The BBC did a cute little thing last week where it revealed the identity of the 12th Doctor during a live show. The new Doctor is Peter Capaldi, who will be sensational at it. It's nice to have someone who's not 26 in the role, right? Capaldi is also an Oscar winner, you guys, for writing and directing probably the greatest short film of all time, Franz Kafka's It's A Wonderful Life, which is seriously so great you have no idea until you see it.
I wonder if Moffat's writing will make his eye twitch on occasion.
Anyway, there's been quite an outcry about the casting of yet another white guy. Here's a pretty good blog on Doctor Who and race. For the most part, though, this particular blog seems to be about why the Doctor is still white, and not why he's still male. But it's relevant nonetheless.And now, of course, there's frenetic push-back from that group of white genre fans who are afraid that their privilege is eroding.
(it is, albeit veeeeerrrrrry slowly)
When you see the pictures of the Doctors, and then the pictures of the companions, what jumps out at you after they blind you with their whiteness? Their... femaleness, perhaps? To me, looking at all those white doctor dudes and their companions, it reads "boss" and "secretary." It's old-fashioned but more than that, that dynamic is so ingrained in our culture that it's impossible to totally break through. Especially in America, where we are only going to have a female President if it's Hillary Clinton and she's running against whatever sad baboon the Republicans nominate. But that says more about Hillary Clinton's personal popularity and the ineptness of the current Republican party than it does about us actually making any advancements.
Some people seem to be under the impression that because of the Civil Rights movement, race is no longer a national issue. Obviously, this is utter bullshit. But these racists are also sexists, and women don't have the visibility of the Civil Rights movement, do they? Women get to wear pants, get jobs, not have kids, own property. So that's good, right? Equality!!
An aside: I am not qualified to make specific comments about race in America. There are people MUCH more suited to do that. So I just won't.
Looking at the boss/secretary dynamic of the Doctor Who universe is depressing. Back when the show was created, being a companion was a pretty good job for a woman. She got to see the universe, travel in time, and she was always protected by an uber-powerful Timelord. Awesome! When the show was rebooted in 2005, it was with the same dynamic. And that's fine; it was a great reboot and for the most part, Rose was a fun character. A shopgirl, but still... reintroducing Doctor Who to a new audience meant we needed to see him through the POV of a very normal, average girl. And that was Rose. Martha was an actual doctor, for God's sake, and a doctor who chose to stop traveling with the Doctor. Then came Donna, the best of all modern Who companions. Donna truly found herself through her travels with the Doctor, and it wasn't always due to his influence. In fact, more often than not it was due to the things he did that she didn't agree with. She found her strength in disagreeing with him, and that's fantastic. Donna believed that she could only hope for so much in life, until she met the Doctor. Which is why her departure is one of the most heartbreaking, wonderfully sad moments in all of television.
Then the Dark Times came. The less said about them, the better. Cute girls in skirts! Whatevs.
Doctor Who aside, there's been a big, sad kerfuffle in comics. During a superhero comics panel, Todd McFarlane and Mark Millar said some of the most idiotic things ever said about female characters, about why there aren't more female superheroes, and about how rape is really just the same as decapitation. And he would know, right?
You know up above, where I said I wouldn't make comments on race? Guess who shouldn't make comments on rape? Guys like this. In fact, I don't care to hear any guy's comments on rape. I appreciate the guys who are seriously sick of this shit coming out and saying so, and I understand why they would want to offer their opinion, as a backlash against this sorry nonsense. However, it smacks a bit of "OKAY, NOW IT'S TIME FOR THE MENFOLK TO STEP IN AND PUT A STOP TO THIS." I know this isn't intentional. Unfortunately, that's the push-back when assholes like Millar open their yaps. But guys, it's REALLY not necessary. I think we're gonna take this on. You just keep creating wonderful female characters, okay?
In Elysium, a movie that shouldn't even be called science fiction on account of the shitty world-building, you could tell the bad guys were REALLY bad because one of them threatened the female character with rape, and then Matt Damon had to come in and save her. It's 2013. Seriously? FUCKING STOP IT ALREADY. If you as a writer decide that showing the audience a character is a total dick will be best accomplished by having the bad guy threaten or attempt rape, then you are a lazy asshole. By the way, that's Millar's take. Rape is used to show a bad guy is bad. Utterly ridiculous.
What happens when tokenism is introduced is this: "We have five men. We need a female character." Not "We need this specific female character," mind you. Just A female character. So it's a widget factory where the widgets are vaginas. It's never "let's create a wonderful character, and oh look! She's a woman!" When you write a movie and you've got the hero but you need to deepen his character, you give him a love interest. A mother. A daughter. The female character is a THING first. A widget, created in the Female Character Factory.
So there can't be female superheroes because what the fuck would THAT be? The women in comics, in the comics McFarlane and Millar are talking about, don't exist on their own. They exist as a function, an extension, of the male character. They are defined by their relationship with the hero. No matter how great you make them, if that's how they were brought into existence, they will always have that millstone around their necks.
That's why, when Wonder Woman was rebooted in the comics, the Amazon backstory had to do with rape. Women cannot exist on their own. They just cannot. They can't have rich, complex backstories that don't involve this kind of pain that was inflicted on them by men. Even if they get all strong and murder a bunch of guys afterwards, that's only because the men showed them how weak they really are.
This extends into the real world, into corporate America. Into entertainment. I always wondered why, whenever anyone talked about the dearth of female writers in genre entertainment, the go-to was Jane Espenson. "Let's have her write everything! That would be awesome!" Like there aren't at least a dozen top female genre writers who do great work. There's actually a very simple reason: Because usually, when staffing television shows, they will generally have a whole lotta white guys and no women, which is due to the fact that the guys get to create more shows, they get the better jobs and because they get the better jobs, they continue to get the better jobs. Now their problem is that there are so many of them with great resumes and track records that they also have trouble when they're all competing for jobs. But it's a slightly different problem than the one faced by women and minorities.
Because this is where affirmative action comes in. There's a point at which someone says, "Geez, this looks bad. We need a woman." Not "We need this specific fantastic writer who happens to be a woman," (which should be the automatic default position when staffing) but "Call the Vagina Widget Factory. Send over a co-E.P." So women are seen as interchangeable. They're the love interests of TV writing staffs. Jane Espenson has done something remarkable: She's created an identity that actually transcends her gender. She's the Hillary Clinton of genre. And THAT'S why it's so hard to have the discussion about female genre writers. There's only one who has gotten equality in that sense. I would imagine that minority writers of both sexes feel the same way.
You can actually see for yourself, if you write down the ten writers/creators you like. How many of them are white men? Their creative identity is that they are all great writers. You know their voices, because they create the whopping majority of shows and they run the whopping majority of shows. Gender and race don't even figure into it. There's really no need to create the "Ten Great White Male Genre Writers" list. Thinking about what I used to read as a kid, it was all Asimov and Heinlein and stuff like that. For the most part, the women were accessories and I identified with the male heroes. What choice did I have? The girls were fucking useless. I didn't like the so-called feminist books either because to me, they were all about being women first. Just as bad, IMO.
So ever since, I haven't responded well to women who are THINGS first: Wives, mothers, girlfriends. For me in fiction, having a woman who's encumbered with a family automatically makes her less interesting. A woman who's just all about being a woman is boring.
In another article that I refuse to link to because it was so stupid, a moron said that there's actually no inequality issue in genre. He cites the original Star Trek. Hey, there's a black woman! An Asian man! While that was pretty ground-breaking at the time, it isn't now. Both characters are subservient to the white guys. Uhura is a receptionist, for God's sake! Star Trek is a terrific example of a late 60s that needed to be integrated, but using it as an example for NOW is just so wrong-headed and, sadly, typical. It's so frustrating how guys will cite one example, too, and by dint of that claim the problem is solved. "What are you complaining about? You got Janeway!" Etc. Stop doing this, please. It's insulting.
I think there needs to be some kind of Female Genre Writer's Society,
wherein we all get to create and develop our own identities and show
people our voices. Because I don't know how people who watch television and see movies and read comics and books are going to find out otherwise.