Archive for 7 November 2012

Barbie Takes Up Cosplay

[crossposted at smallthingsmakemehappy.com]

The picture shows eight dolls of differing genders, ethnicities and ages dressed as the first eight doctors.

Eight dolls, dressed as eight doctors.

When Tansy Rayner Roberts mentioned a few months ago that the Doctor Who Pattern Book included guidelines for doll costumes, I decided to snap up a copy and start sewing suits for my own collection of 1/6thfigures.

The picture shows a Barbie doll dressed as the fifth Doctor, with a red-haired fashion doll dressed as a femme Turlough.

Turlough and the Fifth Doctor.

The book contains knitting instructions for a cardigan, trousers and top intended to fit Action Man. For non-UK readers, Action Man is a toy soldier (similar to GI Joe in the USA). The knitter can vary the colour of wool used to create different Doctor outfits. My mother followed the pattern to knit the cardigan worn by the second Doctor, above; it was simple and quick to make. As I’m stronger at sewing than knitting, I raided the remnants box and improvised all the other items of clothing.

The way fashion dolls are gendered and racialised presents problems from a feminist perspective, as do the consumerist values doll manufacturers promote. But dolls are also eminently hackable and easy to queer. Rather than stick rigidly to Action Men—whose military masculinity is already a curious choice for modelling the Doctor—I dressed dolls of differing ages, genders and ethnicities.

So far I’ve only had time to make Classic Who costumes (I balked at doing all the assistants as well, but couldn’t resist trying a femme Turlough, pictured right). Doctors nine to eleven are on the list…

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?

Chicks Unravel Time comes out today!

(Note: Thanks Nightsky for that announcement yesterday!)

COURTNEY SAYS:

I’m really excited about today’s publication of Chicks Unravel Time: Women Journey through Every Season of Doctor Who. Chicks Dig Time Lords felt a bit all over the place, for me, with some thoughtful and provoking pieces paired with more shallow commentary. However, from its table of contents, I gather that the sequel is more comprehensive and meaningful, consistently tackling issues of gender, race, sexuality, and power dynamics throughout the volume. And I can’t wait to read it.

Both Tansy and I have essays in this book! Mine is titled “Maids and Masters: The Distribution of Power in Doctor Who Series Three,” and is an exploration of the power dynamics between the Doctor and his companions (focused, of course, on Martha) and the Master and Lucy.

What’s so compelling about the Doctor? Why do so many different kinds of people jump in the TARDIS to travel with him? Is it his boyish charm, his goodness, his sense of humor?

I would argue that for most of the companions in the new series, the most attractive part of the Time Lord is his power. To convince Rose to leave her life for adventure, the ninth Doctor expands on the power he has: “Did I mention that it travels in time?” Later, Martha says to the crowd in the tenement in Last of the Time Lords, “I know what he can do.” That’s her vote of confidence for the Doctor, how she convinces the people of the Doctor’s importance: what he can do, not how good or brave he is. The adventure the Doctor offers his companion is inseparable from his power, from his ability to manipulate space and time, from his ability to threaten and fight enemies unimaginably evil and powerful. Power impacts every relationship the Doctor has, but it’s not something Who fans talk about often. We like to pretend, I think, that the Doctor’s extraordinary power isn’t important. We like to think that it doesn’t affect him or his relationships with others. We like to think that if companions are “strong” enough, sassy enough, smart enough, they are his equals. But no matter how many times a companion saves the Doctor, or how many times a companion stands up to him, they don’t have his power. The Doctor can manipulate space and time, travel through them in a manner even the humans of the future could only imagine. He can fix practically anything with his magic sonic screwdriver. He can hold the knowledge of infinite lifetimes in his head. He can read minds. He can (and does) force his will on others: he takes away Donna’s memory; he disables Jack’s ability to time travel; he traps a girl in a mirror. His power outstrips any possible capabilities of his companions.

The disproportionate power dynamic in the Doctor/companion relationships is something each companion in the new series struggles with at some point or another. When Rose protests in School Reunion, “I’m not his assistant,” she voices the frustration that many of the companions have felt with the Doctor. The truth is, they know that they are small next to the Doctor, who is practically a demigod. But they, along with most of the audience, resist that reality, insisting that they are as good as, as clever as, as important as the Doctor. And perhaps they are all those things. But they are not as powerful as him. And this crucial fact is never more evident than it is in Series Three, where it seems that unequal power distribution in close relationships becomes a near-constant theme.

I argue that Martha as John Smith’s maid is a visual exaggeration of, but not a departure from, Martha’s position as companion. Because I like to be provocative, apparently!

TANSY SAYS:

I am ridiculously excited to be in this book! I’ve enjoyed all of the ‘Geek Girls’ books from Chicks Dig Time Lords to Whedonistas and Chicks Dig Comics, but it’s great to see them coming back to the original idea of many female voices talking critically and squeefully about Doctor Who, with such a dynamite concept.

Personally I’m desperate to get my hands on a copy to see what Diana Gabaldon has to say about the Second Doctor and Jamie McCrimmon!

My own essay is “The Ultimate Sixth,” dealing with the problematic and erratic final Colin Baker season, Trial of a Time Lord (Season 23, 1986). Which I happen to love like the blazes, even though it’s broken in a million places.

There’s plenty of crunchy feminist discussion in my essay, of course – after all, there are some brilliant, strong female supporting characters in the story, most of them played by middle aged women such as Joan Sims, Honor Blackman and Lynda Bellingham. But perhaps of most relevant to Doctor Her readers is my discussion of the fate of Peri (Nicola Bryant), one of the more controversial production decisions of this era. Peri actually has two potential endings to her story, both problematic in different ways, and it’s one of those issues that has kept fans arguing for decades:

[SPOILERS!]

But that’s the problem, isn’t it? The marriage. Peri has two fates – to die twice at the hands of Crozier and Yrcanos, and to marry Yrcanos and live as a warrior queen. Neither of these are good options. The Doctor’s behavior to Peri takes on huge repercussions (never dealt with) upon her death, but the alternative is that she gets to live on an alien planet with a crazy warlord king whom she never displays any attraction to whatsoever. The closest thing to affection we see from her is exactly what you might reluctantly offer a large, vicious dog who almost bit your arm off, but was distracted at the last minute by a packet of sausages and now thinks it is your friend.

“There’s a good warlord” is not a basis for a lasting marriage. Neither is the moment when Yrcanos stops being funny for thirty seconds and strokes Peri’s cheek. She flinches, and you see how afraid of him she is. It’s chilling and creepy and I know it was the eighties but really, really? That’s her happy ending? That’s the best she can expect? I would so much rather hear that she went back to Yrcanos’ home planet, introduced his culture to democracy and kicked his arse in the polls. Peri for President!

COURTNEY SAYS:

We hope you’ll go and buy the book, and read the rest. We’re both proud of what we’ve contributed to this anthology, and I hope that this is just the start of Doctor Who fan books that contain numerous essays meaningfully analyzing Doctor Who with a feminist lens.

And if you’re interested in a book giveaway (let’s be honest, who isn’t), there’s one at Love & Monsters! Go enter before the 16th to be eligible!

It goes without saying that they make outstanding gifts

For those of you who don’t know, Chicks Unravel Time, the highly-anticipated followup to 2010’s Hugo-winning Chicks Dig Time Lords, is out next Tuesday, Nov. 13. Our own Courtney Stoker is a contributor. UPDATE: And so is Tansy Rayner Roberts, which I didn’t know before. Congrats, Tansy!

Later this month, Outside In: 160 New Perspectives on 160 Classic Doctor Who Stories by 160 Writers is out, on the 49th anniversary, in fact: Nov. 23. I’m in this one.