Monday, July 07, 2008

"Wrestling with the Truth That Saves"

Here is a link to a partial transcript of an interview I did with friend Tony Rossi for The Christopher Closeup podcasts. A nice chunk of the interview was all about my favorite TV show, the freshly re-imagined Battlestar Galactica (2003) on the Sci-Fi Channel.

Tony is also an unabashed fan of the show, so we completely geeked out in the interview speculating wildly about the ultimate direction of the show and why it is so great as entertainment. Here's a snip...

TR: Ron Moore, the executive producer of the show, said about it, “There’s a search for truth that we explore continually.” Looking at things from a religious perspective, is the search for truth in a story enough to make it deserving of being embraced by a Christian audience?

Barbara Nicolosi: I think so. I think that one of the things we’ve been getting wrong in Catholic media is that we try and do all the work for the viewer in terms of stories. A story is a car, for example, that you provide out of respect for your viewer. They’re going to go on a journey in that car. It’s a very respectful thing to set them up on this journey, but they have to do the work otherwise it’s not going to mean anything in their life. So if you make it too easy for them and give them the answers, they’ll forget...We say to our students in Act One all the time, “It isn’t telling people the truth that saves them; it’s getting them to wrestle with the truth that saves them.” It’s the reason that when you end a Flannery O’Connor story, you’re furious at her because you say, “Well what did that mean?!” You always think there were three missing pages where she was supposed to tell you what everything meant. And what you have to do is keep going over it and over it and over it until you figure it out. That’s the process of saving you. But Flannery really respects her audience. Now granted a lot of the audience misses the deeper level. But you know what, the ones who get it – it saves their soul.

TR: Galactica is also one of the only shows that deals with religion and faith in an overt manner. At the beginning I was unsure what to make of it because the seeming bad guys were worshippers of the ‘one true God’ whereas the seeming good guys had multiple gods. How do you think the story represents religion? Is it doing it in a good way?

Barbara Nicolosi: I think it was a stroke of genius to make the humans the pagans/polytheists and make the machines the monotheists. In one sense it could just be that the machines are supposed to represent the fanaticism of the Islamic fascists who took down the towers...But it’s not that because Christianity is also a monotheistic religion. So I think that by twisting it on its head, by making the Cylons monotheists, it made it even safer for the show to talk about issues of faith and how they impact daily life...Having said that, this struggle of the people in the show (asks), ‘Are we missing something when we make decisions that aren’t guided by transcendent faith?’ That’s what the human characters on the show are struggling with.

You have some of them, like the most screwed up one, Starbuck, (played brilliantly by actress Katee Sackhoff who would've certainly piled up Emmy noms for her work here if it was a network show instead of the Sci-Fi Channel...) but she really believes that the gods know her name and that she owes them fealty. Then, you have the admiral (Edward James Olmos) and his son, Lee (Jamie Bamber), who are basically agnostics, but now they’re struggling to believe because they don’t know what to do, they have nothing left to lean on. And that’s the question of the show – when you have nothing else to lean on, does it then make sense to reach for the divine or are you just grasping at some kind of straw to save your psychological life? The show hasn’t resolved that yet, but I think it’s setting up to do that very clearly.

We talked about lots of other stuff too besides BSG. I had posted a link to the podcast before but here it is again just in case.

P.S. I have a friend back in DC who is clinging stubbornly to double ignorance about the wonder and brilliance of BSG. She said that whenever she sees a picture from the show on my blog, she just skips over the post. So, I used art work above that could reliably be counted on to attract her...

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