Archive for Pop Culture Analysis

Why the Doctor can’t visit Night Vale

Like every other geek on the Internet, I’ve spent the summer and fall getting caught up with surreal horror darling “Welcome to Night Vale”, a podcast that’s ostensibly a community radio show aired in a sleepy little desert town where every conspiracy theory is true. The radio host is local Night Vale journalist Cecil Palmer–voiced by actor Cecil Baldwin as the mathematical average of Ira Glass and Rod Serling–who calmly reports on things like PTA meetings marred by inexplicable rifts opening in local spacetime, in between updating listeners on the community calendar and his love life.

The central conceit of the show is that, in Night Vale, “normal” and “strange” have been inverted: the eerie is ordinary, and the commonplace is suspect. The central joke is that this turns out not to matter very much. People living together even in a place like Night Vale–where a sentient glow cloud not only inexplicably glides over town shedding dead animals but also settles down and joins the school board–have the same pettiness and personal dramas as people anywhere else.

Doctor Who is said to be able to go anywhere and do anything, but here, I think, is one story it can’t do, because its central structure is exactly the opposite. In Doctor Who, a strange superhero comes to an ordinary town to solve a problem that the locals cannot–typically, because the threat is so far beyond their comprehension that the Doctor’s specialized knowledge is required–and then leaves again. In Night Vale, a scientist-hero brings his specialized knowledge to unravel the secrets of a strange town where pretty much everything seems outside his comprehension, but finds out that it’s actually normal underneath, and makes his home there.

OH STEVEN MOFFAT NO

By now, most of you are probably aware of Steven Moffat’s categorial denial that he would consider a woman doctor: he considers it as unlikely and improbable as casting a man to play the Queen.

(Obligatory Kids In The Hall link.)

Regular readers may have noticed that I have cut Steven Moffat a lot of slack. I’ve met him. I like him–honestly, he’s smart and funny in person, with this wonderfully dry, self-deprecating charm–in the weird asymmetrical way that people who go to cons get to like guests of cons. But here I have no hesitation in saying that I think he’s catastrophically wrong.

Let’s review, shall we?

The Queen The Doctor
A real person An imaginary person
A human from the planet Earth A Gallifreyan/Time Lord from the planet Gallifrey
Member of a species whose gender identity is innate (though it may not match the gender assigned at birth) and stable Member of a species that can change apparent gender under some circumstances
Could certainly be played by a man; in fact, was always played by a man on the Elizabethan and Jacobean stages. Could certainly be played by a woman; in fact, was played by a woman in “The Curse of Fatal Death”, though admittedly Moffat may not have heard of that obscure–oh, he wrote it?

I think Moffat means well, and that he really does think he isn’t sexist. Unfortunately, this leads him into the classic privileged mistake: thinking that his good intentions (or, more accurately, lack of bad intentions) is a magic get-out-of-sexism free card. Even if his behavior and writing is sexist… well, sexists are those terrible people over there who hate women. Not him. He doesn’t hate women! He loves women! He just doesn’t want to cast one, or hire any to write for him, or write women who fall outside of a narrow range of stock types. And he really doesn’t want to examine his own reasons for his behavior, or to listen to people unless they agree with him:

“[A female Doctor] didn’t feel right to me, right now. I didn’t feel enough people wanted it [...] Oddly enough most people who said they were dead against it – and I know I’ll get into trouble for saying this – were women [...] [They were] saying, ‘No, no, don’t make him a woman!’”

(Here we see a glimmering of self-awareness–the hazy notion that he’ll “get in trouble” for voicing an opinion–struggling to make itself known. It gets shot down, but it’s there all the same.)

Ultimately, Steven Moffat’s major failing is that he doesn’t or won’t listen. Don’t get me wrong: I don’t believe that the voice of fandom is sacrosanct. Fandom doesn’t always know what it wants. But I do think that fandom should be listened to.

Not obeyed.

Listened to.

Not dismissed out of hand with condescension and an absolute refusal to consider the way that one’s actions belie one’s noble motives.

Domesticating the Doctor Part VI: Soufflés in the TARDIS

[Crossposted at TansyRR]

Previously on Domesticating the Doctor, we looked at our hero’s distaste of the domestic sphere throughout the Classic Years (with a brief holiday from it when he was Jon Pertwee), we looked at the three Mother-in-Law characters from the RTD era and how this new, rebooted version of our hero coped with jam, Christmas dinner and housing estates, we delved back into pre-war Britain with a very human Doctor, we poked holes in his new Moffat era family with Marrying the Ponds and then examined the final act of that relationship in Divorcing the Ponds.

As it turned out, the new companion of 2012 provided me with a brilliant coda to my Domesticating the Doctor series – a girl with an egg-whisk in her belt who moonlights as a Victorian governess!

Thank you, Mr Moffat. I’ll take it from here.

To me, the most baffling element of Asylum of the Daleks was not what the hell Jenna-Louise Coleman was actually doing there, five months before we expected her to arrive. It was: how does the Doctor know that you require fresh eggs and milk to make a soufflé?

I mean, seriously. It took him nine hundred and one years to get the hang of jam.

OswinOswaldColeman’s character of Oswin Oswald is explicitly domestic, from the cozy home she has set up for herself in the belly of a crashed spaceship to the egg whisk she wears in the utility belt of her little red dress. She even dictates letters home to her Mum. It’s all a cruel trick, of course, but it’s a clever one. Oswin is hanging on to the precious shreds of her remembered humanity, and the burnt birthday soufflé that was ‘too perfect to live’ is a part of that illusion.

Domesticity – the place we live, the everyday tasks that heroic stories tend to ignore – is an important aspect of humanity. We don’t all have to be 1950’s housewives who make perfect soufflés, or even switch on an oven, but to me the most interesting science fiction (and indeed the most interesting history) is that which explores how people actually go about their daily lives.

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Domesticating the Doctor Part V: Divorcing the Ponds

[Cross-posted at my blog, tansyrr.com]

The Christmas decorations are still up, we’ve only just started eating the pudding (if I’d known it only took 3 minutes in the microwave I might have cooked it on Christmas Day) but the festive season is pretty much over in our house. Time to chew over the 2012 Doctor Who episodes (Series Pond & the Christmas Special) with a couple of new installments of DOMESTICATING THE DOCTOR.

Previously on Domesticating the Doctor, we looked at our hero’s distaste of the domestic sphere throughout the Classic Years (with a brief holiday from it when he was Jon Pertwee), we looked at the three Mother-in-Law characters from the RTD era and how this new, rebooted version of our hero coped with jam, Christmas dinner and housing estates, we delved back into pre-war Britain with a very human Doctor, and finally we poked holes in his new Moffat era family with Marrying the Ponds.

Before I get to the 2012 episodes, I wanted to touch briefly on the Night and the Doctor shorts, which were released last year as part of the Season 6 box set, but which I personally failed to watch until somewhere around the beginning of Season 7. These little sketches not only answer some rather intriguing questions about the actual timey wimey physics involved in the Doctor’s marriage to River Song, but also expands on his relationship with Amy, cementing it once and for all as being far closer to a familial connection than anything else.

This Doctor doesn’t get why married people should want to share a bed, but is in his element when talking about his best friend’s childhood – children make sense to him in a way that grown ups don’t, and he seems far less threatened by their domesticity. If this wasn’t fully clear from The Doctor, the Widow and the Wardrobe (which probably deserves a post of its own, to be honest) in which the Doctor upcycles a house to be a child’s paradise but sneers at the functional adult rooms, it should certainly be clear from the scene in which he shows Amy the power he can have over her childhood and her memories, using only a theoretical ice-cream.

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Cosplayers are not “fake geek girls.”

Two white women in tutu cosplays. One is the fifth Doctor and one is the TARDIS.

My friend and I cosplaying at Gally. How adorable are we? Unsurprisingly, we didn't care much about boners when making or wearing these.

Of course Cosplay Appreciation Day devolved into some asshole decrying cosplayers for being fake geek girls. Because, honestly.

Look, geek men. We’re all tired of saying this.

You are not the judge of who’s a “real” geek. Not even if you have a penis. Not even if you’re white. Not even if you work in the industry. Not even if you’ve been a geek for decades. No one crowned you gatekeeper of the geeks, and it makes you look like a pretentious douche to act like you are one.

Women who cosplay, whether they are doing “sexy” cosplay or not, do so for a variety of mostly complex reasons. I’m going to hypothesize, from my conversations with cosplayers, that approximately none of them do it to give you boners and then turn you down for the pleasure of seeing you be sad about it. Even the ones who hope to get attention from men generally have other reasons.* Those reasons? All related to being a fan. Cosplayers cosplay because of love. They love the characters, the media, and/or the fan community. They are creating something beautiful and they are performing. This isn’t attention-seeking, this is fucking art.

Lots of women are geeks. Lots of women you don’t think are hot are geeks. Just because some cosplayers have the absolute gall to be fat, small-breasted, butch, or otherwise not conventionally beautiful doesn’t mean that they are just unsuccessful fake geek girls. Again, we’re not all trying to give you boners. I’m one of those cosplayers you’d probably call “con hot,” and my cosplay has nothing to do with you. I’m not going to cons because it’s the only place I can get men to pay attention to me. I don’t think so little of geek men as to believe that they’re so pathetic, awkward, and inexperienced that they would be desperate enough to hit on women like me who they don’t find that attractive. Come to think of it, I don’t think so little of myself to buy that scenario either.

In short, the geek world does not revolve around you. It doesn’t even revolve around men. Most cosplayers are not thinking about men or you when sewing their bustles or screenprinting their costumes or combing local thrift stores for the perfect jacket. And if you haven’t met a “real” geek woman who cosplays, it could be because you’re a dickhead, and women don’t want to talk to you.

 

 

*Seriously, if you wanted to get men to pay attention to you, would you choose to wear a low cut top and mini skirt, which you could buy in a store and wear to parties afterward, or would you spend hours of labor constructing and collecting pieces for a costume you’ll wear very few times only to cons?

Seven (or More) Queens That The Doctor Met Before Nefertiti…

[crossposted from my blog at tansyrr.com]

Forgive the frivolity of this post but it occupied my attention on a long drive on Monday afternoon, knowing that Dinosaurs on a Spaceship awaited me at the end of the journey.

Historical queens! Oddly enough, while the historical was an essential staple of very early 1960′s Who, and continued to be a feature in quite a few later stories even though the ‘true’ historical went the way of the Dodo (written out halfway through never to be seen again) very quickly, it’s only in New Who that the Celebrity Historical episode has become a true tradition.

Classic Who does have a few gratuitous historical figures, it must be said, and even more are name-dropped by the Doctor in his more grandiose moments, but many of its historicals are more about the time period than the famous faces.

But I wanted to write about Queens in particular, because I’m rather fond of them as a species, and it certainly seems from New Who that they have opinions about the Doctor too… though, spoilers, not as many want to snog him as you may think!

[Spoilers for assorted TV stories and Big Finish plays below, but not for the very recent Dinosaurs on a Spaceship, unless you didn't want to know that Queen Nefertiti is in it, in which case... oops? It was in the trailer?]

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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.