Oh, My Pop Culture Religion: Can Religious Violence Ever Be Good?

We geeks have a complicated relationship with religious violence. We live in a world where religious fanatics are practicing conversion by force, and that’s putting the situation in the Middle East in the most sanitized terms possible. It’s hard to find anyone today who would condone any type of religious violence, or try to defend it. Even historical religious violence, which occurred in a different cultural context than our own, makes us uncomfortable. With such an intense reaction to real religious violence, one would think that our pop culture would reflect it. Instead, geek culture seems to accept religious violence in some contexts, but not others. So why is that?

Spoilers for His Dark Materials, Doctor Who, Avatar: The Last Airbender and The Legend of Korra below.

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Checking in with the Doctor: Doctor Who Season 8 Midseason Review

doctor who series 8It’s been a while since we last checked in with Doctor Who’s Season 8. We last covered the Season 8 premiere, and I had some mixed feelings about it. The next five episodes haven’t followed much of a cohesive plot. Rather, they’re one-off ideas for what might make an interesting Doctor Who episode. Steven Moffat seems to be asking a lot of questions about who the Doctor really is, and what it means to be the Doctor. We’re also finally getting some character development for the Doctor’s companion, Clara. So has Moffat produced some quality Doctor Who? Sort of.

Spoilers for the first half of Season 8 below.

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Magical Mondays: Making the Normal Abnormal

I often revisit old columns to get ideas for new posts, and Lady Geek Girl’s post on the magic in Welcome to Night Vale is one that’s stuck with me for a while. The strange and popular podcast Welcome to Night Vale makes the abnormal normal, and uses it to critique some of the ideas we have about our society. If you’ve heard any of the Night Vale episodes, you’ll know that Night Vale is the weirdest place ever, full of carnivorous librarians, dog parks with no dogs, and strange floating cats. (Also, actual diversity in its cast. Hah.) Possibly the only normal thing about Night Vale is Cecil and Carlos’s relationship, and the storytelling focuses on this more than it does the abnormal, things. The audience thus gets the reinforced message that yes, the entire world is crazy, but this gay relationship is normal, disabled people should be treated with respect, pronoun choice should be followed, and racism shouldn’t be tolerated. It’s really shockingly effective. And the interesting thing is, when you take this idea and turn it around—when you make the normal abnormal—you can teach lessons and explore characters just as effectively.

Spoilers for Supernatural and Doctor Who below.

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Deep Breaths, Everyone: Doctor Who’s Series Eight Premiere

doctor who series 8Welcome back, Whovians. After eight months of waiting, we’re finally treated to series eight of Doctor Who. We’ve got a new Doctor, a dinosaur, clockwork-y cyborgs, and the Paternoster gang. With the massive amounts of media hype surrounding the series (including some major script and episode leaks), does the series opener live up to its promise? Sort of.

Loads of spoilers for this episode below the cut.

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Oh, My Pop Culture Religion: Authenticity and Doctor Who’s Papal Mainframe

We’ve lamented the downward spiral of Doctor Who’s general quality here before, but one thing that’s annoyed me throughout Moffat’s run is his treatment of religious institutions. More specifically, I’m talking about the fictional Church of the Papal Mainframe, which, it seems, he created more as a foil to the Doctor than as any sort of genuine religious organization.

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Sexualized Saturdays: Want Queer Characters? Don’t Go To The Movies—Watch TV

ray and kevinJust a few days ago, GLAAD released their 2014 Studio Responsibility Index, an annual survey inaugurated last year to grade major Hollywood studios on their representation of LGBTQ+ characters. Sadly, the results aren’t pretty:

Out of the 102 releases GLAAD counted from the major studios in 2013, 17 of them (16.7%) contained characters or impressions identified as either lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender. In most cases, these characters received only minutes – or even seconds – of screen time, and were often offensive portrayals.

Ouch! Those are some low numbers. And the surveyors weren’t content with stopping there—they asked film professionals why this might be happening, but got differing answers from each side of the problem. As their introduction says: “From Hollywood executives, we repeatedly heard ‘We’re not getting scripts with LGBT characters,’ while screenwriters told us, ‘The studios don’t want to make films with LGBT characters.'” Some blame can probably be assigned to both parties, but while Hollywood is entrenched in its struggle over whether or not it’s profitable to produce stories with well-written queer characters, television is far outstripping its silver screen cousin.

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Fanfiction Fridays: Possibilities, or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bananas by rosa_acicularis

rose and her doctor

image via suuuz

“I didn’t come here because I thought you needed me,” he said, his voice low. “I knew you didn’t. I didn’t come because I missed you, though I did. I didn’t come because I love you, though I think I must, given the evidence.” His thumb traced the curve of her cheek. “I came back because I’m old and tired and selfish, Rose, and I wanted to see you again. Because I finally could, and I didn’t think of the consequences.”

Rose closed her eyes. There was a sour taste in her mouth, like metal and blood and heartbreak, and she almost didn’t have the breath to say what needed to be said. “I can’t go with you.” She turned her face away, and his hands fell to his sides. “I’m sorry. I can’t leave them again.”

There was a silence. “If you can’t come with me,” he said, “can I come with you?”

Her eyes snapped open. “What does that mean?”

“I don’t know,” he said, his expression wary. “What do you want it to mean?”

Rose Tyler has always been my favorite Doctor Who character. Most people think it’s one of the Doctors, probably Ten, but I’ve always loved Rose best. To quote the Doctor, “Everything she did was so… human.” She was adventurous and clever and passionate, but she was also reckless and juvenile and selfish. In other words, she was allowed to be a human character with human flaws. That’s something we, unfortunately, rarely get to see in a female character. And so I was really annoyed with the “Doomsday”/”Journey’s End” plotline that stranded her in an alternate universe, brought her back, and then sent her back permanently. It felt like a half-assed compromise between the part of the fanbase that wanted Rose gone and the part that wanted her to stay, and it didn’t particularly make much sense.

As for character development, I was thrilled that older Rose got to take a level in badass, capitalizing on all her positive traits—but less than thrilled that any character development with her negative traits was left to the wayside. Still so selfish. Willing, again, to give up her family at the drop of a hat to be with the Doctor. Eventually I came to realize that the Rose/Doctor relationship that I wanted to happen (as opposed to the one we were given) wasn’t possible within the constraints of the show. Rose would always have to fight her way back to the Doctor, where the plot was happening, and the Doctor would always need a rotating crew of young female companions for, I dunno, reasons.

Fortunately, when life gives you crap TV, write fanfic, right?

Allons-y!

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