When I watched the season two episode of Battlestar: Galactica, Pegusus, my first reaction was that they’d finally jumped the shark. A year and a half of excellent storylines for women, and they blew it with Admiral Kane, who perfectly fit the stereotype of the female leader who is completely heartless. She abandoned her civilian fleet to human-hating androids because they slowed her military down, but before she did that, she took whatever civilians – doctors, engineers, etc – she thought valuable, often by force. She’s a tyrant, and soon sets about usurping both the Galactica fleet’s military and civilians leaders (William Adama and Laura Roslin respectively).
In short, I thought they’d abandoned good characterisation for an obvious enemy, at the expense of a female character. But in Kane’s three-episode arc. I became impressed with her. She was a damn competent leader, and while she could be cold, she got incredible results – more then Adama and Roslin had. Yes, she condoned the rape of a Cylon, but I saw the incredible bitterness they held towards Cylons. She didn’t see this woman as someone who felt pain and humiliation, rather, a machine who’s kind had destroyed their way of life.
And yes, she was a tyrant, but as she points out, as leader of the armed forces, the war Acts give her broad powers, and she has to keep a firm hand to get the results they’ve gotten. Occasionally, we get to see a hint of regret on Kane’s part that things have come to this, but the understanding that desperate times call for desperate measures.
When she dies, she faces down death with a defiant “frack you”; no cowering for her. And as Starbuck/Kera said at her funeral, “˜we were a hell of a lot safer with her then without her’.
Yes, Kane was a tyrant. Yes, in some regard, she fitted the stereotype of female leaders being either incompetent or, in this case, heartless. But they also took the time to show the heart she might have had, in different circumstances. They took the time to show us her achievements as a military leader. They took the time to show us her bravery and courage.