This is a supplement to the other articles I have written about Total Eclipse and it’s intended to make some things clear about the series as a whole, and my reaction to it.
I’ve always tried in writing about Total Eclipse to focus on what the series does that is interesting; how it uses the cliches of war stories unsubtly but in often capable ways.
However, I have not been drawing attention to the things it does very badly, and taking the time to think some more on the latest episode made me realise that this is incredibly problematic. Total Eclipse, in using the cliches of war fiction, is laden in distasteful prejudice that at first I was prepared to accept as a flaw of the storytelling and try and find some good around. However, the latest episode I feel crossed the line of what I consider acceptable; its use of the threat of sexual assault as a plot device in a very similar fashion to the recent controversy around the game Tomb Raider marked a point where, in retrospect, I feel the series overstepped the mark. I criticised this in my article, but do not feel I made it entirely clear how problematic it actually was.
Prior episodes had had reductive characterisation that I had not brought to the forefront of articles because ultimately jingoism and stereotype are unfortunate bedfellows of military fiction (as I intimated in my article about Splinter Cell). Indeed, the desert island episodes quite effectively undid any potential interesting characterisation the series had promised. However, again I was prepared to consider that it may turn itself around.
Then episode 8 went beyond this and very much soured me on the series; while up to this point I was very forgiving of Total Eclipse’s failings, perhaps too much so, I get the impression from what has just been depicted that it is simply not going to address these issues.
My not dwelling on these flaws is not out of endorsement of them; it is instead because I did not feel a single weekly article of around 1,000 words was the right format to talk about these pretty massive institutional issues in the science-fiction genre when up until recently Total Eclipse has been far less problematic than other things I have seen. Its prejudices and stereotypes have hitherto been exaggerated to the point of ridiculousness and this has I think made them easier to accept as problematic and worthy of condemnation but ultimately a sign of the failings of the genre as a whole and focus instead on what good there is in the hope it may address the problems.
Yet something about how episode 8 crossed the boundary of what, in retrospect, I really consider acceptable made me realise this approach was not the best one. Yes, there is some good in Total Eclipse; at times it is a capable war story with interesting gimmicks. But, and I cannot deny this and do not mean to, it is a significantly prejudiced piece of fiction and I am no longer prepared to forgive it its flaws so readily.
Unless the series really changes its tune, I will not be continuing to write about it – or at least not in the same way.