Laura Roslin inherited the presidency of the twelve colonies because she was the highest-ranking member of parliament to survive the attacks on the colonies – at #42. Understandably, with little experience in politics, there are many within the fleet – especially within its military arm – who are wary of being led by someone who some refer to as a glorified schoolteacher (she’s the Secretary of Education.) If that wasn’t bad enough, she’s battling cancer and suffering hallucinations from the experimental treatment she’s taking because of it.
She meets a lot of resistance, and handles it with surprising resourcefulness and stoicism. She gathers around her a team of supporters who are as loyal as they are knowledgable and efficient at resurrecting a government from what remains of their civilisation.
As she struggles with her illness, she shows strength and calmness. Fretting won’t make her better, so she may as well channel her abilities towards something fixable – the survival of the civilisation.
She’s also well into her forties at least (according to IMDB, Mary McDonnell is 54), and the producers have made no attempt to hide it, rather, creating a realistic age for a woman of her experience, something I infinitely prefer over SG1′s attempt to portray the forty-one-year-old Amanda Tapping as a girl-wonder sex kitten.
What I loved about this character, apart from that it’s so unusual to see a female leader, was that she never did anything that was stereotypical “˜female’. Her dispatching Gaius to out-charm her opposition could have been seen as a woman getting a man to bail her out, but came across instead as a leader deploying her assets. Her constant battles with the military could have been seen as a woman raging against the men with guns who want to kill the (human-looking) Cylons, or a leader of a government whos power runs in parallel – and often clashes with – the power of the military. She struggles with cancer (something I’ve always connoted as a “˜woman’s disease’, possibly because of the huge educational drives for breast and cervical caner) but she is not an invalid. I loved that she was staring down death with little fuss, neither a sobbing, fretting wreck or a Kamikaze-like character, behaving recklessly – irrationally – in the face of death. She’s calm. She’s stoic.
She could be a man. And that’s what I think is the ultimate goal for female characters, that if the gender were reversed, the character could work just as well as a man. Battlestar certainly achieves this with Laura Roslin.