Ladies and gentlefolk: Captain Jack Harkness.
Jack appears in two shows: Doctor Who and its anagrammatic spinoff Torchwood. He first appears in my favorite Nine two-parter, The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances, and he is probably the closest thing current television has to a pansexual character.
Let’s talk about some common responses to the revelation of a pan (or at least bi) character on Who/Torchwood.
First, we have the people who reject Jack’s pansexuality because most of his romantic entanglements onscreen are with men. I think that doesn’t necessarily negate Jack’s sexuality; it just shows that the writers tend to overcompensate by saying ‘Look at all the men he sleeps with even though he also flirts with girls! Totally subversive sexually, yes?!’ I still hold that Jack is genuinely attracted to (at least) both genders (of humans)—I don’t think he discriminates by species either (as long as they’re sentient).
Then we have the other big double-whammy with Jack: the nature of his pansexuality and its performance. First of all, the Doctor introduces him, saying to Rose that 51st century people like Jack no longer conform to the little boxes that Rose knows. This could be sort of problematic in that it implies that eventually everyone will be pansexual, which is a weird thing to think about a group that makes up a minority of the queer population, let alone all of humanity. Let’s instead interpret it as saying that the stigma on sexual expression has been greatly reduced in the 51st century.
The other problem is that Jack is, right now, basically the face
of Boe of pansexuality on TV, and he’s portrayed in much the way that society stereotypes non-monosexual people: hypersexual, not picky, and always on the make. This is just another example of two-dimensionalized queer characters on TV. Jack is conventionally attractive, and because he’s a dude his constant in-your-face sexuality is easy to play for laughs.
What are your thoughts about good ol’ Cap’n Jack, folks?