Mon
Oct 11 2010 2:56pm

Caprica: From Cassandra to Donna Reed to Starbuck

Zoe and Lacy from Caprica

Caprica : Atomic Age :: Battlestar Galactica : The Present

If that analogy is true, then it makes sense that certain problems exist for the female characters on Caprica. And there are problems. Because while the show boasts homosexuality as a non-issue, women still seem to be secondary in that society, and not just among the Taurons, who seem to be the most traditional. However, when put into a historical context, it makes sense that we have to go through some inequality on Caprica before we get to the assertiveness and strength of the women on Battlestar half a century later. After all, we in the real world had to go through a Second World War where women were a majority of the work force only to be taken out of it when the war was over, and then await the arrival of the Women’s Lib movement in the decades that followed in order for women to have come as far as they have.

The problems facing the women on Caprica go back farther than the Atomic Age. They go back farther than Greek myth. I suppose we can start with Eve (of “Adam and…” fame). Her knowing stuff and telling Adam stuff and that causing them both to get in trouble with the Big Man Upstairs, because women aren’t supposed to know stuff. And if they DO know stuff, they’re certainly not supposed to tell anyone about it. (I’m looking at YOU, Zoe, holding the apple in the Caprica ad artwork!) The lesson? Women aren’t supposed to be listened to, otherwise bad things happen.

The Battlestar universe has made no bones about referencing Greek mythology. Like, a LOT. Let’s talk about a little lady named Cassandra. In Greek myth, Cassandra was the daughter of the king and queen of Troy. She was gorgeous, and would’ve totally given Helen a run for her money in the popularity department, were it not for Apollo hitting on her, giving her the power of prophecy to woo her, but when she wasn’t interested (or lost interest, depending on the version), he cursed her so that she’d be able to predict the future, but no one would believe her, and it made her kind of crazypants.

See, even in Greek myth, much like on Battlestar, Apollo was kind of a tool when it came to The Ladies.

But back to Caprica.

It seems that every woman on the show is a Cassandra; able to see what’s really going on, but seen as crazy or inept.

Amanda Graystone Amanda Graystone

Granted, she is suffering from clinical depression, which causes her reactions to what she knows to be off-kilter. Still, her disproportionate reactions don’t change the fact that she discovers that her daughter was connected to the Soldiers of the One, as well as her husband’s involvement in stealing Tomas Vergis’ MCP chip and the killing of two Tauron men. Yet when she goes to any of the men, they either pat her on the head and tell her to rest, or they out and out tell her she’s crazy. And then there was that dude who tried to kill her because of her knowledge. Now that we know she’s alive after her suicide attempt, they seem to be pointing to her helping the police go after the STO. Are they playing her grief against her to use her to help maintain a male-dominant status quo? Only time will tell.

Clarice WillowClarice Willow

Here we have a woman who is a school headmistress by day, terrorist by night. Actually, she’s a terrorist during the day, too, using her school as a base of operations and her students as recruits for the STO. Not only that, but she’s a woman who’s married to several husbands. All the elements of power are there. And yet, she has to struggle with Barnabas challenging her authority. Up until “Unvanquished,” she’s had to struggle with a male voice of authority challenging her every idea. However, she’s now killed that voice, and is dealing with the Reverend Mother of the monotheist church on Gemenon. Caprica seems to be setting up a woman on woman fight for supremacy. Which is great! Except they’d be fighting for supremacy over a cult. They’d be fighting for the position of Head Crazy in this polytheistic society, which doesn’t speak well to the power allowed women in the Battlestar universe at this point in its history.

Evelyn from CapricaEvelyn

Up until now, everything Evelyn has done has been for Joseph Adama, both personally and in her role as his assistant. Clearly she loves him, and so she dotes on him blindly. She showed some spine when she went into V-world as Emanuelle to help Joseph find closure over Tamara’s death, but everything she’s done has been for the sole purpose of freeing him up emotionally so that she can have him. I mean, she got all flirty with him while examining the tattoo he got at his wife’s memorial service a mere month after her death, for Gods’ sake! The men in her life don’t know she’s a Cassandra, and yet that’s how she’s being presented to the viewer; as a bit obsessive about Joseph. We know that she will eventually marry Joseph, as she was mentioned on BSG as his wife, yet have yet to learn if she has a life away from him, or if her only motivation on the show is her desire to be with him.

Ruth from CapricaRuth

She’s the most badass grandmother you’ve ever met. And yet when push comes to shove, she’s still treated like the annoying mother-in-law. Joseph ignores her many suggestions about how to handle his life, and Willie, the “Tauron way.” Meanwhile, even in her assertiveness, she seems to defer to Sam, whom she sees as a Tauron Man™. She seems like Lady Macbeth; ruthless, but unable, in this society, to really do anything about it, so she does her best to influence the men around her into taking action, with varying degrees of success. In scenes from coming episodes, it looks like she will continue to try and manipulate Joseph into taking action her way, but how much influence does she actually have?

Zoe Graystone in CapricaZoe Graystone

The Zoe of the real world was a spoiled brat who rebelled against her parents the way most teenagers do. She adhered fiercely to a new and opposing ideology. She was a genius; one whose idea of creating an avatar was stolen by her father, who was supposed to be the scientist. However, the ideology she followed so fiercely was introduced to her by her boyfriend. Her decision to follow it was influenced by her relationship to her parents, particularly to her father and his work. Everything Real World Zoe did was a reaction to something outside of herself, and so she had no real agency. When she dies, the world sees her as having had mental or emotional problems, because she allied herself with a cult. However, in Avatar Zoe (and Deadwalker Zoe, and any other Zoes that may come along), she has the opportunity to start fresh; to begin life again in a new (albeit virtual) world, and to make her own decisions and form her own opinions. Yes, she still has Zoe’s memories, but she is her own entity with her own values, the love and approval of Daniel Graystone not being one of them anymore.

Lacy Rand in CapricaLacy Rand

Lacy started the show not only as a demure girl in a Man’s World, but she also deferred to every other woman in her life. Her home life with her mother doesn’t seem to be the happiest, she doted on Zoe as well as on Zoe’s avatar, and as she uses her feminine wiles to manipulate Keon into helping her, Keon remains skeptical of her ability. And is she doing any of this for herself? In “Unvanquished,” she seemed to have grown up a bit, and become more assertive. Yet, we see that Barnabas still doesn’t trust her loyalty, Keon still feels the need to speak for her, and we don’t know what her ultimate motivations are. I’m the most curious about how this character will progress, and whether anyone will actually ever listen to her.

Tamara Adama in CapricaTamara Adama

We know nothing about her except that she was Joseph’s daughter and that she was intelligent. Whereas Zoe and Lacy go against the grain in this society, Tamara is an example of exactly what all parents want their daughters to be. Do your homework, don’t cause too much fuss, be demure, draw flowers. Her reaction to becoming an avatar is much more reserved than Zoe’s. It will be interesting to see her interact with Avatar Zoe in V-World; like watching Sandy interact with Rizzo in Grease, but with guns and swords and without showtunes.

WORKING GIRLS?

While Amanda is a doctor, she resigns from her job almost immediately, leaving her to be a grieving housewife popping Mother’s Little Helpers as she wallows in her grief. Daniel at least gets the luxury of burying himself in work. Caprica seems to be set in a world in which Graystone Industries would be Daniel’s company and not Amanda’s. She’s a doctor, but she’s a plastic surgeon—not a brain surgeon, or a general practitioner. She’s a doctor of the cosmetic, and we never actually get to see her have a job. Evelyn is Joseph’s secretary. Ruth is a housewife. Clarice has to kill one man and bodily threaten another for the privilege of getting to run the cult, while her day job is a stereotypically feminine one. The one female police detective we’ve met is the one who made the big mistake of letting Ben Stark go. The teenage girls have been, up until now, completely powerless. And we haven’t yet seen any female members of the Ha’la’tha.

The women on Caprica seem to be far behind their counterparts on Battlestar Galactica. However, Caprica seems to be mirroring the era of social change women in this country went through during the Atomic Age. And just as in our world, for the women on Caprica it’s taken huge world events and technological advancements to wake them up. I’m looking forward to watching them make the progress that will lead to a female President of the Colonies and a fighter pilot named Starbuck.

Caprica airs Tuesdays at 10PM ET on SyFy


Teresa Jusino was born the same day Skylab fell. Coincidence? She doesn’t think so. She is a freelance writer in New York City who is a regular contributor to websites like ChinaShop Magazine, Pink Raygun, and Newsarama. In addition to her geeky online scribblings, she also writes prose fiction and screenplays. Teresa is the author of a chapbook of short stories called On the Ground Floor, and she is working on a webseries called The Pack, coming in 2011. She is also the last member of WilPower: The Official Wil Wheaton Fan Club. Get Twitterpated with Teresa, or visit her at The Teresa Jusino Experience.

10 comments
Ruth X
1. RuthX
I've had trouble connecting with any of the female characters on Caprica. Especially in the first handful of characters. I miss having a Starbuck around (gods I loved her) and would even settle for a Roslin (not a firebrand but damn good at being in control).

Clarice, while going for head crazy, is at least a woman of action. And she's good at being freakishly intense.

I've grown to like Zoe better and have hopes for Lacey. Tamara feels incredibly underdeveloped, as you say--she's the good daughter. I'm hoping that changes. I really liked the deleted alternate ending to the Tamara storyline in "End of the Line" and felt like she had more agency in it. Watching the DVDs made me a bit disappointed about the choice they made in airing the other ending, though perhaps it created fewer messy plot threads.

As for Ruth...I'm pretty sure she kills someone this season (based on promo materials) and am looking forward to it. I doubt she'll ever join Ha'la'tha, but I like that she's strong even inside her position.
DiGrifter
3. DiGrifter
Overall a good post, even if I didn't agree with all your attempts to support the overall argument. First, the parts I disagreed with:

1) Amanda Graystone never went to Tomas Vergis, he came to her to sow (more) discontent in the Graystone household. Also, the attempt on her life had nothing to do with her knowledge, but because Joseph Adama blamed the Graystone family for his wife and daughter's deaths.

2) Clarice Willow is the strongest character in the entire show! Granted she may be portrayed as a crazy religious zealot, but the only reason she had not killed Barnabas outright was she felt she needed the proper authority first. Also, since she was courting the higher ups with her plan for Apotheosis, she couldn't afford to potentially upset her bosses.

3) Ruth being ignored by Joseph has nothing to do with her being an annoying mother-in-law. He ignored advice from everybody, and seemed to withdraw from the world!

4) Amanda "resigning" from her job was an obvious consequence of her daughter being outed as a terrorist by her. She was clearly fired, and it wouldn't have mattered what her job was. Daniel kept his job because he owned his company, but it also suffered from the fallout, and aided in his losing the company.

5) The teenagers (male & female) all appear pretty weak-willed.

Okay, so maybe that seems that I disagreed with most things, but I do look forward to some better protrayals of the female characters -- much like in BSG.
Teresa Jusino
4. TeresaJusino
DiGrifter @3 - Thanks for commenting!

1) I never said Amanda went to Vergis. What I said was that her coming out with the information that her daughter was connected to the Soldiers of the One wreaked more havoc on her than it did on Daniel. Daniel's company suffered. Boo-hoo. Amanda had a bottle thrown at her, was called "Terror Mom," and had an attempt on her life in an attempt to "punish" Daniel. Um, I think if she were dead, she'd be the one truly punished, don't you?

2) I wasn't saying she should've killed Barnabas, I'm saying she had to. I wonder if Barnabas would've tried undermining her authority so quickly if she were a man, that's all. And every time she courted the "higher ups", the higher up she visited in V-World was that guy she ended up killing, and he was always shooting her down. Now, I'll be curious to see how she and the Reverend Mother go at it.

3) Joseph ignored advice from everyone, but he registered Sam.

4) Daniel didn't lose the company. He marched in with a cylon and kept it. Meanwhile, Amanda was forced to resign, and hasn't brought it up again. If I was forced to resign for being honest about something tragic, I'd be upset about it! I'd be trying to do something else. It's just interesting that that hasn't happened with her yet.

5) Well, they ARE teenagers after all. :) But it's a fact that the girls have been, up until now, following the lead of the weak-willed boys.

The point of the post wasn't that these issues they face are bad. I'm saying that it makes sense, because this is 50 years before Battlestar, and women have a long way to go from this point on.
DiGrifter
5. cranscape
I love all of the woman on Caprica. Sure, they are flawed in different ways, but I don't see their flaws being gender specific. Their flaws could just as easily been flaws anyone could have in a society like theirs. If anything the women on the show are the ones being active IMO. The men are mostly all dithery and way more emotionally paralyzed. They have Hamlet-itis.

Just look at how many different kinds of women you listed! Sure, there aren't any Starbucks, but there aren't any wars yet that create a Starbuck. There aren't any men of that sort either yet. You could just as easily say that the men are behind 50 years too, yet they don't seem to be called out as a gender fail like the women have been. How many female scientists or "real" doctors were on BSG? We had a secretary of education. A couple military who turned out to be toasters anyway, a communications officer, assistants, a nagging wife... as long as we are going on occupations.
Teresa Jusino
6. TeresaJusino
cranscape @5 - I'm not saying the women are flawed - I'm saying they are held back by the times in which they're living. I'm saying they're all fighting to do more and the times are fighting against them in different ways, and I'm saying that it might be presented that way on purpose if Caprica is supposed to reflect an earlier time period in the Battlestar universe.
DiGrifter
7. Dietes
Eve was always my hero. Screw the boss and screw the rules: I wanna know what's going on with this good & evil stuff. A price well worth paying.
DiGrifter
8. tom nackid
I've always appreciated the subtle diference in the way that real life Zoe is portrayed compared to her V-world avatar and her AI version. Real life Zoe is is always a bit dishevled, even a little dumpy. They even give her a bit of acne. In other words a fairly realistic adolescent. Her V-world versions on the other hand are always perfectly made up and dressed in designer dresses and shoes. There is definately a message there about unrealistic expectations. The boys on the other hand seem to use V-world to engage in hyper-violent shinanigans (Catch the Clockwork orange reference in last weeks show?) All in all I'm impressed with Caprica's ability parody and reflect our own society wthout resorting to a bludgeon or preaching--that's the basis of all good Science Fiction.
DiGrifter
9. Makeda42
It would interesting if the writers could pick up some ideas from "When God was a Woman". That might counter some of the patriarchical constructs associated with using Greek mythology. They need a framework that liberates Hera and gives her agency.
DiGrifter
10. politeruin
This is all good stuff but when the bloody heck is it showing in the uk?

Subscribe to this thread

Receive notification by email when a new comment is added. You must be a registered user to subscribe to threads.
Post a comment