GateFail 2009

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Event
Event: GateFail 2009
Name(s):
Date(s): August 2009 -
Type: fan-reactive meta
Fandom: Stargate, SGU, SGA, SG-1
URL:
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Contents

GateFail 2009 is the name given by some fans to a controversy which erupted around a casting call for the forthcoming series Stargate: Universe, and the script for a specific episode of that series.

In the episode in question, the character of a disabled woman is introduced in a way which negates her worth (until she is magically cured of her disability.) Adding insult to injury (in the eyes of many fans) was the revelation that her character will participate in a bodyswap with a lesbian woman and will thereafter engage in heterosexual sex. The plotline suggests simultaneously that the disabled woman has never experienced intimacy (until she is bodyswapped and suddenly is able to experience heterosexual intercourse) and that the lesbian whose body is being used for the encounter wouldn't mind the insertion of a penis (since, as some fans argued, she wouldn't "be there" when it happened and would therefore not feel violated by the encounter.) Furious rhetoric erupted; hijinks ensued.

In an article at HardCoreNerdity, Cate wrote:

Contrary to the belief of the producers' defenders, there is little, as critics have pointed out, new or 'edgy' about the proposed Sabotage storyline. While body-swap technology may not be an everyday occurrence in the real world, creating situations in which women are sexually vulnerable, making Asian and Asian-descended women the locus of male sexual fantasy, and treating people with disabilities as though they are less than fully-realized human beings is all too repetitive and ordinary. Making a white, male character sexually vulnerable to another man would be new (and avoiding homophobic hysteria while doing so would be vital and refreshing); writing a female genius with a disability who saves the day without needing to be healed in order to do so would be entirely unexpected; writing a lesbian character whose sexual choices are absolutely respected by her co-workers would be practically revolutionary. Note that, in contradiction to the arguments made by some defenders of the show, none of these alternatives require the characters to be likeable in order to break out of racist, homophobic, sexist, and ableist tropes – the only requirement is to think of women as something other than victims of their physicality, men as something other than individuals owed sexual congress as a matter of existence, and non-white persons something other than vehicles for white folk to learn something about themselves.[1]

Angry fans reached out to the wider media/SF world, and posts followed from AfterEllen ("Now if you'll excuse me, I need to go find a Stargate that will take me to a galaxy where lesbian characters are actually gay.")[2], Shakesville[3] and John Scalzi [4], among others.

TPTB may have been influenced by the criticism, as in the episode as aired[5], the disabled woman's character (in the lesbian woman's body) kisses and confesses long-standing affection for a male character, but they do not have sex. During the controversy, TPTB also made a somewhat apologetic statement at the Gateworld forum,[6] which some media outlets covered.[7]

Notes

  1. GateFail 2009: (or, a Primer on Stories that Scream), by cate, published August 24, 2009
  2. Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the TV water at afterellen.com, posted August 14, 2009
  3. One SyStep Forward, Two SySteps Back at shakespearessister blog, posted August 13, 2009
  4. Controversies and etc. at John Scalzi's blog "whatever", posted August 14, 2009.
  5. Sabotage episode entry at Stargate Wiki at Wikia, and Sabotage episode transcript at Stargate Wiki. (Accessed 16 May 2011)
  6. "Recently, a casting breakdown was released to agents for an upcoming character in our television show, Stargate Universe. The character, Doctor Eleanor Perry, is a brilliant scientist at the top of her field, who also happens to be a quadriplegic. As part of a science fiction conceit that is core to our series, Perry's consciousness is temporarily exchanged with one our series main characters, Camile Wray, who is a lesbian. In the course of the story, Perry has the experience of being able bodied for the first time since she was a child. At the same time, Wray, temporarily encumbered by Perry's physical disability, experiences the unconditional love of her life partner. The language of the breakdown was insensitive and inaccurate, and we sincerely apologize to those who may have been offended. The audition pages that have been under scrutiny were from an early draft and released out of context. It is our desire and intention to portray both characters with dignity and respect, while remaining mindful of the ethical issues we're raising." Re: "Sabotage" (116) Pre-Airing Discussion/Speculation Thread *Spoilers* post by Gateverse executive producer Brad Wright at Gateworld forum, 14 August 2009. (Accessed 16 May 2011)
  7. For example, "Stargate Universe" responds to controversy over lesbian body swapping episode post at afterellen.com, 14 August 2009. (Accessed 16 May 2011)