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TV needs diverse queer characters: John Barrowman

This guest post was written by Sheena Goodyear, a reporter, blogger and copy editor for Sun Media. When she grows up, she wants to be Special Agency Dana Scully. You can read her thoughts about TV at Rabbit Ears, her video game ramblings at Button Mashers and her news stories at the Toronto Sun.

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Capt. Jack Harkness, bisexual superhero.

John Barrowman — known for playing Captain Jack Harnkess, possibly the first and only queer sci-fi hero on a children’s TV show — says LBGT people deserve to be represented on television all their diversity.

Capt. Jack originated on BBC’s Doctor Who and later got his own spin-off, the more adult-oriented Torchwood. The roguish, bisexual con man-turned-hero with a flirtatious charm that rivals James Bond’s is one of the best things to come out of the Russell T. Davies’ run on Who. 

In response to  question about queer representation in science fiction at a Fan Expo panel in Toronto on Sunday, Barrowman admitted mainstream  TV has more gay characters. But those characters, unlike Jack, tend to be reduced to stereotypes.

My big this is — and this is where I’m so proud of Capt. Jack and proud of what Russell and Steven and July Gardner and the BBC allowed me to help create — was the fact that I’m a hero. I’m not a flouncing queen — and there’s nothing wrong with that, don’t get me wrong — but there’s a very diverse group of gay men and women out there. And we need to be represented on television in the proper way. We don’t need to all be stereotyped on television.

That’s what happened in the mainstream. And unfortunately, certain audiences around the world only identify with types. For writers and people that are creating new shows and doing things differently and not just writing stereotypes, those are the shows we should stand up for and watch and be proud of.

There’s no doubt that Capt. Jack has been a huge role model for many a young LBGT geek. Take this blogger who says watching Jack on Doctor Who as a teenager helped her feel OK with who she was. Or the fans at Barrowman’s panel, many of whom stood up to identify themselves as queer and thank him for his portrayal of Jack.

But Barrowman himself is also a role model, putting a bit of himself into Jack and never shying away from his own sexuality in the spotlight. He speaks often about his longtime partner Scott Gill, despite industry pressure to keep quiet.

In fact, someone said to me, and this producer was gay himself, and he said to me, “You can’t say ‘your partner’ and you shouldn’t talk about this you shouldn’t do that and you shouldn’t be who you are.” And I went back to Scott and I said, “Look what should I do?” And he said, “Well, what do you want to do?” And I said, “Well, I’m not gonna ask you to hide and pretend, and go to a function and then pretend to have a girl on my arm because some people aren’t comfortable with it. That’s not my problem. So I’m gonna be who I am.”

You can catch Barrowman this fall on Arrow, which premiers Oct. 12 on the CW.

This post is cross-posted from Rabbit Ears.

Some people build TARDISes

This guest post was written by Sheena Goodyear, a reporter, blogger and copy editor for Sun Media, who watches too much TV and drinks too much coffee. Her biggest dream — and her biggest fear — are to meet Joss Whedon. You can read her thoughts about TV at Rabbit Ears, her video game ramblings at Button Mashers and her news stories at the Toronto Sun


Not everyone is lucky enough to have a TARDIS steal them, transport them through time and space and always take them where they need to be. Some people have to build their own.

That’s what the talented, creative and meticulous folks who populate TARDIS Builders do. The site is dedicated to documenting and showcasing fan-made Doctor Who props. The blue police-box TARDIS seems to be  favourite among crafty Whovians, but the site also features of other props from the show, including TARDIS consoles, gadgets and more.

Aside from pictures of their incredibly impressive final products, many of the the hobbyists who make these props also keep detailed build-diaries. Click on the pictures below to find out more about how they were made.

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Life-sized TARDIS on display at an airport. Why would anyone take a plane when there's a TARDIS available?

» Read more..

Time Lord’s Road To Global Domination – Anticipation Of Year 49

I opened my mailbox and found the Doctor inside….Well, on a magazine actually BUT it’s a wonderful article in EW.

My beloved Doctor, this amazing creature I share with millions around the world, is ready to return.

The article, and some of the comments made there in,  started my wheels turning. The impact if the Whoniverse and The Tao of Who on popular culture. Especially the impact this very Brit style of thinking/ ideals has on American Culture.

How do these questions impact this blog and the ideals, outlook and discussions we provoke?

I don’t know as of yet……I can’t wait to find out. 

We face the loss of old companions and the introduction of new. There are rumors flying about the return of River Song AND my beloved Captain Jack Harkness.

I’m excited, the anticipation of new adventures, new characters and brilliant writing have me twitching like a chihuahua after a meth cookie. I hope the rest of you are as ”GIDDY” as I am, and we happily dissect each episode and have spirited witty debates over every nuance of amazing writing.

 

Nu Who Bechdel List

The Bechdel Test applied to the 2005-2012 Doctor Who
I saw another list of Bechdel tested Nu Who recently, but it seemed pretty inaccurate to me.  So I went through every single episode individually and tried it myself.  These are my results, which kind of vague “citations” of how it passes the test.  I used the “named” version of the test, just to be hardcore!
I usually just list one example of test-passingness, because I didn’t look for every example.  If you know more examples, let me know, I’ll check them and put them on!
If you see any flaws, please point them out and I’ll check, then edit the list!
The rules:
1. It has to have at least two [named] women in it
2. Who talk to each other
3. About something besides a man

 

Rose
Rose and Jackie talk about things like work and the cat-flap. – 3

End of the World
Rose talks to Cassandra about Earth and Raffalo about plumbing! – 3

The Unquiet Dead
Rose and Gwyneth talk about the Big Bad Wolf and the Gelth – 3

Aliens of London
Rose and Jackie talk about Rose disappearing – 3

World War 3
Rose and Harriet Jones talk – 3

Dalek
Rose just talks to the boys, I think – 1

The Long Game
This one only just scrapes by when Cathica and Suki chat about floor 500 – 3

Father’s Day
Little Rose and Jackie “talk” about Pete.  Barely makes a – 2

The Empty Child 
Rose and Nancy don’t get a chance to talk here – 1

The Doctor Dances
Rose and Nancy chat about the war and the future – 3

Boom Town
Blon and Cathy talk about the reactor blowing up, and irritable bowels – 3

Bad Wolf
Um…Rose talks to the Ann-Droid about peroxide – 3

Parting of the Ways
Rose and Jackie talk about Pete and the Doctor and…life travelling with the Doctor…could that make this a 3?  I’m hesitant.  Lets go with a – 2

 

Season Average: 2.5/3

 

The Christmas Invasion
Rose and Jackie talk about Harriet Jones – 3

New Earth
Cassandra and Rose talk about the human race and body image – 3

Tooth and Claw
I don’t think any two women talk about anything other than the dudes in this one – 2

School Reunion
Rose talks to Sarah about the Doctor – 2

Girl in the Fireplace
Rose and Reinette talk mainly about the Doctor, so – 2

Rise of the Cybermen
Rose and Jackie talk about Pete – 2

Age of Steel
Jackie and Rose have a couple of brief exchanges about Jackie being alive – 3

The Idiot’s Lantern
Rose talks to the Wire about the weather.  Barely counts!  - 3

The Impossible Planet 
There are 3 main female characters, but I don’t think any of them have a conversation – 1

The Satan Pit
Ida and Rose talk about the Doctor – 2

Love & Monsters
I believe the ladies of LINDA only talk about the Doctor in group discussions – 2

Fear Her
Trish and Rose talk about Chloe – 3

Army of Ghosts
Rose and Jackie talk about how Rose is changing; Adeola and Yvonne talk about work; Jackie and Yvonne talk about groceries – 3

Doomsday
Rose and Jackie talk about the Doctor; Jackie and Yvonne talk about Torchwood and Cybermen – 3


Season Average: 2.4/3

 

The Runaway Bride
Donna and her mum talk about her disappearing act – 3

Smith and Jones
Martha talks to Tish about the rain going upwards – 3

The Shakespeare Code 
The witches talk to each other, basically just about the Doctor and Will – 2

Gridlock
Martha talks to Cheen about life in the gridlock – 3

Daleks in Manhattan
Martha and Tallulah talk about their men – 2

Evolution of the Daleks
Tallulah and Martha talk about the psychic paper and dalekanium – 3

The Lazarus Experiment
Tish and Martha talk about the event, and to her mum about missing her – 3

42
Martha phones her mum to ask her questions for the thingy – 3

Human Nature
Martha talks to Jenny about flying away – 3

Family of Blood
Martha talks to Joan about passing medical exams – 3

Blink
the adventures of Sparrow and Nightingale! – 3

Utopia
Martha talks to Chan-Tho about swearing – 3

Sound of Drums
Vivian Rook talks to Tish about having alone time with Lucy Saxon – 3

Last of the Time Lords
Martha talks to Docherty about Toclafane and flowers – 3

 

Season Average: 2.8/3

 

Voyage of the Damned
Foon and Astrid don’t talk, I think – 1

Partners in Crime
Donna and Sylvia talk about the 1980s, Penny and Foster talk about fat – 3

Fires of Pompeii
Evelina and Donna talk about the future – 3

Planet of the Ood
Mercurio and Donna have a brief exchange about the “Noble Corporation” – 3

Sontaran Stratagem 
Donna and Martha talk about their families (I don’t think that counts as “about a man”) – 3

Poison Sky
Martha and Clone Martha talk about poison gas and life – 3

The Doctor’s Daughter
Donna and Jenny talk about travelling, which, to be fair, isn’t talking about the Doctor – 3

Unicorn and the Wasp
Donna and Agetha Christie talk about her books – 3

Silence in the Library
Donna and Evangelista talk about how thick E is – 3

Forest of the Dead
Donna and Evangelista talk about being in the matrix thingy – 3

Midnight 
Pretty much all the women in this story at least talk to each other, but in a group discussion – 3

Turn Left
Donna talks to Sylvia about many things like getting a job; Rose talks to Donna about being the most important person ever – 3

The Stolen Earth
Martha, Harriet, and Sarah talk about the subwave network.  Its being used to contact the Doctor, but I think its more to the point that they’re all being mechanical whizzes and awesome – 3

Journey’s End
Martha talks to Francine about daleks and the key and stuff, if nothing else – 3


Season Average: 2.8/3

 

The Next Doctor
Hartigan and Rosita talk about Rosita being a prostitute – 3

Planet of the Dead
They women talk to each other but its so vague and brief I’d feel bad putting it on here.  But this story is at least half women, and they’re pretty diverse and interesting characters too.  Oh well  - 1

Waters of Mars
Brook talks to multiple crew members about various things that aren’t a dude – 3

End of Time Part 1
Sylvia and Donna talk about presents – 3

End of Time Part 2
Donna talks to Nerys about being a peach – 3


Specials Average: 2.6/3

 

Eleventh Hour
Amy and Jeff’s Grandma talk about something other than a man, but Jeff’s nan isn’t named!  Dr. Ramsden is named, but she doesn’t talk to Amy.  And Amy talks to Prisoner Zero, who spends most of its time as a woman.  So this one is really hard to rate.  It gets at least a 1.   – 1

The Beast Below
Amy talks to Mandy about keep out signs and the like – 3

Victory of the Daleks
Amy and Breen are named, though they don’t really talk to each other.  Breen talks to an unamed woman a couple of times, but that doesn’t count, i suppose – 1

Time of Angels
River and Amy talk about the catacombs and the injection, and the “well done” for beating the angel thing – 3

Flesh and Stone
River and Amy talk a bit about Amy’s counting down illness or whatever – 3

Vampires of Venice 
Isabella and Amy talk about being in the vampirey place, and Amy and Rosanna talk too  - 3

Amy’s Choice
Amy and Mrs. Poggit don’t talk – 1

The Hungry Earth 
Alaya talks to Ambrose about her son and Amy – 2

Cold Blood
Nasreen and Amy talk about how to bring the Silurians to the surface – 3

Vincent and the Doctor
yeah – 0

The Lodger
Amy and Sophie are named, but they don’t chat – 1

The Pandorica Opens
River and Liz talk about the Doctor; Amy and River talk about the crash of the byzantium and stonehenge – 3

The Big Bang
Amelia, Aunt Sharon, and the therapist chat about stars – 3


Season Average: 2/3

 

A Christmas Carol
Isabella and Abigail talk about christmas dinner – 3

Impossible Astronaut
Amy and River talk about the Doctor; Joy and Amy talk about the Silent.  If the Silent counts as a man, that makes this – 2

Day of the Moon 
Amy talked to Melody about shooting her, but Melody wasn’t named in this episode.  Ugh, so I dunno.  I mean, River’s named, and the little girl IS River.  And the whole point of the “not named” thing is that not being named makes the character less relevant.  However, Melody Pond is probably the most relevant character to the whole story.  So I’m gonna go with – 2

Curse of Black Spot
I guess the Siren doesn’t count as a “named character”.  Madame Kovarian is in the episode, but unnamed.  - 0

The Doctor’s Wife
Auntie and Idris talk about Idris “dying” – 3

The Rebel Flesh 
Jenny talks to Miranda, and Miranda and Ganger Miranda chat – 3

The Almost People
Miranda and Miranda chat again – 3

A Good Man Goes to War
Amy talks to Lorna Bucket about the baby and stuffs.  Oh and Vastra and Jenny talk their kinky lesbian interspecies talk – 3

Let’s Kill Hitler
Amelia tells Mels off for stealing a bus and otherwise being generally naughty – 3

Night Terrors
Amy, Claire, and Mrs. Rossiter are all named, and Amy has a conversation with an unnamed woman, but I guess that only gives it a – 1

The Girl Who Waited
Ok, so the thing about this episode is that Amy is only one person.  However, not only are there two Amys who talk to each other, its vital to the whole concept of the story that their lives are as valid as one another’s.  So I have to argue that this gets a – 2

God Complex
Amy and Rita chat briefly about a clown and things  - 2

Closing Time
Kelly and Shona at the start talking about closing the shop and the electricity, though that’s interspersed between talking about Kelly’s wanting to go on her date or whatever. There are at least two other named women in this story. – 2

Wedding of River Song
Amy talks to Madame Kovarian about stealing Melody before she murders her – 3


Season Average: 2.2/3

 

The Doctor, the Widow, and the Wardrobe
Madge talks to Lily.  Madge talks to that Androzani lady a bunch, but I guess she’s only named in the credits.  So I think this only gets a – 2

 

Davies era average: 2.7/3

Moffat era average: 2.1/3

 

 

You and I both know, Rose, that the Doctor is worth the linkspams.

From Think Progress, a handy list of methods for male feminist allies to combat sexism in video game culture. It’s actually pretty useful, and most of the methods would transfer well to science fiction fan culture.

At Kotaku, Katie Williams documents her experience at E3, where game promoters acted as though she couldn’t possibly know how to play shooters because she’s a woman.

A thought-provoking post at Geekalitarian talks about body size, race, and cosplay.

Ever wanted to build your own TARDIS bookshelf? Of course you have!

A bright blue bookshelf with TARDIS panels and windows on the sides and a light on the top.

From STFU Moffat, a distressing quote from Steven Moffat on who can be a companion:

‘It’s just a question of who credibly is going to agree to go in the TARDIS? Who’s going to do it? Is it going to be a mother of 15 children? No. Is it going to be someone in their 60s? No. Is there going to be a particular age range? I mean… who’s going to have a crush on the Doctor? You know, come on! It’s more than a format. It’s evolved from good, dramatic reasons.’

At Medical Daily, psychologists have “discovered” how people identify closely with (or “subconsciously become”) their favorite characters in fiction. Fans worldwide roll their eyes that it took them so long to notice.

Over at Think Progress, Alyssa argues that we need to stop equating gender expression with sexuality, using the newly-released Brave as an example.

If you have a suggestion for our linkspam, please email it to: courtney (at) doctorher (dot) com.

Sherlock star says ‘fans aren’t keen’ on a woman Doctor

This guest post was written by Sheena Goodyear, a reporter, blogger and copy editor for Sun Media. She loves cats, coffee and comic books. She used to pretend to slay vampires with a wooden stake, which her father carved out of a chair leg. You can read her thoughts about TV at Rabbit Ears, her video game ramblings at Button Mashers and her Canadian news stories at the Toronto Sun

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British actress Lara Pulver from season two of Sherlock.

Actress Lara Pulver has deflated rumours she could play the next incarnation of The Doctor, the time-and-space travelling hero of BBC’s Doctor Who.

The rumours started swirling when Pulver had a meeting with Who showrunner Steven Moffat. Pulver starred in the second season of Moffat’s other BBC venture, Sherlock.

“Steven and I have both said we thoroughly enjoyed working together, and then there was me being in Wales so the media put two and two together,” she told Digital Spy of the rumours.

But she quickly took the wind out of the sails of those of us who are tired of women being relegated to the role of sidekick in the Whoniverse. When asked if she’d be excited to play The Doctor, she said: “Yes and no. Not if it meant the end of the Doctor Who franchise, because the fans aren’t keen on it.”

The Doctor is the last of an ancient race known as the Time Lords, who regenerate new bodies and new-ish personalities when they die. In the episode “The Doctor’s Wife,” guest writer Neil Gaiman snuck into Doctor Who cannon the idea that Time Lords can change genders when they regenerate. This tid-bid has sparked non-stop speculation that someday, the British icon, who’s spawned 11 incarnations since the ’60s, could be a woman.

It’s an idea that has some viewers — especially us so-called “fangirls” — pretty excited about the idea of a kick-ass space-trekking role model with a time machine and a sidekick to call her very own. The sheer number of women who crossplay as The Doctor rather than stick to companion costumes is evidence enough there’s an appetite for this change.

But it’s also sparked a lot of fan outrage from folks who say the Doctor can’t be a woman because, you know, he just can’t.

As much as I side with the pro-Time Lady contingent, I understand the show’s hesitancy to go ahead with the gender-bender. From a writing perspective, swapping the Doctor’s sex would be more complicated that it seems. There’s a lot to consider.

Foremost is continuity. Moffat himself touched on this when asked if he’d considered casting a woman as the 11th Doctor before hiring Matt Smith.

A woman can play the part. You have to remember the single most important thing about regeneration is you must convince the audience and the children that’s it’s not a new man, it’s not a different man, it’s the same one. It’s a bigger ask if you turn him into a woman.

Each incarnation of The Doctor a bit different than the last. But deep down, he’s always the same man. His previous experiences still inform his worldview. Certainly, a millennium of maleness has an effect on one’s identity.

Then there’s the complex smorgasbord that is gender identity. After 900 or so years of manhood, would a newly-female Doctor identify as a woman? If so, would the change affect her sexual orientation? Would she retain her attraction to women? Would she take on a young man as her companion? As Doctor Her writer Ritch Ludlow notes, we could end up with a transgender or genderqueer hero.

Can I count the ways in which my Doctor will be queer?
1)   A male who transitioned (very quickly and inexpensively) to female (transgender?)
2)  A woman who would be happy to call herself male again someday (genderqueer?)
3)  A woman who was once in love with other women but perhaps willing to fall in love with men (bisexual/lesbian/pansexual/fluid?)”

Then there’s the matter of how a woman Doctor would be perceived by others. Depending on when and where she’s adventuring, would people still rally behind her without question? Would she be able to exert authority as effortlessly as she did when she had that convenient male privilege? Would she find herself subject to sexism or harassment? The show would have to deal with these issues, especially in stories that take place on Earth, in the present day or in the past.

That’s not to say a queer or trans Doctor wouldn’t be fantastic, or a character navigating the waters of new womanhood wouldn’t be interesting. It would just be a delicate and complicated story to tell, even by Moffat’s timey-wimey standards.

What do you think?

This blog was cross-posted at Rabbit Ears

Which Companion is the Best Feminist Role Model for my Daughters? The start of an on-going research project

"Not hiding behind the sofa!"

From its inception Dr Who has marketed itself as a family program. Family programming has a responsibility to nurture the hearts and minds of the younger generation. From a feminist perspective, this obligation includes challenging, neutralising or at least balancing culturally enforced gender roles.
I remember vividly the fictional women and girls who helped shape my character as a child. Lucy Pevensie taught me the importance of standing up for what you believe. Princess Leia showed me women could be leaders of men. Velma demonstrated to me the value of using intelligence in solving problems. But what are my daughters learning from the women of Dr Who? What life lessons do the companions have to offer them? Are they role models worthy of the feminist geeks I hope my girls are becoming?
I propose we slide Whopanions under the feminist microscope to see if they are worthy of the title: Feminist Fan Girl (and I do mean girl) Icon. Such rigorous examination will naturally require clear criteria for investigation. So, what makes someone a Feminist Fan Girl Icon?
I have compiled a short list of “Success Criteria” (my Deputy Head Teacher would be so proud to know I am using her favourite phrase). It is a list of characteristics I wish for my daughters. It is a list of characteristics I remember being impressed with when girls and women exhibited them in fiction. It is a list to change the world!
1) She must embody a positive body image. (This could also read: “she shalt not contribute to the fascist cult of beauty bitches”, but I wanted to keep this list positive.)
2) She must use her intelligence and be valued for it.
3) She must sometimes “save the day”.
4) She must show spunky independence.
5) She must strive to stay true to her beliefs. (I thought of making this one: “she must strive to stay true to herself, but part of the interest of a female character is the shifting nature of how she sees herself, so I changed it.)
So there you have it. The Criteria have been set. Let the experimentation begin!

 

Thanks to Sarah Andrea Royce for advice on terminology of gender roles v gender identity.  I still think the term “gender role” sounds hopelessly old fashioned and dull but I bend to the wisdom of sensitivity and political accuracy.