Science Fiction Film & Television

Techno-butterfly

Orientalism old and new in Battlestar Galactica

Science Fiction Film & Television (2012), 5, (1), 23–46.

Abstract

Starting with the observation that, as with many sf texts, colonialism is a major theme in Battlestar Galactica (2003-9), this article considers the extent to which the representation of the robot antagonists, the Cylons, reflects imperialist discourse. In particular, it focuses on the Cylon model Number Eight, played by Korean-Canadian actress Grace Park, in the light of David Morley and Kevin Robins's work on ‘techno-orientalism’. As the name implies, techno-orientalism adapts Edward Said's influential concept of Orientalism to the late twentieth century and shifts its focus from the Eastern Mediterranean to East Asia, examining the negative stereotypes of this region produced by the West in response to the perceived threat of its economic success. However, the emergence of this discourse does not mean that older racist perceptions of Asian people and cultures have disappeared; figures such as the ‘Asian seductress’ and the ‘Madame Butterfly’ continue to appear alongside and combined with techno-orientalist imagery. This article inspects BSG for orientalist tropes and narratives both old and new, to examine the way in which they intersect and to consider whether the series ultimately upholds or subverts them.

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Bennett, Eve