Friday, March 20, 2009

Battlestar Galactica, the U.N., and the Mormons


The universally-praised — and particularly wonk-beloved — Battlestar Galactica ends tonight. Please don’t give anything away, because I’ve only seen an episode or two, as with Heroes, Arrested Development, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, The Sopranos, Lost, Alias, David Tenant as Doctor Who, Dollhouse, and Robot Chicken. I’ve been busy for a decade or so, really, and I apologize for losing touch and being behind schedule.

In any case, I gather the cast and crew of Battlestar Galactica gave a talk to the U.N. this week, partly to share thoughts on the show’s political themes and partly just to get the U.N. some cheap press attention (if there were any press available aside from the horde waiting like vultures outside the hotel on West 67th between Broadway and Columbus, where I suspect grieving Natasha Richardson relatives may have been stashed).

I hope some of the U.N. assemblage noted that Battlestar Galactica’s robotic villains, the Cylons, are religious fanatics, that the series sympathetically depicts humans meant to be analogous to the tribes of Israel (a nation the U.N. seems to spend half its time selectively condemning while several of its other members sponsor terrorism and endorse totalitarianism), and that the original 1970s series was created by a once-persecuted minority, namely the Mormons (on whose Book the basic plot is modeled).

As it happens, on April Fool’s Day (really) at 8pm, our next Debate at Lolita Bar, on the question “Does Religion Make People Better?” will feature as one of its debaters Austin Dacey, who is the Center for Inquiry’s atheistic official representative to the U.N., trying to promote secularism and tolerance around the globe. Be there.


Being Mormon — knowing that if you’re good (and male), you’ll get your own planet to rule in the afterlife — seems to incline people toward sci-fi, since Mormons not only gave us Galactica and the comparably epic Ender’s Game but presidential candidate Mitt Romney (who I voted for in the New York presidential primary, for strategic reasons now lost in the mists of history — and whose government health-insurance plan in Massachusetts is already projected to be bankrupt within a decade), who strangely said his favorite novel is Battlefield Earth, a sci-fi tome by (Scientologist) L. Ron Hubbard.

Now, you’d think the poor Mormons would already be wary of being mixed up with the Scientologists, so was that just a very impressively honest, unguarded answer from Romney? Or is there more affinity between the two creeds than we realized? Is it just the Mormon love of sci-fi manifesting? Might it be, as my friend Jonathan Leaf half-jokingly suggests, that Romney picked a book by a Scientologist to remind America that there are creeds even weirder than Mormonism? I don’t know.

I do know that my friend Michelle Boardman was a legal advisor to the Romney campaign — and that during her stint at the Justice Department, she also said that after giving testimony to the Senate about the constitutionality of signing statements (one of countless things Obama criticized about Bush but continues to do, incidentally), she wishes she’d worked in the phrase “So say we all” from Battlestar Galactica. Wonks love Galactica.

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