Tag Archive for female doctor

I need…fish fingers and linkspam!

At A Shouty Girl with a Scarf, you can read a hilarious bit about how things with River Song would have ended differently if she’d met a Spunky Bisexual Tumblr Girl. This is a riff off the Sassy Gay Friend videos on Youtube.

On Courtney Stoker‘s Tumblr, she talks about how she thinks Doctor Who is never intersectional (and thus feminist), but that fans can (and do!) make it so.

From i09, a TARDIS dildo. Yeah, you read that right.

From a comment at Geek Feminism, a call for participants in an anthology about lady Doctors. Well, not lady Doctors, because that would be copyright-infringing, but “people who identify as female saving the world and/or universe.” The contact information for the proposer is in the comment.

NPR interviewed Steven Moffat about Doctor Who and Sherlock.

Always take a linkspam to a party, Rose. Linkspam is good.

An oldie but goodie post at A Dress a Day, “You Don’t Have to Be Pretty“:

Now, this may seem strange from someone who writes about pretty dresses (mostly) every day, but: You Don’t Have to Be Pretty. You don’t owe prettiness to anyone. Not to your boyfriend/spouse/partner, not to your co-workers, especially not to random men on the street. You don’t owe it to your mother, you don’t owe it to your children, you don’t owe it to civilization in general. Prettiness is not a rent you pay for occupying a space marked “female”.

It’s excellent, go read the rest.

From Racialicious, “How Felicia Day and Chris Hardwick (Unwittingly) Reinforced Geekdom’s Whiteness.” And you should also read the essay by Pam Noles they link in the beginning, “Shame.”

Feminist Harry Potter is one of the best Tumblrs on the internet. Behold:

Luna Lovegood with the caption "A real feminist takes risks without fear & always prioritizes justice, even when everyone else thinks she's crazy."

Hermione Granger with the caption "Because our culture marginalizes the experiences and perspectives of women, this book is called 'Harry Potter' even though I saved Harry's butt a hundred times."

Via Doctor Who News, David Yates says they definitely ARE making a Doctor Who movie, but probably not for 5 or 6 years.

Graham Norton interviews Lalla Ward about her work on the recent audio book of Shada by Gareth Roberts (and Douglas Adams), her time playing Time Lady Romana, and so on. Worth a listen.

On Tor.com they discuss seriously (despite dismissing the idea as silly on Twitter) who they’d like to see cast as a female Doctor – some great casting ideas there along with those we’ve already discussed!

At the Social Justice League, how to be a fan of problematic things.

At i09, they list 10 times the Doctor acted like a total bastard on Doctor Who.

At Tor.com, they discuss Paul Cornell’s decision to forgo being on SF/F panels that do not have 50% women contributors.

Feel free to discuss on any of the above links in the comments!

 

Quick Hit: #YestoFemaleDoctor on Twitter

A tweet today from SFX Magazine’s Twitter account started the #yestofemaledoctor and #notofemaledoctor hashtags (the latter is about as douchey as you would expect).

A tweet from @SFXmagazine reading "So oustide of a Who con, is the world either #yestofemaledoctor or #notofemaledoctor ? Tweet now" Click the picture for the original tweet.

It’s started a fairly interesting conversation on Twitter that you might want to check out. Some of the highlights:

A tweet from @maria_siulee reading "#yestofemaledoctor science fiction that can cross time & space but not gender is a pathetic failure of imagination" Click the picture for the original tweet.

A tweet from @cnstoker reading "And while we're at it, #yestoDoctorofcolor. This isn't the US presidential elections. We can have both. #yestofemaledoctor" Click on the picture for the original tweet.

Tweet from @erinpuff

A tweet from @erinpuff, reading "I'm team #yestofemaledoctor, but not with Moffat as showrunner! A team of awesome feminists needs to stage a coup first." Click on the picture for the original tweet.

It’s encouraging that so many Who fans would like to see a lady Doctor, and would like to see a feminist Doctor Who. (They’re not, after all, the same thing.) I think we’re probably a long way from actually having a Doctor who is a lady, or a person of color, or (dis)abled, or trans*, because fans don’t run things, or worry about ratings and appealing to the lowest denominator. But it’s nice to know that even if they aren’t listening that hard, the fans are telling the BBC what we want, and it isn’t a show that participates in oppression.

That Other Time The Doctor Was a Lady: Unbound Exile

The Doctor Who Unbound series of audio plays at Big Finish were one of their earlier experimental series – you can tell it’s early because a) the plays are all the in the ‘Big Finish for Under a Fiver’ grab bin on their website and b) David Tennant is in it.

David Tennant actually turns up a lot in early (pre-2005) Big Finish plays because he was taking any opportunity he could to be involved with the franchise – previously I’ve heard him as an unrepentant Nazi in Colditz (with the Seventh Doctor and Ace) and as an outrageous Scottish hard-ass UNIT commander in UNIT: The Wasting.

This time around, in Unbound: Exile, Tennant is a bumbling, second string Gallifreyan CIA agent (that’s Celestial Intervention Agency, yes really) trying to hunt down the Doctor on that planet where you usually find the Doctor.

The trick of course being that the Doctor has managed to regenerate, rather sneakily, into a woman, and thus is even harder than usual to track down.

The Unbound series provided some seriously batty premises, the idea being that the production crew could play around with the very idea of what a Doctor Who story was, canon bedamned. The stories are mostly stand alone (though a few have sequels) and include such premises as: the Valeyard killed the Doctor and now Mel is trying to redeem and/or kill him; the Doctor and Susan never left Earth; and my personal favourite, what happened to the Brigadier if the Doctor was never exiled to Earth in the 70′s?

Taking such a bold step to the left allowed them to cast all manner of alternative Doctors, including Derek Jacobi, David Collings, Geoffrey Bayldon and David Warner, and to explore a variety of alternate time streams. At the time, it probably seemed fairly controversial to make one of those Other Doctors into a woman – these days, I suspect we’d wonder why they only picked one.

All I knew about this play coming in was that it was widely regarded as being a bit crap – and my feminist spidey senses had sparked up, wondering whether it was truly bad or if the listeners were just trying to justify why they felt uncomfortable listening to a woman play the iconic “male” role. But I still hadn’t got around to listening to it until recently when the actress in question, Arabella Weir, appeared in DWM talking about her recent experience performing in the Christmas special.

Among other things in the interview, she talked about how she was close friends with David Tennant, and how he had been part of her previous Who experience when she played the Doctor (long before he got to on TV). So I had to check it out!

And… oh. Right. Um.

It’s not a great play, not by Big Finish standards, and certainly not by the standards I expect of the writer, Nicholas Briggs, who turns out stellar material these days. It’s not as bad as I expected, but I can see why people turned away in droves as the first twenty minutes of the story is basically the (female) Doctor getting repeatedly drunk off her face, belching and throwing up with all the sound effects you would expect from such a thing.

Once the story settles down and there’s a bit less vomiting to listen to, it’s actually pretty good. Arabella Weir herself does an excellent performance, though I prefer it when she’s playing the part straight than all the comedy stuff – as would be the case, I think, of any male Doctor too.

I wonder at their choices, long before the script was written. Why is it that the only female Doctor in this series of cool, alternative Doctor Who stories is also the only one that’s a slapstick gross out comedy? Did they think that the listeners wouldn’t accept a serious story with a female lead? Why, if one of the Doctors had to work in a supermarket, was it the woman?

On the other hand, women are often derided as ‘unfunny’ because we’re not used to respecting them as comedians in our culture. Am I the one with the problem, by thinking the female Doctor SHOULDN’T get to be funny? Would I feel differently if it was Tina Fey or Dawn French in the role?

I think, in the end, it’s a bit of all those things. I actually really enjoyed the play when I wasn’t having to listen to burping and vomiting – I thought the plot twist as to why the Doctor was female and how she had got that way was interesting, I liked the friendships she had made on earth, and I thought it did some interesting things to interrogate the role of the Doctor in a domestic setting. Even the issue of characters drinking all the time on weekends to balance out their crappy lives (this was written at the height of “ladette” culture as a media buzzword) was discussed with a certain degree of gravitas. Plus, David Tennant.

I actually REALLY liked Arabella Weir as the Doctor. When she (and that script she’d been lumbered with) wasn’t grossing me out.

Ultimately I suspect that they didn’t quite think through the ramifications of depicting gross-out humour in audio (directly into your ears rather than on TV/film screen at a nice safe distance) and that it sets the play up to fail (or at least scramble to recover from the awful introduction). It’s a shame because if played far more straight, a noirish mystery about the female Doctor, why she was that way, and her attempts to stay under the radar, could have been a far more powerful piece of drama than the mixed bag we ended up with.

And maybe by now, nearly ten years later, Big Finish might have had enough encouragement from fans to portray a female Doctor more than once.

I’d love to hear other opinions on this one, if anyone else has downloaded this play.

i09 commenters on femme Doctor cosplay: A response

Cross-posted at The Cosplay Feminist.

As a researcher of cosplay, who often makes conclusions about the feminist (conscious or unconscious) intentions of cosplayers, I am used to having people say my research and/or conclusions are illegitimate. I often have people tell me I’m “reading too much into” cosplay, that I’m assuming too much about cosplayers, that cosplay isn’t even more than women wearing pretty clothes (all women care about!), so what the hell is there to study?

The comments on my interview at i09 were no exception. I didn’t comment over there, because you have to pay me money to get me to go below the line at major websites, but I will respond to some of the “threads” of comments that were common over there. I also chose these four because I’ve heard them all before, and they are common objections or reactions to my research.

Reaction #1: People can cosplay without having motivations! As exemplified by this comment:

While there are many fascinating points about this interview, saying ‘…but even the ones who were less conscious were clearly making up for what they saw as a lack of female protagonists.’ it is too broad a brush to paint everyone’s motivations with. Sometimes making a costume for fun is just fun without any deep, psychological motivation behind it.

Pretty much everything human beings do creates meaning. Fashion is no different (and neither is costume). To say, “Some people just wear clothes for fun and without having other motivations!” is as silly as saying, “If I wear a suit to work, it’s because I have fun wearing it, not because my boss will then interpret me as professional and qualified.” Clothing has meaning, both personal and cultural. Cosplay is rife with meaning, determined by the wearer, the fan community, and the culture within which the cosplayer exists. The femme Doctors are using certain sartorial choices (like corsets, which may have overlapping meanings on the personal, fan community, and cultural levels) to create different meanings.

Cosplayers don’t always know why they make cosplay choices, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t subconsciously making decisions based on the meanings they want to convey. My interviews with cosplayers have borne this hypothesis out. At first, many want to say that they cosplay “just for fun.” And “fun” is a motivation behind their costuming, but it’s not the only motivation they have. When pushed, they are usually able to come up with all sorts of motivations for what they do. Or their choices conveniently match up with their interpretations. (Take my question to Niki La Teer, who dressed in a femme TARDIS costume and just happened to interpret the TARDIS as female.)

My short answer? No, people can’t cosplay without having multiple motivations and without trying to convey multiple messages/meanings. Everything in my research has led to this conclusion.

Reaction #2: Ladies cosplaying is for fapping. An example:

I would do unspeakable things to most of these doctors. Yep.

Not to mention the TARDIS.

Just…gross. Stop it, fans, because it’s not as endearing as you think.

Reaction #3: The companions are heroes, too! By saying they aren’t, you’re saying they aren’t awesome. Exemplified by this comment:

River Song isn’t a hero? I’d argue that Rose becomes a hero in her own right, too. Though I have problems with the direction they eventually took Martha Jones in, she certainly became her own woman, and a hero. We haven’t followed their solo adventures, but then Doctor Who isn’t their show- it hasn’t depicted Captain Jack’s independent exploits, either.
Sarah Jane may have started out as merely a companion, but her solo adventures have been covered.

All these characters play second fiddle to the Doctor, but since it’s his show, so that criticism seems invalid to me. Batman is a secondary (or tertiary) character in the new Batwoman series because it’s her book!
Like CJ, I applaud how this kind of fan activity can criticize or just recontextualize gender and how it works in the Whoverse, but it seems unfair to these great female characters to say that they’re mere sidekicks.

This comment even mentions why I said that the companions are “definitionally” sidekicks in Doctor Who: the show is about the Doctor. It’s not a two-man show, it’s a one-man show. Notice how there are no episodes in which companions appear, but no Doctor. But there are several episodes in which the Doctor appears with no companion. That’s because the show isn’t about them. They can’t be “heroes” in a show that makes them play “second fiddle” to a dude. You can’t actually have it both ways.

Here’s the thing: this show does not have to have a White man as its hero. It’s not a requirement to be on TV (even if it may seem like it). The producers have choices they make, and they choose for this show be focused around the subjectivity of a person played by an actor in a particularly privileged set of social and political categories. The people who say, “But the show’s about a dude, thus you aren’t allowed to be mad the ladies aren’t protagonists!” are completely missing the point. The show. Doesn’t have to be. About a dude. Even if they wanted to keep the Doctor a White man, it’s possible to have a leading duo in a television show where both subjectivities are at the center of the show, and one is not secondary to another. (See: The X-Files, Castle, Warehouse 13, Bones, etc.) Doctor Who chooses not to do this.

Further, it’s ridiculous to recognize that all the women in Doctor Who play “second fiddle” to the Doctor and then tell me they are heroes/protagonists. I should point out that the reason I used “heroine” as the label here is because, in my mind, the use of “heroine” to describe a secondary character is mainly rhetorical. Obviously, women doing femme Doctor cosplays are not of the opinion that companions are simply not awesome. But they want more. They want women to be the protagonists, the main characters, heroines.

The women of Doctor Who have been amazing. They’ve been complicated, flawed, funny, brilliant, and resourceful. I think they could be pretty fabulous heroines. But the show? It does not frame them as heroines. They may buck against the label “assistant,” but that’s what they are in the show. They are helpers and sidekicks. Their subjectivities, their storylines, their very existence on the show (and in River’s case, their very existence full stop) are predicated on the Doctor. They wouldn’t be there, and we wouldn’t see their stories, without him. Which is why they can never be called heroines.

Reaction #4: Cosplay is derivative, and thus not creative (enough). It took a while for this guy to come right out and say this, but he finally did:

The problem with fandom is that it wants to own the thing it loves and then transform it into their own image. Nu Who is a living testimony to this, but what’s wrong with just liking something for what it is?

If you want to be creative, create your own stuff. Fandom is inherently parasitic these days.

[Emphasis added.] I’d like to point out, first, the privilege inherent in the statement, “What’s wrong with just liking something for what it is?” Oh, you mean a pseudo-imperialistic show that often marginalizes women, people of color, asexual folk, and GBLTQ people? Yes, I suppose I could “just like” that if I was so privileged that I had my head up my own ass.

So, fan culture does indeed take raw material (a TV show, a film, a comic book, a novel) and (irreverently) rips it apart. Fans mine these texts for what they find relevant to their experience as a human being. And they transform that text. They recreate, re-imagine, reinterpret. Bourgeois values are against us doing this, in part because when fans recreate, they are refusing to accept the values, interpretations, and perspectives that are given from the Powers That Be (in this case, authorized creators like actors, directors, and writers). Going against power structures has never been okay with bourgeois value-systems, particularly when those interpretations (like femme Doctor cosplay) makes apparent the structures that oppress particular classes of people.

I’m going to guess this commenter is a straight, White, abled, cis-gendered man. The reason I’m guessing that? Because the show would already have to speak entirely to your (privileged) existence for you to say you’re a fan without irreverently reinterpreting the show yourself. (Or, he’s not, and he does reinterpret, but he assumes that because he doesn’t write fanfic or cosplay, it doesn’t count or he doesn’t do it.)

Let’s address, then, his statement that cosplayers should “be creative” by “creat[ing] their own stuff.” This is a common sentiment about fan works. People act like fan works are derivative, and thus they are less-than. I’ve got news for you, folks: Everything ever written down is derivative, except maybe cave paintings. (Maybe.) Every song you hear on the radio is derivative. (Yes, even the “good” music.) Every piece of artwork, every fashion creation, every architectural masterpiece, every piece of choreography: all derivative. That isn’t a critique; it’s descriptive. Fan works are simply more honest than most about their derivative nature.

So sure, you can draw an arbitrary line between, for example, fanfic and “real writing.” But that line is a construction, not natural truth. There’s nothing more creative about writing something not based on Doctor Who (or Harry Potter or Supernatural). You could argue that most fanfic is terrible, and thus it’s not real writing, and I would laugh at you. Most of the fiction that’s been written down in the world is just as terrible as the vast majority of fanfic. Perhaps you want to argue that because fanfic has not been published, it is not “real” or “creative,” but then you’re just being an asshole.

Fan works and productions are creative. Hell, the works you are deriding, those that reinterpret the text to fit their experiences, may even be more creative, if simply because they are more interpretive. Cosplay is not parasitic, it is productive, like all other fan production.

Examples of creative processes are analyzing a text, reinterpreting a text, and critiquing a text. Fan works do all these things. An example of a non-creative process is “lik[ing] something for what it is,” or passively accepting others’ interpretations.

Femme Doctors and crossplayers: Not that different

Cross-posted at Geek Feminism.

Post-Gallifrey, I was interviewed at i09 about the phenomenon of femme Doctor cosplay. If you’re not familiar with it, femme cosplay is when female cosplayers alter the costumes of male characters to make them feminine. Femme cosplayers add ruffles, lace, heels, alter the silhouette of a costume (often with a corset), etc.

A femme Jackson Lake A femme Jackson Lake sports a corset and long coat. Photo by Alex Halcyon.

This trend is often contrasted with crossplaying. Crossplayers are usually female cosplayers who alter their bodies to costume as male characters. (Male crossplayers dress as female characters.) Unlike their femme counterparts, they will bind their breasts, wear men’s wigs, and wear makeup designed to mask feminine features. Generally, people think these trends are at odds; they believe that femme Doctors and crossplay Doctors are doing very different things.

A femme Eighth DoctorsquirrelyTONKS is a bit of a femme Doctor superstar at the Gallifrey convention. Photo by Alex Halcyon.

A snippet from the interview:

Both crossplay and femme cosplay draw attention to gender. Women passing as men are destabilizing gender by illustrating how easy it is to perform the opposite gender, by showing that all gender performance is performance, since cosplay is fundamentally performative. Femme cosplay does the same thing: it draws attention to the performance of gender, but this time femininity. [...]

So really, crossplay and femme cosplay are not that different. Both alter their bodies, showing that no matter what gender they are playing, their bodies often don’t match any ideal. While crossplayers wear binders, femme cosplayers wear corsets and heels. But their motivations are the same: they emphasize the performative nature of gender, and thus destabilize it. Women do this more because they have more to gain by destabilizing gender, being at the bottom rung of the gender hierarchy.

I have quite a bit more to say about how I think femme Doctor cosplay (and crossplay) is a feminist critique of Doctor Who and its fan community, so go read it!

two femme fivesTwo femme Fifth Doctors with cropped jackets…and celery! Photo by Alex Halcyon.

Feminism & Doctor Who: Gally 2012

panel on interpretative cosplay

Cross-posted at From Austin to A&M.

I just came back from Gally, the big-ass Doctor Who convention in L.A., and I am already counting the days until next year’s. Gally is like a big party full of friends you don’t necessarily know yet. Gally always has some cool stars, writers, and directors, but for me the highlight of the con is the panels, the cosplay, the random crafting and creativity of fellow con-goers. Because what makes Gally magical is the fans, and what we take away from the show, what we do with the show, how we interpret it.

I only went to four panels this year, because I planned my sleeping poorly, so I’ve asked Nightsky to come join me in writing up the convention. She went to some of the panels I highlighted and slept through.

21st Century Doctor Who Fandom: The Cosplay Factor (Courtney)

This was a fairly disappointing panel, though I admit my expectations were high. I was on the panel, and I pitched it to the convention. The conversation started off with a “Why are we even doing this? Cosplay is simple and easily understood!” which was an inauspicious place to begin.

We meandered at first, partly because no one seemed to know why we were there (except me, and no one was listening to me at first), and so it became a “yay, cosplay!” panel for a while. Bob Mitsch talked about how awesome it is to have creators and authors appreciate your cosplay, telling a story about how Matt Smith said on TV that the Doctor cosplays were neat. It was kind of a cool story, but I felt like we were placing way too much stock in what actors and other authorized creators thought. Cosplay isn’t about Matt Smith. If he hated it, we’d still do it, because it’s about fans and their interpretation of the show.

So we moved on, thankfully, but only because Bob was very silly and said he wanted to figure out what the “cosplay factor” was. In one word. But it meant that we began actually talking about what cosplay is and why people do it and what role it has in the fan community. The first thing we decided was that cosplay is an act of love, which, awww.

 At some point I articulated something I’ve been trying to figure out for years: Cosplayers come at cosplay with different sets of motivations. Usually, these are motivations as fans and motivations as costumers. As fans, they may want, for example, to choose a character because they love them. As fans, they won’t care if they are buying pieces or making them, because what’s important is the interpretation they are putting forth with their cosplay. As costumers, however, they may want to choose characters they don’t like much, because their costumes are interesting or challenging. They’ll probably want to make or alter most of the pieces. And these motivations, obviously, can be at odds with each other. It’s like a see-saw. For some cosplayers, the fan motivations vastly outweigh the costumer motivations, and for some the costumer motivations sometimes trump the fan motivations (though usually only for some cosplays, not all of them).

At this point Bob just started stringing words together, saying the cosplay factor is “love, creativity, meaning, seesaw,” and a bunch of other silly things that made no sense out of context. He’s a funny dude. [Nightsky: I think he was trying to isolate the “cosplay factor” like the Daleks tried to isolate the “human factor” in “The Evil of the Daleks”.]

The Remix Culture (Nightsky)

Yes, while Courtney was off doing something frivolous like “eating” or “sleeping” or maybe even attending Louise Jameson’s show, I was in panels. Because it is, frankly, kind of awesome to be on a panel. First up was a panel on remixing, especially as manifested in fanvids.

 Despite my best attempts at keeping the discussion on remixing itself, it kept drifting over to fan/creator interactions. I’d really been hoping to steer things over to a discussion on participatory culture: one of the worst things Hollywood has done for us is to instill and perpetuate this notion that culture flows one way, from them to us. I think that’s crap. I think culture is a conversation, which is why I’m so happy to see fanac in all its various forms: people all over the world saying that culture is theirs, that they have every right to participate no matter what the elites think.

[ETA: Here is the exact discussion I wanted to have.]

Doctor Who, Sexual Tropes and the “Gay Agenda” (Nightsky)

 This was it, the biggie. From a rant that sort of slipped out of me at the end of last year’s “Chicks Dig Time Lords” panel, I pitched a couple of panels with themes like “Asexuality in Doctor Who” and “Queer Readings of Who”. The Powers That Be (wisely) merged those with a grab bag of related pitches, and out came this panel, which I delighted in calling “Sexytimes in Doctor Who”.

My fellow panelists and I, and our standing room only crowd (!), quickly launched into a spirited and often contentious–but always awesome–conversation. Panelist Mark described how important it was to him, as a child, to have a space that wasn’t heteronormative. Aware he was different from the other kids, increasingly aware he was gay, but rejecting the portrayals of gay men he was surrounded with, Mark found refuge in the Doctor’s uncomplicated otherness. Sarah, the panel’s other ace (!!), described the feeling of betrayal when the new series Doctors started finding love: asexuals get one, maybe two, canonical aces across all media, and now we can’t even have those? After briefly touching on some of the queer moments in the classic series, we launched into queerness in new Who. Someone in the audience opined that RTD-era Who had gay people around for no particular reason, while Moffatt-era Who seems to showboat a little more. Someone else pointed out Sky Silvestry, the lesbian businesswoman from “Midnight”, and noted that she didn’t appreciate another airing of the “psycho lesbian” trope. A young transman called out all Who, old and new, for falling down on trans* inclusion. I realized afterwards that I’d forgotten to discuss Alpha Centauri, an interesting genderqueer alien from the old series’ Peladon stories, and how… remarkable it is that every single alien species in the Whoniverse is sexually dimorphic.

I’d planned to go straight to sleep afterwards, but instead I stayed up until 1:30 talking about gender normativity with my roommate, a journalism student from Canada. I love Gally.

Also, “RTD and his Gay Agendas” is the name of my next trock band.

Time Lords & Time Ladies: Interpretive Cosplay and Crossplay in Doctor Who (Courtney)

This was by far the most rewarding panel to me. I moderated, and I was joined by a number of very smart cosplaying ladies.

For me, the highlight of this panel was our discussion of race, body size, gender, and “accuracy” as a function of privilege. At some point, we started talking about the difference between interpretive and “accurate” cosplay. The crossplayers, for the most part, cared a great deal about accuracy, but also recognized that their bodies don’t fit what’s happening on screen. And a woman in the audience chimed in to say that, as a fat person, she could never hope to achieve screen accuracy. So I relayed something that had irritated the hell out of me on a panel last year that I attended. The panel was on cosplaying as the Doctor, and I only went because squirrelyTONKS (who was also on the interpretive cosplay panel), femme Doctor extraordinaire, was on it. For the majority of the panel, the boys were just talking away, and squirrely wasn’t getting a word in edgewise. In a lull between discussions of pinstripes, she put herself forward and asked if anyone in the room was planning on doing a femme Doctor. Instead of, you know, letting anyone say anything, one of the men on the panel said, “Oh, I think women are so lucky that they can be so creative with the Doctor costumes,” the implication being that men can’t be and thus have to spend hours searching for the exact right fabric. Of course, that’s incorrect. Men could be more creative with the Doctor costume. They could be a steampunk Doctor, or a punk Doctor, or a medieval Doctor, or a gay pride Doctor. But also, I pointed out, that is a very privileged thing to say.

panel on interpretative cosplay  I moderated a cosplay panel while not in cosplay. For shame. Photo by Shaina Phillips.

Being able to care about accuracy is a function of privilege in the fan community. The man who said that could say that because his body, for the most part, matches the body of the actor onscreen. He’s a White, abled, relatively thin, cis-male person. He doesn’t seem to comprehend that women can’t just do the cosplay. They have to work it around their marginalized bodies. So do fans of color, (dis)abled fans, and trans* and genderqueer fans. [Nightsky: Michelle, a fan of color who cosplays the Fifth Doctor, made a great point here: White fans get more of a pass on “looking like the Doctor” than fans of color do.]

During this conversation, squirrely mentioned that she would love to do a Toshiko Sato cosplay, and I…I had some opinions. (N.B. I love squirrely to death and think she’s the sweetest.) The problem with White cosplayers doing cosplay of characters of color is that we already white-wash people of color constantly. (We do this literally, by selling them products that damage their skin, and figuratively, by doing things like replacing an entire cast of characters of color with White characters.) The other problem is that fans of color, when they want to see someone on screen who looks like them? They have some limited-ass options. Really. And women should know what this feels like, we are at a femme Doctor cosplay panel! We know what it’s like to want the hero to sometimes look like us! And people of color are far more limited than White women are when it comes to finding characters that look like them. To me, a White cosplayer costuming as a character of color is a slap in the face to fans of color. Like, “You know how I have ALL THE CHARACTERS and you don’t get hardly any, and even less that are badass? Well, get over it, because I’m taking YOURS too.” And I know that’s now how most White cosplayers think about it. I know that squirrely would never think that way. But man, it comes off that way. You are White, you have plenty of characters to choose from. You do not need to take the few awesome characters of color and white-wash them too. /rant

This discussion seemed to be what lots of people enjoyed the most. I asked gallifreygirl, who was at the panel, what she thought about it and she said her favorite part of the discussion was that we “didn’t just touch on gender but on race and body image as well. Anything that doesn’t fit in with ‘screen-accurate’ representation of the Doctor (because the cosplayer isn’t male or white) has to be interpretive.” When I asked her what she ultimately took away from the discussion, she said “That there’s a lot of room in Doctor Who fandom for playing with gender, and that as a fandom, Doctor Who is a lot more open to this than many others. I think perhaps because the fundamental ideals of Doctor Who, of an exile/outcast finding a place to belong appeals to minorities. There is still a lot to discuss about interpretive crossplay/cosplay and I do hope this panel gets an encore next year!”

I’m definitely pitching it next year, so I hope they let us do it again. (And this time, I’ll record it, because I kicked myself for not doing that this year.)

[Nightsky: Somebody else (I think it was Tor.com’s Teresa Jusino) made what I thought was an outstanding point: screen-accuracy is, ultimately, a limitation. You can hire costumer and fellow Gally attendee Steve Ricks to make you an outfit that people will wonder if you’ve stolen from the BBC... but where do you go from there? Femme cosplay, by rejecting screen accuracy, has limitless possibilities.]

Why Aren’t There More Captain Janeways? (Courtney)

This panel was pretty disappointing. It sometimes seemed like it could have gotten somewhere interesting, but it was mostly writers. So it was really a panel about industry stuff, and less about cultural expectations of women and how TV reflects those. At some point, Jill said, “You can write the best character, and the network says, Great! Now let’s cast someone hot and young.” And for some reason, this led to no discussion of the limited definitions of “hot” we have in our culture, TV or otherwise. It also didn’t lead to any discussion of the fact that the network is also usually saying, “young, hot, and White.” Literally, no discussion of race the entire panel.

I know it sounds like I have high standards for these panels, but that’s because I’m missing an entire hour of meeting awesome strangers in the hallway and seeing cosplay. And these panels can be amazing. I’ve been to more than one incredible Gally panel. So I kind of expect them all to push themselves to be more than just phoning in. Let’s talk about nitty-gritty stuff, because it’s fucking interesting! I know lots of panels like to pretend Doctor Who fandom exists outside of the world and politics and oppression, but a panel about discrimination against women should know better. So if we’re going to talk about oppression, let’s talk about oppression. Listing “strong female characters” and asking the audience to cast a female Doctor for an hour is phoning it in. Especially when all the actresses we chose were thin and White.

Inspector Spacetime: The Panel (Courtney)

I didn’t know what to expect when I went to this panel, but as a die-hard Community fan, I couldn’t miss it. Most of the panel was everyone pretending Inspector Spacetime was a real show, and that we were all fans of it, and that we were having a very generic panel on it. So the panelists would ask things like, “What was your favorite episode?” and “What’s your first memory of Inspector Spacetime?” and the audience would ad lib like we were in an alternate universe. It was pretty funny. There’s a recording of the panel on YouTube. You should go watch it.

[Nightsky: Here’s another interesting example of participatory culture. Like a cross between Doctor Who and Mornington Crescent, Inspector Spacetime depends on the “yes, and” of zillions of fans. It’s ridiculously meta.]

 Feminism and Doctor Who

 Courtney: Oh wait, this wasn’t a panel. And that was the most disappointing part of Gally for me this year. Last year they had a “Is Doctor Who Feminist?” panel, which was mostly awful, but still, this should be a topic of freaking discussion. In the year of Steven Moffat, this is more relevant a discussion than ever. I mean, I started a feminist Doctor Who blog, and before we had even posted anything, we were averaging 130 hits a day. I had 90+ people interested enough in writing for it that they had sent me their email address. This is obviously a hole that Doctor Who fans need filled, and a discussion that we need to be having, online and at Gally.

Nightsky: This was a disappointment. “Sexytimes in Doctor Who” (q.v.) had a lot of feminist content, true, but the subject is big and important and multi-faceted enough to support several panels. I hope to see a dedicated feminism panel at next year’s Gally.