The Women of Battlestar:Galactica; Sharon Valerii/Boomer

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Sharon Valerii, aka Boomer, is a fascinating character because she plays so many variations of herself. There are two main Valeriis in season one – the one on Galactica who has no idea she’s a Cylon and struggles with Cylon instincts, and the one on Caprica who knows she’s a Cylon but struggles with human emotion.

Boomer is a competent pilot who’s judgement is clouded because of her involvement with a senior officer, Tyrol. When a commanding officer to both of them forces Tyrol (as the more senior of the couple) to call things off, which he does, she storms and sulks. This could have been portrayed as a stereotyped female thing, but came across more as an inexperienced, immature person being denied what she wanted. Grace Park is twenty-seven, but Boomer seems younger than that, and is meant to be one of the most inexperienced pilots on the fleet.

And Tyrol and Boomer’s relationship is shown to have negative consequences. This was insanely refreshing after years of too-tidy allusions to O’Neill and Carter’s relationship in Stargate, especially when Janet died.

The Boomer on Caprica is shown to battle with her conflicting Cylon instincts and human emotions; another make of Cylon comments that Boomer’s make was always weak like that, but it’s this battle that makes her a fascinating character. She seems to genuinely be in love with – or at least fond of – Helo, the Galactica Boomer’s co-pilot who was stranded there, and devastated by his rejection of her when he realises she’s a Cylon.

Meanwhile, the Galactica Boomer has to come to terms with her growing realisation that she is a Cylon. The character provides a fascinating example of the chasm between robot and human – a chasm which sometimes seems little more THAN a pothole.

Rarely is there a sense that Boomer is “˜weak’ and when we see that, it comes across (to me, at least) as related to youth and inexperience – or just a bad model – THAN gender.

Comments

  1. SunlessNick says

    Cylons are fairly new to sentience, and very new to the kind of ethical and emotional quandries they’re now dealing with. All of the humaniforms models (that I’ve seen; I’ve not got all the way through the series yet) are emotionally erratic in one way or another; Boomer just displays a version that’s a reasonable parallel of human immaturity.

    Boomer’s my favourite character in the series – or perhaps I should say the Boomers are my favourite characters – since Grace Park does such a good job of keeping them distinct.

  2. scarlett says

    Yeah,
    I think she did a phenominal job of playing the different Boomers as individual characters – although I must say, Tricia Helfer gets top points for playing 2 Six’s in the same scene :p
    What blew my mind is that even though Sharon has emotional attributes that have often been associated with women – emotional attachment to a partner, immaturity and jealousy following rejection etc – it’s played without that gender association. Boomer would have those attributes weather she was a male or female.

  3. SunlessNick says

    I have to concede Tricia Helfer’s victory there. :)

    But your latter point, about Boomer showing female-associated attributes without the association being made, is an excellent one. Especially since I regard Boomer as the only character that can’t be genderswitched – my reasoning being that I think it has to be a cylon that’s pregnant with the hybrid baby – a human mother and cylon father would probably both be locked up, and both suffer the same violations that Boomer goes through, but it would allow an “out” in the sense of allowing only what’s done to the human to be seen as violation. As it is, we’re forced to see a cylon being treated this way, and thus question how humans see and treat cylons.
    Which I think is in line with the general points about genderswitching characters: the reason why I think Boomer can’t be have nothing to do with her personality, but rather story considerations larger than a single a character.

    So a female character, who (in my eyes anyway) has to be, and who conforms to several negative female stereotypes. Proof that good writing counts and will be appreciated by female and male viewers alike. Let’s hope more producers take note.

  4. scarlett says

    Yeah, Helfer playing the glammed-up Six distressed over the violated Six and the beaten, violated Six in the same room was eerily good acting – I think Park and Helfer got the best roles because they get to play so many versions of themselves, all of which have to be nuanced enough to come across as different people, but not OTT stereotypes at the same time. I haven’t seen such good portrayals of dual roles since Edward Norton in Primal Fear. They really are fantastic actors, although it helps that they have such great (miltiple) characters to work with.

  5. SunlessNick says

    Over the weekend, I read an interview with Grace Park. One of the questions was about Boomer as a sex symbol; she was surprised at this, citing functional clothes, being wet, being muddy, being wounded, carrying guns, and finished, “Guys find that sexy?” Clearly yes, and aside from the question of whether Boomer ought to be seen that way, I do think it’s worth thinking about why.

    And I guess the same reason is along the lines as Aeryn Sun of Farscape: as BetaCandy pointed out Claudia Black doesn’t fit the assumed demographic of what a “sex symbol” is supposed to look like, yet men found her hot regardless.

    Both Boomer and Aeryn are hurt a lot. Both are violated a lot. Both lose a lot, including much of their worlds of origin (which incidentally makes it easier for those of us who are strangers to the worlds they find themselves in to identify with them). But they never stop fighting. They never stop looking to define themselves – for themselves, not for the men they love. They never lose their strength, however empty the tanks they run on at times. And they never refuse what they find important. And they’re good at what they do.

    Strength, tenacity, courage, talent. It’s expected that women find these things turn-ons – it shouldn’t be much of a surprise to find that men do as well – and these are qualities that take more than a drenching of water or caking of mud to wash away.

    Men have been duped, I think, into settling for “prettiness symbols.” But when offered something better – by good writers and actors, as we get with Battlestar Galactica and Farscape – it shouldn’t be much of a surprise that audiences, of whatever gender, respond. Writing and talent beat demographics any day.

    I know it’s more within the mission of this site to point out that female characters should be seen as more than sex symbols. But it would also be nice for Hollywood to understand that sex symbols should be more than just pretty. And it would be nice if Grace Park wasn’t surprised that men find Boomer hot.

  6. Jennifer Kesler says

    I find it incredibly heartening that men are finding character qualities sexy rather than just physical qualities. It defeats another Hollywood myth: that men can’t relate to, care about, or appreciate strength of character in female characters.

  7. scarlett says

    I think TV and movies have actually done a grave disservice to men, because in my experience, the sexy, compliant blond is not more reflective of male tastes then the sexy, compliant blond beefcake is to women’s. I have a feeling that its a very selective group of men who promote their own tastes, and promote like-minded men, who continue the cycle…
    But it doesn’t really surprise me that men find women like Boomer/Sharon attractive – smart, strong, only moderately pretty. That describes the women most of my male friends are nuts about :p

  8. Jennifer Kesler says

    I have a feeling that its a very selective group of men who promote their own tastes, and promote like-minded men, who continue the cycle…

    Really, I think this description could apply to the patriarchy as a whole. I’ve never thought it represented any sort of majority. Just a standard they successfully intimidate most of us into accepting as “normal”.

  9. Jennifer Kesler says

    If by “them” you mean Hollywood (rather than men?), I don’t think they’re open to learning. I’ve yet to meet a bigot or zealot as closed-minded as the Hollywood set.

  10. scarlett says

    Amen! I come from a Catholic family, and I’ve learnt my lesson about dealing with zealots; they cna’t be reasoned with.
    My only hope is that we get more Titanics, more Terminators, more BsGs, that eventually someone OTHER then the zealots will cotton on (because I think we just established that zealots don’t cotton on…)

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