2009-03-19 09:50:22 UTC
Once upon a time, in what used to be a far away land called Hollywood (but is
now a state of mind and everywhere), a young actor was handed a script and
asked to bring to life a character called Starbuck. I am that actor. The
script was called Battlestar Galactica.
Fortunately, I was young, my imagination fertile and adrenal glands strong,
because bringing Starbuck to life was over the dead imaginations of a lot of
Network Executives. Every character trait I struggled to give him was met with
vigorous resistance. A charming womanizer? The Suits (Network Executives)
hated it. A cigar (fumerello) smoker? The Suits hated it. A reluctant hero who
found humor in the bleakest of situations? The Suits hated it. All this
negative feedback convinced me I was on the right track.
Starbuck was meant to be a lovable rogue. It was best for the show, best for
the character and the best that I could do. The Suits didnt think so. One
more cigar and hes fired, they told Glen Larson, the creator of the show.
We want Starbuck to appeal to the female audience for crying out loud. You
see, the Suits knew women were turned off by men who smoked cigars, especially
young men. How they knew this was never revealed. And they didnt stop
there. If Dirk doesnt quit playing every scene with a girl like he wants to
get her in bed, hes fired. This was, well, it was blatant heterosexuality,
treating women like sex objects. I thought it was flirting. Never mind, they
wouldnt have it. I wouldnt have it any other way, or rather Starbuck
wouldnt. So we persevered, Starbuck and I. The show, as the saying goes, went
on and the rest is history for, lo and behold, women from all over the world
sent me boxes of cigars, phone numbers, dinner requests, and marriage
The Suits were not impressed. They would have their way, which is what Suits
do best, and after one season of puffing and flirting and gambling, Starbuck,
that loveable scoundrel, was indeed fired. Which is to say, Battlestar
Galactica was cancelled. Starbuck, however, would not stay cancelled, but
simply morphed into another flirting, cigar smoking, blatant heterosexual
called Faceman. Another show, another set of Suits, and of course, if The
A-Team movie rumors prove correct, another remake.
There was a time, I know I was there, when men were men, women were women and
sometimes a cigar was just a good smoke. But 40 years of feminism have taken
their toll. The war against masculinity has been won. Everything has turned
into its opposite, so that what was once flirting and smoking is now sexual
harassment and criminal. And everyone is more lonely and miserable as a
Witness the re-imagined Battlestar Galactica, bleak, miserable,
despairing, angry and confused. Which is to say, it reflects in microcosm the
complete change in the politics and morality of todays world, as opposed to
the world of yesterday. The world of Lorne Greene (Adama), Fred Astaire
(Starbucks Poppa) and Dirk Benedict (Starbuck). I would guess Lorne is glad
hes in that Big Bonanza in the sky and well out of it. Starbuck, alas, has
not been so lucky. Hes not been left to pass quietly into that trivial world
of cancelled TV characters.
Re-imagining, they call it. Un-imagining is more accurate. To take what
once was and twist it into what never was intended. So that a television show
based on hope, spiritual faith and family is un-imagined and regurgitated as a
show of despair, sexual violence and family dysfunction. To better reflect the
times of ambiguous morality in which we live, one would assume. A show in
which the aliens (Cylons) are justified in their desire to destroy human
civilization, one would assume. Indeed, let us not say who the good guys are
and who the bad are. That is being judgmental, taking sides, and that kind
of (simplistic) thinking went out with Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan and
Kathryn Hepburn and John Wayne and, well, the original Battlestar Galactica.
In the bleak and miserable re-imagined world of Battlestar Galactica,
things are never that simple. Maybe the Cylons are not evil and alien but in
fact enlightened and evolved? Let us not judge them so harshly. Maybe it is
they who deserve to live and Adama and his human ilk who deserve to die? And
what a way to go! For the re-imagined terrorists (Cylons) are not mechanical
robots void of soul, of sexuality, but rather humanoid six foot tall former
lingerie models who f**k you to death. (Poor old Starbuck, you were imagined
too early. Think of the fun you could have had fighting with these
thong-clad aliens!) In the spirit of such soft-core, sci-fi porn I think a
more re-imaginative title would have been F**cked by A Cylon. (Apologies to
Touched by an Angel.)
One thing is certain. In the new un-imagined, re-imagined world of Battlestar
Galactica everything is female driven. The male characters, from Adama on
down, are confused, weak and wracked with indecision, while the female
characters are decisive, bold, angry as hell, puffing cigars (gasp!) and not
about to take it any more.
One can quickly surmise what a problem the original Starbuck created for the
re-imaginators. Starbuck was all charm and humor and flirting without an angry
bone in his womanizing body. Yes, he was definitely female driven, but not
in the politically correct ways of Re-imagined Television. What to do,
wondered the Re-imaginators? Keep him as he was, with a twinkle in his eye, a
stogie in his mouth and a girl in every galaxy? This could not be. He would
stick out like, well, like a jock strap in a drawer of thongs. Starbuck
refused to be re-imagined. It became the Great Dilemma. How to have your
Starbuck and delete him too?
The best minds in the world of un-imagination doubled their intake of Double
Soy Lattes as they gathered in their smoke-free offices to curse the day that
this chauvinistic Viper Pilot was allowed to be. But never under-estimate the
power of the un-imaginative mind when it encounters an obstacle (character) it
subconsciously loathes. Re-inspiration struck. Starbuck would go the way of
most men in todays society. Starbuck would become Stardoe. What the Suits
of yesteryear had been incapable of doing to Starbuck 25 years ago was
accomplished quicker than you can say orchiectomy. Much quicker, as in, Frak!
And the word went out to all the Suits in all the smoke-free offices
throughout the land of Un-imagination, Starbuck is dead. Long live Stardoe!
Im not sure if a cigar in the mouth of Stardoe resonates in the same way it
did in the mouth of Starbuck. Perhaps. Perhaps it resonates more. Perhaps
thats the point. Im not sure. What I am sure of is this
Women are from Venus. Men are from Mars. Hamlet does not scan as Hamletta. Nor
does Hans Solo as Hans Sally. Faceman is not the same as Facewoman. Nor does a
Stardoe a Starbuck make. Men hand out cigars. Women hand out babies. And
thus the world for thousands of years has gone round.
I am also sure that Show Business has been morphing for many decades now and
has finally become Biz Business. The creative artists have lost and the Suits
have won. Suits. Administrators. Technocrats. Metro-sexual money-men (and
women), who create ever more efficient formulas to guarantee profit margins.
Because movies and television shows are not made to enlighten or even
entertain, but simply to make money. They will tell you it is (still) about
story and character, but all it is really about is efficiency. About the
Formula. Because Harvard Business School Technocrats run Hollywood and what
Technocrats know is what must be removed from all business is Risk. And I tell
you, life, real life, is all about risk. I tell you that without risk you have
no creativity, no art. I tell you that without risk you have Remakes. You
have, Charlies Angels, The Saint, Mission Impossible, The A Team
(coming soon), and Battlestar Galactica.
All risk-free brand names, franchises.
For you see, TV shows (and movies) are made and sold according to the same
business formula as hamburger franchises. So that it matters not if it is the
best hamburger, what matters is that you think it is the best. And you do
think it is the best, because you have been told to; because all of your
favorite celebrities are seen munching it on TV. The big money is not spent on
making the hamburger or the television show, but on the marketing of the
hamburger/show. (One 60 second commercial can cost more than it does to film a
one-hour episode.) It matters not to Suits if it is Starbuck or Stardoe, if
the Cylons are robots or lingerie models, if the show is full of optimism and
morality or pessimism and amorality. What matters is that it is marketed well,
so that all you people out there in TV land know that you must see this show.
And after you see it, you are told that you should like it. That it is new and
bold and sleek and sexy and best of all it is Re-imagined!
So grab a Coke from the fridge (not the Classic Coke, but the re-imagined kind
with fewer calories) and send out for a McDonalds hamburger (the re-imagined
one with fewer carbs), and tune in to Stardoe and Cylon #6 (or was it #69?)
and Enjoy the Show.
And if you dont enjoy the show, or the hamburger and coke, its not the fault
of those re-imaginative technocrats that brought them to you. It is your
fault. You and your individual instincts, tastes and judgment your refusal
to let go of the memory of the show that once was. You just dont know what is
good for you. But stay tuned. After another 13 episodes (and millions of
dollars of marketing), you will see the light. You, your instincts, your
judgment, are wrong. McDonalds is the best hamburger on the planet, Coca-Cola
the best drink, and Stardoe is the best Viper Pilot in the Galaxy.
And Battlestar Galactica, contrary to what your memory tells you, never
existed before the Re-imagination of 2004.
I disagree. But perhaps, you had to be there.