Bits and pieces of news about Doctor Who Series 9 have been starting to emerge over the past few weeks, not least of which that Arya Stark herself, Maisie Williams, would be starring in an episode. While the show has certainly had its ups and downs in quality over the last few years, I’ve noticed a distressing trend, and one I can’t really even blame solely on Moffat (even if I’d like to).
Look at it this way: you’re watching Doctor Who. This season’s companion has a Black boyfriend, and the Doctor treats him disrespectfully and refuses to acknowledge his identity by constantly misidentifying him. Which Doctor am I talking about?
Trick question—it could be Mickey or Danny. This forces me to point out a very unsettling pattern in Doctor Who: the Doctor’s behavior toward the men of color in his companions’ lives is pretty dang racist.
You all remember that iconic Red Pill/Blue Pill scene from The Matrix, right? Just in case you don’t, let me recap it for you. Our protagonist Neo, who is slowly discovering that his perception of reality is an illusion, is offered the choice between taking a red pill or a blue pill. A man named Morpheus explains to Neo that the illusion they’re in is called the Matrix, and serves to stop humans from discovering that they’re nothing but slaves. The blue pill allows Neo to go back to his normal life, while the red pill would allow him to fully wake up from the illusion and begin a quest for truth. Morpheus sums it up nicely:
You take the blue pill, the story ends. You wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill, you stay in wonderland, and I show you how deep the rabbit hole goes.
We see this Red Pill/Blue Pill symbolism all over the place in pop culture, especially geek culture. Sometimes pills are involved, other times it’s simple amnesia, or some kind of device to plop the hero back into their pre-story life. Why is it so popular? I think it’s because it speaks to a deep part of the human spirit.
Last year I wrote an article about nuns in geek culture. Nuns and religious sisters of all stripes have such great potential as iconic feminist characters, but writers spend more time casting them as evil sexy sirens in black and white costumes. But what about the nun’s male counterpart, the monk? Monks are men who take vows of virtue and live apart from society (usually in a community with other monks). They’re mainstays of both Western and Eastern religions. Monks challenge popular stereotypes of what real masculinity looks like. And yet monks face a problem similar to nuns: we can’t seem to break them out of a handful of inaccurate stereotypes.
Spoilers for Doctor Who and Avatar: The Last Airbender after the jump.
I want to discuss a strange one-sided trope I’ve noticed, and why I have a problem with it: immortal male characters who have a series of mortal girlfriends. For some reason, this trope appears in geek media fairly often, yet I can’t think of a single example of the reverse (i.e., immortal women with several mortal boyfriends) or of a queer version. In fact, immortal women tend to only be allowed to have a single male lover, and must spend the rest of their long lives alone after their lovers die—or else give up their immortality. This perpetuates the double standard that it’s okay for otherwise good men—heroic men, even—to have multiple lovers, while if women want to remain “pure” and upstanding, they can only ever love a single man. This whole issue is worse than a double standard; it’s a matter of differential power in relationships.
Slight spoilers for Doctor Who, Watchmen, Sandman, Lord of the Rings, Stardust, and The Last Unicorn below!
Yes, the Doctor is pretty much immortal… as long as he keeps making money for the BBC.
The other major part of this series is the real reason I wanted to rec this work. The sequel to You’ll Get There in the End is called War Games, and where the previous work was all about the Kirk/Spock relationship and sex and romance, the sequel is in essence a rollicking space pirate adventure story.
Howdy, readers! How would you like an adventure story for today? A story full of intrigue and political plots? A story that’s almost as confusing as the canon it comes from? Then grab a seat and get ready to hear about the most intense Homestuck fanfic I’ve ever read.
Well, Whovians, Season 8 has been a wild ride. While the first half of the season may have been a bit bumpy, the second half seemed to have a slightly more cohesive story, chugging forward toward the two-part season finale. And oh what a finale it was: action, drama, and feels galore. One of the most common criticisms of Moffat’s work as Doctor Who showrunner is that he won’t give his characters lasting, meaningful consequences to their actions. This time we get some serious consequences. I can’t say much more without a spoiler warning, so here we go!
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.
It’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.
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 Valemakes 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.
Welcome 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.