Thus, a few years ago, spake Ron Moore – at that time best known as a former writer for, and then a vocal critic of, the Star Trek tv franchise, but today best known as the chief writer for Battlestar Galactica:
Tell me why there are no gay characters in Star Trek. … There is no answer for it other than people in charge don’t want gay characters in Star Trek, period. … Just think about what it would say to have a gay Starfleet captain. It would mean something in Star Trek. It would mean something in science fiction. It would mean something in television. Why isn’t Star Trek leading the way anymore, in the social, political front?
This, um, raises an obvious question ….
Well, Starbuck is pretty butchy…maybe that’s what Baltar had on Gaeta…
Good point though.
Because Babylon 5 beat them to the punch and surpassed Star Trek so bad they don’t want the issue brought up ever again?
In 1994 JMS was loudly and militantly declaring to the public that there was no such thing as “heterosexuality” or “homosexuality” by the time B5 was set. EVERYONE was bi to some degree and okay with it. …Of course he still had the vast variety of relationships displayed be effectively hetero, but every once in a while there’d be an example of everyone’s (kinsey scale) bisexuality/queer/whatever perspective being the norm. Ivanova’s falling in love with Talia being the most important in the plot.
Also, remember just how conservative Battlestar is. RDM may consider himself an enlightened moderate liberal, but the subject material, approach and BsG’s fanbase is disproportionately conservative (and shockingly so from SF norms). He wants money from SciFi, which he won’t get if the ratings fall again –something that happens already every time he deviates from feel-good anti-cylon make-the-tough-calls jingoism.
Re B5: I can’t see that B5 went very far down that road at all. We see a few pallid hints that Ivanova and Talia are involved or on the verge of getting involved, then suddenly Talia’s cylon chip (as it were) goes off and she leaves the show. Wow, daring. I can’t recall any other suggestions of same-sex relationships. DS9 actually went (very slightly) farther.
Re BSG: I don’t see the conservatism. As I see it, the show has bene a sustained and relentless assault on “feel-good anti-cylon make-the-tough-calls jingoism.” Moore has used the show to condemn Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib, to express (qualified) sympathy for suicide bombers, etc. — that’s an odd sort of conservatism.
By the way, the rest of Moore’s comments on the page I linked to are quite interesting; I mostly agree with what he says about where Voyager went wrong.
There were several episodes of Star Trek the next generation that dealt with various forms of sexual interaction, that were considered deviant for their species. While this is not specifically gay, im not sure it is so far off from being so.
True — there was for example an episode of TNG where the aliens were all monosexual and were horrified at humans’ bifurcation into two sexes, and still more horrified when one of their number had a romance with Riker.
Still, the coy avoidance of actual human homosexuality still seems a bit cowardly for a show that prides itself on its boldness. But perhaps par for the course — the original Star Trek is hailed for having the first televised interracial kiss, and rightly so I guess, but everyone forgets that Kirk and Uhura were forced to kiss by malevolent mind-controlling aliens.
The wierd thing for me is that in Enterprise there was one episode dealing with Vulcan taboos about mind-melding that was very obviously a metaphor for homophobia. So the folks that run the franchise aren’t afraid to show where they stand on the issue, but they are afraid to have an actual gay relationship on their TV show.
B5: Although no on screen physicality besides two implications of kisses–and remember that B5 was very discrete about almost all its physical displays–Ivanova stated explicitly that she loved Talia on several later occasions. Furthermore I have vague memories of both Garabaldi and the doctor making passing reference to other males’ attractiveness in different occasions. It wasn’t in-your-face, but JMS wrote a lot on the web stating on no uncertain terms his universe was not heteronomative. It just wasn’t a big deal. (And it’d certainly lose him the show if he made it obvious to the main audience.) I was just blown away that anyone would have the balls to just up and declare that ‘in the future heteronormativity is as dead as the horse and buggy, deal with it.’
“Moore has used the show to condemn Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib, to express (qualified) sympathy for suicide bombers, etc. — that’s an odd sort of conservatism. ”
Certainly. And he’s certainly done that to great outrage from his fanbase. I wasn’t saying that BsG is some extreme paleoconservative propaganda, simply that by nature of the military setting it’s effectively very conservative… Which draws a markedly more conservative audience and therefor forces him to use more restraint. The occupation/suicide-bombing stuff allowed the show’s liberal producers the smugness of being “cutting edge” in large part because the New Caprica allegory was so inflammatory to their fanbase.
But look at it another way: Just compare BsG’s political tone to that of the rest of the genre: All this everyone is flawed, sometimes you have to do the tough things. Declaring martial law wasn’t that bad of a crime. Pragmatic realism even when you could get away without it. The familial power structures in the fleet. The obvious evilness or at least sketchiness of anyone who talks about freedom. Oh sure they question it, but at the end of the day the style, tone, approach and narrative always comes down on the side of the conservatism. –Take Tyrol’s little strike. His challenge to the power structures is utterly unallowable and Adama puts him in his place but then the leaders are shown as having always been the good guys, willing to cede all this ground that no leader in that position would cede. Roslin smiles at him and Tyrol realizes that if he just plays within the rules the good leaders will take care of him. Cue credits. …It gets old. And it’s just completely out of sync with SF’s very strong traditions of Socialism and Libertarianism. In fact I’m hard pressed to come up with many examples of SF TV/books that have as conservative an outlook.
…Firefly it aint. 😉
and remember that B5 was very discrete about almost all its physical displays
Really? I seem to remember some steamy sex scenes between Lyta and Byron. Plus the female Earth cop who walked in naked on Sheridan to seduce him (prompting Ivanova’s comment to Sheridan “you’re about to go where everyone has gone before”). Or the time they knock on G’kar’s bedroom door and three women walk out….
Furthermore I have vague memories of both Garabaldi and the doctor making passing reference to other males’ attractiveness in different occasions.
Also there’s the episode when the Doctor and Marcus travel to Mars incognito, pretending to be a married couple — which shows that gay marriage exists in the B5 future. Hard to know which way that cuts, though, because the banter and ribbing between the two about their role is very heteronormative.
All this everyone is flawed, sometimes you have to do the tough things. Declaring martial law wasn’t that bad of a crime.
Yeah, but it works both ways. Leaders get away with declaring martial law, but subordinates also get away with quite a bit of insubordination. I don’t see it as coming down consistently on the side of those in power.
Roslin smiles at him and Tyrol realizes that if he just plays within the rules the good leaders will take care of him.
I didn’t read that scene quite the same way. Tyrol was certainly pleased that they were going to give him more concessions than he originally thought, but I didn’t perceive it as all one big happy reconciliation. I saw it as typical BSG patched-together-reconciliation-that-could-rip-apart-at-any-moment.
Compare this version of BSG with the original, where in any conflict between Adama’s faction and anyone else the Adama faction was nearly always clearly in the right and flawlessly noble. By contrast, no one on the new show — whether in the ruling group or otherwise — is ever so presented.
With the single stark exception of the Earth Cop, I don’t remember any degree of flesh ever. There were plenty of jokes about sex –they even did that episode where Ivanova redefines “sex” so that she can have it with an ambassador and close a deal– but the couples are always shown clothed and more or less chaste to enough of a 50s degree that was a noticeable stance in the 90s –and on cable! There’s plenty of implications that things happen, it’s just not our business. And this largely extends to kissing as well. Person 1 leans in close to person 2 over lunch or wherever and the scene changes.
So I have a hard time seeing Ivanova/Talia as a break in the norm.
As to Stephen and Marcus’ marriage; I remember the jokes as more “married to HIM!?” than “married to a GUY!?” Also, come to think of it, at that time had any other show really touched Gay marriage, much less made it a convention in their universe?
The way that closer with Tyrol was shot practically screamed the divinity of leadership to me. Focus camera warmly on Roslin’s motherly smile. And the moral seemed to be the show’s typical, very conservative democrat, “Pro-Unions” “Anti-Strike” schtick. (When… you know… 😉 I’m somewhat the other way around.)
Eh, overall my biggest irritant with BsG is their reaffirmation of power structures. Everybody has their role, everything is complicated, there are many sides to everything, but at the end of the day the Status Quo is always best/right. What little insubordination takes place is kept more like a pet and rarely serious to any degree. It props up authority without ever posing any real threat. (Of course, really, at heart, my every molecule has been screaming for Tigh and Adama’s spilt blood since their little ol’ casual coup back in 2.0.)
But, yeah, okay, point taken. The original Mormons-in-Space was even further out of the SF mainstream.
David Gerrold (writer for the “Trouble with Tribbles” episode of the original ST) has a series of books that are clearly rejected ST episodes that supposedly feature some homosexuality. I personally am not a fan of those Gerrold books (I started reading them but couldn’t finish them – but they are relatively popular, so maybe I’m an outlier here), but I am a huge fan of his War Against the Chtorr books, which feautre all kinds of gender bending situations. Those who are interested in what ST could have been without the hetero requirement might find them interesting.
Heck, if you watch TwT, you’ll note the somewhat atypical banter of the main characters. It’s been a while since I read what Gerrold has said about his experience with ST, but I seem to remember his position was that his use of homosexual characters was a flashpoint.
Can’t recommend the Chtorr series enough, though. Absolutely fascinating depiction of an alien invasion, chock full of interesting ideas, both political, biological, and technical, written in Heinlein fashion (to the point where large parts of the first book will look familiar to anyone who has read Starship Troopers).
With the single stark exception of the Earth Cop, I don’t remember any degree of flesh ever.
Didn’t Lyta show a fair bit of skin in her season 5 sex scenes with Byron?
And this largely extends to kissing as well. Person 1 leans in close to person 2 over lunch or wherever and the scene changes.
I seem to recall a fair number of hetero kisses — Sinclair and whatshername, and several Sheridan/Delenn.
Firefly of course had a same-sex sex episode — though given that it was female-female rather than male-male it wasn’t exactly calculated to alienate the show’s core audience of male geeks.
Season five doesn’t exist.
(I mean that humorously in a rabid-fan kind of way… as well as aesthetically, beyond trashing the storyline and generally sucking the show took a decidedly different turn in tone that was network influenced. They did all kinds of things that weren’t B5-y in season 5.)
Funny. I know that some DID take place on screen, it’s just that my dominate memories are all the ways they went to noticeably lengths to avoid showing or lingering on physical intimacy. Meh.
In regard to Firefly, which I DO have memorized frame-by-frame, though Inara very blatantly got it on with that female politician, they also showcased their open attitudes towards male-male homosexuality on several occasions. “You’re not ‘sly’ are you? Cuz I’ve got my boys…” “Nah, I lean towards womenfolk…” Irregardless of whatever the producer’s perspectives (and, though I’ve never read any proclamations similar to JMS, I assume Joss Whedon liberal-socialist-feminist-extrodinaire came at his universe from a more progressive position than RDM), Nathan Fillion played that scene alone with a decided casualness and acceptance that’s still got a tad bit of revolution in it given today’s audience.