Defiance has been a cornerstone of the American political foundation since the colonial tea merchants of Boston rebelled against the British government’s preferential tax exemptions favoring the multinational East India Company…and since Rosa Parks, after a long, day at work, refused the bus driver’s demand to give up her seat in the colored section when the white section filled to capacity…and since the citizens of Colorado and Washington rebuked the federal government’s primordial pot laws and legalized recreational and entrepreneurial use of marijuana…and since, well, you get the picture, defiance is politically challenging.
Defiance is also the new American science fiction drama broadcast Monday nights at 9/8 C on the SyFy channel. Set thirty or so years into the future, earth as we know it has been terraformed by a collective alien culture. The intergalactic border crossing began in 2013 as the inhabitants of Voltan fled the imminent, violent impact of a home-planet stellar collision in search for a better life on the blue planet. Upon appearing on earth, the aliens were met with distrust and animus. At a time in our human history where a black man can’t get a cab, a gay man can’t jump the groom, and a Muslim man doesn’t have a prayer, one can only imagine the alienation experienced by these characters:
Fueled by the fear-driven bigotry of human supremacists, ethnic war breaks out between earth’s native inhabitants and the Voltan races. Terraforming technology is released on the unsuspecting planet as a weapon of mass, ecologic destruction. Global climate changes and mutated genetic sequencing alters the landscape from badlands to worse. Mired in almost a decade of seemingly senseless combat, the human and alien races grow weary of their Pale War, join forces, and settle together in order to survive what has become a hostile earth environment. Defiance has become such a homestead. Rising above the ruins of a past generation and what remains of old St. Louis, is an archway symbolizing a gateway to a new pioneer spirit of men and women of a latter day, human and alien, striving on other frontiers. Sound familiar? It should.
Excavate the underbelly of any good sci-fi drama and you will find obvious political undertones. From xenophobia to civil rights, from zealous theocracy to terrorism, from entitlement to the common good, science fiction battles them all. I was fortunate enough to ask two of the stars of Defiance, Jaime Murray (Stahma) and Tony Curran (Datak), a question about the political nature of the show, specifically when the mayor of Defiance insists to one of the alien races that assimilation is the only way to co-exist. Given the upcoming debate in Congress regarding comprehensive immigration reform, and the Right’s insistence on warp-speed alien assimilation, I found this statement timely and intriguing. This is what they said:
Yes, America, a stir-fry. Each ingredient resides collectively in the same pot, but the individual, bold flavors are allowed to come through.
I look forward to examining how the team of Defiance will address other socio-political issues on new earth as caste/religious-based social hierarchies are challenged when new generations are born, mature, and question tradition and authority. Could it be that imperial Castithan exceptionalism wears no clothes? Probably not.