Allison (frolicndetour) wrote,

Seven Days of Cally Tyrol, Day 6: On Being a "Victim"


"I developed this theory that you guys would sit around and go, 'What’s the worst thing that happens in this episode? Can it happen to Cally?'" - Mo Ryan

One of, if not the most frequently cited reason people give for hating Cally was that she was a "victim," or had a "victim mentality" or even, according to TWoP's Jacob*, "was so in love with her own victimhood that it informed every action, every decision she made."

*Jacob brings to mind something I've heard said about Nancy Grace: it doesn't matter who you are, or what you've done; if Jacob hates you, I think I kind of love you. See also: my reluctant Michael Angeli apologism.

I have a three-fold response to the "victim" accusation:

1. What exactly do we mean by "victim"?

2. We should distinguish between Watsonian vs. Doylist criticism here. [Warning: link goes to TVTropes.]

3. Why is "victim" necessarily a term of contempt?

1. What is a "victim?" The dictionary definition of victim is someone who is hurt or killed by someone or something. In that respect, Cally certainly qualifies...


I may have missed some! (This post really needs that "sad Don Draper" macro.) Of course, so does every other character on the show, some of them many times over. But it does seem like the writers treated Cally at times like their Willow or Fred: cute young girl frequently put in terrible danger in case we needed more angst. (Like they thought: shooting the President and lots of other innocent people isn't quite enough to motivate Chief and the others, let's make it personal.) When Cally gets singled out for character-hate on account of being a "victim," I think that's part of what people mean.

But I think that's a flaw in the writing, not a flaw in her character. Cally didn't do anything to get herself into any of these situations*, except happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, or in Dirty Hands and maybe Precipice, married to the wrong guy. And her response to the things that happened to her was never to dwell on them or to act helpless/martyr-like in order to manipulate people or... whatever it is that people with a victim mentality are supposed to do. In fact, quite the opposite, as per my Day 1 post. ;p

*With the arguable exception of the whole airlock situation, but she was kind of having A Day, you know? ;)

But if there's one particular event in particular that earns Cally the lion's share of hate, it's getting her jaw broken by Chief Tyrol, one of the most popular characters for at least most of the show, and her eventual husband.

And on the one hand, I understand why one could find that incident disturbing! I myself have a visceral "oh, sweetie, no" reaction when Cally tells Chief, "you're in a lot of pain" with THIS FACE:

... Like, CLEARLY his is the pain we need to be concerned with right now. It's a foreshadowing of season four, in a way! D:

BUT, here's the thing:

1. God help me, I kind of get where she's coming from,

2. How you get "in love with victimhood" from that, I have no idea

3. How about directing a smidgeon of that outrage at the guy who actually messed up her face? o.O

1. Okay, if you know me, you know I have my issues with Galen Tyrol and his epic manpain. But on an in-universe (Watsonian) level, one of the issues I have with him is not that he beat Cally while in the throes of a PTSD nightmare. It was a horrible thing, but there was no intent - not even the once-removed intent of a drunk driver who accidentally kills someone. It was completely outside of his control. And when I try to put myself in Cally's position, I ... might not have been so nice about it right then while my jaw was still wired shut, but I can't see myself not forgiving Tyrol. It really is a different thing from marrying your abuser. Abusers act with intent - to dominate and control their targets - and they don't generally go around randomly beating their co-workers.

Now, that's not to say that marrying Tyrol was a prudent decision. *My* concern would be that a guy who had one episode and reacted in that way might have another episode and do it again. However unintentionally, he's a potential danger to himself and others. But... it's an imprudent decision, showing a lack of regard for one's physical safety. It doesn't show a lack of self-respect, or whatever it is people attribute to domestic violence victims who stay with their abusers.

(As a personal aside? I don't, actually, have any hate in my heart for abuse victims who have a hard time getting out, and in some cases still love their abusers, and I don't want to sound like I'm onboard with that. All I'm saying is if that's your thing, what is wrong with you Cally doesn't really fit into that category. It's a weird situation, because the whole incident looks like domestic violence, might even code as domestic violence - there are some very effective vids that attest to this - but in this case, what quacks like a duck is not necessarily a duck.)

2. How do people even get "victim-mentality" or "in love with her own victim-hood" from the simple fact that Cally was victimized, and forgave her attacker? That seems way off base to me. I'm sure we've all known people who relish the martyr role from time to time, and one thing they all do a lot of? Talking about all the bad things that have been done to them. When did Cally ever bring up her beating, attempted rape, actual shooting, half-dozen attempted executions, like, ever? I count one time, in Ties That Bind, where she mentioned Tyrol's beating of her to Doc Cottle in a self-critical way. And she was already feeling pretty despondent to even go that far. But from the way parts of fandom talk about her - Jacob and the rest of TWoP in particular talk a lot about her being "manipulative" and her "emotional blackmail" and Nicky being a "blackmail baby" (ugh) - you'd think she was constantly going on about her poor aching jaw while demanding Galen buy her jewelry.

Some people have even gone so far as to accuse Cally of "forcing" Galen to marry her because he felt so guilty about beating her up. I... really don't agree with that. For one thing, that's a blatantly misogynistic story, and BSG at its very worst was all about the subtextual, unconscious misogyny. :D? For two things, it doesn't track at all with what we ever saw of their actual marriage. See post three for reference. For three things, no one does that, not even someone as fucked up as Tyrol would later turn out to be.

I think Galen had mixed motives going into their marriage. Foremost among them, I think were his genuine feelings for Cally. (I mean, their big pre-nebula fight was about him "selfishly" scheduling them for the same shifts so that he could spend more time with her.) I think there was also a bit of of "I'm so not a Cylon. Look at how human I am! Look at who I'm marrying! Nope, no Cylons in this picture!" I don't think the beating played into it, other than as a catalyst for them to have an emotional moment together.

But even if I did think that, I see absolutely no evidence of Cally manipulating or blackmailing Galen, ever. It's not a situation she asked for or contributed to in any way. In fact, I think people whose first reaction is to think "oh, that poor guy feels so terrible for beating that girl up. Emotional blackmail!"... have some issues they might want to explore.

3. Which brings me to my final point: how exactly did Galen get to be the innocent victim here? I can't even count how many times I've seen or heard Cally criticized for marrying the guy who broke her jaw. I can count the number of times I've seen Galen criticized for actually breaking her jaw: zero (0). Now obviously there's a reason behind that lack of criticism: see point 1. But, I'm sorry TWoP, if Galen is not an abuser, then Cally is not a woman who married her abuser. You can't have it both ways. Otherwise, it's really gross. :/

And on a real life note, when I was in law school I went to a panel where I heard from three prosecutors, two men and one woman, and they all said the same thing about prosecuting domestic violence cases: they all do (or did) everything they can to keep women off of the jury. Again, prosecutors, not defense attorneys. Because men who are not abusers want to differentiate themselves from those who are, but women, and especially young women, will hear the defendant say something about how his girlfriend/wife was checking his phone, or talking to other guys, and think: "yeah, that's why you got hit, girl!" This shocked me at the time I heard it, and I still have a hard time believing it. I mean, my friends aren't like that. I'm not like that. But maybe it shouldn't have shocked me, because fandom is made up largely of women, and these attitudes are prevalent even here.
Tags: women love fest

  • Post a new comment


    Anonymous comments are disabled in this journal

    default userpic

    Your reply will be screened

    Your IP address will be recorded