opinionated on the internet since 1999

Tues., Feb. 26, 2019, 7:04pm.

Babylon 5 post #1

I'm re-watching Babylon 5 (for like the 5th time?) with Jon, who has never seen it. I am stunned at how well it holds up. A show from the mid-90s should appear at least subtly racist, misogynist, and homophobic to a 2019 social justice warrior such as myself, but somehow it isn't. I'm not going to argue that it's anti-racist; it's operating more in the "I don't see color" realm of color-blind casting. Most of the characters appear straight, though there are a couple of moments we haven't gotten to yet that show bisexuality and gay marriage as unremarkable in 23rd century human society.

The female characters are decently well-rounded. We see women with political and military power, women with all different kinds of strengths and weaknesses, occasionally even women in healthy romantic relationships (though generally B5 is as bad as Star Trek at showing mature grown-up relationships). The Centauri are a misogynist mess, but the show is pretty clear they aren't to be looked upon as positive examples in any respect. It's all totally acceptable with only occasional icky moments -- impressive for 1994, but nothing noteworthy for 2019.

What I'm really fascinated by this time is the men. A rich text is one you can find new things in every time you go back to it, and this time I'm seeing it as a show about non-toxic masculinity. I first noticed it when Garibaldi comes into Sinclair's quarters and calls him on taking too many risks, suggesting that he's looking for something worth dying for because it's easier than dealing with his PTSD. Sinclair takes Garibaldi's concerns seriously and promises to think about it. (Season 1, "Infection") A hyper-masculine-coded security chief initiates an emotionally difficult conversation with a male friend, and that friend -- a stoic captain archetype -- doesn't respond by denying that there's a problem, or joking it off, or blowing up in anger that anyone would even suggest such a thing. He responds with gratitude that his friend brought concerns to his attention, and accepts that he may indeed have some mental health issues he should work on. When was the last time you saw that, even on a current show? (Low standards, y'all, I know.)