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 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, and marriage proposals.
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 result.
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 today’s world, as opposed to the world of yesterday. The world of Lorne Greene (Adama), 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 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 Latte’s 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 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 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, “Charlie’s 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 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 and judgment — 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 dollars of marketing), you will see the light. You, your instincts, your judgment, are wrong. McDonald’s 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.