K, Bop or Boppy--take your pick! (bop_radar) wrote,
K, Bop or Boppy--take your pick!
bop_radar

Battlestar Galactica Essay: Kara/Lee/Destiny (Part II)

As for Part One, spoilers for full three seasons.

Heroes, Heroines and their Anti-forms
I've had several interesting discussions about heroism recently, in the wake of which I read this post by saeva. She defines four distinct roles Hero, Heroine, Anti-Hero and Anti-Heroine. These are 'all narrative functions which characters inhabit to further the course of a plot or conflict within a plot.' She argues that each function exists outside of gender: 'While traditionally each of these functions has a gender to the characters which inhabit them, the definitions do not by necessity require them to have such.' That's going to be important to remember in the argument that I'm about to put! ;-)

What I want to suggest is that both Lee and Kara demonstrate positive and negative attributes: they have 'dark' and 'light' forms. And in doing so they fulfil the roles of Hero and Heroine, Anti-Hero and Anti-Heroine in a fluid fashion. I'm sure some critical analysts would argue that such fluidity in narrative function/roles is illusionary or impossible, but personally I think it's both possible and significant.

In her positive guise, Kara is or could be the Classic Hero. She demonstrates the classic heroic qualities of courage, independence, strength, loyalty, an unwillingness to go back on her word, honesty, extraordinary skill and luck. But Kara's journey is not purely that of Hero. In her dark arc, she is motivated not by heroic qualities but by 'anti-heroic' emotions such as fear, spite or jealousy. Anti-heroes are defined as doing the right thing not because it's right but for their own selfish reasons: Kara's 'heroic' actions are often motivated by a desire to seek approval (e.g. from Adama) or status (as shown in her bitter rivalry with Kat). But just as Kara is not 'purely' a Classic Hero, she isn't a full Anti-Hero either, though Kara fans and Kara haters can war this one out on their own.

In his positive guise, Lee is a Classic Heroine. Like Kara, he has demonstrated positive qualities such as strength, loyalty, honesty, skill and intelligence. What marks him as a Heroine rather than a Hero is his capacity for self-sacrifice and the fact that independence and freedom are not as important to him. As saeva describes: 'Independence or freedom of thought isn't valued in a heroine, ultimately, as she should be willing to defer to her eventual love match or at the least her mentor, though she may possess these qualities at first. (Though they will usually be described more negatively, such as stubbornness versus strength of spirit, or being contrary versus following one's own path.) And much more emphasis is put on sacrifice rather than mere risk. Ignoring the feminine pronoun, this definitely sounds like Lee to me! ;-) He has certainly expressed stubbornness and contrariness, but he's also defined by self-sacrifice: professionally (e.g. Pegasus) and emotionally (e.g. on the witness stand at the trial).

In his 'dark' guise, Lee is selfish, morally 'tainted' and cold rather than nurturing. The line from saeva's essay that most resonated with me as being appropriate to Lee-as-Anti-Heroine is: 'anti-heroines are characters who began as representations of goodness, who have been broken down by the moral or social majority, and who were rebuilt into something outside of the moral lines but still capable of good actions.' In my comment to her post, I suggested that in Lee's case it's the circumstances of the fleet's race for survival and the hypocrisy of its leaders that 'break' him. He believes steadfastly in democracy but is continually faced with having to bend rules and enter dark areas. At a personal level, he crosses moral lines as well, cheating on his wife.

Just as it can be argued that Kara is both Hero and Anti-Hero, I think it can be argued that Lee is at times Heroine, at times Anti-Heroine. But where things get really interesting (imo!) is in an increasing tendency in both of them to express both traditionally masculine and traditionally feminine qualities. saeva makes a point of noting this tendency where Starbuck is concerned: 'What may be surprising to some is that as the character of Starbuck has developed she has become more of a heroine; she's begun to take on the qualities of heroinism, such as nurturing (with Kasey), purity (though this certainly isn't her strongest suit she's become more pure of spirit, if not body, as the show has progressed, as evidenced by her destiny), and willingness to sacrifice herself.' Being the Lee fangirl that I am, I naturally followed that train of thought to see if the equivalent was true of Lee. Lee has defined himself as his 'own man' in the trial plot arc, and in conflict with his father, he's shown a drive towards independence, so I'd say, yes, though perhaps there's not as much evidence as in Kara's case. But certainly in Season 3, we've seen a Lee who has more confidence and determination than ever before. It's also significant that he did not end up 'submitting' to his 'love match', Kara, no longer willing to leave himself open to being hurt by her.

This may all seem very convoluted and circular, but what I find fascinating is the sense of striving towards balance that is present in both characters. No character on Battlestar Galactica is a pure archetype. It's not that kind of show. But there are two potential directions of growth for Kara and Lee, that would drive the plot forward towards a positive rather than a completely bleak conclusion. The first is towards their roles as hero and heroine, and the second is to embrace their opposite or repressed side, masculine or feminine. And there are signs that they are doing just that, which is perhaps why I find myself so optimistic following the finale of Season 3.

Shippiness
I've deliberately avoided mentioning their romantic relationship until now, partly because 'shipping' is so contentious within fandom. I ship Kara/Lee as anyone reading this probably already knows, so I in no way claim to be objective when it comes to considering them as a potential couple. Read the following with however big a pinch of salt you see fit! (This section's also more playful and lighter, I guess, in keeping with the whole 'shippy' feel.)

In Part 1 of my essay, I identified six different phases related to Kara and Lee's intertwined fates. I feel their romantic relationship mirrors these stages:
- Stage 1 is about establishment, and we saw an evident, but unacted-on, attraction between them.
- Stage 2 is about heightened connection, and we saw that in Lee's confession that he loved Kara as well as numerous intimate, flirty scenes between them
- Stage 3 certainly saw faltering with the almost-sex of Scar and them turning away towards others (Sam and Dee)
- At Stage 4, the emotional separation was just as formal as their physical separation--their respective marriages and estrangement following the one-night-stand on New Caprica.
- Stage 5 saw both emotional entanglement (following Unfinished Business) and stagnation, with them reaching a double-tiered stalemate, first when Lee refuses to cheat and Kara refuses to leave Sam, and then again when Kara offers to leave Sam but Lee won't risk getting hurt again. That seemed like a possible endpoint for pilotlove (to much despair), and it took 'Maelstrom' to renew my hope. Yup, it took death.
- For I think Stage 6 does promise renewal and reconnection romantically as well as at a structural/plot/destiny level.

Here's why. Firstly, all the previous stages have been mirrored in the intimate arena as well as on the external stage of drama. *points* Why wouldn't the ones to come be? Secondly, the reasons for the stagnation in Stage 5 have been stripped away. After 'Unfinished Business' many fans argued that what Lee and Kara really needed was time apart to deal with their own issues. I agreed but couldn't see how this would be accomplished. Kara's death provided the space that Lee needed to concentrate on himself. His marriage failed for its own reasons, not because of Kara. It's less clear yet that Kara's moved past her relationship issues, but in healing the scars of her abuse, it's possible that she'll be more open to and accepting of love, maybe even believe that she is worthy of love. I think another positive sign is that Lee is less emotionally needy now than ever before. He's weathered so much.

This connects with Lampkin's story that he told Six about being in love and enduring so much pain, struggling to 'get over' his wife. He finishes by saying "That was when I finally realized how much I loved her. If I needed all that strength, what was the point? I needed to be with her." It's obvious at the time that Lee draws a lot from this. He makes a point of asking Lampkin if the story is true. It may not be, Lampkin being the manipulator that he is. To a certain point the parallel for Lee is perfect--he had a connection with a beautiful, mesmerising but tortured woman, which 'fell apart' and which he felt the need to get over. I argued in my review of this episode that it made more sense to me that Lee was recognising in Romo's words the way he tried to get over Kara emotionally before her death, rather than purely the grieving process he was no going through. And while acknowledging how much he loves/loved Kara is an important step in grieving, it could also be an important step towards a post-death reunion. *beams* The parallel is perfect if Lee does end up realising that he should just be with Kara already!

Of course, I am for my own nefarious shippy purposes here ignoring the possibility that Kara may be a) a Cylon, b) a Deity, c) a ghost, d) some strange combination of those and/or other non-human forms.

Truth is, anything's possible. But I think there are strong signs that the show is arcing towards a positive emotional resolution for the pilots. We may see another 'dark' period before they get there. However, I don't think it will be as severe as the one we've seen come before. If Season 4 is the final season, I'd suggest it doesn't have time to be.

As always, I welcome you to share your own thoughts.
Tags: bsg_meta
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    And I have mixed feelings. I do think it's fabulous to see the writers using a show like Smallville to explore and/or riff on DC comics history. And…

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