Modern Popular Culture: Katabasis Essay

1362 words - 5 pages

My example of a katabasis in modern popular culture is from the (2004) Sci-Fi television series Battlestar Galactica, created by David Eick and Ronald D. Moore. The basic premise of the series is that a civilization of humans is nearly, brought to extinction after a surprise attack from a cybernetic race known as the Cylons and subsequently the survivors set out on a voyage to find a fabled lost homeland. I thought this series would be a good example because of all the motifs it borrows from Greek and Roman mythology. For one the surprise attack in which the series begins is essentially the story of the Trojan horse, except the horse is a Cylon known as Caprica, presented in a woman’s form. She is then able to trick a Gaius Baltar into letting her gain access to the defense mainframe, thus disabling the defenses and allowing the invasion of Cylons to occur. In retrospect, I think the whole series is an allegory to Greek myth; Caprica is Aphrodite presented normally in a bright red dress, image of sex and desire, whilst Gaius Baltar is Adonis given his vanity, death and rebirth and eventual mostly female cult dedicated to him.
In any case, my example of katabasis from this series would be Kara Thrace known as “Starbuck”. She is a rather hot tempered and wild heroin, who really personifies many aspects of the katabasis from both Geek and Roman myth. One example of this would be when Laura Roslin, the president of the surviving humans, instructed Starbuck to journey home to Delphi to retrieve the Arrow of Apollo so that they could open the tomb of Athena and find the fabled homeland known as earth. This plotline is straight from the story of Aeneas and the Golden Bough. Laura Roslin acts as the Pythia or Sibyl of Cumae an old woman who is dying of breast cancer and thus takes drugs to cope with the pain, resulting in hallucinated induced visions. These visions correlate with the Scrolls of Pythia making Roslin think she is acting out a prophecy. One such vision has her covered in snakes. The snakes of course symbolize the Pythia, for Apollo slayed a python to create the temple Delphi, in which he speaks through the oracle known as the “Pythia”. In addition, since Starbuck is retrieving the “Arrow of Apollo” from “Delphi” again the connection between Delphi and Apollo is further emphasized.
In Virgil's Aeneid, the hero Aeneas leaves a golden branch as an offering to Proserpina, in front of a gate to Pluto’s palace, thus allowing him and the Sibyl to reach Elysium. In Battlestar Galactica, Starbuck leaves a golden “Arrow of Apollo” in the tomb of Athena, allowing her and Roslin/Sibyl to be momentarily, transported to earth. Earth fulfills the same role as the Elysium in the Aeneid, because earth is the paradise that will eventually be the final resting place for humanity. Furthermore, in the show they are brought to a field on earth, correlating with the image of “Elysium Fields”. The tomb of Athena is located in a dark cave, which I equate with...

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