The Boyfriend of the Week

February 27, 2006

Nope, your eyes do not deceive you, my friends! I told you last time the next Boyfriend of the Week would be another "first" for the site, and it suuuuuure is. Cuz this week's Boyfriend? Is a Girlfriend!

For years, I've periodically mentioned the fact that I sometimes develop what I call "girl crushes" on female actors, authors, musicians or other celebs. It's got nothing to do with sexual preference -- I just adore these women, think they're wonderful, and love seeing them around. Probably the one I've mentioned the most is Drew Barrymore -- if I could bear her child, I surely would. But until now, despite the intensity of some of those "girl crushes," I've never really felt the urge to make a woman a Boyfriend of the Week. And, in fact, I suspect that even after breaking the ice with this one, I probably won't ever feel driven to do it again. It's just that when I was done watching the Season 2 DVDs of the amazing new(ish) Sci-Fi Channel hit, Battlestar Galactica, I knew I had to feature someone from the series on the site. Of course, I began by running through all the cute guys in my head -- first, there was Apollo, played by Jamie Bamber (who also was in the Horatio Hornblower series starring ex-Boyfriend Ioan Gruffud). Then, Dr. Baltar played by James Callis -- he's even got an accent, which I always love. And I also have a bit of a crush on Chief Petty Officer Tyrol, played by Aaron Douglas. To be honest, I think Aaron Douglas was probably the forerunner in terms of Y-chromosomed potentials.

However, despite my affection for all three guys, I just couldn't help the fact they weren't playing the character I was really crazy about. Because that character, played by this week's Grrrlfriend Katee Sackhoff, was Kara "Starbuck" Thrace.

It's actually a little ironic that I've chosen Katee to be the next Boyfriend of the Week. Ever since she was cast, officially changing the sex of Starbuck from a male to a female (the character was originally played by Dirk "Eggs" Benedict), there's been a lot of hoopla over the decision. Even Eggs himself was peeved -- so peeved, in fact, that he made an utter ass out of himself (in my opinion), by writing an article entitled "Starbuck: Lost in Castration" (you can read it here). This ridiculous essay pretty much argues that by making Starbuck a strong, wisecracking, cigar-smoking woman, instead of leaving him a strong, wisecracking, cigar-smoking man, all the complexities of the character were lost.

Now, given the fact I used to be madly in love with Dirk when I was a little girl (I was a huge fan of The A-Team when I was in elementary school and, of course, Dirk played the pretty boy character, Faceman), I could've let this slide. Maybe just chalked it up to sour grapes. But, unfortunately, Eggs blew the whole thing for himself by actually writing the following paragraph -- a paragraph that officially made it impossible for me to think he was the cutest thing since Kirk Cameron ever again. Here's the paragraph of which I speak:

Women are from Venus. Men are from Mars. Hamlet does not scan as Hamletta. Nor does Han Solo as Han Sally. Faceman is not the same as Facewoman. Nor does a Stardoe a Starbuck make. Men hand out cigars. Women "hand out" babies. And thus the world, for thousands of years, has gone round.

Cough cough idiot cough cough. Women "hand out" babies? Anybody else wish Eggs were standing in front of them right now so they could boot him in the shins? Yeah? Me too.

Anyway, shocked to discover this essay, I began to dig around on Battlestar fan sites to see if Eggs was alone in his moronicness. Lo and behold, I quickly discovered a bunch of other sites bemoaning almost exactly the same thing. Though they were less misogynistic about it, many other die-hard fans of the original were also pretty outraged, in the same way some of the most serious Tolkien worshippers got all stompy-growly about the fact Jackson cut and changed a few things in the Lord of the Rings trilogy (ironically, many of those fans complained about the fact Jackson had given the women characters a lot more to do -- what's up with all the women-hating sci-fi geek boys?). But to these naysayers, of both the BG and LotR variety, and especially to Eggs "Over-Easy" Benedict, I have only this to say: Shuddup. Because, frankly, I think it was an utterly brilliant move to make Starbuck a woman, and it has changed the dynamic of the show in a way that has made it ten times more interesting.

Battlestar Galactica, for those of you who aren't familiar with it, is a show about a small group of humans who spend all their time zooming around the galaxy in a fleet of spaceships. This confinement to space is not by choice, however. Instead, the fleet is essentially a big, floating refugee camp, moving around from place to place in an attempt to stay safe and together. See, the humans used to spend most of their time chilling out on a variety of colonies, growing their organic, terraforming vegetables, wearing their shiny outfits, and making up all kinds of nifty, less-offensive versions of everyday swear words, like "frack." Why did they give up their terraformed, shiny-clothed, frackin' paradise? Why, because they made the unfortunate mistake of developing a "race" of robots, the Cylons, to serve as their own personal slaves -- something any savvy sci-fi fan could've told them was a really bad idea (anybody remember that old movie Runaway starring Tom Selleck?). After a few years of being bossed around, the Cylons got their hands on an old laserdisc copy of Norma Rae and in a fit of Sally-Field-like, unionizing rage, they decided enough was enough. It was time to strike.

The bad news is, instead of picketing and chanting, "What do we want? World domination! When do we want it? Now!", they decided to skip the lengthy contract negotiations and just starting shooting their laser guns at every thing that moved. Ptew! Ptew! Die, humans, die!

The ensuing war lasted for years and nearly wiped out mankind. But it ended, eventually, with a peace treaty between the two "species." And for years after that, the Cylons seemed to have disappeared off into their own little part of space.

And that takes us to where the (new Sci-Fi Channel) series opens. It begins with the Cylons' violent return, and the discovery that what they've been doing during all that peacetime was working on a remodeled version of themselves -- a Cylon 2.0, so to speak -- designed to look just like a human. In fact, so far, it looks just like about four different humans, and there are hundreds of copies of each one out in the universe. As if that weren't making things tricky enough, they've also spent years slowly integrating a series of sleeper agents into the human population -- Cylon 2.0's that don't even know they aren't human. And when those sleepers start to "wake up," mankind is going to be in a world of serious hurt.

Thankfully, a few thousand humans survived the latest round of attacks, and they now make up the floating refugee camp I mentioned earlier, simply referred to as "the fleet." The fleet, led by the classic warship Battlestar Galactica, essentially spends its time zooming from place to place in space trying to elude the Cylons, who are always figuring out where they are and coming after them. But they have a larger purpose too -- they're on a quest. A quest to find Earth, a planet man hasn't seen in generations. Indeed, a planet many don't even believe actually exists outside of the fairy tales. If they can find Earth, maybe they can start over. If they can only get there, maybe they'll have a chance for survival.

In the meantime, we're treated to a ton of interesting characters and subplots, primarily involving a few key characters, like Apollo, only surviving son of Galactica's commander, and Starbuck, played by this week's Boyfriend, who is the ex-girlfriend of Apollo's dead brother and also the best pilot in the fleet. My other favorite subplot involves a soldier named Helo, who is trapped on a planet that's been infiltrated by the Cylons and is struggling to survive without being seen. And then there's Helo's girlfriend, who is an extremely complicated Cylon sleeper agent. As well as an even more extremely complicated Cylon 2.0 who encounters Helo on the planet and begins to fall in love with him. Ya follow?

Now, those of you who read my Wil Wheaton write-up know that my favorite theme in all of the good Star Trek series (the original, Next Generation, and Voyager), and, indeed, in most good science fiction in general, is the examination of what makes humans human. The original Star Trek had Spock, a half-Vulcan, half-human constantly battling between those two selves. Then there was Next Generation, where we had Data, an android who desperately wanted to be human and was trying to learn, from an outsider's perspective, exactly what that entailed. And finally, there was Voyager, where the holographic doctor has a somewhat similar experience to Data's.

Battlestar Galactica, though, runs circles around those shows in its depth in this theme's regard. And that fact alone -- that brilliance and thoughtfulness -- has made this show surpass all those others in my book.

There are two BG characters that I think particularly support this theme. The first is the Cylon I mentioned was on the planet with Helo -- the one who slowly begins to break from her programming and fall in love with him. She's the Data-like character here, and their subplot has proven to be one of the most complex and intriguing in the second season.

On the opposite side of the spectrum comes the subplot involving Dr. Baltar, a scientist who has been working with the fleet to develop a way to tell Cylon from human. Little do his colleagues know that he has actually crossed over to the dark side, so to speak. Except he hasn't really become 100% evil. Inside his mind, appearing as a hallucination to him, is another one of the humanoid Cylons, a beautiful blonde woman that he's fallen madly in love with and who is using that love (and lust) to control him. He finds himself constantly forced to choose between doing the right thing or doing what pleases her, and, as a coward and a weakling, he caves every time. In his mind, then, is this constant battle between being a human or being a Cylon. His decisions are wrenching, and with every rotten one he makes, he loses more and more of his humanity.

I love that -- I love the cleverness that went into the development of these two subplots. The way they're similar, but opposite. The way they look at humanness from two extremely different perspectives. It's just one of the many, many things I find utterly astonishing about this show. It might actually be the smartest television show I've ever seen -- something I'm especially more willing to say these days, now that Lost totally sucks. (Note to Lost writers: we all read Lord of the Flies in high school too, okay? Enough already.)

Of course, getting back on track here, the other subplot I love on BG is the one that involves Apollo and Starbuck's extremely complex relationship. See, Starbuck was madly in love with Apollo's brother -- but he died in a space accident right before the Cylon attacks were renewed. The two characters are battling for top-spot in the fighter pilot hierarchy, and their professional competition lends itself well to sexual tension. Though I found it a little icky how quickly that sexual tension was put in place, considering the fact she was just sleeping with his brother not all that long ago, I couldn't help but go along with it. And this is yet another realm where that "opposites" thing comes into play. A lot of Starbuck's passion has to do with an almost thoughtless machismo. She's driven by ambition, by victory, by strength, by showing off. Apollo, on the other hand, is much more cerebral. His passion is driven by his dedication to "maintaining the right," as the Mounties would say. The two characters' personalities combined might result in the most utterly perfect leader of all time. Except for one slight problem -- that combination, Apollo plus Starbuck, is utterly explosive, and not always in a good way.

Though I realize I just made Starbuck sound like a musclehead macho jerk, that's not at all the way she really is. After a few episodes, you begin to see in her a hint of tenderness, or maybe I can even say it's a hint of femininity, and you know that she's actively, intensely repressing that side of herself for a variety of reasons, not all of which are practical and calculated. Starbuck's been broken -- repeatedly. And as the show progresses, and we get to see those little fractures uncovered here and there, if only for a moment each, her character blossoms with the complexity and symmetry of a dahlia. It takes some powerful acting talent to be able to play a character like that -- and honestly, I can't see Dirk "Scrambled" Benedict ever being capable of pulling it off. They didn't call him Faceman on The A-Team because of his brilliant mind, after all. Suck eggs, Eggs.

Now, Battlestar Galactica's not the only thing Katee's ever worked on. Indeed, she's been in a wide variety of other TV shows and films over the past few years. Alas, most of them were, and I apologize for the bluntness of this, but there's simply no other way to say it, UTTER CRAP.

Example number one: a Lifetime Television for Women (or, as I prefer to call the channel: "Lifetime Television for Saps") movie starring Kirsten Dunst called Fifteen and Pregnant. Now, what's interesting about this movie -- and trust me, it's the only interesting thing about this movie and it's not even that good-- is that I had it out for about a week before I actually got around to watching it, and that entire week, I kept referring to it in my head as Armed and Pregnant. I have no idea why. I simply could not remember the real title, and that was the title that kept worming its way through instead.

In retrospect, I wish it had been named Armed and Pregnant. Because if it'd been about a crazy hormonal Pregasaurus Rex who stomped around robbing banks and eating pickles, it could not have been a worse movie than it actually turned out to be. And at least it would've scored some major points for sheer ridiculousness. Instead, Fifteen and Pregnant succeeded only in utterly offending the hell out of me, over and over and over, until I was about ready to pick up a duck hunting rifle and go all Dick Cheney on somebody's ass.

It's about a fifteen year old girl named Tina (Dunst) who gets knocked up and then dumped by her teenaged boyfriend. Her best friend is an older teen who has a toddler, and who is having a pretty miserable time with life in general as a result. Both she and her mother gently attempt to tell Tina that abortion might not be a bad way to deal with the pregnancy, but before either one of them can even say the a-word, Tina invariably screams (and I mean that literally -- in terms of extreme overacting, she puts even Jim Carrey to shame), "Ew! That's SO GROSS!"

Yeah. Know what's grosser? The idea of this idiotic girl raising a child. When someone else mentions the possibility of putting the child up for adoption, that too is greeted with an ew-gross. Nope, according to this movie, if you are a teenager and you get pregnant, your only option is to keep the baby and watch as your life goes straight to hell. Tina's best friend with the toddler? Doesn't even appear to LOVE her child. Her child is a hassle -- always crying, always sick, always getting in the way of her having fun. Katee Sackhoff's character is another young, unwed mother who comes to talk to a bunch of pregnant girls (of which Tina is one), and her message is the same -- my daughter is the worst thing that ever happened to me. I'm miserable, I'm exhausted, this is hard, this is awful, I hate my life, I'll never have a moment of happiness again as long as I live. But having that baby, keeping it, and then resenting it for the rest of your life is the only "non-gross" option, according to this film.

And that's the way Tina's pregnancy goes too. She expresses no love for the child growing inside her -- she can only bemoan the fact she's getting fat and her boyfriend won't hang out anymore. Abortion is "ew, gross!" Adoption is abhorrent -- how can you let a total stranger raise your flesh and blood?! But keeping the baby is literally portrayed here as your just punishment for having sex. You deserve to be burdened with a baby you don't love. You deserve to have your life ruined. I hope this baby teaches you a lesson, you promiscuous, hormone-driven sinner.

Bah. Even worse is the fact that while this movie is obvious propaganda designed to scare girls into not having sex with their boyfriends, no attempt is made to scare the boys as well. In fact, the boy who knocks Tina up gets off utterly scot-free The message this film sends our teenaged boys is this: hey, pressure your girl into having sex and accidentally knock her up? No big-big. Just dump her and get a new one! Your life doesn't have to change at all, bro!

You see why this movie kinda made me wanna hork up a kidney?

So, in short, I say thumbs way, way down for this one, and I bet it's one both Katee and Kirsten wish was not available from Netflix. At least, I sure hope that's how they feel about it now.

Alas, the next movie I watched wasn't all that much of an improvement, though it was at least not nearly as offensive. Here, instead of punishing the promiscuous teenagers with, gasp!, cute babies, they punish them by hacking off their heads. I consider this an improvement, morally, because I'm. . . uh, yeah, utterly deranged, apparently.

Anyway, yep, it's Halloween: Resurrection, folks, and what I love about this movie is that fact its mere existence means that some guy out there actually woke up one day and thought to himself, "Gee, there haven't been enough really bad sequels to Halloween. I think I'd better do something about that." It's a wonderful world that has those kinds of guys in it. It truly is. I love mankind. I love mankind to death. It's a crazy, crazy, awesome world. You go, dumb guy. You go all the way.

In this one, Tyra Banks and Busta Rhymes are the hosts of a new internet reality show that will take a set of teenagers, stick them in the Michael Myers house for a long, dark night, and attempt to terrorize them until they run out of the house screaming like maniacs. The last one to "survive" the night (metaphorically speaking, of course) gets some fabulous prizes and the thrill of victory. It would've been a brilliant idea except for the fact that, despite the fact Mike Myers has been killed and brought back to life at least five gazillion times before this point, nobody thought it might be wise to, say, have the local PD do a walk-through of the house to make sure Mike wasn't, you know, LIVING IN THE BASEMENT ALREADY.

Commence stalking and slashing and screaming and hacking and blood and gore and boy, you wanna talk about "ew gross!" you just wait until Mike Myers gets himself started, baby.

What I enjoyed about this one (and yes, despite the fact this is one of the worst movies ever made, I still thoroughly enjoyed it) is that Katee finally gets to play the really fun, wild character -- quite a change from her role in Fifteen or Battlestar. She plays the sexy, sort-of-tramp who encourages her more nerdy, introverted friend to sign on for the show with her. Of course, the sexy semi-tramps never live past scene ten in horror movies, and right on cue, Katee's severed head comes a-rollin' down the stairs, kee-plunk kee-plunk kee-plunk thunk. Nevertheless, at least this movie had the decency not to take itself too seriously. And I loves me some Tyra Banks, so I'm happy.

Now, the only other thing I've seen Katee in, because so much of what she's done are television movies that aren't available on DVD yet, was so long ago and short-lived, I have absolutely no memory of her from it whatsoever. It was a quickly-canceled television show called The Education of Max Bickford, starring Richard Dreyfus, who would've been made a Boyfriend a gazillion years ago if I could only find a couple of really good pictures of him on the web (commence Google Image searches, you guys, and let me know if you find anything good). I'm such a huge fan of Dreyfus, the star of two of my all-time favorite movies, The Goodbye Girl and Jaws (by the way, rest in peace Peter Benchley -- I have loved you well), that I watched every episode of this show faithfully, right up until it got the boot. While I'm usually horrified when shows I'm watching get canceled (I'm still in a rage over last year's Tim Daly show Eyes), this one I was kind of ready to see go. I think Katee played the title character's daughter, with Dreyfus as Bickford, a college professor with some trite, overdone complexities the likes of which we've seen on every TV drama since the dawn of the picture tube. I'm sure Katee was great, but I won't hold my breath for this one ever coming to DVD.

Regardless of the garbage she's been in before, though, the fact is that it's now Katee's turn to shine. Battlestar Galactica is so good even the New Yorker has written an article about its awesomeness, and frankly, that was the last place I expected to see a story about a sci-fi television show. It's one of the best shows I've ever seen -- the most entertaining, the smartest, the sassiest. I love it. If you haven't tuned in yet yourself, hie thee to the closest video store (or Netflix account), and get that two-hour pilot movie ASAP. Once you get twenty minutes in, I guarantee you'll never want to get back out.

Now for a quick biography: Kathryn Ann Sackhoff was born on April 8, 1980 in Portland, Oregon. Her father, Dennis, is a land developer and her mother, Mary, is a coordinator for an ESL program in the local schools. As Katee grew up, she became more and more interested in drama and dancing, taking classes in both starting at the age of six. All though school, she performed in school plays, probably annoying all the other kids by snagging the lead roles every single year (that kid in my school? Hated her).

After graduating, she landed her first role, in the aforementioned offensive dog Fifteen and Pregnant. She later followed up with a role in another television movie, this time about Hugh Heffner. I'm assuming it wasn't much of an improvement on Fifteen, but alas, I was unable to screen this one for you guys. In 2000, she landed her first part in a television series, for a Fox Family Channel show called The Fearing Mind. And from there on, she's had pretty steady work, appearing in a wide variety of television shows, including guest spots on ER and multiple appearances on MTV's Undressed.

In her free time, Katee enjoys watching movies, hanging out with friends, working out, and playing pool, among other things. She also hopes to get a chance to finish the Ironman Triathalon in Hawaii in the next few years. You go, Katee girl! I'd like to see Dirk Benedict do that. That schmoo.

Up next for Katee is another season of Battlestar Galactica, and also a Sci-Fi Channel movie scheduled for release this year, called The Last Sentinel. It's set in a dystopian future in which drone soldiers have taken over the world. (Hmmmm, sound familiar?) Sackhoff's character, called simply "Girl" because the screenplaywright ran out of cool sci-fi names, is a member of a human resistance cell trying to take back the world they've lost to the drones. (Hmmm, sound even more familiar?) Even though I confess this sounds like an utter dog, if I can sit through Should've Been Called 'Armed and Pregnant' for Katee, I can sit through this one. My awesome little Girlfriend of the Week -- I would watch her sit in a chair and pick her toenails. You know, as long as she ended the scene by jumping in her spaceship and flying off to KICK SOME CYLON ASS.

MacGyver Factor Score: 92.128%. Now, of course, there's one small problem with Katee Sackhoff that makes it impossible to give her a high score on the MFS -- she's missing a Y chromosome. It's nothing personal -- after all, the same can obviously be said about myself and I clearly think I'm a superstar. However, if the idea is to rate Katee on a scale that measures how well she stacks up to MacGyver, the penultimate Boyfriend of the Week, it does necessarily require a minor deduction.

The rest of the deduction stems from her role in Fifteen and Pregnant, which is a movie that is STILL making me roll my eyes and sigh, and it's been at least three weeks since I saw it. I mean, I fully understand the need to take whatever parts you can get when you're starting out -- but, scruples, Katee, scruples! I think next she needs to be in a movie in which a woman gets knocked up out of wedlock, keeps the baby, and actually, say, has a smidgen of maternal love for it. That would go a long way towards making me feel better.

If that matters to anybody out there.


Boyfriend-Related Links

Katee's IMDB page
Galactica TV (fan site)
Sci-Fi Channel's official Battlestar site
Seattle Post-Intelligencer's interview with Katee


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