October 21, 2010

Religion, Excess and Terrorism in “Caprica”

Posted in Pop Culture at 12:49 am by chavalah

Zoe Graystone (played by Alessandra Toressani) as the “Eve” figure in “Caprica”

I’ve halfway been cooking up other things to blog about this past month, but in the wake of SyFy deciding the fate of its show, Caprica, by November 15 or before, I figured I should put my two cents in on why this show is more than deserving of a season two.

Caprica, which premiered last January and just started airing the second half of its first season, is largely about the tug-of-war between a decadent, nominally polytheistic but largely secular society, and the maligned, terror-espousing group of fundamentalist monotheists who oppose them. Sound familiar? A few critics say that is why the show is turning some folks off. But personally I find it necessary to explore human psychology when it comes to these belief systems, and no show I’ve seen gets in deeper than Caprica.

At the center of the story is Zoe Graystone (played by Alessandra Torresani—and yes, all Italian American girls are such knockouts ;-)) the “Eve” character who creates new life for humankind in the form of computer avatars who are conditioned to believe they are the people from whose memories they were formed. The original Zoe is killed in a terrorist explosion while trying to get her project to the monotheistic strong-planet of Gemenon. The avatar lives on, and both the assimilated-polytheists and the monotheists want it.

On the assimilated side is Zoe’s father, the shrewd businessman, Daniel Graystone, who has made a fortune creating virtual technology, which the disaffected youth hacks into to play out their sordid fantasies of rape, murder and other violence. He discovered Zoe’s program after her death, and wants to use it as his next big moneymaker—a cure for grief. On the other side is Clarice Willow, Zoe’s mentor and a secret terrorist, who wants Zoe’s avatar program as tangible proof of an “afterlife,” which she can promise to her extremist religious cohorts. Zoe’s avatar, hiding in the virtual world, must decide which of these two she should follow—or if she should forge her own path.

Where the writers have succeeded best in this show is proving that no one has the patent for “the truth,” or even good behavior. The societies and the individuals are all very flawed, with no clear heroes or villains coming to light. Likewise there are no gods or angels descending from the skies—this story is about human belief, not divine intervention. The lack of clear parameters challenges us to constantly evaluate our own beliefs, which I believe is crucial to living in society today.

An interesting, cultural subplot revolves around the Adama family, Tauron immigrants to the central world of Caprica who are often the brunt of genteel xenophobia on their new home. In accordance, many change their names in order to assimilate—main character Yosef Adama becomes Joseph Adams, for instance. It’s something I feel personal kinship to—only a few generations back Jews changed their names in order to avoid antisemitism in America, and even now, many find ways to ignore or deny their heritage. Meanwhile, the Taurons’ Machiavellian mobs and views on life and death kinda remind me of these guys. 😛

A final note—Caprica is wildly successful as a stand-alone prequel series, because even though I’ve never seen Battlestar Gallactica (I know, I know, I’ll hand in my sci-fi card now :”>), I still find it compelling and easy to follow. The show embodies what I love best about science fiction. It combines creativity and distance to give us a glimpse into the socially relevant factors of our own world, and it does a frakkin’ good job, too. 😛 Caprica airs on SyFy Tuesday nights at 10 EST.

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1 Comment »

  1. […] story opens, however, there doesn’t seem to be much conflict between the two faiths. Unlike in “Caprica,” fiery prophets and clerics aren’t sent from north to south to convert people or spread terror in […]


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