From Lovebot to War Bride: Race, Family and Citizenship in Battlestar Galactica

Curator's Note

In the series, Battlestar Galactica, the humans are fighting a cyborg enemy called the Cylons. Sharon, played by Grace Park, is a Cylon but has fallen in love with a (white) human soldier. She switches allegiance and becomes an officer in the human fleet. However, it is her status as wife and mother that truly legitimates her claim to personhood and even her right to exist. This clip hints at how the rhetoric of family, constructed through racialized and gendered narratives, is used to construct and disrupt a coherent national identity. In the post WWII era the over-representation of Japanese and Korean war brides in the media helped repair the image of the U.S. globally in the face of Japanese Americans returning from detention camps and the increasingly vocal civil rights movement. This new image transformed Asians in the public imagination from male bachelor sojourner to female wife and mother. What are we to make of this scene? Sharon is one of only two mothers on the show and her reproductive labor not only allows the humans to perpetuate an idealized, heterosexual, middle class family, it also allows them to differentiate themselves from and demonize the asexually reproducing, communal, Cylon Other. At the same time, her labor allows her express what must be seen as racialized anger (“You hate me for what I am. You hate me for where I’m from.”) What, too, are to make of the fact that this scene was cut from the original show and only appears as a deleted scene on the DVD? In what ways, does the scene exceed the needs of the show? If this topic interests you, I’d also recommend reading some of the earlier discussion about Sharon from an earlier In Media Res BSG themed week, July 9-13, 2007.


Hi LeiLani, Comparing "Athena" aka Sharon to a warbride is such a fascinating idea that I can't wait to hear more. But I wonder if you could also talk about the different roles she plays as a mother in the series. When she first comes back to Galactica it is as a pregnant Cylon and then she is the grieving mother and good soldier and then finally the enraged mother who gets her husband to kill her so she can save her child. This is almost like the reverse story of M. Butterfly/"Miss Saigon" who kills herself to send her child to America. I wonder if Sharon will be forced to make the same move or will there be an alternative to this mixed species narrative? The other interesting part of this clip is that you do have the two literal mothers of the show squaring off. The power differential in terms of class (and rank) and size is very apparent in this scene. Callie was always shown with a crying baby, sleep deprived, or picking up the baby from daycare. Sharon is a mother but is never really shown with her baby. In fact Roslin and Six (as the spiritual mothers) have more to do with her. Since Callie was recently killed (for the very sentiments she expresses in this clip) and we know that her baby is a Cylon/human mix what do you think this expresses about reproductive labor?

Hi LeiLani, Great clip! And I can't wait to read your paper on this when it comes out. I don't have much to add to Shilpa's lovely comments/questions except to ask if you could unpack the relationship between the literal mothers pictured here (both it seems hybrid since their children are mixed-race/species) and the figurative mothers - what's the relationship there, narratively, ideologically? I think your reading of Sharon/Athena as war bride is really astute and holds up. And it is telling that this scene, which seems to make that comparison so concrete, gets deleted.

Hi All -- Thanks for your comments and sorry for my slow reply. I think the fact that these are the only two women who have children on the show is quite significant. This is especially true since there is so much emphasis on family. The sense that the family is under siege in the show adds to the portrayal of humans as victims of the Cylons. It's hard not to draw parallels to popular rhetoric of the sanctity of the family and the belief that we are under attack for some kind of idealized "way of life" in the United States. The threat from without is domesticated (literally), but also comes from within.

Dear Leilani, Hello. Thank you for sharing the clip and your post. You ask an intriguing question: "In what ways, does the scene exceed the needs of the show?" How would you answer that? By needs, do you mean textually or in terms of generating fandom? Also, as with many mainstream filmic or televisual texts, the opportunity to be political is curtailed. I am not a regular watcher of BSG but it seems to me that as a science fiction program which implies the ability to be both "post-race" and liberal, a powerful scene such as this would/should not have been cut.

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