So, here we are again for another extended romp through the cesspool at Tor.com.
Jennifer Geisbrecht (achoo) didn’t finish spewing her vitriol at Babylon 5 in a short post, so it’s taking me twice as long to prove she’s wrong.
When I’m done with her, hopefully she will have learned her lesson.
Yeah, my married name sounds better for this sort of thing.
If you missed it last time, this comes from dear Jennifer’s post on how Babylon 5 Is the Greatest, Most Terrible SF Series.
Once again, the original is in italics, and my response is in bold.
Just as a point of transition from the previous post, Jennifer Achoo was saying that she was absolutely sure that Babylon 5 isn’t sure about its own political subtext, or text. After firing several memes into that ignorant statement, it’s time to get to her explanation of that particular opening volley.
What I’m saying is that Babylon 5 is… a little politically naive.
So, portraying a society and setting that is an accurate reflection of the current problems in our own society is . . . naive? Sure, you go right ahead on and think so.
It succumbs powerfully to the temptation to paint its central characters as the Great Men (and Women!) of History.
Who else are you supposed to write epic stories about, genius? You don’t write a five-year tale about Joe Schmo the cashier at Billy Bob’s Liquor. You write epic tales about epic people, the ones who change history, who make history, who save the day and have amazing adventures that keep us glued to the television screen, and cry when the story is over because it was so beautiful.
The most wonderful thing about these particular Great Men and Women of Babylon 5 is that you are so close to them that you are able to see their faults as well as their virtues, their failings as well as their greatness. That’s real storytelling. It’s just like Sam told Frodo:
Those stories teach us; they help mold who we are. If you had your way, all the stories we would be allowed to have are ones like The Catcher in the Rye, and The Sound and the Fury, and every piece of crap modern American literature has to offer, because in those stories, everyone is equally contemptible. There is no one to admire, no one to emulate, and worst of all, no one to condemn for their evil behavior.
Which is exactly what you want, isn’t it?
The solutions it offers are not much different from the problems it wants to solve.
So . . . the humans and other aliens being in charge of their own destinies is exactly the same problem as the Shadows or the Vorlons yanking their chains and using them as pawns. Okay, I see where your head is. You don’t actually understand the meaning of free will, or even care how important that is, do you?
This—in some regards—is fine, because we know what happens a million years after the end of the series: Earth falls to fascism again.
Nobody ever said anything about fascism. Once again, you’re making crap up to make yourself look smart, and to fit this show into your little agenda. And you’re not even doing a good job.
The episode you’re talking about (“Deconstruction of Falling Stars”) is about the important things that happen a hundred, five hundred, and a thousand, and a million years into the future. There is no mention of fascism. All we know is that five hundred years into the future, not a million, Earth succumbed to some kind of tyranny. That’s all we know. And we don’t even know that it was ALL of Earth. They don’t say. And, frankly, that’s a pretty damn good track record. George Washington, in 1787, is quoted as saying, “I do not expect the Constitution to last more than twenty years.” And here we are, two hundred years later. We’re not treating that Constitution as well as Washington would have, but it’s still there. If anything on this futuristic Earth lasts for five hundred years, they have a much better track record than almost anyone in history.
Because, once again, human nature never changes. Individuals can change, but we’re still fallible, corruptible, stupid human beings, and we can be counted on to periodically f**k something up, no matter how great it is.
Human civilization is boiled down to its bones in a nuclear war.
Fine. So it is. Your point?
Eventually, we rebuild. Eventually we ascend and go beyond the furthest ring to hang out with Kosh and Sheridan, and it’s all very Lord of the Rings in a way that has you half-expecting Gandalf to pop out from behind a corner at points.
So . . . you hate happy endings? And where in the world did you expect Gandalf in that show? It never has that feel to it. You’re grasping at straws, honey, and not doing a very good job.
Like I said: it’s ‘The End of History’, the zeitgeist of the 1990s taken to its logical conclusion.
Okay, people, I’ve been trying so hard to keep the bad language out of this post, but I just can’t do it. In the words of Mark Twain: “Under certain circumstances, urgent circumstances, desperate circumstances, profanity provides a relief denied even to prayer.”
zeitgeist (noun): the defining spirit or mood of a particular period of history as shown by the ideas and beliefs of the time
So, the defining mood of the 90s as shown by the beliefs at the time, and expressed in this particular television show . . . has the end of the world as its logical conclusion?
There’s no such thing as the end of history, genius. You’ve just exposed yourself as a cultural Marxist; you think that there is an inevitability about history, that free will doesn’t exist. You don’t want great men, because great men have no place in that view, that we’re all doomed. I said that human nature doesn’t change, but that’s a far cry from you claiming that, essentially, there’s no point in the actions of any individual because it’s all going to end in fire anyway.
Everything this show is can prove you wrong.
Between just Delenn and Sheridan, they prove that an individual can make a choice, and prevent that fire. It is when we fail to follow — or are taught to discard — the examples of heroes, role models, and great men, that everything falls apart.
It’s a Liberal hellscape, and that’s intentional at least 50% of the time.
Of course, you meant it in an entirely different way, but after all, it is the literal text of what you said.
Did you ever stop to think that reality is a liberal hellscape because you’re just plain wrong?
I guess not.
It might be asking a lot for a major network show from the Clinton-era to offer a more cogent critique of the system everyone was happily drowning in at the time than this.
Lady, my dog is a better writer than that.
And somehow, you think that it’s the sole purpose of any television show to critique the system, rather than simply to tell a story. No wonder nobody’s ever heard of you and your book; you wouldn’t do anything in said book but critique everything and everyone, and any entertainment value would be left by the wayside.
The show can be crassly broad when broaching topics such as the AIDS epidemic, McCarthyism or Jehovah’s Witness medical restrictions,
Because the show was primarily about AIDS, McCarthyism, and the medical practices of Jehovah’s Witnesses.
Even if I accepted your assertion that there is even a hint of McCarthyism anywhere in the show, it’s simply that the writers were using ordinary topics to make the futuristic show more immediate to the viewers. It’s called verisimilitude, you idiot.
but it is simultaneously also very good at presenting situations in which no one is exactly right,
Oh, you mean like real life?
or subverting its own subversions.
Okay, you mean that the show presents one story fact and immediately contradicts it, all without breaking the fourth wall?
The only time I’ve ever seen that on television is when I tried watching Lost after the first two seasons.
Babylon 5’s parallel to the Cardassian/Bajoran conflict is initially problematized by presenting the formerly colonized Narn as a bloodthirsty, ambitious Regime in their own right, eager to make a mark on the galaxy and give back every inch of pain meted upon them by their former oppressors the Centauri.
First, go get a freaking dictionary. Problematized? Are you kidding me?
Second, get your facts straight. Babylon 5 wasn’t imitating Star Trek. Deep Space Nine was imitating Babylon 5. That was the cause of all the rivalry between the two fandoms, and eventually got so ugly that Majel Barret agreed to appear in a Babylon 5 episode (“Point of No Return”) to try and calm things down. All you have to do is look at the plot summaries of the Deep Space Nine episodes, and then compare the original air dates. They stole that plot, and it was so shamelessly obvious, everyone knew it.
So, that discounts your entire point. Of course the Narn wanted to pay back the Centauri; wouldn’t you? It doesn’t have anything to do with Star Trek.
Also, why the hell did you capitalize Regime? If you’re trying to reference what the Narn government calls itself — the Narn Regime — you missed it by a mile.
But it’s still the Narn Ambassador G’kar who learns to look towards the future,
Yeah, he had to LEARN to do that, genius. Were you even watching this show? He didn’t manage to get out of his own selfish desire for revenge against the Centauri until well after he’d been in it long enough to cause trouble. He essentially had to go through his own Dark Night of the Soul in order to figure it out (“Dust to Dust”).
and the Centauri Ambassador Londo who helps his Empire re-brutalize the Narn twice as bad as has been done before out of a petty desire to feel important again.
That’s such an over-simplification of his motives that it’s an outright lie. Yes, he wants to feel important again. But his real reason for doing it is because he wants his people to be important again (“Signs and Portents”). In his whole rant at Mr. Morden in answer to the question, “what do you want?” he never says a word about his own power. Everything he wants is for his people. That doesn’t make it right, but you don’t get to make that magnificent character into a small, selfish little punk just because you have a problem with the show’s content.
His motives are actually more understandable and pitiable than G’Kar’s motives. In that same episode, you can see the difference between their two answers. Londo wants his people to be great again; G’Kar wants revenge. He wants to wipe the Centauri out of existence, and says so. Londo may want to do so as a means to an end, but G’Kar wants that death and destruction for its own sake. Neither one is right, but it’s so much more complex for both of them than anyone would understand if they listened to you.
The wheel does not turn: the Centauri’s Imperial desire to see themselves as martyrs now under the boot of their victims is the poison tooth at the heart of the show’s many conflicts.
You’re projecting. Obviously, you’re a liberal who thinks that being a victim is the greatest possible good, so therefore, the bad guys are trying to seem like victims.
Which is the exact opposite of every portrayal of the Centauri. They absolutely refuse to be victims anymore; victims are weak. They want to be the “lion of the galaxy” again, as Londo refers to them. To them, there are only two choices: the victim, or the victimizer, and they choose the part of the victimizer. It’s certainly not right to think that, but that doesn’t change the fact that that’s how they see things.
However, this all looks very First Year PoliSci even when compared to that contemporary non-blood relative Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, which stumbles all over the place in its own Star Trekky way, but was perhaps more astute in its attempts at social criticisms with episodes like ‘Past Tense’ and ‘Far Beyond the Stars’ as well as notably more mature in its engagement with colonial war crimes.
You’re going to see this as “first year poly-sci,” and turn right around and take the childish Star Trek portrayals as more accurate, more mature?
“Past Tense” is basically a rehash of the LA Riots in the early 90s, and yes, it was commentary on social issues. But saying that that is “more astute” than anything in Babylon 5 is complete crap.
“Far Beyond the Stars” is an even worse episode, with nothing but 1950s hallucinations, a bad portrayal of the Prophets, and a shoehorned attempt at addressing racism.
Any “colonial war crimes” in Deep Space Nine are about the Maquis terrorist group, and they’re never portrayed as anything other than the bad guys, so I don’t know where you’re getting that assessment of their supposed maturity.
And the Maquis are basically the IRA; they’ve got a nugget of justification due to real oppression, but they fight for the sake of fighting their enemy, rather than to defend what they love. They’re essentially the same people who cry “Viva La Revolution” (French or Spanish, take your pick), and wrap themselves up in a cause to justify doing what they want — killing. That “revolution” exists for its own sake for them; it isn’t a means to an end.
And somehow you think those are better than the three-dimensional characters with multiple motives and justifications in Babylon 5?
But what Babylon 5 lacks in wisdom it gains back in boldness and specificity.
So, you’re saying that as long as they can be wrong loudly, it’s okay for them to be wrong?
That contradicts everything you’ve been saying for the last few thousand words.
The reason I can respect this narrative, as outdated and self-defeating it is at points, is because B5 is never afraid—or embarrassed, even when it should be—to state its positions and their proximity to the world outside its narrative confines.
You respect them for announcing their opinions, but their opinions are wrong. Uh-huh. And yet you claim to love this show.
I’ve never heard of a liberal who actually respects the opinion of someone who disagrees with them, and you sure as hell aren’t one of those imaginary creatures. If you were, I wouldn’t have had to spend two full days fisking this crap.
This specificity of framing is in sharp contrast to Star Trek, which presents a vibrant playground in which to pose infinite number of philosophical moral quandaries but has shockingly little to say about the political architecture of that playground.
Hold on, I thought you liked Star Trek because that particular universe agreed with your liberal, utopian agenda? You hope the future will look like Star Trek, but you’re afraid it will look like Babylon 5, or don’t you remember the beginning of your own post? Now, somehow, it doesn’t have any “political architecture”?
Oh, wait. Maybe you just don’t want to expose how a liberal, communist utopia is run, lest the rest of us poor plebs realize that it can’t be achieved without totalitarian oppression.
I had a history teacher in high school that drummed that into my class one day. He made us all write a hundred times: “THE POLITICAL SYSTEM THAT MUST BE IN PLACE IN ORDER FOR COMMUNISM TO BE EFFECTIVE IS TOTALITARIANISM.”
I still remember that, even almost twenty years later. Too bad you didn’t have a teacher like Mr. Ryan; you might not be the naive, delusional liberal you are now.
We all know that the Federation is a glorious Fully Automated Luxury Space Communism paradise, right? I mean, it is—there’s nothing else it could be, but no writer has ever told us this directly.
No, it’s implied a lot; but you’ve been telling us that directly for several thousand words.
Starfleet Officers are awfully self righteous about a way of life that the franchise seems averse to actual spelling out in explicit terms.
And that utopia they decided to introduce in The Next Generation was actually toned down in Deep Space Nine, because some genius finally realized that it was completely untenable. Sort of like your own ideology.
Of course, they had to wait until after Roddenberry died, and still angered a lot of fans when they did it, but at least they had SOME sense. Unlike you.
And if you don’t say something out loud, it turns out you don’t actually have a whole lot to say about it in the end after all.
Yeah, because television viewers are not F***ING MIND READERS.
I find specificity more valuable the older I get.
You should have plenty of time to grow up and appreciate it that much more, because you act like you’re about thirteen.
I can have a conversation with Babylon 5, all the parts I find illuminating as well as the ones I find odious.
You go ahead and talk to your television all you want, sweetheart.
I can interact with its ideas about capitalism and extremism and religion and western interventionism without getting lost in the weeds of polite innuendo post-Cold War Star Trek often malingered in. (NOTE: I also love Star Trek)
I have no idea what you said.
malinger (verb): exaggerate or feign illness in order to escape duty or work.
Somehow, you think that Star Trek exaggerated an illness of polite innuendo about something post-Cold-War to escape duty or work?
No, wait, that doesn’t make sense either.
You think that the innuendo in Star Trek was exaggerated to escape duty or work?
Screw it. I’m too confused.
Unfortunately not. Looks like we’re going to have to have a Part Three of this fiasco.
Tune in next time for a continuation.