Battlestar Galactica needs more colour?

Here are the letters I mentioned in the previous post.

The one that started it (I'm guessing these letters were written after the show's first airing at the end of 2003):
Galactica Needs More Diversity
The problem I had with Battlestar Galactica was there were no major and very few minor African American characters. There were no Black men in the show at all or if they were, they had virtually no screentime. In the original series, Boomer and Tigh were both played by African American actors. In this rendition of Battlestar, those characters were played by Asian and White actors. In the Caprica city, there no African American extras. On the Galactica's bridge, there was only one African American actress. Another Black actress could be found playing a religious official that swore in the new President of the colonies.

This was very troubling to me. Do you not want African Americans to watch your show? Do you want to project the idea that African Americans are not part of the future? If so, keep this program staffed with mostly White actors.


{I really don't think black people are so shallow or foolish as to choose what shows we watch based on colour content of the cast or to think that black folk have no part in the future. This is fiction you know.}


What were you thinking? Did you seriously think that no one would notice? What's troubling is that this trend shows up in other shows produced by the SCI FI Channel.

I enjoyed the science-fiction shows of the '70s and '80s because the casts included people who looked like me. I could, in a silly childish way, project my self onto the TV, and the future. These recent shows however leave little place for me.


{I guess my imagination is better than his. My imagination could always put me in any world I wanted including several generations into a future where I had found the cure for cancer.}

If [the SCI FI Channel] makes a series out of Battlestar, write a good role for a Black male actor. He doesn't have to be in every show, but he has to be there so my son can believe we make it to the future.

{Does this reek of tokenism to anyone else?}

John Parsons
Address withheld by request
One response:
Casting Should Not Be Driven By Race
I feel I must reply to Mr. Parsons, in regard to his politically correct view of casting for Battlestar Galactica ("Galactica Needs More Diversity"). Does he mean to say that any writer, director or producer who wishes to produce any work of fiction should refer to world demographics so as to provide "proper" representation of ethnic groups?

Or perhaps he would require a "quota" of so many homosexuals, so many Chinese (aren't they about half the worlds population?), so many Eskimos, and so on. Perhaps a table could be developed giving the correct number of each for the size of the cast of characters.

Alternately, we could just leave the ethnicity of fictional characters to the authors whose creative vision has produced them. Any writer's work will reflect the world (they) see around them (think Mark Twain) or the fictional world they have envisioned and immersed themselves in (most science fiction from the '30s to date). Should not these fictional characters be presented as the author intended rather than as current fashion dictates?

Thus concludes my rant, to avoid being "flamed" by every guilt-ridden liberal who has managed to find this Web site, please do not publish my full name or address.

Carl [last name withheld by request]
Address withheld by request
Except for the dig at guilt-ridden liberals (no need to call people out like that) good response. Here are some excerpts from another:
Letter Writers Should Play Nice
The topic concerning the lack of African Americans in the Battlestar Galactica miniseries got my attention, but not in the way that most people would think. I hope that the future is a diverse collection of many races, but I didn't feel that the lack of a certain race in one show deserves a negative response. Nor should it have been a subject of concern. Whether a particular race is mentioned in a particular storyline doesn't diminish the entertainment or realistic (fictional in this case) view of the show. With consideration to this issues, I believe it is still my (our) responsibility to teach respect and equality to my (our) children and others, if they're willing to listen.

The BG miniseries wasn't flooded with African Americans in every scene nor did they play major characters in the miniseries. I personally was more interested in the direction of the storyline and it did keep me interested. I just recently saw the movie Samurai, which was truly moving and emotionally draining. My point here is that I don't believe every race was depicted in that movie but one would be hard pressed to criticize it based on the lack of one or two ethnic groups.

I simply think people are forgetting how to enjoy themselves. Sometimes a movie is just a movie; a book is just a book; and etc. A story needs to have a plausible line to follow as well as an entertaining point of view. But good grief. Have we become so intelligent that we can't enjoy the simple things? Learn to let one self laugh, cry, feel, wonder and enjoy the possibility of what may be? Quit ending the story with your own point of view. After all don't we go to the movies to see someone else's point of view? Look, learn, listen.

Oh! I just wanted the readers to know that I'm a 37 year old Black male (African American); graduate from a black university; married to a beautiful black woman; and we have a 15-year-old black son. I hope that I perpetuate the characteristics of respect, honor and equality to those who know and love me. Including those that I may meet in the future. And these aren't virtues that I've picked up from the television, book, movie, etc., but from 37 years of life experience. They are real values that have been taught to me by my father and mother as well as family and friends.

Robert Mathes Jr.
rmathesjr(at)msn.com
I don't choose what shows I watch based on the ethnic makeup of the cast. That's shallow. To imply that black folk choose what they watch in that manner is not very bright. I watch shows that tell interesting stories. One perk that I find in science fiction shows in particular is that they generally offer some decent acting roles to black actors. You don't get the flat stereotype characters that are so often found in other televisions.

I eagerly await the premier of the new Battlestar Galactica series on January 14th and I hope the show doesn't fall victim to silly PC notions.

Comments

  1. Your blindspots are showing. Of course you don't care if there are black actors because there will always be white actors playing these parts. If you were forced to watch every role on television and in the movies go to African American actors, I'm pretty sure you'd notice.
    So, for those of you politically incorrect who tell us to lighten up, I'll forgive your ignorance this time, but try to see beyond your noses. Don't make silly comparisions such as Ran, which was populated by Japanese actors, and say ethnicity shouldn't be considered. Whether you like it or not, America is a multiethnic place and when movies about the future of the species doesn't include any black people that is an omission that must be looked at. Even if it's a period piece about the Klan, I'm pretty sure you'll need black actors. So, why exclude a whole segment of the population in most sci-fi. That's consistent enough in all sci-fi that it deserves mention.

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  2. What are you talking about?

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  3. There are not many African Americans in major roles, it is true. Probably because unlike the 1970s version, this one is trying to be more representative of what the world looks like. So they added Korean, Native American, Hispanic, and South Asian actors. The cast is still more diverse than almost any other on tv.

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  4. Sam - which word or phrase are you not understanding? You do know that Ran is a Japanese movie, right? My point is that the sci-fi in general and BSG in particular excludes African American folks. You're white, so you say "the problem is not a problem -- it's only fiction, after all. To think otherwise is shallow." But, in 21st century American society these images are powerful shapers of culture. Don't take my word for it. Check out this post by Ursula Le Guin (who's white BTW) slamming the Sci Fi Channel for deleting people of color.

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  5. Here's the link:

    http://slate.msn.com/id/2111107/

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  6. Jae I think you should read this post a little more carefully as your comments assume facts not in evidence such as, "You're white." You probably think I'm a guy too. Can't you raise a better objection to my opinions on this matter than that you think I'm a clueless white person?

    I have always found that the science fiction shows I watch have allowed "ethnic" actors if you will to display the depth of their talent. They are the good guys, the bad guys, the morally ambiguous guys, the smart guys that save the day, the guys that like to blow stuff up. They aren't constrained by the narrow black/white focus on race. Your contention that the sci fi genre excludes blacks (there goes that narrow black/white focus) is unsupported. Every role in movies/television does not go to a white actor otherwise the likes of Will Smith, Morgan Freeman, and Denzel Washington, to name just a few, would be in rags. As would those involved in what I like to call the new blacksploitation comedies (is the WB still showing that stuff?).

    Also I said, "I don't choose what shows I watch based on the ethnic makeup of the cast. That's shallow. To imply that black folk choose what they watch in that manner is not very bright." I am not about to waste my time watching tripe because it meets someone's arbitrary determination of what is "diverse." Likewise I am not going to deny myself a good show or chew somebody out for not meeting that arbitrary determination of "diverse." You completely miss the quoted point that a show can tell a good story even if its cast does not meet some arbitrary level of visible diversity.

    As to Le Guin's beef with Sci Fi channel over that lack luster production of Earthsea, read this, written by my husband.

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  7. Last posting I see here was back in January, so I am sure some opinions have changed on this topic. First off, the show does not take place in the future, it's a tale of our origins, which has been apparent since the first season. With this being true, the percentage of this race or that race is not relievent to our world. Additionally, going on the "This has all happened before, and this will all happen again," leads you to think this is an endless cycle, and that the story of this return home could have happened at any point in the cycle. Not necessary the one that we are the direct decendance of. So the ethnic makeup of a show that is concievable hundreds of thousands of years or more into the past or the future is a non issue. When I finished watching the final episode I spoke with a friend of mine, who had also seen them all, about our thoughts. One of the things I did mention was the lack of black people that landed on "earth." It seems african-americans where used mostly as plot points. Areas of the story that needed more attention payed to it, or in roles that had a deeper understanding of the whole situation. On Earth, the original people of the world were noticeably black in skin color. A people who had not been contaminated and could lead the new earthlings to a brighter future. No other races had to be included to tell this particular story. Any one race could have been the one running from the Cylons. Since it is our currently held scientic belief that all modern races are a result of evolutionary changes depending on what part of this world your ancestors came from.

    In closing, I don't think there is any room to complain. If you want to look at races and see color where ever you go, all you will find is what you are seeking.

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  8. There is a vicious misperception of black men in this country and it has flooded every form of media.

    Black men have been labeled "enemy" when it comes to their portrayl, Battlestar Galactica being the most glaring example.

    Whether this is concious or subconcious, there is a serious misrepresentation, almost as if you could see the chip on the shoulders of the writers of this series.

    What I mean is, I think, due to the pyschological conditioning of black male portrayl in the media, it has become impossible for the writers of a series to flesh out a meaningful black American or non-American male with the rainbow of human emotions that are a part of us all.

    It's lazy writing at its best, purposeful betrayl at its worst.

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  9. I agree with those who say that BSG missed virtually every opportunity to have black male characters in any prominent roles.

    In fact, I found it telling that aside from Grace Park, the series's epilogue included no people of color whatsoever. Not one. To me, it shows who mattered and who didn't.

    I grew up with the original series and found characters I could identify with in the 70s when there weren't many African American characters in roles where it didn't matter that they were African American (that is, plot-wise they could have been anyone). I was sad to see them completely stripped off of the new series. I gave the show the benefit of the doubt and waited for a real explanation of the things that were ambiguous wiht regard to race, but that explanation never came. By the last moments of the last episode, I was really ticked. There was NO reason Tigh and Boomer couldn't have still been cast the same way -- or if *they* were changed, there were lots of other opportunities to add prominent African American characters -- What about Rosalyn, Baltar, Kane, Starbuck. Any of which could have been done without changing any of the storyline. I take it that omissions like this had to be intentional. If it made sense to the plot, I would have accepted it, but no explanation ever came.

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  10. I've pretty much given up on this debate, because it is pretty evident that if someones particular group is represented in media, that aren't going to see a problem, except with the people who say, "uh excuse me." This is not going to change until someone produces a show that actually does something different and succeeds tremendously (Actually based on the history of Hollywood even that isn't necessarily a given). The one thing that boggles my mind is the notion that SF fans should be more open minded. The fact is that SF fans have generally been more resistant to equality than most. They can accept aliens as stand-ins for differing cultures, but that has really never been the case with actual cultures on the planet. Women character of substance, women writers of SF,were a long time in coming. Heros of different cultures other than Western were sparse for decades. Oddly enough, Blacks do seem to catch the most backlash and derision when they bring this up. I've seen articles where women and gays have both been bothered by the depictions of their groups. The women issue I find extremely interesting, because BSG tries to have it both ways. [Why does no one ever comment on how ridiculous that first introduction to No 6 was in the mini-series? Exploitation for the sake of it.] Over all I liked BSG, and my main problems with it don't have anything to do with the racial mix-up of the cast. That only saddens me, but after all this time, I really don't expect anything else.

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  11. I found this post after I Googled "bsg black people" because after Dualia's suicide it became apparent to me that my race had been cast aside on BSG. I had already noticed the lack of any notable black men (good or bad). I just wanted to see if I was the only one noticing this. I'm used to seeing these things in Hollywood movies and it sometimes surprises me how apparent these thing are and even more how apathetic my race has become towards these things. I would like to see more positive black males and less thugs, gangsters, and comedians. I'm concerned that there are so few positive black examples for my children to pattern themselves after. While I don't expect or depend on TV to raise my children, they still receive a great deal of input from TV, movies, and radio. Another input is all the other kids and adults that watch and listen the same stuff. Life is not fair. Many minorities in America will face that harsh reality as I have in my life just due to race. Many others will face the same due to other factors and I pray that I don't ignore it just because it didn't happen to me personally. Just don't blind to obvious things like this and don't be afraid to SAY something.

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  12. the producers for the new BSG gave roles that were originally played by men to women. They even made Starbuck a woman! (what's next? James Bond will be a woman too?!) I guess they did that so there will be a balance between men and women on the show and there won't be any sexism.

    It seems that they were so much concerned not to "offend" women and fenism that they didn't realize that there were no black characters on the show!

    It would be interesting if Starbuck was played by a black actor

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  13. I think the last comment is quite revealing as to how obsessed people have become with with the race quota. While disparaging attempts to even the male/female ratio, he still complained about the amount of black actors! I find it very hypocritical for the posters complaining about the lack of black actors to not talk about race in general. How about the 1+ billion Chinese and 1+ billion Indian in the world. I didn't hear ONE person suggest that the cast should be 1/6th Chinese and 1/6th Indian, if what you're really saying is that the cast of every should needs to be directly proportionate to the demographics of the world. That's absurd and people need to relax, or at the very least be consistent in their approach to race without focusing SOLELY on their own race, when they feign that their complaints are lack of racial representation.

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  14. I watched the 2004 series and thought it was great. Later, as you might do, I looked around the interweb for youtube clips and such, and found out that the black male characters from the original series had been removed. No significant black male character were represented in the remake. Had there been no such characters in the original, I wouldn't have even noticed, but the changes soured the enjoyment of watching the series again. I never got throught watching it again.

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  15. While re-watching BSG I too noticed the lack of black actors and actresses in the series. There was a small handful, but cmon, the fleet consisted of the WHOLE OF HUMANITY that fled the Cylon genocide. Did they leave most of the blacks behind or something?

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