I was pleasantly surprised to see an article about Farscape in the mainstream Web publication Vice. Farscape never gets as much press coverage as it deserves, especially Farscape’s feminism. Even better, the Vice article is not simply a nod to the 20th anniversary, but a philosophically-minded acknowledgement that Farscape was ahead of its time and still relevant today.
Aside from Vice’s editorial gloss to try to make everything seem edgy and rebellious, this well-written and enjoyable article gets quite a few things correct about Farscape. The author, Danielle Riendeau, mentions that Farscape was “a serialized show before that was cool,” that broke out of the stock sci-fi mold by exposing us to sci-fi stereotypes and then demolishing them (totally agree). She also scores on her observation that Farscape “was filled to the brim with complex, flawed, interesting female characters” (so agree), who “look like they could’ve been bought out of [a] … sci-fi stock catalog, and all of whom are actually fleshed out, complex, and fascinating” (once more agree). And again with “the appeal of this show, inherently, is in its characters and the way the show cares very deeply about their interior lives” (oh so totally agree).
Farscape’s feminism and positive-female characters are its most underrated elements and it is fabulous to see someone else write about it. The show’s female characters share the action with the male characters and the show simultaneously treats males and females with equal value and importance while still acknowledging gender conflict and gender politics. I also applaud Riendeau for describing how Farscape never shames its female characters for being sexually active and independent and for her alluding to Farscape’s acknowledgement of homosexual attraction as normal and acceptable. These are some of the elements that make Farscape such a trailblazing and enduringly relevant show and they deserve more conversation.
I am in less agreement with Riendeau in her opinion that Farscape was notably “queer.” Much depends on one’s definition of “queer,” another label that, in my opinion, creates more problems than it solves. I certainly agree that Farscape unabashedly portrays people being uniquely and weirdly themselves—Chiana especially. Nevertheless, Farscape’s most openly “queer” episode, “Taking the Stone,” is far and away it’s worst episode, whether or not one appreciated its “queerness.” I also feel Riendeau exaggerates “all that fucking on Farscape” and its “foray into kink and leather aesthetics,” though no doubt many viewers enjoy Claudia Black and/or Ben Browder in those leather outfits. Comparing it to Star Trek, as Reiendeau does, yes indeed, Farscape feels like a burlesque show; but then, Star Trek, at that time at least, was a Weberian protestant-ethics-in-space so everything else seemed unbuttoned if not flamboyant.
What this quality article in a mainstream publication shows is that some people do get it: Farscape remains a joyful, wonderful, creative show that is still relevant and (I strongly feel) still superior to anything else out there. Riendeau appropriately places Farscape in its cultural context as an important progressive media event and Farscape’s feminism and open, caring portrayals of complex characters still today has stories to tell.
Every bit of publicity helps as Farscape moves (far too slowly) toward revival. The Vice article exposes Farscape to an audience that otherwise may never have heard of it and that is a good thing. The more people delve into Farscape’s past, the more future Farscape has.