a tough woman in charge.

Female toughness is often modified and contained by the presence of men who are harder and more tough, thereby rendering the tough women weak by comparison. “As often happens in the portrayal of a tough woman, such as Sarah Connor, Kidda’s toughness is modified by the more extreme toughness of a male” (Inness 132). While it is true that tough women are often overshadowed by an even tougher man, in BSG, that is not at all the case. There are no men in the Galactica universe tougher physically and mentally than Starbuck. Commander William Adama is a strong man, but he is also portrayed as sentimental to a degree that weakens his powerful stance. Though the most glaring examples of his sentimentality do not surface until the second and third seasons, in Act of Contrition, he chooses to continue to search for Starbuck despite knowing that her oxygen should have run out and that the search is depleting valuable fuel and equipment reserves that the Fleet will need to survive. This choice, to pursue his dead son’s fiancée to the detriment of the rest of humanity, clearly marks him, according to societal rules about toughness and emotion, as weak. Capt. Lee “Apollo” Adama is emotional from the start. In the miniseries, his attitude is that of a spoiled child, snubbing his father and clinging to his memories of childhood slights. In the next episode, Starbuck herself dresses him down for seeking friendships rather than leading the pilot wing (33). This petulant schoolyard attitude belies his impressive fighter’s physique and places him outside the tough category. Dr. Gaius Baltar is not constructed as tough as all, he is weak, emotional, deceitful, and self-serving. He is personally responsible for the security breach that caused the Cylon Holocaust, but he denies his responsibility and instead accepts favors to preserve his own life (Mini). He is grateful for a Cylon trick that causes 1300 further deaths as it prevents his exposure (33).  Colonel Saul Tigh is a drunk and his portrayal begins with his inability to control his emotions, as well as a disdain for his sloppy behavior on-duty (Mini). Chief Galen Tyrol is a more minor character and his arc is primarily defined by his romantic relationship with Boomer and his willingness to lie for her (Water, AOC). Lt. Felix Gaeta is barely on screen, and when he is, he is a console jockey with no opportunity for toughness. Billy Keikeya, the President’s aide, is also a primarily romantic character, young and inexperienced (Mini, BD). The closest to Starbuck in terms of physical toughness is Lt. Karl “Helo” Agathon, who survives after being left alone on Caprica after the nuclear disaster, relying only on his wits and survival instincts. However, as soon as he is reunited with a Sharon Valerii, Helo’s resolve and toughness is consumed with lust turning into love, even after she is revealed to be a Cylon enemy. Through all of this, Starbuck is consistently tough, mentally, physically, and emotionally.
Part III

bardic_lady: (starbuck - beyond insane)

“What’s the point of a female role model, it might be asked, if she is barely recognizable as feminine?” – Ewan Kirkland, “A Dangerous Place for Women”


            Over the centuries, the battlefield has been primarily populated with male warriors, defending land and country and the women and children waiting back at home. Only rarely in this history do women make appearances in the ranks of heroes and warriors. These exceptions to the rule are primarily portrayed as maidens and outsiders, denied human comforts by their decision to pursue an “unfeminine” path. The Biblical Judith risks her life in a way that none of the men of her country are willing to and then remains alone for the rest of her life. After seeing her daughters raped and being tortured herself, Queen Boudicca leads her people against the supposedly invincible forces of Rome and then kills herself to avoid the possibility of capture and torture. Jeanne d’Arc’s life is marked by deprivation, she is eternally the Maid of Orleans, never to enjoy the companionship of another person. This solitude is rewarded with an inquisition and painful death. (Early 56-57) In more recent years, various forms of popular media have relied on stories of war and battle for entertainment and once again, the killing field has been dominated by male warriors, with women relegated to the position of damsel in distress or in other ways turned into objects for the hero’s quest, rather than active participants in their own protection with their own accomplishments. However, with an upswing in science fiction television, sufficiently distanced from reality to avoid being inferred as a direct critique on society, women warriors have begun to appear in film and on television. With each iteration and each further portrayal, the woman warrior has evolved. Early woman warriors such as Ellen Ripley in the Alien series and Sarah Connor in the Terminator series have a lot in common with mythological/historical aggressive women. Their choices, and lack of choices, cause them to be ostracized as their behavior is too far outside of societal expectations  for women. The generation that followed them progressed significantly. Both Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Xena: Warrior Princess were allowed to be both feminine and tough at the same time. Buffy, a petite blonde, is always dressed stylishly and, over the course of seven seasons, has intimate relationships and maintains a close circle of friends. Xena also has a close group of friends and her relationship with her companion, Gabrielle, is closer to a dedicated long-term relationship than anything previously seen in women warriors. However, both of these heroines are still outcasts in their communities and are accused of either being eye candy heroines, all outward appearance and no substance, or of only being effective when they take on ‘masculine’ personae. Because of the societal expectations placed on women, these women warriors still disturb the status quo and hence make some viewers uncomfortable. One of the most recent examples of a television woman warrior appears in the form of a character from a reimagining of a 1970s campy cult classic. Lt. Starbuck of the original Battlestar Galactica was a drinking, gambling womanizer who also happened to be a soldier. In Ron Moore’s new vision, he became she, Lt. Kara “Starbuck” Thrace. The new character kept a number of the old Starbuck’s character traits, underpinned by a gritty reality and fierce determination that turned a free-wheeling playboy into a woman warrior more fully realized than any of her predecessors. The new Starbuck is far from an idealized woman warrior, seamlessly integrated into her surroundings and perfectly balanced in her character, but she is a complete person, flawed and ferocious, critiquing modern society from her place after an apocalypse.


            The role of the woman in a classic warrior story oscillates between an object of desire, in need of the hero’s aid and support, and the monstrous female, frequently the barrier between the just warrior and his ultimate aim. By making the woman herself the warrior, the story has already transgressed the societal expectation and the character must be framed differently to inform the audience of the new rules inherent in a character who does not fit into a previously understood category. In an essay on another prominent television woman warrior, Nikita of La Femme Nikita, Laura Ng paraphrases well-known gender theorist Judith Butler on the ways in which society views women’s responsibilities, based on their bodies. “Society sanctions or denies … access to specific body parts based on gender. It sanctions women’s use of their hands to nurture or prepare food but not to inflict harm” (Ng 110). By crafting a character who is woman and warrior at once, the sanctions are broken, allowing the character more freedom, but this can cause additional fears to surface.


Describing Binaries

            There are numerous characteristics which are traditionally ascribed to one gender or the other. This binary mode of thinking informs a wide variety of attitudes that impact the reception of woman warrior characters. In Striptease Culture: Sex, Media, and the Democratisation of Desire, Brian McNair provides a chart divided into gender categories, of some such characteristics (McNair 2). Because binary thinking proposes that a person is either one thing or the other, with no spectrum in between, and even more that these divisions are along gender lines, it is easy to see how a woman warrior would seem to be playing male, rather than acting as a woman with these personality traits.
Part II

bardic_lady: (starbuck - hate you. a lot.)
Women warriors, round two.

So, here's the thing. I kind of have a list at this point of genre women warriors (so, I'm not including Olivia Benson or Ziva David, for example):
Xena (Xena: Warrior Princess)
Buffy (Buffy the Vampire Slayer)
Aeryn Sun (Farscape)
Sarah Connor (Terminator, The Sarah Connor Chronicles)
Max Guevara (Dark Angel)
Ellen Ripley (Alien films)
Sara Pezzini (Witchblade)
Kara Thrace (Battlestar Galactica)

Of the eight women on this list, six committed suicide. At least five were raped, or nearly raped (I don't know enough about Farscape or Dark Angel to say). I am so vastly Not Okay with this. Now I have a paper topic. But it's not going to make for happy writing.

::edit:: 4am thoughts.
Xena suicided, not raped. She had two children during the series, one alive at the end.
Buffy suicided, also nearly raped. No children.
Aeryn attempted suicide, I don't know about rape. No children during the series, one in a post-series mini.
Sarah, as far as I know, is the exciting exception, neither a rape nor a suicide. She is however, a mother. In the series in particular, her main role is as mother.
Max suicided, I can't say anything about rape. No children.
Ellen suicided, in order to destroy her child, the product of unwilling implantation.
Sara Pezzini did not die! She was however, raped while in a coma and bore the child of her rape.
Kara Thrace suicided. There's the strong implication (nigh on to certainty) that she was raped, certainly brainwashed. She never had a child and was strongly opposed to the concept of being a mother.

Is there a connection? Don't know...
bardic_lady: (starbuck - excuse me?)
It's insidious and far more present than I really realized. In modern genre tv, when there are women warriors, they kill themselves. Not every single one of them, but damn a lot of them. Just finished reading "The Cruelest Season" by Sara Crosby in the anthology Action Chicks. Crosby points out that in the 2001 tv season, Max Guevara of Dark Angel, Buffy, Captain Janeway, Zhaan of Farscape, Prue of Charmed, and Xena all committed suicide. All of them. Obviously, not all of them stayed dead, but they all killed themselves. As I start to work out my paper on Starbuck as the next generation of woman warrior, more societally integrated and less hypersexualized than her predecessors, I realize... Kara committed suicide, too. And now I'm sitting up at 3:30am trying to come up with a woman warrior who didn't (returning from the dead in whatever way is NOT an excuse). And I'm coming up dry. And it's PISSING ME OFF. Why do ALL the genre woman warriors kill themselves? It isn't just death in battle, it's either self-inflicted death out of battle or throwing herself into a situation in which she has no hope of survival. Suicide by cop/opposing army still counts. Ivanova escapes her death by opposing army, but only at the cost of someone else's entire life force meaning that she basically did kill herself, her particular universe had a way of fixing it.

What the hell? Seriously, guys, this is pissing me the hell off.

(Over the course of writing this, I have come up with Zoe Washbourne. So... That's one.)

January 2015



I Cannot Hide What I Am

I must be sad when I have cause and smile
at no man's jests, eat when I have stomach and wait
for no man's leisure, sleep when I am drowsy and
tend on no man's business, laugh when I am merry and
claw no man in his humour...
I had rather be a canker in a hedge than a rose in
his grace, and it better fits my blood to be
disdained of all than to fashion a carriage to rob
love from any: in this, though I cannot be said to
be a flattering honest man, it must not be denied
but I am a plain-dealing villain. I am trusted with
a muzzle and enfranchised with a clog; therefore I
have decreed not to sing in my cage. If I had my
mouth, I would bite; if I had my liberty, I would do
my liking: in the meantime let me be that I am and
seek not to alter me.

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