Babylon 5, “GROPOS,” and women in combat.

When a huge ground force is stationed at B5 for a few days in the season 2 episode “GROPOS” (a nickname for “ground pounders,” or infantry), it was pretty obvious that we were only spending time getting to know some of the soldiers because some or all of them were going to die at the end. I don’t mind predicting this kind of thing, though, because the journey tends to be the most interesting part anyway.

And this one was no exception. I loved Elizabeth “Dodger” Durman. When three men threaten Delenn (remnants of hostility from the Minbari war), she comes in fists flying to defend Delenn. She clearly holds her own in the brawl following, and, pleasantly, her defense of Delenn isn’t presented as a ladies-defending-ladies thing, but rather a that-guy-is-a-jerk kind of thing.

Dodger is delightfully self-sufficient. Since women are actually allowed into combat in this universe (unlike in the twelfth century, which is apparently where we’re living now) she has to face the prospect of death regularly, like all the other soldiers– and she does it in much the same way: living exuberantly whenever she has the chance. She drinks unapologetically, revels in her fights, and wants to get laid. She picks out Garibaldi because he keeps her from being thrown in the brig for starting the brawl over Delenn…and because he has a “cute butt.” (Did I mention that she’s also delightfully unselfconscious?)

Garibaldi likes her well enough, and they get dinner, then head back to his room, where they make out passionately and I once again am bewildered by Garibaldi’s fuzzy, balding head. (I think the problem is that his hair is too long). However, the camara is lingering a little too long on their make-outs– uh oh! Garibaldi decides that he needs to vomit up his whole relationship history and tell Dodger that he doesn’t want to screw this up, so they should take it slow. I was kind of bewildered…what in the world made Garibaldi think she wanted a relationship? She was only going to be on B5 for three days, tops! And even if she survived (and he was one of the few who knew how unlikely that was), she wouldn’t be returning to B5 afterwards. It’s practically the definition of a fling.

But then Dodger gets awesome and tells Garibaldi all this! “You think I wanted to set up house?” she asks, incredulous. “I don’t have that kind of time line. I’m a soldier. I face death every day. That’s the job. I deal with it by living every moment to the fullest, because I know I don’t have a lot of moments. But fine. You’ve made yourself clear.” And she heads out.

And lo, she is right, because even though they patch things up and make out passionately (again!) before she’s dispatched, she doesn’t return. And lo, Garibaldi is heartbroken (but probably not so heartbroken that he won’t have forgotten her entirely by the next episode…). And I was surprised that he didn’t know better, since he was ex-military himself. Front-line ground troops don’t really get to make long-term plans. Especially if those plans involve spending a lot of time in a specific place.

I’m actually really sad she’s gone– she was such a great, flamboyant character. But hey, you know what else is great? The story line would have worked exactly as well with the genders flipped. Really! Dodger is a soldier and a woman, and yet her responses to soldiery are basically the same as all soldiers’! What a shock! No rubbish about being distracted by her feelings, or distracting her fellow soldiers with her sexiness, or fraternizing with superior officers…none of the sexist rubbish used to object to women going into combat! Not even a nod to the idea that women are weaker and need protection. Nope, she and her fellow female soldiers (of whom there are a lot) kick ass in their barroom brawls! And it’s not waif-fu either; they’re buff, and they fight like buff, trained soldiers.

Which I guess is just another reason I’m sad to see her go. Sigh. She would’ve made a great friend for Ivanova 🙂

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3 Responses to Babylon 5, “GROPOS,” and women in combat.

  1. Dan B says:

    Actually, funny story…

    The actor playing Garibaldi (Jerry Doyle) was dating the actress playing Talia Winters at the time.

    …and the actress playing Dodger was an old flame in real life…

    So despite the fact Jerry Doyle had been pushing for his character to get some relationship time onscreen, he requested last-minute to get out of actually having a lovescene with her.

    And as for seeing her again. Be seeing you (in Season 5)… 🙂

  2. eloriane says:

    Hah! How interesting. That explains a lot…including why Talia and Garibaldi seem to have an almost-chemistry between them, despite not seeing much of each other (at this point).

    And that last sentence has me super-excited! Agh, Netflix, you must bring me my DVDs faster!

  3. Dan B says:

    Keep up the good work, btw. A lot of us Fivers love to hear newcomer’s experiences with the show as they view it for the first time.

    I promise not to spoil things for you, but you are in for one heck of a grand time!

    Two notes:
    First, while B5 does have a definite beginning, middle and end, there will be some points in the show where “life happens”. Actors leave the show, storylines just don’t work out, etc. You’ve already seen one of them in your viewing.
    Second, note the writing on the show. Joe S. is the primary Writer (92 of 110 eps, most likely an American tv record), but many of the early eps were written by others. Combine that with the strange order the eps were shown in, and some inconsistencies pop up.

    Have an awesome time watching!

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