Sunday, October 29, 2006

Battlestar Galactica Character Gets Fat

BattleStar Galactica

I don’t get the Sci Fi channel so I have to download Battlestar Galactica from iTunes. I finally got around to downloading the first four episodes of Season 3 this weekend. It is as good as ever and better in some ways. It is a brilliant show.

But I do have one quibble with the writers. At the beginning of the first episode they apparently wanted to show that one of the main characters had lost his edge and had become weak and “soft” and not as capable of being a leader as he had been previously. The writers wanted to show all of this quickly and apparently didnt want to waste a lot of time. So how did they accomplish this? Why, they made the character gain weight of course!

This character then gets wake up calls as people close to him point out his weight to him and admonish him for “being weak” and for “getting soft” while making it clear that one of the main symptoms of that is his weight. Only one character says anything at all that kind of separates the issue of weight and personality flaw by saying something like “you have gone soft and I am not talking about the weight” but otherwise, it is pretty clear that the weight is being used as a plot device to make it VERY CLEAR to the viewer that this character just doesnt cut the mustard anymore and isnt a leader. He is fat because he is weak (and only weak people get fat). He is fat because he is having trouble making hard decisions and is thus “soft.” Interestingly that term “soft” is pretty much the same as calling a guy a “pussy” and is as much a reference to body fat as it is a reference to femininity but I will excuse the patriarchal language because the show has so many women characters who are portrayed in such strong ways. The point is though that this guy’s character has a major defect that is visually apparent. We might not notice his flaw except that it made him fat. .

Over the course of the first few episodes of the series, this particular character goes though some soul searching and eventually regains his mental edge and his leadership potential. The story arch of this character’s struggle ends with him making a comment about how he has an appointment with a jump rope: the clear message being that now that he has regained his edge and has become a leader capable of making hard choices again, his body will soon follow. Because of course fat people can just lose weight by jumping rope a little bit and because, of course, a person with leadership abilities and good decision making skills wouldnt allow himself to remain fat.

Now, of course I realized that the writers might not have intended any of that as a slight against fat people. And I think that having a character gain weight is a valid way of showing that a character who formally worked out enough to be rather buff has stopped doing that for whatever reason. But in the absence of any fat characters on the show who are shown being strong and good leaders, it makes the use of a weight gain to show weakness particularly stinging to me.

But other than that, HOLY COW is this season shaping up to be amazing. If you havent watched this show yet, get out and rent the first couple of seasons. Do this even if you generally don’t like Science Fiction as a genre because this show is a well written drama that gets into some pretty interesting issues: abortion, election stealing, occupied nations, religion, etc.

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