Wednesday, February 24, 2010

"Caprica" and balance

Marc, in previous comments:
It looks to me like fictional Caprica is a world that embraces tech in a more selective way that we do in the real world. It makes no sense to use a steam train, so they use a high-tech one. But there are a lot of arguments in favor of older cameras and even videotape over digital technology. In a show about the uneasy relationship to tech, I don't think this isn't mainly a question of the show wanting to look a certain way. I think they're saying -- though this may as well be my own preferences talking -- that adopting a technology simply because we can is the nut of the show's story, and on Caprica, some technologies have been rejected.
I think it's a bit unclear what exactly "Caprica" is doing with technology, and this also ties in with the portrayal of marriage on the show.  It is interesting that the destruction of Caprica by the Cylons, in both "Galactica" and "Caprica," is referred to not as a holocaust (the term used in the 1978 series) or a sneak attack, but as "The Fall."  This draws an immediate comparison to, say, the Roman Empire, or to any civilization that had a hand in its own destruction.

So why would Caprica be responsible for its own demise?  Well, the civilization is portrayed as one that's reach its apex.  It has reached profound technological heights, but it's also decadent and amoral, making it ripe for the destructive monotheistic religion eventually adopted by the Cylons.  So the portrayal of widely-accepted same sex marriages and group marriages on the show could be perceived in different ways.  Maybe it's a sci-fi show doing what sci-fi does -- offering a different version of society as a way of critiquing our own.  Or maybe it's suggesting that these different forms of marriage are a sign of decadence and inevitable demise.

Back to technology.  Again, the civilization on Caprica is not much different than our own, except they have fantastically better robotics, virtual reality, and transportation.  But they've notably rejected some other forms of advanced technology.  So maybe, as Marc says, this is a sci-fi critique of our own society -- just because a technology can be developed does not mean that it must be.  Or maybe it's a sign of Caprica's inevitable demise.  After all, creating robots, like cheating death, is a form of hubris -- it's a way of having the benefits of slavery while avoiding the associated moral baggage.  Creating robot soldiers is even more of a sin in this light, as it allows for perpetual war without the main impediment to warfare: grieving families.


Jonathan Bernstein said...

Two things...

A minor point is that I'm not sure how much of the differences between the world of Caprica and our world are supposed to be specifically meaningful, and how much it's just that there's some randomness in how tech and society develop, so a roughly similarly evolved world will have random differences.

Second, I'm not sure that "the destructive monotheistic religion eventually adopted by the Cylons" gets it right. It's true that there are monotheistic terrorists in Caprica and that the Cylons who destroyed everything in BSG were monotheists, but I think it's far from clear that their religion is a Bad Thing within the show.

Seth said...

Jon, it just seems to me that, with all the CGI powers that are available to this creative team, the fact that they chose to make Caprica look so much like the United States, with the exception of a few key details, must have some point to it. I mean, the criminal investigators wear neckties, and they talk about getting search warrants. It's a fictitious planet -- you can do whatever you want! But they still stick to our model. I just assume there's some importance to the small differences.

Fair point on the monotheism. Clearly, Caprican society views monotheism as a bad thing, much the same way that a chunk of American society views Islam as a bad thing. And the monotheists themselves act kind of shady, but perhaps they are forced to because they are viewed with such suspicion. We don't know that all the monotheists are terrorists. Although a lot of them seem to be.