Media Analysis

The Importance of Doctor Who

My youngest brothers’ first exposure to a queer character in television was through Doctor Who’s Captain Jack. When you are eight (or really any age) Captain Jack is the archetype of complete cool that you are always striving to achieve; witty, brave, ridiculously charming, and has a gun. So when you see that that character “dances with everyone” it tells you that there’s nothing weird or wrong about queerness. And when, a few days later, you go to school and find your friends using homophobic language as one brother did, you tell them to stop because you know that people should never be a target for hate.

That’s the impact that a great show can have.

The recent announcement that Doctor number 13 will be played by Jodie Whittaker has had predictable reactions. To some this is the worst case of pandering. To others it is about time. But in reality it is just another form of the Doctor, and in some ways that is the most significant part. Because removed from all the adult conversations, all children will see is the central character of a show they eagerly watch simply looking different yet again but still going on the same adventures with the same balance of coolness and nerdiness that we’ve all grown to love. It’s that normalcy that made Captain Jack so important, and it will be the same again when the Doctor leads an army, saves the world, or refers to her wife in the seasons to come.

Doctor Who teaches morals. It highlights that sometimes it is worth risking danger to you and those around you for a greater cause. It shows that even genius is not infallible and that we all have a part to play in improving our situations. It tells children that you must have hope that people as a whole can be good in the end, and that though there are bad things in the world it is important to love and protect one another as best you can.

The wider world is a cynical one. It’s one that makes us forget these rules in favour of a more utilitarian bend. Yet the idealism of Doctor Who is what draws us in, and what makes these inclusions so important because it reinforces the humanity of groups who haven’t historically fared so well. The recent companion of Bill, a gay, black woman who unabashedly has crushes and has to rebuff interested men helps with this normalisation. Adding a Doctor whose gender in our eyes has shifted builds up not only what women can do in society’s eyes, but makes conversations around gender dynamics and the idea of a binary easier to have too.

Having a pop culture locus to discuss and represent difference shouldn’t be a marvel, but something ordinary. I’m looking forward to the next series of Doctor Who to take us a little bit closer towards this future.

General Politics LGBTQ

Pretty in Pride

At the beginning of the Pride Parade in London a glorious menagerie of corporations will thunder down the road and declare that they are LGB(TQ) friendly, and also won’t you please buy are products, and also will you ignore their ethics because look everything is rainbows!

Pride is a commodification of an important riot and the beginning of a struggle for LGBTQ rights that even with the historic US Supreme Court ruling in favour of equal marriage on Friday, is nowhere near finished. Here in the UK trans individuals need their spouses signature to legally change gender or their marriage is dissolve, and around the continent are routinely sterilised against their will. Equal marriage we do not quite yet have, even before we discuss all the other issues that are yet to be properly fought.

Pride in London has issues, inviting UKIP despite the large presence of individuals who the organisation actively fights against, meaning that many of those in charge were initially quite willing to make a celebration feel like a hostile place for LGBTQ BAME individuals and especially for LGBTQ immigrants who constantly have to validate their place in British society. There are major LGBTQ organisations for whom sometimes the B and especially the T and often the Q is considered not important. And then we have individuals themselves, who think that equal marriage is the end of all issues, and that #LoveWins, even though frequently love often is not as important as wealth, privilege and connections in navigating oppressive structures. I will not start on allies who centre the discussion and celebration on them.

Alternatives to Pride are vital to continuing that revolutionary spirit of Stonewall. Mainstream Pride however has its place in creating a large environment where young queers (some at least) will fit in and be surrounded by people celebrating their existence. There are flaws that desperately need to be sorted out, but I don’t believe it is a sunk ship yet; it tells people that if they can be treated by the wider world as if they are a sin, they might as well also adopt the sin of Pride.

So  I will critique it to save it, but for today I will be turning up and embracing all the joy of the moment while I can.