Tag Archive for queer

You’re a beautiful woman, probably: My life as an ace Who fan

Some weeks ago, the Daily Fail wrote a spectacularly condescending article on a new book of social justice Who criticism, Doctor Who and Race. There’s a lot to dislike in the Fail’s piece, but I want to draw your attention to one of its most cynical and effective tricks: an insistence on a binary. In writer Chris Hasting’s view, you’re either with the Doctor or against him. He pits evil killjoy academics determined to suck the fun out of everything against a venerable, beloved British institution. On one side, checking your privilege and learning to acknowledge the problematic. On the other, kneejerk affirmation that Doctor Who rocks. Hastings’ readers knew which part they’d been assigned. Result? A book with important points to make will almost certainly get less exposure than it deserves.

We’ve written about moving beyond fandom binaries before–here’s my own piece. There’s another fandom binary that revolves around whether the Doctor is a sexual being, and the players in this one (as I experience it, anyway) are “prudish anoraks terrified by sex” vs. “sensible adults”.

This puts me in a bit of a bind. I am aromantic asexual, and, yes, it is important to me that the Doctor be asexual. In a world where people like me either don’t exist or need to be cured (The 40-Year-Old Virgin, that one episode of House), I like knowing that there’s one character who’s like me. When, in “City of Death”, the Fourth Doctor tells Countess Scarlioni “You’re a beautiful woman, probably”, it’s a beautiful shock to me because I can relate so completely. When Tegan, in “Enlightenment”, steps out in a beautiful Edwardian ballgown and shows off for the Doctor, clearly expecting his jaw to drop and his eyes to bulge out of their sockets, and he kind of glances her up and down as if to say “Yep, that’s an appropriate dress for a party”, and then turns away and starts down the hall–that, again, is me. Whereas today, we have a married Doctor kissing people (sometimes against their will) and going “Yowza”. Under Davies and, especially, Moffatt, I have less and less room to pretend that the Doctor is ace.[1] That hurts. We have a tiny handful of asexual characters out there–most of whom are never identified as ace–and now we can’t even have those?

Worse, fandom is not exactly a refuge: I’ve sometimes said that Doctor Who fandom is the only place I feel that asexuality and feminism are somehow in conflict. I don’t object to shipping. (Why would I?) What I do object to is what I experience as fandom insisting that shipping represents an advance over the old “prudish anoraks terrified by sex” days–that because, broadly speaking, shipping is associated with female fandom, therefore enthusiasm for shipping is feminist; and its opposite, preferring an asexual Doctor, is somehow anti-feminist. And when fans ritually denounce the sad caricature of the stereotypical fan as mid-thirties and virginal… well, as a mid-thirties virgin fan myself, I’ve had about enough of it. (Should I carry around a sign explaining that I’ve had offers? Maybe have a t-shirt made? Would this make me less pathetic, or more?)

I suppose I’m asking for a bit of room: room to not ship Sherlock/John, room to think UST is really overused in new Who. (Does everyone have to fall for the Doctor? Is romance the only way male and female characters can relate?) Room to imagine a Doctor Who that kinda sorta includes me–because right now, it’s feeling a lot like when I was a kid and suddenly all the other girls wanted to make Barbie and Ken kiss. I didn’t want to make them kiss. I wanted them to go on adventures.

[1] Matt Smith, bless him, is on record as thinking the Doctor (or at least his Doctor) is ace.

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.

captain-jack-2
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.

If you’re a linkspam, how come you sound like you’re from the north?

From A Broad Abroad, an essay on how transformative works (like fanfic and other fan productions) are not, as commonly believed, void of creativity and harmful to the original source. Rather, it is a re-reading and a re-interpretation, on top of being “awesome.”

An article at Feminist Whoniverse discusses the homosexuality of Canton Everett Delaware III and how it compares to the ways in which Russell T. Davies normalized queerness:

Well, if we compare this to the reveals of queer characters from RTD’s era there is a very clear difference. Whilst RTD’s queer characters really normalised non-normative sexualities, Moffat sensationalises Canton’s identity. This is harmful because, although it’s not outwardly hostile, it serves to other queer folk. What this means is the marginalised group, in this case GSM [gay and sexual minorities], is seen as separate. This, in turn, reinforces the attitude that members of the GSM community are not normal and it is this kind of attitude which is frequently used to justify oppressive behavior.

 

Speaking of cute Dalek fan art, The Organization for Transformative Works posted this picture of a Dalek from a coffee shop.

Happy Hour, May 4-13. 1/2 price frapps!”"]

A chalkboard at a coffee shop depicts a drawing of an Army-green Dalek holding a frappuccino. He also has a green frappuccino on his head. Above him reads "Caffeinate!" Next to him reads, "3-5 pm, Frappucino [sic

Perhaps you’ve heard of the New York Times article claiming that men invented the internet? Xeni Jardin has a great response to it:

You guys, ladies suck at technology and the New York Times is ON IT.

Radia “Mother of the Internet” Perlman and the ghosts of RADM Grace Hopper, Ada Lovelace and every woman who worked in technology for the past 150 years frown upon you, sir. Women may have been invisible, but the work we did laid the groundwork for more visible advancements now credited to more famous men.

“Men are credited with inventing the internet.” There. Fixed it for you.

At The Border House, Cuppycake calls out E3 for continuing to allow booth babes. The Escapist chimes in with “let’s just stop pretending E3 is a professional event,” since they refuse to stop this practice.

Via the Doctor Who Information Network, the first production picture of Matt Smith and the new companion:

The Doctor and his newest companion stand close together in front some trees and the stone corner of a building. The Doctor is wearing a darker brown jacket than normal, a dark checked bowtie, and a brown waistcoat. His companion is smiling with her hand close to her mouth, and is wearing a grey jacket over navy sweater and dress, with a red purse slung over her chest.

As some people on Tumblr have pointed out, this shot is nearly identical to a production shot of the first Doctor and his first companion, his granddaughter Susan Foreman.

Have you ever wished you could own a feminist science fiction/fantasy t-shirt? Now you can! (Via Infotropism.)

A dark muted green t-shirt with bold white text reading, "Russ & Butler & Tiptree & Le Guin."

Via The Mary Sue and Geek Feminism, Feminist Frequency has a Kickstarter project to analyze sexism in gaming and the gaming community. Said gaming community has started a harassment campaign against her, engaging in threats and vandalism of her Wikipedia page with racial slurs and pornography. Way to prove her project necessary, assholes!

From Alex Dally MacFarlane, “SF anthologies: The (almost) unrelenting sausagefest“:

And, you know, I wouldn’t be so fucking angry about this if it wasn’t that almost every damn time I open a Mammoth Book of SF Stuff or an anthology edited by these two or Mike Ashley or any other big editor over here, I find this kind of ratio. (The one that’s just a Mammoth version of the Dozois Year’s Best does better. If we’re counting Sean Wallace’s Mammoth Book of Steampunk as SF, then that’s got a great ToC. But this should not be fucking exceptional.) Mike Ashley even managed to get an anthology of SF Stuff that’s 0% women, because apparently no woman has ever written a mindblowing SF story or something.

Protest this state of affairs by supporting anthologies that are committed to publishing science fiction by women, people of color, and GSMs, like Dark Matter, Beyond Binary, and Fat Girl in a Strange Land.

On the same subject, Kate Elliott at A Dribble of Ink writes about how calls for more diversity in science fiction and fantasy assume a default of Whiteness, heteronormativity, and the West:

Attempts to add “diversity” into such a scenario then remain trapped in the same box, regardless of the axis of diversity: The “diversity” becomes an ornamental or utilitarian element being forced onto the “real” underpinnings of the world (which remain in such a case as the default male, white, Western, straight, whatever), rather than being an intrinsic part of the creation.

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

The 51st Century and The Future of Sex

“You people and your quaint little categories.” – Captain Jack Harkness

I don’t get to see a lot of bisexuals/pansexuals/queers who love people of multiple genders on television. Usually, even if a character takes up with a person of a not-heretofore-preferred-by-said-character gender, the typical reaction is “Oh, so you’re gay now?” or “I knew you were straight all along!”. If the possibility that someone can be attracted to more than one gender is raised, it’s generally scoffed at.

Captain Jack Harkness is different. A consummate “omnisexual”, Jack is shown in Doctor Who and Torchwood to flirt, have sex, and develop romantic relationships with men, women, and non-humans. He is believable when he grieves for the wife he watched age and die every bit as much as he is swooning over The Doctor (and nearly everyone else on screen). Amazingly, the rest of the Torchwood team all more or less join him on the middle of the Kinsey scale. The Whoniverse avoids suggesting that these people are fooling themselves, confused, or doing it for attention. I cannot think of any representation of my sexuality in pop culture that compares, and I can’t emphasize enough how much I appreciate it.

But there’s still something that bugs me. See, it’s not just Captain Jack who flies the pansexual flag; It’s stated several times that his attitudes and behaviors are typically 51st Century. Add to that the fact that the present-day Torchwood team is on board too, and all this seems to reinforce the old “everyone is at least a little bisexual” Kinsey-inspired cliche.

Which really, everyone is not.

In the queer community, the polyamorous community, the BDSM community, it’s easy to give in to the attitude that these orientations are more evolved, that their members have grown beyond the need for the more traditional “quaint little categories” that populate mainstream culture. The implications of the 51st Century attitudes presented in the Whoniverse seem to be that the human race is destined to outgrow heterosexuality, homosexuality, and quite probably monogamy, in favor of sexual expression that is more or less exactly like Jack’s.

Is a future that has eradicated our current diversity of sexual identities indeed a more mature one? Many portrayals of our species’ distant future, most notably those playing with utopian themes and their deconstruction, involve humanity moving toward–or being forced into– homogeneity. But wouldn’t true evolution and social progress involve social pressure to embrace increasingly different otherness? Of course, the 51st Century is not portrayed as the pinnacle of human evolution by any means, but with their 30,000 years on us, the message is right there: one day we will be beyond such petty things as sexual orientation, which is clearly a cultural construct because deep down we’re all omnisexual, obviously. Oh, and we will also smell fabulous.

But back here in the 21st Century, who are we to claim that pansexuality or any other specific orientation is more evolved? Limiting who people love and have sex with is, as we can hopefully all agree, backward. But pretending that whatever limits a person’s own attraction may naturally fall within is atavistic and closed-minded is equally flawed. Personally, I’m waiting for a future where we all celebrate and embrace one another’s identities and categories, no matter how unlike our own they may be. Captain Jack would deliciously fit into my future, but so would straight people, gay people, asexuals, sapiosexuals, queers of every stripe, people who prefer missionary position with the lights off, and every other permutation of loving, not-loving, shagging, not-shagging, and being ourselves.

Let us outgrow none of our amazing shades of love, not ever. Only our present day’s pathetic shades of fear.

Companions in Comics: Can Frobisher Lay an Egg?

One of the delights of Doctor Who comics is that they offer different creative opportunities from television. In 1984, Doctor Who Magazine introduced Frobisher: an alien companion who seemed tailor-made for the format. He belongs to a shape-shifting species, and habitually assumes the form of a wise-cracking penguin. Perhaps the TV programme could have rendered his characteristics well, but I doubt it, given the show’s record of dubious special effects. In the strips Frobisher becomes a very effective source of irony and visual gags. More covertly, his shape-shifting also raises interesting questions about the comics’ treatment of gender.

Frobisher features in forty-eight issues between 1984 and 1987, as a regular companion to the sixth and, briefly, the seventh Doctor. Occasionally he crops up in later comics, prose fiction and Big Finish audio stories too.

Like many companions, he has a life he wants to leave behind. At the outset he is a jaded gumshoe, working under his original name of Avan Tarklu. He intends to capture the Doctor and claim a substantial reward. Of course they end up travelling together instead. En route Tarklu adopts his new moniker and hints at the recent failure of his marriage. Although Peri accompanies them on several adventures, much of the time the Doctor and Frobisher travel alone, providing a rare instance of a long term male-male pairing in the TARDIS. Their interactions are fun, yet bring a few depressing implications; Frobisher’s friendship with the Doctor is closer to a buddy story than the father/child dynamic we normally see with female companions.

But is Frobisher male? I want to consider that more closely.

Over three years of strips, Frobisher metamorphosises into forms as varied as telephones and hamburgers, human beings and birds. He also periodically acquires a disease called monomorphia, where he is no longer able to change his form at will. Throughout these many transformations, Frobisher is framed as a male character. His gender identification is by no means clear from the dialogue (my suspicion is that the authors didn’t distinguish between identification and presentation in their thinking). But we are led to read him as male. When Frobisher wears clothing, it is always normatively masculine clothing. If he appears in humanoid form, he tends to adopt roles – like the gumshoe – that are culturally marked as masculine roles. And even when these markers are absent, the Doctor, and all the other characters, consistently refer to Frobisher as “him” and “he.”

Big Finish would later be willing to confront the possibility of shape-shifters changing gender; Frobisher’s wife Francine, for instance, temporarily presents as a man in The Maltese Penguin. The comics shy away from this idea. I suspect the authors were trying, with partial success, to uphold the gender binary. Categorising Frobisher as male within that binary is a conservative act: the majority of characters from the mid-eighties comics are also framed as male, with the implication that female characters are less interesting, compelling, or important. But the act is not wholly conservative. Consistently assigning one gender to a shape-shifting character has subversive potential, in queering associations between assigned gender and morphology.

The relative silence on Frobisher’s gender identification, rather than assigned gender, also gives us some freedom of interpretation. As a demonstration I want to look closely at a particular incident in the story Time Bomb, which was first published in issues 114 to 116 of Doctor Who Magazine. The story relates how a time cannon hits the TARDIS, propelling Frobisher and the Doctor into prehistoric Earth. Previously the cannon has been used by aliens called Hedrons to eliminate genetic imperfections in their species. The genetic waste is transported alongside Frobisher, and on arrival, he mistakes it for an egg he has laid in shock.

This picture shows a drawing of Frobisher, lying on the ground with a spherical object between his legs. He is saying, "Doctor, I feel sick, something terrible has happened... I've laid a blasted egg. That's what! And it's all your fault!"

Frobisher thinks he's laid an egg. From Doctor Who Magazine, published by Marvel Comics.

As a joke, this sequence makes me uneasy. The humour is premised on combined misogynist, ablist and transphobic assumptions (“Haha, childbirth is like incontinence! Haha, you can’t be male and give birth!”). But there is plenty of potential for resistant readings. It interests me that online references to the incident, like this one, suggest that Frobisher has misunderstood penguin physiology, as though his shape-shifting is a type of impersonation that can be held up to an external standard of accuracy. Can’t we instead wonder whether Frobisher identifies as male at all? Perhaps Frobisher doesn’t even present as male here, if we take that to mean appearing normatively masculine; as cartoon penguins go, Frobisher looks androgynous to me. Assuming Frobisher does identify as male, maybe his reaction is a sign he construes a fluid relationship between gender and physiology? Perhaps he knows he can lay eggs, even if he hasn’t this time? Might his understanding of what it means to be male encompass that capacity? Alternatively, perhaps laying an egg is incompatible with his gender identity, and the anger and anxiety he shows here is an expression of dysphoria? Certainly Frobisher has lots of moments of feeling trapped in a body that he wants to change.

Ideally, it wouldn’t be necessary to address unsatisfactory representations with resistant readings. I hope in later posts to discuss less problematic portrayals of queer characters.

But in the mean time: all the above questions make as much sense as Frobisher not understanding how penguins work; and they can be accommodated just as easily by the text.

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.

The Doctor as the catalyst for accepting “The Different”

I took some time to think of how The Doctor has a positive impact on the views we embrace and express in this blog. I looked at the entire series from beginning to the present for an answer. The Doctor in all his incarnations shows an innate joy in exploration and embraces those that are different. How wonderful to have this view, how amazing would it be to emulate this attitude. Instead of fear and loathing, if a person presented themselves as a decent individual they then would be accepted as they are. Be they male, female, gay, straight or whatever they so choose. We as a species could do worse than take this underlying theme and implement it when dealing with our fellow humans. The only skills required are an open mind, the joy of discovery and benevolent acceptance.

Would children discovering their sexuality, thought unacceptable, still feel the need to end their lives if these simple lessons were used? I believe with the use of what I like to call the Whomanity Formula , oppression, abuse  and that ever present villain “Bullying” would certainly become only scary fables.  As a lesbian and mother to a son that just came out, I hope I’m not the only one that observes this underlying thread. I’m not a Pollyanna; please don’t think all I see are butterflies and rainbows. I see many things in the series that should be discussed and addressed. I just wanted to point out the factor that drew me to the series. The unbreakable thread that ties my heart to The Doctor and his companions, no matter what face he wears. I want to learn new things, experience new ideas and see my surroundings through new eyes. I don’t care if they are straight eyes, lesbian eyes, or queer eyes;   The Doctor embraces them all and delights in the degrees of different.