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Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Doctor Who: Racist, Homophobic, Misogynist?

I wasn't going to comment at all about the numerous reviews and blog posts doing the rounds at the moment which, after Let's Kill Hitler aired on Saturday 27th August, have swept through Who's recent past to find anything they can to wrap around a stick and beat the show with. "Fans" of the show have inferred that the show is racist, misogynistic and homophobic. I've read 4 separate reviewers declare themselves outraged that the only black character in the episode was to die just 15 minutes in. Several have blown up about the use of gay or lesbian characters "as tokens" and one even went so far as to say that the show has become "a straight, white guy bending the laws of time and space in order to get another straight, white guy laid" - I'm not ashamed to say I laughed outright when I read that.

So I thought I'd have a little rant of my own, in the show's defence. Though, it doesn't need me to defend it because almost every word these people have written is sourced from misquoted lines from the show, out-of-context situational reporting and a blatant and recognisable hope that the people who will read their stuff have never watched the show, therefore swallowing every twisted, spiteful word without question. I begin with...

Doctor Who Is Racist

I'm not even going to mention in detail the fact that since it returned in 2005 Doctor Who has seen two black companions and a plethora of characters, good and bad, of ethnic origin. I'll stick only to the issues people seem to have with Mels in LKH. 

She jumps into the Doctor's life as (says one blogger) a stereotype - a hypersexual, gun-toting criminal. Since this character IS Melody Pond/River Song then I almost can't complain about the description. What better way to describe River than as a hypersexual, gun-toting criminal? However, if River's character was a gentle, sheepish woman with asthma then, no doubt, so would have been Mels' character, to a degree. Race has NOTHING to do with the characterisation of someone who can change their entire appearance, race not being a limiting factor.

People also have a problem that she dies 15 minutes in... Again, a black stereotype, right? "The black guy always dies first!" and all that? Well, if you're citing this as something that happens then YOU'RE the racist. Night Of The Living Dead, Alien, etc etc etc. This is only an issue if your narrow mind finds it so. But agian, I'm getting ahead of myself. Mels HAD to die when she did because that's how the story goes! River is born from her, and learns to be the River we know and love. It was hard to do in the 45 minutes allowed, let alone any time shorter than that thanks to giving Mels more screen time. I suppose these people think along the lines of "aw, poor black actress, she's just got a part on telly - well done on that! - and now they're killing her immediately! Why don't you give her a chance, eh? She's black! She needs the screen time!" Racists, all. It's a "give 'em a chance" attitude that is in itself completely prejudiced. A character is a character - race is not an issue at all. Next up...

Doctor Who Is Homophobic

Once again, I'll use a specific example pulled from the review/blog posts of those who seem so outraged. I'm not mentioning any names or posting links because it's not worth the risk of kicking of a witch hunt or even contributing to one - this is MY rant. 

One blogger states that a further example of Moffat's homophobia is "the inclusion of a gay couple in [AGMGTW] who don't need names, preferring to call themselves "That Gay Married Couple" - Um, no. They are referred to as "The Thin Fat Gay Married Anglican Marines", not because they are gay or married but because - fairly - it's unlikely there will be another couple of men who can be described this way anywhere on the Asteroid. It's not homophobia, it's humour. They could just as well have been a male and female, called "The Fat Thin Black White Married Anglican Marines" but, no doubt, then there would be a cry of "Racist!" or even a "oh Lord, ANOTHER straight couple - sigh". Doctor Who has done a lot of good in bringing homosexuality and queer characterisation into mainstream. Kids who watch Who don't have to ask what "gay" means anymore - it's simply two men or two women who love each other. No problem! Now ask the "football kids" what "gay!" is and they'll likely say "it's an insult you shout at others". 

Nope. I welcome the mention and inclusion of gay characters and situations in Who. It's a good thing. Hopefully, an informed younger society will mean less and less aggression and prejudice in the future! And lastly...

Doctor Who Is Misogynist 

One line in last week's Doctor Who seems to have got a few people bleating about Rory and Amy's recent wedding having stripped her of the strength she used to show. That line was "But what do I think?!", clearly the words of nothing but a little woman who needs all the help she can get from her big, strong man. Hmmm...

Now, this line comes in reply to the following exchange:

Rory: Sonic it [the Antibody]!
Amy: How do I use it?
Rory: Just point and think!
Amy: But what do I think?!

And apparently this means that she has lost her ballsy character and is now asking her husband to do all the thinking for her. WHAT!? Are you telling me that, in the same situation, male or female, you wouldn't ask the very same thing!? I know I would! What the hell DO you think when trying to battle robot killers with an alien gadget?! The same review that raises this unforgivably pathetic point also says that Amy - throughout the series - has been "killed and put in a box through no agency of her own, resurrected and married off through no agency of her own, impregnated through no agency of her own, replaced by a synthetic clone through no agency of her own, had a baby through no agency of her own, somehow raised the baby inadvertently through no agency of her own, and spent “Let’s Kill Hitler” as a robot duplicate and/or helpless mess, looking to Rory to replace agency of her own, of which she has none. Amy’s so firmly construed as Rory’s property that the Doctor actually asks Rory for “permission to hug” her in moments of emotional crisis."

Because of course, marriage is rape, right? And a running joke that comes from the insecurities of the "big strong husband" this poster takes such offence at is now a sinister and harmful pointer to all young men to "take control of their woman!". Some people really are spiteful bastards.

What do I think is to blame for this overly nasty analysis? Well, it's just that. The fact that these reviews are disguising themselves as academic texts analysing the show instead of the feedback of a fan/viewer. People take this show far too seriously and forget that they're meant to be having fun while watching. And if that fun stops, if the show fails to entertain anymore, turn it off! There's nobody holding a gun to your head! This is my pet hate among viewers of this show: it's easier to keep watching and criticise than it is to stop watching and risk missing something good. People love this show far too much. 

The show isn't sexist, misogynist, racist, homophobic or anything else. It's purely a big, loud, flashy comedy fantasy sci fi drama something-or-other which features a thousand-year-old alien in a stolen police box travelling time and space in search of adventures. It's a bit of fun. It's clever, usually. It's entertaining, usually. It's FUN! There's nothing malicious or nasty in it. You can't judge this show by standard views of race, gender, sexuality or morals. I strongly believe, as many do, that race, gender and sexuality are not barriers or even issues - but just "aspects" no different to eye colour, hair colour etc. It would be lovely if the world could see things this way. An actor is an actor, regardless of race or sexual orientation. And what better show than Doctor Who to treat each and every character as just that - a character. I love Doctor Who.