Check out this week’s Throwback Thursday character profile of Starbuck from Legion member Dorina Arellano.
“Pilots call me Starbuck. You may refer to me as God.”
Battlestar Galactica has been praised by critics and nerds everywhere for its great storytelling, breathtaking special effects, gorgeous music, and, especially, for its diverse and well-rounded characters, many of whom were really awesome women. One of the most complex was Kara “Starbuck” Thrace, a character who was male in the original version of the series, but, thanks to Ronald D. Moore’s innovative mind, was re-imagined as a woman (gasp!) for the remake. Predictably, the genius of this decision was not apparent to many initially, and the actress even received boos and hate mail from misogynist fanboys. Regardless, Katee Sackhoff brilliantly played the part of a cocky, badass pilot who loved to drink, have sex, gamble, smoke cigars, and didn’t give a frak what anyone thought about that. Crazy, huh? Well, guess what? Woman like this really exist!
One of the many great things about Starbuck was her ability to be so many contradictory things at once. She wasn’t delicate and pure, but she wasn’t trying to be one of the guys, either. She was confident in her talents and abilities and seemed to be one of the good guys, but she also carried a quiet sadness and a not-so-quiet anger due to past abuse and grief, which made her strong but also a jerk to many. You rooted for her often, but you also wanted to slap her (sometimes). But even though she pissed off a lot of people, she was always respected because of her authenticity. She knew who she was and never apologized for it, always being her wonderful, complicated self, regardless of gender.
Starbuck also owned her sexuality, which was rare at the time and something that’s still rare in female characters today. And, although she was associated with different men throughout the series, her life was never defined by one. She loved and had sex with several of them (as often as she drank and smoked), but she wasn’t doing it to gain anyone’s affections or using her sexuality to win over some guy. She was simply horny and wanted to get off, which was refreshingly realistic! This made her sexy as hell, even though she was rarely made up or dressed in provocative clothing.
Lastly, Starbuck may not have been the best female role model on the show — we can give that title to the lovely Madam President Laura Roslin — but she was often one we (boys and girls) could relate to. She made mistakes, and, at times, even considered herself a screw up, but she was an honorable human being when it mattered, loyal to a fault, and ready to give her life for her fellow pilots. At the same time, she was a survivor and battled life’s obstacles while excelling in every capacity she could (good and bad). She even became CAG, despite her temper, because people admired her talents and trusted her with their lives.
BSG was certainly groundbreaking. It was one of the first TV shows to create a world where someone’s gender didn’t influence whether they were heroes or villains, what job they had, or which morals and values were important to them. It showed us that a woman can be a highly intelligent, well-respected president; a woman can be a sexy cylon who can wear a fabulous skimpy red outfit and still be badass; a woman can be a villainous asshole that needs to be murdered; and, finally, a woman can be the best pilot in the galaxy, kick your ass at pyramid, drink you under the table, and frak you with no strings attached.
Thanks to Battlestar Galactica and Starbuck for reminding us that a woman can be the biggest badass in the room, even without a penis. Because believe it or not, the only difference between men and women is genitals.
So say we all.