Battlestar Galactica and why Iowan Christians didn't vote for Mitt Romney

I remember Sunday evenings in the 1970s. The TV shows on ITV, which were a big draw after Bullseye-Type Shows (we weren't Protestant or middle class or geriatric so Songs of Praise on the BBC didn't appeal, though Harry Secombe did)were usually kitsch American features. The shows would appear after my mum washed my brother and I in the stainless steel kitchen sink, rather than the more expensive bath, which actually used to be quite reassuring.

The Incredible Hulk, with Lou Ferrigno, alternated with Battlestar Galactica, and occasionally shows like the Anthony Burgess-scripted Jesus of Nazareth would turn up. I once got upset by the crucifixion on that show, but was reassured that the blood was 'only tomato sauce' by my mother.

It was the first of many mad associations for ketchup in my mind of the sort that warm my heart. The other two main ones are of seeing US fugitives pour it on scrambled eggs, and my memories of a very passionate woman I once knew who couldn't live without it.

Anyway, that's all by the by and one for some inevitable future psychotherapy. My main point in blogging idly this Saturday was to recommend the new, reimagined Battlestar Galactica to you. An awful lot of Rubbish (with a capital R) is written about the connexion of science fiction to modernity in literary circles. I could write a load. My intellectual adventure began in a public library when I was seven for instance, when I devoured all the Doctor Who books on the shelves, long before I saw the series.

The new Battlestar Galactica, however, is incredibly rich, grainy, messy, and deliberately deflated. It is cool.

The show deals with the flight of a group of demented polytheists, based on modern American archetypes of all races and conditions, from a fanatical, sex obsessed group of interchangeable, downloaded cylon monotheists. Issues of torture, abuse, the limits of democracy, clandestine activity, and drug addiction are dealt with in an adult fashion, warm happy endings are not had, and occasionally characters die or go off the rails. Some even turn themselves into suicide bombers.

Any notion of the cosiness of the old show is lost, but the scripting and acting is of such a high quality I didn't notice. They even have a socialist traitor as a former president whom all the mechanics start supporting before calling a general strike and then backing the military in a government-funded Union.

BSG, as it is known by fans, also retains some flavour of Mormonism too, of course. Glen Larson was also responsible for shows like The Six Million Dollar Man (I had the tracksuit when little) and Knight Rider, but the original Battlestar Galactica was his testament (if you will pardon the pun).

It was a retelling of Mormon theology, and also incorporated themes from the Mormon Wars of America's mid-nineteenth century. In these wars, which were real, the Mormons were driven across America as they were developing their ideas about a split between Israel's tribes that led a thirteenth tribe to Missouri thousands of years before.

I think that they somehow picked up bits of Islam, gnosticism and sycretistic modernism that were around in the nineteenth century and which take a huge variety of forms. Look at William Gladstone and Ignatius Donnelly, two major politicians after all, and their crazy public belief in Atlantis, and at how many of those who named parts of the cave systems in Nevada and around the Grand Canyon gave landmarks Egyptian names.

Anyway, the new Galactica is much different from the original, shiny-cheesy product. It's also multiracial, and Roman in its approach to sex and the complications of life and relationships. It's on its third series and is a gem, from the sexy smart and older president (Mary McDonnell) downwards.

Here's an instructional cartoon put out about what Mormons actually believed in the latter half of the twentieth century as an aside. I've uploaded it from youtube, and as I understand it the Church of Jesus Christ and Latter Day Saints is not that comfortable with it, but I do think along with the black 'Nation of Islam' it lays out a genuinely American religious myth to European eyes. It isn't proselytising. I don't need to, I'm a Catholic. You really can't blame Christian evangelicals in Iowa, who are often professional smart people, for not voting for Mitt Romney once you've seen this. Here's a link to an anti-Mormon Christian evangelical site too, which of course would probably have me down as going to hell along with my Jewish pal and others for being some form of infidel.

Yaaaay, at least there'll be plenty of wine, but it'll probably be German or from the worse parts of the New World. Just to make my point clear,I think you should understand what other people believe. I like intellectual history. It's good to understand what some people don't believe too, and why they take up arguments with others. My religion teaches me to believe but understand, credo ut intelligam, and blogland should do that too. So I am not making cheap anti-Mormon points, even if that is easy.

Comments

Christopher said…
Ever read anything by Alvin Toffler?

I identify more with Mr. Rogers as a religious figure; you can keep your dehumanizing religions!
Martin Meenagh said…
I liked erin gray in the Buck Rogers serial of the seventies--and Princess Ardala. Happy memories...
Ages ago I read Future Shock too. the funny thing is how dated it feels--like Marshall McLuhan does now too. Huxley, on the other hand, seems more and more relevant by the day, and Philip K. Dick.
Thanks for reading the blog. I have no intention of forcing religion on anyone, though I like the idea of the two-in-one sprit of Twiki and Doctor Theophilus. Its arianism in Mel Blanc form....
Martin Meenagh said…
Assuming you meant buck Rogers and not Roy. That really would be dehumanized.
Christopher said…
I was referring to Fred Rogers, the American children's public television guy. He's very big on individualism, at least in his public persona.
Martin Meenagh said…
I apologize!