Sexualized Saturdays: Steven and The Doctor; Gender Identity and Role Models in Steven Universe

Since its premiere, Steven Universe has meant a lot of things to a lot of people. The representation of numerous gender identities, sexualities, ethnicities, and creeds has been a phenomenal example of how diversity can lead to better storytelling and has provided many fans of all types with new fictional role models. The recent remarks by former Doctor Who lead Peter Davison, however, have had me thinking about one group that some say is overlooked in discussions of how this diversity is having an impact: straight white men.

Now, before anyone says anything, the reason this group is “overlooked” is that they have occupied a widely disproportionate number of the roles that need to be diversified in the first place; they aren’t overlooked, they’re usually the group being looked at. This demographic is the exact opposite of an underrepresented minority, and the overwhelming number of complaints I see about their exclusion are, as sixth Doctor Colin Baker says in his reply, “absolute rubbish.”

“Straight white male” has been the default target demographic for a wide majority of western mass media in the last century, and that identity is one that is effortlessly validated by a seemingly unending parade of straight white male heroes (even just ones named Chris). There is, IMHO, absolutely no argument whatsoever to be made that straight white men are underrepresented in media, let alone solely within the subgenres of animated kids shows featuring aliens or British time travel franchises. But the result of this debate was that I got to thinking about the nature of what messages these shows send, and how the identity of the messenger can impact the way it is received.

SU WHO - In the real way

He can show you how to be strong. (screenshot from Steven Universe)

Which, of course, led me to Steven Universe. SU is a show with a straight male protagonist, but also one in which the bulk of the show’s main characters are women and many are (essentially) queer women of color. The show demonstrates both that a straight white male can deliver a highly inclusive message and that characters with a different identity can deliver messages that are particularly important for those same young boys in need of a role model—the same ones that Davison is worried about. By validating that a straight white man can in fact be a messenger for diverse audiences, SU simultaneously demonstrates why straight white men can and must begin to learn more of those messages from messengers of other identities.

(Note: while the racial component to the “default” hero identity is equally important, this article will obviously focus primarily on the gender and sexuality components.)

Continue reading

Eric’s TBD RPG Review: The Little Doctor Who RPG That Could

Image via cubicle7

Discovering Critical Role led me to find a form of media entertainment and storytelling that I didn’t know existed before: a world of tabletop RPG streams and podcasts. Many of the popular shows are set in original fantasy worlds, most often running on Dungeons & Dragons rule sets. However, today I want to tell you about one of my most unexpected finds, a little hidden gem in the landscape of RPG streams—Eric’s TBD RPG, a show on Geek & Sundry’s streaming services, currently playing the official Doctor Who RPG. Although it was initially conceived as an anthology show to run short adventures in different RPG systems, the creators got so attached to their very first characters that it turned into a full Doctor Who campaign. The show combines the best things about the original canon material — wanderlust, curiosity, saving the universe, and whimsy — and it’s carried out by creators who appear to be very mindful of issues of representation.

Some spoilers below.

Continue reading

Stay Pretty or Die: Gender Dynamics in Geekdom

Sexism is something all of us here at LGG&F are familiar with. Positive gender dynamics, or the relationships between people of different genders, is an important component of feminist storytelling. We all know that the messages we consume in our favorite media will normalize positive behaviors and ideas, or negative ones. That’s why it’s so important that everyone gets fair representation, and everyone gets treated like a human being, not an object. Unfortunately, that’s not usually the case, even in geekdom. More often than not, men are treated like people and women are treated like objects: by the plot, by other characters, and in real life. Recently I stumbled upon a particular trope that is especially good at articulating this double standard: “Men get old. Women get replaced.” Not only do some of the most popular geeky stories take this trope for granted, but incorporate it into the basic plot structure.

Spoilers for the Captain America movies, Doctor Who, and The Legend of Korra after the jump.

Continue reading

Oh, My Pop Culture Religion: Souls in Doctor Who

time soul hand malinowski

image via chicago now

Doctor Who is one of those shows that has a complicated relationship with religion. New Who seems to be written by people who are either mostly ignorant of religion or hostile to it (or both). After all, the Doctor is the great modern champion of science and reason. He’s the enemy of ignorant assimilation, and what better manifestation of ignorant assimilation is there than organized (read: Christian) religion? It’s offensive to religious people, sure, but the science vs faith trope is too juicy for most sci-fi to pass up. So it’s no wonder that when Doctor Who does decide to play with religious ideas, things go haywire. For example, take the idea of a soul. Lots of religions and philosophies have different ideas about what a soul is, and yet instead of sticking to just one, Doctor Who just uses the vaguest idea of what it might mean, whenever it’s convenient.

Continue reading

“Get Off My Planet”: Doctor Who Season 9 Finale Review

Did you watch it? Have you seen the Doctor Who finale yet? No? I’ll wait.

doctor who season 9Great. It’s been a few days and spoilers are all but impossible to avoid, but you really need to get caught up on Doctor Who. The finale was chock full of twists, surprises, and tears, but I think Steven Moffat has at long last figured out how to combine character death with time travel and leave me feeling satisfied without the depression. Let me tell you why.

Spoilers abound for the last few episodes of Doctor Who’s ninth season.

Continue reading

Oh, My Pop Culture Religion: Christian Initiation and Geeky Coming of Age

asdf

(x)

By the time this posts, I’ll have spent two full days at a workshop learning how to more effectively navigate people through the rather detailed stages of Christian Initiation in the Catholic Church. There are so many moving parts: say these things here, do these actions here, meet the bishop here, pour water and oil there… it’s enough to make a theologian’s head spin. Today’s Catholic Initiation can be pretty simple or pretty complicated. But it got me thinking about how much simpler initiation experiences seem in some of my favorite geeky stories. Often we’re treated to a single coming of age ceremony or experience that makes a character an adult or a full member of their community. But these ceremonies still serve an important role in our characters’ lives, and we can see parallels between them and the kinds of things religious people do to mark the stages of initiation into their community.

Of course, initiation ceremonies aren’t just limited to Christianity or even to religion. From Masonry to fraternities and sororities to clubs to professional organizations, rituals and oaths are how we mark that someone is “one of us”. Christianity is the religion with which I’m most familiar, so I’ll use it as a lens to view some examples of coming of age and initiatory experiences in geek culture. I’d certainly be interested to see a similar treatment from a different (particularly non-Western) religion’s perspective. So let’s dive in.

Some spoilers for Dune, Avatar: The Last Airbender, The Giver, and Doctor Who below.

Continue reading

Checking in with the Doctor: Series 9 Midseason Review

doctor who season 9You need to start watching Doctor Who again.

Okay, I never stopped. But I get it. I was skeptical too. I fell in love with the show when the Ninth Doctor told Rose that he could feel the turn of the Earth. Puns and camp and coincidence are all excusable when the Tenth Doctor is basically Jesus and the recurring theme is the wonder of the world and the value of humanity. Eleven even told us, with a cold fury, “In 900 years of time and space, I’ve never met anyone who wasn’t important before.” And then somewhere along the line, the show stopped being about that. Characters changed personalities depending on who was writing the episode, coincidence got us out of trouble instead of into it, and it was hard to care when the world was ending, again, but the Doctor just had to push the reset button, again, to save the day. In Series 7 it was clear to me that when it came to Clara’s personality, none of the writers were on the same page. In rewatches of Series 8, I felt like the show was almost contemptuous of its audience, as if it couldn’t care less if I gave a damn about it. Or maybe that was just the vibe I got from Capaldi’s Doctor.

But for Series 9, things are changing. I’m seeing some glimmers of the show I loved so much. So if you’ve stayed away, let me show you what you’ve missed, and why it’s a good time to give it another chance.

Lots of spoilers for Doctor Who, Series 9, through Episode 7 and hints for later on.

Continue reading