BSG: Telling It From The Mountain

So, I was reading Pandagon yesterday when I discovered that some really weird folk think Battlestar Galactica is secretly a Mormon recruitment tool[1]. Their evidence? The show makes use of religious imagery and mythology. Which is pretty week as arguments for propaganda go. By this definition, Superman,[2] Star Wars[3] and everything Philip K. Dick[4] ever wrote is also super secret (but right out there in the open) religious propaganda.

Once upon a time, this argument might have applied to the original BSG, which was Mormon mythology dressed up in swank, quilted late seventies space opera. But the new series? Not so much. As Amanda Marcotte pointed out, just because a story derives some of its momentum from popular religious ideas doesn’t automatically mean the creators are promoting that religion. Also, religious pluralism, modern gender roles with women in leadership positions and decidedly secular attitudes towards sex, drinking and drug use don’t exactly scream, “Join The Mormons!” As with any artfully done work of storytelling, it’s not that simple. BSG can’t be broken down into simple declarative statements about its morals and message. It’s a nuanced discussion of various current ideas.

But there is one really obvious way you can tell that BSG isn’t telling it from the mountain: stories told with an ideological agenda are no fun. Whether they are serialized TV dramas, movies, comics or novels, an ideologically driven narrative stands out because the author is selling you a flat pack of easy answers to hard questions. And he (usually it’s a he) is not afraid to beat you silly with the truth stick to make his point[5]. This has some predictable effect on the way the story is told.
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