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Jack Graham

Jack Graham wrote about Doctor Who and Marxism, often at the same time. These days he co-hosts the I Don't Speak German podcast with Daniel Harper.Support Jack on Patreon.

15 Comments

  1. John
    February 22, 2013 @ 8:09 pm

    I've lost count of the amount of times the revelation that a character or characters are gay in 'New Who' is expected to be treated as a source of humour. It's got to the point where the Lizard lady and her wife have to announce it to all and sundry every time they enter a scene just to try and generate a cheap giggle. Can we have some gay characters who are treated like any other character but just happen to be gay?

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  2. encyclops
    February 22, 2013 @ 9:35 pm

    Canton Delaware Everett III?

    He's a little bland, I think, but that's what you get when your concept is "a gay character who just happens to be gay." Still, I liked him, in part because I like Sheppard, and I like Madame Vastra and Jenny even if the idea that they were the inspiration for Sherlock Holmes and Watson is somehow both absurd and unfunny at the same time. I think Jack offers good reasons why I shouldn't like them, but as characters to identify with on this show I really feel I could do a lot worse.

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  3. Anonymous
    February 22, 2013 @ 9:53 pm

    On the other hand, Moffat's only murdered one of his gay characters, and none of them have been evil. The previous showrunner had a long litany of evil and/or dead LGB (no T) characters, going so far as to make the most visible queer character in science fiction into a multiple child murderer. Moffat's women are independent, make their own decisions for the own reasons, and a large number of them stay happily single. RTD shoehorned every significant female character he ever wrote on Who into a heterosexual marriage as the culmination of her storyline. But no, let's have another round of how even though Moffat's representation of women and LGBT people and people of colour are better than anything else on television, they're not meeting our definition of progressive enough this week, so it's okay to go back to writing letters to bring Rose "I went from an interesting, independent young woman to a cult member obsessed with my ex-boyfriend and this was somehow presented as a good thing" Tyler.

    Give me Moffat any damn day. He's far better than what we had from the last guy, and he gets better every episode.

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  4. John
    February 23, 2013 @ 6:14 am

    The revelation that Delaware is gay at the end of the episode is part of a joke. That's one of the cases I'm talking about. The revelation that he wants to marry a black man is a punchline to a joke. I know we're supposed to laugh more at Nixon's reaction but still, it's one of many cases of using the fact that a character is gay as a source of humour.

    "He's a little bland, I think, but that's what you get when your concept is "a gay character who just happens to be gay."

    Sorry but this statement is absurd if you think Delaware is bland it's probably just because he's badly written not because he's not camping it up every 5 seconds. What if Leela just happened to be gay or Litefoot or any great character from Who. Gay characters can be like any other character it's their sexuality not their personality. You can write a great character who just happens to be gay without drawing attention to it every five minutes to get a laugh.

    🙂

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  5. Anonymous
    February 24, 2013 @ 9:24 am

    I don't want Rose back but the obsessed love interest whose entire life revolves around a man is River Song, not Rose Tyler.

    River was a much more interesting character when she was an independent space archaeologist, not designed from birth for the Doctor and with super traits.

    Jack – no comments on Amy being reduced to her womb? That's the most sexist thing about her. I actually didn't mind the Amy/Rory romance itself. The kidnapped baby storyline gave me mixed feelings. It was a huge cliffhanger (should have been the mid season break) but women only exist to produce children made Mel Bush look like Germaine Greer. I was also relieved when Karen started wearing trousers, because I thought we'd gone past Doctor Who is so rubbish we have to put in legs for the Dads.

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  6. jane
    February 25, 2013 @ 12:31 pm

    So what do we make of the fact that Karen Gillan's the one who lobbied for all those short skirts in Series Five, skirts from her own personal wardrobe?

    As for River… I find it difficult to wrap my head around this character, partly because we've seen her story out of order, partly because we haven't seen it all yet, and partly because she's changed tremendously. She's very problematic coming out of her brainwashing at the hands of the Silence (now here's a villainy that deserves closer attention) but who she becomes in Manhattan, an Angel-hunting detective with no Doctor-obsession, is a very different person. Or when she comes out of the Byzantium, pretty much defying if not actively undermining the Doctor's plan to erase his story in the Universe by faking his death.

    Frankly though, it's the criticism that Amy's "reduced to a womb" that I find most problematic and, well, reductive. Because there's a long line of amazing things that Amy's done both before and after that singular event that consistently get ignored, as if all a woman's accomplishments are somehow negated by giving birth. These are not mutually exclusive experiences! It's clear that the show and the character don't perform such a reduction going forward — whether it's Amy running a black-ops group to take down the Silence, managing her own "companions" while uncovering the secret of the Silurian ark, or being the moral anchor in that town called Mercy.

    If anything, the "woman is her womb" trope is consistently undermined, because every time someone tries to put Amy in that position (even when she tries herself) it completely backfires. Now, whether it's possible to subvert tropes in the first place is another matter — one can reasonably argue that the trope exerts so much power it's best left avoided in the first place, but as Jack says, ignoring something can also function as tacit approval.

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  7. jane
    February 25, 2013 @ 12:44 pm

    Unfortunately, we still live in a culture where people react with dismay to the revelation of someone's being gay.

    And actually, the revelation is part and parcel of the experience. It is a problem that stems from normativity — after all, 95% of the people on this planet aren't gay. It's much like the normativity of meat being considered the main course at any meal. (I'm vegetarian, so I'm acutely aware of this.)

    Anyways, to be effectively gay or queer under such conditions practically requires coming out of the closet, of disclosure. It's pretty much a ritual at this point, and an important one because it establishes a new social reality for the individual (or couple, as the case may be.) In today's Who, the "joke" isn't on the one making the disclosure, but on those who are still challenged by it. This is, again, a form of trope inversion.

    What's more problematic as far as I'm concerned is the emphasis on marriage. Canton is a good guy because he want to get married. Vastra and Jenny are explicitly counterpointed with the villain Simeon on the basis that they are married, while Simeon has no relationship at all. (Thankfully, Strax — a good guy — is similarly uncommitted.)

    It's problematic, because marriage today functions as tacit social acceptance of a sexual relationship. Yes, many people do end up becoming more mature and wise through a committed relationship, but just as many do not. Marriage itself is no cure-all for the problems of growing up. Furthermore, to make "being married" as a marker for social acceptance is to give power to the social institutions that promote marriage in the first place — namely, state and religious institutions.

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  8. Jack Graham
    February 25, 2013 @ 1:47 pm

    Is it really 95% straight / 5% gay? I'm astounded by that. (Beyond my serious doubts about the whole idea of sexuality being that classifiable and quantifiable in such a reductionist way… but I suspect you're talking about people who live gay openly?)

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  9. jane
    February 25, 2013 @ 3:53 pm

    Roughly speaking, yes. And really, it's how people identify themselves through surveys, which can vary quite a bit depending on how the instrument is constructed, not to mention the sampling techniques employed.

    For example, you'll get more people saying they've had homosexual experiences than those who outright claim such an identity. As far as the ratio of people who are exclusively attracted to the opposite sex, 5% is probably on the high side.

    However, you can double or triple those numbers when talking about our major urban locations, which offer not just a safer place for being non-normative, but sufficient numbers of like-minded people to find a partner in the first place. And obviously, some industries are more gay friendly than others, so it might seem astounding how "straight" the rest of the world is if you're doing theater in San Francisco.

    Part of this kind of gets at what you call "reductionist" — which is a matter of how we go about categorizing ourselves. For example, I rather like the term "queer" when talking about myself, simply because of the lack of specificity involved; I've had sex with just about every "kind" of person, and been in both monogamous and polyamorous relationships, but really I tend to be attracted to the person(s) within, regardless of embodiment. I wouldn't say I'm "straight" or "gay" or "bi" because all those fail to capture what really turns me on. At the same time, I recognize I'm certainly non-normative. "Queer" seems most apt.

    Getting back to demographics, location seems to matter. You'll find that people in the US are more likely to identify along the GLBT spectrum than in the UK (and in Europe in general) — and that the numbers shift over time, sometimes in surprising directions; for example, the number of reported singular homosexual experiences ("experimenting") dropped dramatically between 1970 and 1990, possibly because of the ascendant meme that homosexuality is an "innate identity."

    Hence my concern with the use of "marriage" as a tool for sanctioning relationships. It's double-edged. Yes, it's great to have institutional protection for all kinds of relationships, but at the same time it's depending on social institutions to grant "privileges" in the first place. I wonder how many couples have subsumed the popular narrative of "exclusive and innate sexual preference" as the price paid for widening the acceptance of non-normative relationships.

    On the other hand, I think there's merit to the marital institution insofar as it recognizes the maturity and responsibility that have to be exercised to make a long-term committed relationship. Likewise, there are consequences to dissolving a marriage that aren't there for the non-married. In the end, it's not something I see as cut-and-dry.

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  10. Jack Graham
    February 25, 2013 @ 10:52 pm

    "I've had sex with just about every "kind" of person"

    Jane, now you're just boasting. 😉

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  11. Lauren
    February 25, 2013 @ 10:57 pm

    "It's clear that the show and the character don't perform such a reduction going forward — whether it's Amy running a black-ops group to take down the Silence, managing her own "companions" while uncovering the secret of the Silurian ark, or being the moral anchor in that town called Mercy."

    Nice points about Amy's accomplishments – except for the fact that in Mercy, Jex is able to identify that Amy is a "mother" – despite the fact that she only knew her baby for about five minutes and never really had a problem with not raising her. Yet here it seems to be implied that the fact that a child came out of her womb is the reason she is the "moral anchor" in that story.

    And don't get me started on the fact that she divorced Rory because she couldn't bear the fact that she couldn't have his babies…

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  12. jane
    February 26, 2013 @ 1:08 am

    Well, yes. The Polish Communist, an economist by trade, was perhaps the strangest, though I think that was largely due to his penchant for drinking (and sharing) tremendous quantities of vodka.

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  13. jane
    February 26, 2013 @ 1:40 am

    Jex assumes that Amy's a mother because Amy is kind — because she's compassionate. It's her compassion that anchors her morality. When it comes down to Amy's calling out the Doctor, her motherhood's got nothing to do with it; don't make the same mistake that Jex made — after all, he's more a villain than a hero, who projects his own issues onto the people around him (hence the "mirror" speech he has with the Doctor.)

    And yes, Amy makes the same mistake with herself when she divorces Rory, but the point was she was wrong to go there in the first place. Amy's fear of being reduced in that fashion turned out to be unfounded, but it's such a powerful fear to root out because it so easily manifests as self-hatred. (I would know — it's one of my many personal issues, and I've sabotaged more than one of my relationships because of it.)

    Anyways, the "womb trope" is employed to be undermined, as their relationship is based on so more than their fertility issues — but as I said before, that's the danger with ironic subversion of tropes, it's very easy to miss the subversion. The best example I can think of for this phenomenon is The Dave Chappelle Show. Chapelle relied on employing racist tropes, always to undermine them. He ended up walking away from suitcases full of money when he realized that not everyone got the joke — and a lot of his contemporaries were divided by that choice.

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  14. Anonymous
    September 6, 2013 @ 9:29 pm

    Rose starts as an independent character with her job, her mum, her boyfriend, her dead father, her own nascent dreams of a better life, but ends as someone whose entire motivation* is the Doctor. (The first thing he does is blow up her job.) River starts as someone who is forced to hate and fear the Doctor and dies as a woman with her own independent career, her friends and colleagues, contacts all across the universe, an acceptance of her life as it has happened, and a deep abiding love for her husband.
    That's the difference.

    *You can argue there are other motivations, but what she actually says is "It's what the Doctor would have done", "The Doctor won't stop travelling, so I can't" and "So I could come back."

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  15. Kyle Edwards
    October 21, 2016 @ 5:31 am

    Wow. I have to start off saying, I love the Moffat era. It’s remarkably entertaining, his characterizations are bar none the best Doctor Who’s ever gotten, and his plots complex and engaging without being impenetrable. However, I also love this post. Don’t get me wrong, I disagree with a lot of it, but I fully understand where the criticisms come from and they make a lot of sense. I’ve looked far and wide over the internet for opinions on Doctor Who, and have found quite a few Moffat hate articles. This is one of the few which seems to actually be talking about the same show I’ve watched, and look at the subtleties of the show (just in a negative direction instead of Phil’s and others’ positive one).

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