Tuesday, 22 April 2008

Battlestar Galactica Puts $57 In The Futureswears Box

Battlestar Galactica has returned with a mixture of very good drama, dreary character soliloquies, and appalling dialogue, most of which is delivered by Dean Stockwell's Cylon character Cavil, not to mention introducing the most interesting sub-plot yet (a Cylon civil war involving mass robo-genocide), and practically ignoring it in favour of lots of scenes of Cally shouting at Tyrol and Starbuck being super-grumpy. Not the most appealing of televisual prospects (though thank God she's separated from Apollo so we don't get week after week of them bickering).

Still, so far it's been better than season three, though not as good as the earlier seasons. Canyon has pretty much given up on it, and I don't blame her really, though I find myself in the odd position of giving a lot of its weaknesses a break now that I know there is an end in sight, hoping that what seems to be boring time-wasting is actually pertinent, in much the same way that a lot of Lost doubters have started to give the show a chance to prove itself. More on all of that later (again, if I can find the time and energy), but first, this week's episode (which ended very strongly and ruthlessly) featured a very dull moment between boring Starbuck and her boring husband/ex-husband, Lee Anders the Cylon, which involved The Hott Angry Sexx. We didn't see that, of course, but we got some futuristic potty-mouth from Starbuck that totally wrecked the scene.

I'm not fan of space-swears in sci-fi, though I totally understand why it is there. I don't expect BSG (or any other show) to turn into Deadwood-On-Mars, but inventing new swearwords often falls flat. I was fond of the authorised profanity in Judge Dredd (the comics), but hearing Sylvester Stallone say "Drokk!" in the movie brought home how stupid the idea is. Red Dwarf may fit on my list of Least Favourite Shows for lots of different reasons, but high up is the attempt to make, "Smeg" work as an obscenity. The only thing obscene about Smeg is that their pretty fridges are way too expensive for me to buy. Other than that, it sounds stupid. Perhaps not as bad as that, BSG famously features the fake swear, "Frak!", standing in for fuck.

To be honest the only show I can think of that got around the problem was Firefly with its Cantonese exclamations, though they often translated into words and phrases as innocuous as, "bullcrap," "You fink," and "The explosive diarrhea of an elephant." The difference is that in Cantonese it sounded cool. Frak does not sound anything like as cool. It's more like the fake swears you used to get on TV in profanity-thons like Midnight Run or Goodfellas, all "Melonfarmer" and "Freaking". In fact it makes me cringe just thinking about frak, except when Dwight Schrute says it on The Office. Then it's perfect.

Until now the word has only appeared sporadically; the odd "frakking" or "frak me" popping up here or there, but this week Starbuck popped out a rare (and regrettable) "You dumb motherfrakker", which wrecked the scene, before grabbing Anders, pressing him against a wall, and then giving into her urges (as many characters appeared to this week). Very sexxy. And how did she seduce her secretly-Cylon hubbie? By breathlessly saying:

I don't wanna fight, Sam. I wanna frak. You don't get it, do you? I'm not the same girl you married. All I wanna do right now is frak, really frak like it's the end of the world and nothing else matters. So come on, Sam. Make me feel something. I dare you.

Cue vigorous offscreen frakking. I already had trouble handling that stupid fake word, and this sent me over the edge. Instead of making BSG seem edgy by slipping semi-profanities past the censors, it makes this sophisticated and intelligent show sound like a comedy. It doesn't even have any consistency. Is this the only profanity of the future? Apparently not. They say crap pretty often. So why haven't they gone all out and futurised all of the swears? As the dialogue in that scene got more and more ridiculous, I imagined Starbuck demanding buttsecks with the order, "Frak me in my promper with your big hott shmazzmer." It would have been no more ridiculous than what we actually got.

Don't believe me? Consider this memorable scene from Glengarry Glen Ross, written by former liberal David Mamet, directed for the screen by James Foley, and performed by Al Pacino (with an assist from Canyon's acting hero, Jude Ciccolella).

Now here's the BSG version.

You stupid frakking cump. Williamson! I'm talking to you snathead! You just cost me 6,000 cubits. 6,000 cubits, and one Viper. That's right. What are you going to do about it? What are you going to do about it...promperhole? You frakking snat! Where did you learn your trade, you stupid frakking cump?! You idiot! Whoever told you that you could work with men?! Oh, I'm gonna have your job, snathead. I'm going to Admiral Adama. I'm going to Roslin! I don't care whose nephew you are...who you know...whose shmazzmer you're sucking on, you're going out! I'll tell you something else, I hope it was you who ripped off the joint, maybe I can tell our friends something that will help them to prove you're a skinjob. Any man who works here lives by his wits... What you are hired to do, is to help us. Does that seem clear to you? To HELP us. Not to FRAK US UP! To help men who are going out there to earn a living, you fairy. You company man. You want to know the first rule you'd learn if you'd ever spent a day in your life? You never open your mouth until you know what the shot is. You frakking child.

I don't know. Perhaps in the final episode the use of the made-up word will be justified. Upon finding Earth, the final Cylon (who will obviously be Zach Adama, we have decided), might say "fuck", and the humans will immediately adopt it. After he's shown off his signed copy of John Wesley Harding, of course.

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