From New Caprica to the Negative Zone

The Bush administration has been getting a tough beating (not as tough as it deserves, of course – but still gratifying) in the sf world. Revenge of the Sith and V for Vendetta made some pointed references to Bush policies, while Battlestar Galactica’s first two seasons commented on Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib.

Spider-man and a Cylon Now Galactica’s third season begins with a situation analogous to the Iraq crisis, as the Cylons who’ve come to impose their conception of order on the human colonists face insurgents and suicide bombers, and joke bitterly about their earlier expectations of being greeted as liberators. (Leoben’s attempt to brainwash Starbuck into loving him recreates the same dynamic on an individual level.) Neither side is presented monolithically: we see the humans disagreeing with one another about the legitimacy of terrorist tactics, while the Cylons likewise disagree with each other about what’s permissible in combating such tactics. But the Bush approach is clearly presented as a disaster – and a predictable disaster.

Equally topical references are to be found in “Civil War,” the event currently engulfing the universe of Marvel Comics, as superheroes fight it out over whether to comply with, help enforce, or disobey the Superhuman Registration Act – a conflict that has set Iron Man against Captain America, Spider-man against Daredevil, and members of the Fantastic Four against one another. (I’ve referred to Captain America’s role in all this in a previous post.) Now come two of the best contributions to this series: the latest issues of Amazing Spider-man and Fantastic Four (issues 535 and 540, respectively – and both, not coincidentally, written by Babylon 5 creator J. Michael Straczynski). Speaking of the special prison that’s been built to incarcerate recalcitrant superheroes (and supervillains too, of course), one character explains:

She [the prisoners’ lawyer] can make all the motions she wants. This is outside the jurisdiction of local and federal courts. This is an act of Congress, signed by the President. Only the Supreme Court can intervene, and I happen to know they won’t.

This place is not on American soil. American laws don’t touch here. American lawyers don’t come here. Once non-registrants come here, they’re legal nonentities. Occupants. Prisoners.

The old quarrel between Hobbesians and Lockeans continues as well. One character argues:

Take away the law and what are we? Savages, up to our necks in blood. That’s why we give the law the authority to take everything away from us if we break it by murdering or kidnapping or – or simply telling powerful men, “Go to hell.”

The law is the law …. I support it because I honestly believe we have to support it, no matter what. [If the law is wrong] then eventually it’ll be changed, in an orderly, lawful way. We can’t just obey the laws we like, or –

While another character counters:

Sometimes the law is wrong. Sometimes the government is wrong. When that happens, you have to stand up and speak out. Even if you’re alone. Especially if you’re alone.

The question you have to ask is not what you have to do to protect me, or your position, or us. The question is – what are the rights and freedoms we say we cherish worth? Because I think they’re worth dying for if necessary.

These two issues are well worth picking up, even if you haven’t been following the series.

Here’s hoping that material like this sets readers and viewers thinking – and not just about the Bush administration, but about government in general.


P.S. Outside the sf realm, here’s another great rant from Olbermann.

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2 Responses to From New Caprica to the Negative Zone

  1. Max October 9, 2006 at 6:50 am #

    Well, as I could get my hands on someone with sci-fi-channel viewing from Europe, I had the opportunity to see the first episode (or weren’t it two?) of the new season. However, I would point out that the Cylons and the “New Caprica Police” resemble more the situation in Nazi-Germany occupied colonys in Europe, than the situation in Iraq. Of course, there are is also the situation of low-tech insurgents against high-tech oppressors, but there are also differences, which are pointing into the Vichy-Nazi direction.

    They rounded up people and executed them, after the population didn’t stop resisting. Of course, in a world, where the occupied forces have almost no access to fine weaponry, they tend to use suicide bombings (imagination and creativity on the part of individuals?!). I think this is also a theme not well understood in the US, who never were in a situation to be oppressed by a more advanced nation right next to them! (Perhaps that’s why they can’t understand freedom fighters, who don’t have the nice access to a military-industrial complex?)

    I also think one of the best lines in this episode, came from Colonel Tigh:
    “I have always send people on suicide missions in Two wars and it doesn’t make a difference whether they fly a viper or a bomb. In the end, they are just as dead.”

  2. Otto Kerner October 14, 2006 at 10:22 pm #

    Although I haven’t followed superhero comics at all for ten years, I still feel the need to express my severe irkedness at the idea that Spider-Man would come out in favour of registration. What a betrayal (of the character by the writers, as well as by Spider-Man of the good guys)!

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