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|Starbuck: Lost in Castration
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 vigourous resistance. A charming
womaniser? The "Suits" (Network Executives) hated it. A cigar
(fumerello) smoker? The Suits hated it. A reluctant hero who found
humour 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 loveable rogue. It was best for the show,
best for the character and the best that I could do. The Suits didn't
think so. "One more cigar and he's 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 didn't stop there. "If
Dirk doesn't quit playing every scene with a girl like he wants to
get her in bed, he's fired!" This was, well, it was blatant
heterosexuality. Treating women like "sex objects". I thought it was
flirting. Never mind. They wouldn't have it.
I wouldn't have it any other way, or rather Starbuck wouldn't. 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,
marriage proposals... The Suits were not impressed. They would have
there 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 rumours 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 result.
Witness the "re-imagined" Battlestar Galactica. It's bleak,
miserable, despairing, angry and confused. Which is to say, it
reflects, in microcosm, the complete change in the politics and mores
of today's world as opposed to the world of yesterday. The world of
Lorne Greene (Adama) and Fred Astaire (Starbuck's Poppa), and Dirk
Benedict (Starbuck). I would guess Lorne is glad he's in that Big
Bonanza in the sky and well out of it. Starbuck, alas, has not been
so lucky. He's 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
unimagined 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 our civilisation.
One would assume. Indeed, let us not say who are he guys and who are
the bad. That is being "judgemental". And that kind of (simplistic)
thinking went out with Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan and
Katharine Hepburn and John Wayne and, well the original Battlestar
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 deserves 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
to 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 humour and
flirting without an angry bone in his womanising 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,
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 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 today's
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! Gonads Gone!" 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!"
I'm 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 that's the point. I'm not sure. What I am sure of is
Women are from Venus. Men are from Mars. Hamlet does not scan as
Hamletta. Nor does Han Solo as Han 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 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 Charlie's Angels, The Saint, Mission Impossible, The A-Team
(coming soon) Battlestar Galactica. All risk-free brand names,
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 the `best' hamburger, what matters is that you `think' it is the
best. And you do think it's the best, because you have been told to;
because all of your favourite 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 McDonald's
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 don't enjoy the show, or the hamburger and coke, it's not
the fault of those re-imaginative technocrats that brought them to
you. It is your fault. You and your individual instincts, tastes,
judgement. Your refusal to let go of the memory of the show that once
was. You just don't know what is good for you. But stay tuned. After
another 13 episodes (and millions of dollar of marketing), you will
see the light. You, your instincts, your judgement, are wrong.
McDonald's is the best hamburger on the planet, Coca-Cola the best
drink. 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 2003.
I disagree. But perhaps, you had to be there.
Dirk Benedict, writing in Dreamwatch, May 2004