I generally try to keep politics off my blog, but I am making an exception, and one that you, my audience, are perfectly welcome to either disagree with me on, or just skip altogether. I will try not to be offended. 😉
The latest Doctor Who news has set the internet on fire.
Needless to say, it’s a controversial move, making the next Doctor a woman instead of a man. The two sides basically boil down to one side not appreciating the obvious liberal agenda behind it and the other absolutely praising it and calling anyone who doesn’t a closed-minded, hateful, homophobic bigot with such antiquated notions of humanity that they belong in the dark ages. (their words, not mine)
Personally, I’m on the fence.
About half of the show’s fans are against the decision, declaring that they’ll never watch it again, to which I say, “We’ll see.” In other words, prove it. Do what you say you will, or stop saying it. Either bite, or stop barking.
The fans obviously can’t just keep this from happening, so if they really feel this strongly about it, that they can no longer support the show, then let them make their voices heard in the ratings and sales. When you get down to it, producing Doctor Who is a business, therefore interested in profit, and if they suddenly lose half their customers, hey, maybe they’ll have to yield or go out of business, or maybe they’ll manage to get by anyway.
But, if they yield to a negative response, they undoubtedly would risk alienating whoever remains loyal despite or even because of the change. And to them I say, whatever floats your boat, but don’t demand it be the same for everyone else.
It is my general opinion that entertainment should never be driven by political agendas. Not only can they cost the fans some quality stories, but they can cost the storytellers quite a bundle in cash and their reputation.
In regards to the decision itself, and what I will choose, to either follow or not follow the show from here on, I am undecided, and I am conflicted.
Somewhat related to this, I once posted about “The Right and Wrong Way to Change a Character’s Race.” To summarize, I generally reject such a change, but I try to take it on a case-by-case basis. The most immediate concern I usually have is, “Does it make sense?”
Within the context of the show, that question is most easily answered: it does make sense, in every technical sense. It’s been set up that way for some time, in fact. It was demonstrated that Time Lords could change genders when they regenerate, both by the Master becoming Missy for the last three seasons and by a Time Lord general in last season’s finale regenerating into a woman. It was mentioned even earlier, during Matt Smith’s tenure, in a passing reference to a Time Lord called the Corsair, that he was sometimes a woman as well.
It makes even further sense within the show’s obvious social and political leanings. It’s always been pretty liberal, not only with the possibility of a gender change, but with the display of homosexuality across the show and it’s spin-offs. Captain Jack was up for sex with pretty much anyone, and his show, Torchwood involved more then one gay relationship. Class, also, features a gay coupling. I haven’t see Sarah Jane Adventures, but I wouldn’t be surprised.
Now, whether showing homosexual intimacies on the screen is appropriate or not, that is an entirely different discussion for an entirely different time and place, and must surely involve a discussion of displaying similar heterosexual intimacies. But I digress. My point is not to discuss homosexuality either in life or in the media. I merely point it out as one proof of the show’s liberal nature and history.
In fact,the Doctor Who universe leans very much in a liberal direction, and not just in terms of gender identity and sexual orientation. Pretty much any character with even a little bit of obvious Christianity to their character is painted as a destructive, oppressive, religious nut-job, though Class had a man who was either a Muslim or a Sheikh or something and was much more down to Earth and compassionate. Capitalists, also, wealthy businessmen are depicted as inhumane mass murderers, and that was at least twice in this last season alone. The Doctor also has a long history of generally looking down on soldiers, which has always annoyed me, especially as the soldiers almost always have a clear respect and admiration for him. And, of course, war and the people who advocate using it are flat-out opposed, though the Doctor has a huge body count to his credit. So, of course war is bad, but the Doctor can slaughter as he wishes because he’s always right, right?
As I said, a very liberal show. Indeed, the fact that so many people who disagree with the Doctor’s gender change have watched it even this long is proof of how it’s entertained us all anyway. It’s been a bit lacking under Capaldi’s tenure as the Doctor, but still. As for the things we don’t agree with, well, that’s excellent fodder for discussion.
So, changing the Doctor’s gender, after over five decades of him being well established as a man, isn’t simply a controversial move that people are suddenly all getting up in a huff about. It’s a huge deal for some, and the final straw in a long line of decisions they’ve disagreed with. Above all, it feels motivated by little more than a social and political agenda, a need to align with the political correctness that so many free-thinkers despise for how stifling and dangerous it is, and publicly legitimize something that many people, for many valid reasons, strongly disagree with.
When a show that you’ve never entirely agreed with, but enjoyed nonetheless, moves further and further away from your values, then there is nothing at all wrong with dropping it forever. That is your choice, and yours alone, and no one has the right to condemn you for it.
I will certainly be interested in seeing who really follows through on that.
For a comparison, there are fans of Game of Thrones who were enraged, and rightfully so, I think, by the scene where Ramsay Bolton rapes Sansa Stark, which was only the latest and most brutal in a long line of graphic, unsettling scenes. I skipped that scene, myself, but I was only able to do so because I was forewarned. Had I seen it, I may have also dropped the show. I know some people probably did follow through on that, and yet the show has generally continued to do very well, and something tells me some of that is because some of the people who threatened to drop it didn’t actually do so.
So, only time will tell what befalls Doctor Who in response to this decision. Either the show, and the BBC network, will suffer for it, or not.
Myself, as much technical sense as the change makes, I find myself conflicted. I’ve watched shows before that have featured characters who can change genders, but it was generally established early on and served a purpose, either comedic, dramatic, or thematic. A gender-changing character, for instance, can offer the means to discuss similarities and differences between the two genders. And yet, this time, I wonder what the point could possibly be besides serving liberalism to the audience.
I wonder, I really wonder, what message this sends to children, especially those who might go through the same phase of questioning that so many children have gone through before. Will they have the sturdy rock of truth to step on as they brave such waters, of asking themselves who they are and who they can be, or will that rock will be gone, and leave them to drown?
Basically, looking at this show, a show that has clearly disrespected the soldiers who serve their country so ably and nobly, and depicted Christians – and only Christians – as overzealous nut-jobs, painted capitalism as evil, and so clearly affirmed homosexual relationships, and now seems to want to legitimize the transgender movement by transforming it’s central protagonist, the only character in the entire franchise who is truly enduring, into a woman after having been conceived, established, and left alone as a man for over five decades… well… it demands some serious questions and serious answers.
In short, when dealing with a show that so clearly derides my beliefs and supports values I do not share, I have to ask myself if I can continue supporting a show like that.
No matter how much I have enjoyed it and followed it thus far, and no matter how I would miss it, I have to ask that of myself.
I don’t have an answer yet.