Wednesday, 19 July 2017

It Doesn't Matter Who Plays Dr Who

I have never understood the appeal of Dr Who - in my view its rightful place is surely alongside repeats of Some Mothers Do 'Ave 'Em and The Brittas Empire on Gold at 3pm on weekday afternoons - but be that as it may, for some reason it's popular and I have to accept that in the same way I accept that there are people who buy recordings by the Black Eyed Peas. 

Anyway. It turns out that the next Dr Who (I refuse to refer to this person as "the Doctor") is going to be played by a woman. Gadzooks! Another victory in the gender wars! My opinion on this is pretty similar to Brendan O'Neill's - as it typically is (if you want my opinion on anything going on in pop culture you could basically phone up Brendan O'Neill and ask him) - namely, I thought that at some point, like, 20 or 30 years ago, there was a general consensus that your identity, sex, race, creed, background, religion and so forth didn't matter and it was your own unique personhood, character, talents and abilities which were to be valued; but it seems that we've collectively decided to go back to 1957 and act as though actually people in the old days were right all along and it's important to put each other in boxes again. So whereas we seemed to have reached a stage where we could get past all that bollocks about identity mattering and be free to just be people, all of a sudden it matters again and we are collectively diminished as a result. When Martin Luther King Jr. talked about the important thing being the content of one's character, he was just talking out of his arse, and bizarrely it is the supposedly liberal left-leaning chattering classes who are leading the vanguard against him. The important thing about Dr Who is not the content of his character. It's his uterus, or lack of it.

I suppose you can trace all this back to Hegel via Kojeve and the French Marxists of the 1960s - the notion that ideas are the vehicles of historical change and hence you can actually shape the world through pop culture. Having a woman play Dr Who can actually contribute to sexual equality in this way: you produce fiction which points towards sexual equality and thus another small step goes in the right direction and influences things that little bit more. It's a very attractive idea to intellectuals, academics artists, writers and so on, of course, because it makes it seem as though their work is deeply important in some sense. And it seems to be becoming, ironically enough, increasingly attractive to the politically engaged modern nerd via the mechanism of consumer capitalism: you can contribute to changing the world through your hobbies and pastimes and choices as a consumer. By watching Dr Who, the half-formed thought goes, you can actually now have a stake in promoting sexual equality, just as you can by watching Wonder Woman or the remake of Ghostbusters. (And the producers of movies, TV programmes, books and whatnot are well aware of this trend - what a shot in the arm all this is going to be for BBC Worldwide.)

There is an alternative take on this, which is simply that trends in pop culture tend to reflect and come after changes in the general culture. In this view, the female Dr Who is just a more-or-less inevitable consequence of a big societal shift towards female empowerment that has nothing to do with what people watch on TV and everything to do with technological development. There's nothing trailblazing about it, in other words - it would have been if it had been produced in the 1890s - it's just reflective of the way the world is, or is becoming. This I think is actually generally speaking the way things work, although there are of course outliers like William Wilberforce or Mary Shelley who act as "norm entrepreneurs" or whatever you want to call them. 

Irrespective of that, I find it kind of sad and strange that people feel as though this sort of thing matters - as though there are legions of young girls out there who will now watch Dr Who and feel empowered as a result. It's odd to imagine that people would need a character in a TV show to allow them to aspire to something, rather than actual real family members, friends and role models. And I think it is even odder that somebody would need such a character to look like them in order to be inspiring - the characters in Star Wars I always aspired to be like were Lando and Chewbacca, and when I was a kid I used to have inspirational quotes by American Indians on posters on the wall. It didn't matter a jot to me that these people weren't white men and hence couldn't inspire me, and I can't think of much that is more small-mindedly conservative than imagining anything different. So in my view not only is the notion that having a female Dr Who matters for sexual equality empirically wrong, it is also morally bankrupt and narrowing. Let's be grown-ups: David Tennant can inspire young girls if that's their thing and Jodie Whittaker can inspire young boys. 

(And I would add as an addendum that all of my criticisms can be leveled at the Men's Rights Activist types getting their knickers in a twist about all of this - but doubly so.)

43 comments:

  1. I think in many ways, I agree with your sentiment about getting inspiration from someone, no matter their identity. I've certainly found a great deal of inspiration from mentors and characters that were completely different from me. But things are a bit more complex than that unfortunately.

    For some perspective, I am Puerto Rican. When I was young, I grew up in a small southern town in South Carolina. There were plenty of good people there, but there were also some that held onto outdated views on race and gender and such. Also a lot of crazy meth addicts. So growing up, I was told by teachers, fellow classmates, and even some family members that I wouldn't amount to much more than a migrant worker stealing jobs from 'real Americans'. I got beat up a lot too. When you are young and surround by that, you end up believing it.

    Anywho, I recall going into the only gaming store in the town. It started as a mostly pagan store for incense and kinda cashed in on the VtM craze in the 90's. So it had D&D and White Wolf as well as some bitching art work. I remember trying to get into a game there when I was 10 or 11, but was told by a GM there that 'Mexicans can't play D&D, you have to know English first." It was surreal in a way, because I had always seen these sorts of laughably racist people on TV that say those things, but it was so caricaturish that surely no one still believed this. But there it was, and I believed it. I almost didn't start playing D&D, but I'd still show up because I still liked the store and I was a bored ten year old.

    I remember one day seeing this super tall tan guy setting up the table for D&D. He looked like my dad but tall, so I got up the courage and talked to him. His name was Martin and his family was from Mexico and he was going to run a D&D campaign. It shocked me but I really wanted to learn, so I begged him to teach me. I was even going to give him my holographic Poliwrath card to teach me how to play (luckily he didn't take it lol). But I sat there and watched them all play. All kinds of people. Two women, some guys, all different races and such. And as silly as it sounds, it hit me that hey, anyone can play this game! He taught me and my father how to play, and soon enough, I had started my life long love of TTRPGs. I'll never forget that lesson, even when people told me I couldn't be a good cook or graduate college. We still keep in touch, as he's a close family friend and will be the godfather to my kids once we get them haha.

    This has happened with other people too. My best friend's grandfather is an Italian immigrant that lived in New York and his story was similar. Poor man told he would never amount to anything. One day, he saw Frank Sinatra singing at a club. And seeing him inspired my friend's grandfather to become a musician, going against what people were telling him. Same with my girlfriend, whose parents despised her for pursuing a career in computer engineering instead of housemaker. She was inspired by Grace Hopper to get into computers when others told her that women can't program.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I had to split my comment because it was too long so I apologize for this.

    So I guess from my rambling, I honestly agree with you that anyone can find inspiration from anyone, and honestly they absolutely should. One of the most important persons in my life was my English teacher, an old white woman, that told me never to give up on my life or listen to others that think I won't amount to anything. Her desire and love to teach and drive her students to their life goals always stuck with me, even in the hardest of times. It's just sometimes, it's good to look at someone like you that's doing well for themselves, especially from a perspective of being a hated minority. And while things today are much much better and a complete far cry from the 60's and 70's, there are still people out there that will try and bring you down because of your identity, especially when you are a kid. Even as recent as 2014, when I decided to become a chef, there were many people that told me I couldn't because 'Hispanics can't make real European food". Or even in my own family, some of my older folks told me that cooking was 'women's work' and I'm wasting my time pursing it. But here I am, three years later. I have a degree in culinary arts, a good job as a chef, and have worked and learned from several good chefs that have praised me for my ability to replicate and even refine some genuine European dishes.

    But yeah, overall, anyone can inspire anyone. And I am happy that we as a society are getting closer to a point where we don't need specific role models for a specific demographic. I think that David Tennant or Jodie Whittaker or whatnot can inspire anyone regardless of whatever their identity is.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That's fair enough and thanks for the interesting comments. But I think you may be making a similar point I was trying to make, which was that it's real world people who tend to have an impact on one's aspirations (or it should be anyway). It wasn't a TV character who inspired you to play D&D. It was somebody you knew personally. And your friend's grandfather and your girlfriend were inspired by real people making a success of it, not fictional characters or actors playing fictional characters. Does that distinction make sense?

      Delete
  3. People who don't look like you can of course be inspiring, but I imagine never/rarely seeing people who look like you in media you care about could be discouraging. I've certainly heard from people who were surprised to find how affected they were by, say, hearing a lead in a Star Wars film speak with an accent like theirs, or seeing a disability like theirs presented onscreen as just part of the world, something that happens that people have to deal with.

    With this specific example though, I find any reaction stronger than a "that's nice, I guess" or "I like that actress" strange and a little alienating.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Nobody on TV speaks with an accent like mine or has my background, except for criminals and drug dealers (or The Beatles) so I have never had that experience!

      Delete
  4. "if you want my opinion on anything going on in pop culture you could basically phone up Brendan O'Neill and ask him"

    Does this mean that Roger Scruton Oakeshott Tories and O'Neillean Libertarin Marxists are now the same thing? >:)

    >>you can contribute to changing the world through your hobbies and pastimes and choices as a consumer.<<

    I contributed by not watching TV and cancelling my TV licence a year or so back... Occasional pangs for Channel 4 News or on Election night are well worth it for not funding the BBC. I don't even care about Doctor Who, I can't even turn on Radio 4 for 5 minutes these days without some sub-Marxist drivel. I do wonder how many other people have done so - a few I've met.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The libertarian left and the traditional conservative right have more or less identical opinions on everything, but just arrived at from different angles. The only exception I can think of would probably be abortion? And maybe republicanism.

      Delete
    2. Agreed - they used to disagree on immigration too, but recently Spiked seem to have realised that immigration to the UK is being used as an elite weapon against the masses so in practice I'm not seeing much difference there either. Spiked's radical commitment to human autonomy is surprisingly compatible with mystic cords of memory conservatism. Maybe on abortion one day they'll decide a 24 or 36 week foetus/unborn baby isn't entirely valueless, in which case they'll have to start considering his or her autonomous self interest, too.

      Delete
    3. Drugs, pornography, gambling, state support for religion, anything related to the military, gay rights.

      Delete
  5. Given that they had already established in-universe that Time Lords can change gender when they regenerate, going for a 13th (or 14th, depending how you count them) male Doctor in a row would have just been implausible.

    The real proof will come in the writing. If the new Doctor speaks to them, legions of girls WILL watch, because people like heroes who reflect the best in themselves, which is more likely to happen if their heroes are relatable. Female heroes who are recognizably female in characterization will of course be more relatable to female audiences. However, that is not the most important thing about writing for female heroes.

    The value of movies like Wonder Woman is that they tell a story about a type of hero that has heretofore been woefully underrepresented. Wonder Woman is a solid movie in its own right, but there is no question that Wonder Woman is a different hero from Batman and Superman, with a different sensibility, and that there is a benefit to having that sensibility represented in popular culture. The world benefits from having those stories told, as it benefits from having ANY story told that has good writing and characterization.

    (The new Ghostbusters is an entirely different matter, and you probably shouldn't dump them into the same category.)

    It’s about good writing rather than gender equality, although gender equality is both a cause and and effect of good writing for female characters. It is a cause because greater representation by women in arts and literature increases the chances that these stories will be told. And it is an effect because representations in media do affect the way people view the world. It is, after all, called popular CULTURE.

    ReplyDelete
  6. "as though there are legions of young girls out there who will now watch Dr Who and feel empowered as a result"

    For what it's worth, I read a piece by a woman who had seen the Wonder Woman movie and did in fact feel empowered, energized, elated, and generally good in a way that male-led action just didn't do for her. So I'm totally willing to believe that seeing a female Doctor can and will inspire plenty of girls and women above and beyond the inspiration they already receive from people they know in real life.

    (Side note - have you ever been inspired in any way by a character in fiction? If so, there you have it: that's the benefit of this casting. And if not, then... um... my condolences to you?)

    So yeah. Evidence suggests that this sort of thing really can help people out. And if that's the case, there's nothing "sad" or "strange" about it. Let people be happy. Let people celebrate. What's wrong with a little extra joy in the world, even if it is over something so seemingly trivial as a casting choice in a TV show?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. My point was that I have often been inspired by characters in fiction but not because they look or sound like me or have the same type of genitalia!

      Delete
    2. I'm glad, and I see what you're saying, but it's a little off-putting that you only responded to my side note and ignored the main point.

      The main point is that empirically, female leads CAN be more inspiring and empowering to women than male leads, at least when done right. And that choices like making a Wonder Woman movie, and casting a human with lady parts as The Doctor, have made lots of people happy.

      If the choices made people happy without causing any harm, then why begrudge them that happiness? There's no reason for anyone to get their pants in a twist over The Doctor being played by a woman, and there's no need to get grumpy just because the casting choice made some people happy. Let people be happy. The world will be a better place for it.

      Delete
    3. I don't think one anecdote by a journalist regarding Wonder Woman really counts as empirical evidence but my point wasn't that female leads in movies can't be, or aren't, inspiring to women. It's that I find it unenlightened and odd to suggest that this is a desirable state of affairs.

      Delete
    4. You're mistaking what I was talking about empirical evidence for, I think. I'm not trying to claim that this is data showing that the majority of human women are inspired by the casting; I'm claiming that specifically casting a woman in this sort of important lead role can and does still make people happy. And since it doesn't do any harm, isn't that all you need? I'm sorry if this is a mis-reading on my part, but it really does feel like the basic message of this post boils down to "Well, gee, all those people who are happy about this are being stupid and should stop caring." And that feels like just raining on a parade for no reason other than that it's not your parade. Can you see where I'm coming from with that?

      I agree that it's "odd" for this to be a desirable state of affairs... but let's ask why, shall we?

      It's blatantly clear that, whatever universal utopian ideals of inspiration you personally may ascribe to, we still live in a world where woman are regularly told, both explicitly and implicitly, that they don't have as much value as men. So yeah, it's "odd" that they need this sort of casting in order to feel inspired. But for the time being, that odd sad sexist world is the one we live in, and we all need to work on taking your utopian, egalitarian vision and incorporating it into our daily lives until such a time when nobody feels the need to desire or celebrate a female being cast in an important lead role because it's a completely unexceptional event in both fiction and reality.

      Surely we can agree on that much?

      Also, for a bit of perspective perhaps, here's 10's take. I like how he puts things in a bit of context by pointing out that every new Doctor causes a bit of a stir.

      Delete
    5. You're right - the basic message of this post is that all those people who are happy about this are being stupid and should stop caring.

      If that just constitutes "raining on a parade" then that's all anyone is ever doing if they express a negative opinion about something other people are happy about. Donald Trump's election made some people happy. Therefore nobody should air any negative opinions about it or him?

      Delete
    6. Um... if I'm right, then that's pretty sad. If you think my reading was mistaken, then perhaps you could pay attention to what I said about possible misreading and explain more clearly instead of being facetious? That would be nice.

      On the second point, you again missed the part where I said since it doesn't do any harm. Trump's presidency is already causing harm and threatens to cause more - witness his willingness to take health care away from tens of millions of citizens of the nation he supposedly leads in order to make the rich even richer. So again you seem to be ignoring an integral part of my argument and being facetious in response. I'm being up-front with you and am willing to listen to clarifications if you think I'm off-base, so if you have a real response, I'd prefer to hear that, to be honest.

      For that matter, I'm not saying that it's out of bounds to ever criticize. But - again, correct me if I'm wrong - but it really sounds like you're saying "I personally feel as if the society I live in has shaped me to be able to take inspiration equally from all sources, so it's wrong for under-represented minorities to feel any differently." No? As I said, we simply don't live in a world yet where this kind of casting choice is unexceptional, and until we do, there will be cause for celebration from those whom it helps. Maybe some day we'll live in a world where great actors get cast for all sorts of roles, lead and otherwise, and pointing out their race or gender or whatever will be met with an indifferent shrug because it's 100% normal, and pointing it out is like pointing out that water is wet. When that day comes I will agree with you that it would be "odd" for people to go out of their way to celebrate a female lead. But current events show that we're not there yet. Do you see what I'm trying to say?

      Delete
    7. I'm not sure how I can put this more strongly. If people are happy that the new Dr Who is going to be played by a woman then they are standing in the way of progress by acting as though gender wars are a real thing that need to be fought, instead of a pointless distraction from the things that really divide people. I think that kind of thinking is harmful and stupid.

      Delete
  7. I think a lot of white, male people can't see how cool it is to see heroes like you, because there are so many white male leads to choose from, it's hard to pick up on one who is distinctly a role model or inspiration.

    I'm basically privileged in all the ways Tumblr hates, but I thought Oberyn Martell struck a blow for bisexuals in being bisexual and just...cool with it. Not gay-and-in-denial or an evil seducer, just a guy with a taste for adventure.

    You're completely right about this being beloved by academics and the Internet left because it foregrounds their own activism - writing a blog about Star Trek can suddenly become revolutionary praxis - and because it avoids the hard work of dealing with the 'base' (to use a Marxist term) in which women are underpaid, do enormous amounts of unpaid domestic work, are disproportionately victims of violence etc etc etc. It's easy and trendy to talk about whether Nicki Minaj is a feminist icon; it's boring and difficult to try and expand access to birth control in Angola, and it might challenge the majority of these middle-class Western commentators to that despite their heartfelt activism they're fundamentally beneficiaries of a deeply unequal world.

    So in conclusion: it's cool to have a diverse group of heroes in literature and movies and other media. It's just far less important than combating the very real injustices around us, and noone should confuse the two.

    And isn't the real issue that Doctor Who is an anodyne, poorly-written mess coasting on nostalgia and stealing ideas from actual sci-fi, not the quantum genitalia of Time Lords and ladies?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. "are disproportionately victims of violence"

      Women are disproportionately not victims of violence. Most victims of violence are men. Women are much less likely to be subject to violence. However, outside of domestic violence, men are disproportionately *perpetrators* of violence, by around 10 to 1 - and the most extreme domestic violence is also disproportionately male.

      Delete
    2. Yes, that is the real issue, and thank you for saying it.

      Delete
  8. I was really little when I caught my first episode of Dr. Who on our local PBS affiliate, it was near the end of the 3rd incarnation.

    This was Science Fiction at it's best! I loved the sounds, the cool bad guys, but what kept me hooked was the writing. Even when the show had a miserable budget, the ideas that they were playing with were huge to me! After the episode, sometimes I could feel this possibility of a larger "something" that I just couldn't put my finger on at the time.

    Dr. Who was different, it was boys fiction, but unlike most characters of that genre he didn't carry a gun. He was the Doctor! He helped people. This show was for hard-core nerds, I once got the crap kicked out of me just because I watched it every day. It didn't talk down to kids, it just presented ideas and rewarded those who could keep up. It was amazing!

    It really sucked when Dr. Who went off the air, and I was really happy to see it come back! Since it did it appealed to a much larger audience, the writing was still good and the budget was HUGE! Not all of the ideas were really worthy of Who, but that could just be because I'm much older now, but I don't think so. There is an excitement and an energy which the forth Dr. had that I dearly miss. Matt Smith came close and I really enjoyed watching it during his tenure.

    I think that a female Doctor takes a lot away from The Master, and what that female actress could do for that character. I'll watch it, of course, and maybe I'll be proven wrong! I was dead wrong about Pipper.

    ReplyDelete
  9. "I think a lot of white, male people can't see how cool it is to see heroes like you"

    I know as a father of a blond son in a 75% non-white school (boys in his class are 5 black 1 south-Asian 2 white), I'm very keen to see representation of non-evil blond males in Hollywood productions... :p

    The Marvel Studios superhero movies are pretty good that way, most of the characters have not been retconned yet. Whereas my son was keen to see The Flash, a blond character he had identified with, in the last Fantastic 4 movie, and was disappointed he'd been changed from white blond to African-American.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The Flash is DC. I think you mean the Human Torch. Also, Fantastic Four is in a weird spot because it actually isn't produced by Marvel/Disney, but still owned by Sony. Luckily there are plenty of cool blond guy heroes out there that make great heroes, like Thor :)

      That F4 is actually a good example of representation done wrong. No one likes retcons like that and the character was pretty weak and just felt token. As opposed to something like Green Lantern, Ultimate Spider-man, Flash, or Thor, where it was more of a 'passing the mantle/torch'.

      Me personally, while I like representation, I don't like the way many try and go about it. I don't think we need tick boxes to make sure everyone is in, since that's just simply possible. Nor do we need oversimplified paragons made to look better against others.

      Personally, what I want really are fleshed out characters, with nuanced personalities, flaws, and motivations, that go on interesting adventures, either personal or epic. Their backgrounds and identity can add a great amount of story telling, but ultimately, I want it to be about the character. I don't like it when characters just fall back into stereotypes or caricatures. So while I kinda like representation, I think having good fleshed characters no matter their identity is overall better.

      Delete
    2. I can't really disagree with you, Ed! :)

      Delete
  10. I felt the petite brunette British actress playing an orphan in The Force Awakens was more inspirational than the petite brunette British actress playing an orphan in Rogue One. That could be in part because the African-British supporting male role's in The Force Awakens had an accent that was easier for me to understand than the Mexican-British supporting male one's in Rogue One.

    The film industry doesn't give a fig (that's an expression, right?) if they are supporting positive social change or not---they just respond to what market research says will sell more tickets (thank you "Hunger Games"). Everything will go the same direction until some new numbers come in. The producers of Dr. Who are doing the same with a cheap & easy gimmick. Wasn't Thor made female in the Marvel Comics last year? Who's next---who cares? All I know was that Rogue One was an extremely weak film that felt like it was assembled by an uninspired corporate collective. Boo! Hiss!

    On the other hand, "Logan" was art that touch me. Who saw that coming?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Well, exactly. I am irked by this female Dr Who thing not because of having a female Dr Who but because it seems so transparently to just be a marketing tool.

      Delete
  11. There was a Comic Relief sketch where Joanna Lumley (briefly) played Doctor Who. I remember thinking at the time that she made a decent Doctor and that it would be pretty cool if there was a legitimate female incarnation.

    Fast forward 18 years and my first reaction to the new Doctor was to sort of mentally roll my eyes and question the motives of the producers.

    I really hate that my reaction was so cynical. I hate that I wonder if there was an ulterior motive beyond 'she'd make a really good Doctor Who'. I'm worse as a person because of it and the terrible thing is that I'm not even sure the reaction was unwarranted. Humbug.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. See, that's the thing. As I see more of this kind of discussion going on, the more I'm convinced that one of the weapons that the reactionary forces of sexism / racism / unthinking status-quoism use is to foster exactly that feeling: that every move which makes feminists or representatives of any other minority group happy, is immediately attacked as an insincere gimmick. Those uppity wimmens won't be so into female leads if we make them doubt the sincerity of every female lead, see! And then we can keep on comfortably inhabiting a world where women are more often relegated to support roles, arm candy, eye candy etc. instead of being the leads and making us feel uncomfortable.

      Or something like that, but not so overtly or consciously. You know.

      So yeah, if your knee-jerk response makes you feel bad and cynical, maybe it's time to isolate that response, analyze it, question it, and push back against it.

      And on that note: who *cares* if it's a profit- or publicity-motivated gimmick on the part of the producers? Producers do all sorts of gimmicks all the time! Their goal is to make money! And if they make a good product in order to earn our money, then I'm not going to complain simply because any one choice was calculated instead of pure whimsy.

      Delete
    2. Too often in my life, I've found that popularity usually is the death-knell of quality. When I was a teenager, I first noticed it happen with the "new" X-men comic, and then began to notice it was a fairly common occurrence. It wasn't until I was much older I could was able to see how actions of the profit-minded are somehow the antithesis of art---the money-lovers can't seem to make anything except money---and the products they push tend to be shallow and plastic. It just feels wrong. A knock-off; hollow, shallow, and without life.

      That is why I very skeptical of anything that seems to be chasing a "demographic"---what ever that demographic may be. Too much experience to the contrary. Good art doesn't chase---it explores and resonates with what it means to be human. In some other decade a female Doctor might have seemed brilliant (to me), but in the middle of the current mega-trend, it's uninspired to say the least.

      All you can hope is they the actual writers for the episodes tap in to something genuine and surprising, and that they take us all on a wonderful ride. But watching *any* sub-group blow its own horn gets old quick. Let's hope it doesn't come to that.

      Delete
  12. The crowd seems split on Dr Who, but if you all like RPGs then a good number of you must be interested to know that there's a DR Who RPG HUmble Bundle going on right now.

    ReplyDelete
  13. It seems like stunt casting to me. But whatever -- I haven't watched since the Tom Baker days. :)

    ReplyDelete
  14. I think you're right that consumer capitalism and self-indulgent faux-activism is partly driving these trends.

    At the same time, I think it's very naive to believe that race, creed, sex, &c. have stopped mattering 20 or 30 years ago, and that your perceptions are colored by the fact that you're a (I'll assume, and I'll revise my opinion if I'm wrong) white reasonably well-off male in a rich Western country.

    I also fully believe you that you can be inspired and identify with characters very much unlike you (if nothing else, my experience is the same), but I also believe people who say they feel a lack of characters unlike themselves, and I don't think many of them are saying they can't be inspired by characters unlike themselves, just that it would be really nice to have a variety of characters like themselves as well.

    So, yeah, decent people shouldn't care about race and sex. But shitty people do care. And as long as shitty people do care, so should the decent people.

    The most instructive point in your post, I think, is that even if you do care, the casting at best an occasion to celebrate shifts that already occurred, rather than some grand opportunity to fight the good fight by consuming the right kind of pop culture.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I say that race, creed and sex and so forth stopped mattering 20 or 30 years ago in the sense that when I was a kid growing up we were all taught that those things didn't matter. We were told all the time - by teachers, family, etc. - that it was human individuality that counted, and not those crude descriptors like sex or race. I wasn't suggesting those things were actually irrelevant back then, but rather that the public discourse was all about suggesting that they were. Now things seem to have changed and public discourse is all about gender wars and racial essentialism.

      Delete
  15. Noism: I'd like to see you rant about female Thor.
    I'm all for equal representation, but I like it to feel at least a bit honest: integrate new characters for diversity or push some that were on the wayside. Black Widow and Maria Hill (to a lesser extent) are much better, I think, to empower females.

    also, about taking inspiration from any character that you connect with for some reason, Ed Ortiz, you are one fellow to take inspiration from

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I am not a comics person but I think I probably agree with you. Female Thor is a gimmick. Why not come up with a new superhero who is a woman and actually be creative and imaginative?

      Delete
  16. You appear to privilege some people's happiness over others.

    ReplyDelete
  17. Full disclosure, I’m not into Doctor Who so I don’t have a dog in that fight. However, I agree that people shouldn’t mistake things like being supportive of a female Doctor as a legitimate alternative to taking real action to support women. For example, if someone wants to see more women or minorities in gaming, the solution is to make some friends and invite them to a game rather than artistic representation in a game book they would otherwise never be aware of. That said, artistic representation still matters because none of those -isms are dead and, even though people can draw inspiration from anyone (As a boy, I loved the story of John Henry and was tickled pink that the first Dragon magazine I ever bought had him & Fionn mac Cumhaill, another folklore favorite, statted for the game), it is undeniably cool to see someone who looks like you in a positive role especially that of the hero. My wife & I will have been married 12 years this year and we still get a kick out of seeing “couples like us” on TV. It is a small thing but it makes us feel like society is finally catching up to us and its ideals.

    Regarding, “I thought that at some point, like, 20 or 30 years ago, there was a general consensus that your identity, sex, race, creed, background, religion and so forth didn't matter and it was your own unique personhood, character, talents and abilities which were to be valued.” When I was a young man I thought & was taught that too but that is a cultural ideal like the ten commandments rather than a reality. People commit adultery but still say they believe in the commandments and people talk about the importance of diversity in mixed company who are privately bigots. My experience in the States, particularly here in the southern United States, is that a lot of Americans learned to fake being enlightened about gender, race and various other identities because they don’t want to be seen as backwards and/or don’t want their true beliefs to impact their employment status. It’s why search engine search data is better than polls at identifying what people really believe or are interested in because people are honest with search engines because they want the information they want but tell pollsters what they think the pollsters wants to hear or what they have trained themselves to say in front of company.

    ReplyDelete
  18. > we seemed to have reached a stage where we could get past all that bollocks about identity mattering and be free to just be people, all of a sudden it matters again and we are collectively diminished as a result.

    If only this was the conversation we were having at large rather than the weary, endless point-scoring being served up on Twitter and elsewhere.

    I can't help but feel we've entered into a shattered, twisted repeat of the Cultural Revolution, where correctness and signaling and self-criticism play out across social media, and instead of one cult of personality (Mao) we have hundreds (celebrities who "represent" some facet of the identity war).

    ReplyDelete
  19. As a Utilitarian I tend to value everyone's happiness equally. So if a decision makes Lefties happy, that's not privileged over it making Righties unhappy.

    Of course what usually makes Lefties happiest is that the decision makes the Righties unhappy...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Is this comment off-topic, or are you implying that casting a woman as The Doctor "makes Righties unhappy" in any sort of valid way?

      In addition, any sincere and serious Utilitarian would know that not all "happiness" is equal - e.g. you can't value the "happiness" of a sadist or a tyrant over that of a victim.

      Finally, there's zero... what's the term? ... utility in creating vague generalizations about "Lefties" and "Righties" and making antagonizing statements. Wouldn't a true Utilitarian put the maximum effort into finding common ground and supporting things that benefit the maximum number of humans instead of sorting people into nebulous, artificial groups and rhetorically setting them against each other?

      Delete
    2. I may think you're a horrible person who wants to put your boot on the neck of your enemies and see them suffer. On a Utilitarian calculus I still need to take your happiness into account.

      Delete
  20. Interesting response - no, there's no such thing as "valid happiness" in Utilitarianism. That's the whole point. You don't get to say other people's happiness is invalid and doesn't count.

    ReplyDelete