Why the Doctor Should Be an Old White Man

Let’s talk about social justice for a second. The term “social justice warrior” has become something of a slur on the internet. I don’t see the shame in it, personally. It’s like using “feminazi” as an insult. Obviously, invoking Nazism to deride someone you don’t like is wrong, but since the real insult there is that somebody thinks women deserve equality, I’m not sure why this is supposed to be offensive. If being an SJW means believing that it is wrong to exclude people based on race, gender, sexuality, religious beliefs, nationality, or what have you, then call me an SJW. Call me a feminazi if it please you. I butt heads with my fellow feminists on certain things because there are times when I feel that taking a stand is somewhat pointless. That, in case you can’t tell, is what I’ve gathered you here to talk about. The Doctor is not the President. He doesn’t have to represent the diversity of his own viewership. It might be nice, but it’s hardly necessary to make him a woman or a person of color. In fact, it’s probably better if we don’t. Here’s why.

Doctor Who has been around for 50 years. Like any other cultural institution, it has a certain value and aesthetic that cannot be separated from the time in which it was created. The Doctor travels around in a police box, something that existed only in a very specific time and place. He travels primarily with young women from contemporary England, and his relationship with them is usually a bit paternalistic, perhaps even a tiny bit condescending. You can like or dislike it, but those elements are hardwired into the DNA of the show. Take them away and it’s not Doctor Who, just as a James Bond who isn’t cocky, cool, and kind of a misogynist isn’t James Bond or a Sherlock Holmes who is warm and fuzzy and a feminist isn’t really Sherlock Holmes. People believe that in order to update the show and make it accessible to the new generation, we need to change its values. But Doctor Who isn’t gay marriage. It’s not your right. It’s not even a privilege. It’s a thing you can watch or not watch. That’s why it’s art: because it doesn’t give a fuck whether you like it or not. If it did, it wouldn’t be art.

I’ve gotten mocked for making this argument before. People say that since Doctor Who is really about change, we should embrace the change and all that that implies. By that logic, the Doctor should be played by a Chihuahua and the show should consist of him driving around in a Porsche and sniffing other dogs’ shit. Don’t give me any of that “that’s not what I meant” crap; it’s what you said, so stand by it or fuck off. You can’t separate the English-ness of the show from the show itself. It’s a shamelessly romantic portrait of an England that hasn’t existed for a long time and probably never did to begin with. If you don’t buy into that, don’t watch the show. You don’t get a vote. This isn’t democracy. It’s art. Part of the reason I have to distance myself from the fanbase is the invidious notion that so many of the entitled fuckwits have gotten into their heads that since they would like to see a female or black Doctor, they should get to see a female or black Doctor. No. It’s not the show’s job to give you what you want.

Doctor Who has disappeared up its own ass in recent years. It’s no longer about pushing forward but about running in circles. Every other episode is about revisiting something that happened in a previous storyline or going back to the Doctor’s childhood or bringing back a beloved old character for one last go-round (until they decide to bring back that character again for yet another go-round). When will this end? Moriarty is in a grand total of two of the Arthur Conan Doyle stories. Know why? Because once he’s gone over Reichenbach Falls, that’s it. There’s nothing left to say about him once that’s done. He doesn’t exist just to give definition to Sherlock. Sherlock isn’t the center of the universe. Moriarty is a criminal mastermind and when Sherlock foils some of his plans, he decides he has to take Sherlock out. It’s that simple. They’re not destined to be together, and I get so tired of those introspective moments where the villain says “We’re not so different, you and I” while the hero has to wonder if he’s really a good man or not. I think Sherlock is a good man. I think the Doctor is, too. Can we accept that and move on? People change, I know, but it’s the present that matters. At present, I don’t like Doctor Who or Sherlock. So I don’t watch either show. Funny how that works.

In case it’s not obvious, I was pretty steamed when I wrote this. I’m angry about a lot of things right now. I’m also stressed out, because I’ve got a really busy week coming up and I’m wondering how I’ll be able to pay my bills, do my job(s), and still find the time to see my friends. Typical adult stuff, I guess. I don’t want to be a parent. God bless those of you who like kids, but I don’t and I never will. It’s just not for me. I can’t change the fact that Darren Wilson and the dude who killed Eric Garner got off for what was quite simply murder just because people don’t want to face up to the deep and pervasive sickness of racism. And for the Spike Lee fans out there, let me just say that Mookie did the right thing. That anger had to go somewhere. You can’t just watch a cop murder somebody, shrug, say, “That’s unfortunate”, and go home. You just can’t.

Maybe I’m just tired of spending all my time in the arts. I need something to think about other than media representations of various groups of people. Sometimes a show is just a show. And if I don’t enjoy it, I don’t enjoy it. That’s my business. But it won’t stop me from whining about it. In the name of God, I will do my duty.

Hawley Smoot

"Never tell the same lie twice." —Garak, after hearing The Boy Who Cried Wolf

“Never tell the same lie twice.” —Garak, after hearing “The Boy Who Cried Wolf”

I got a new job. It’s okay so far. I work at an Italian restaurant. I work the same schedule every week, which is evenings Thursday through Sunday. That is, unsurprisingly, already starting to cut into my social life. I’m not quite sure what to do about that, but I have no intention of quitting my job anytime soon. I dunno, maybe I’ll just have to get used to going out late or something. I don’t go to bars much, but they’re open until 2 or so, so I could always meet up with my friends after work is done. That, or just get used to meeting with them in the morning or early afternoon or on weeknights. There’s probably a solution here, but it will take some tinkering. This place is family-owned, which places it in stark contrast to the last place I worked. It’s a small crew here, which means everything is friendly and informal (they don’t even make me wear gloves when handling food), but it also means that I can’t just take a day off whenever I please. If they can find another person to work as busboy or dishwasher (I’m currently doing both), maybe they’ll be more flexible with scheduling. Until then, I’m working more hours than I did at the coffee shop, which also means I’m making more. I guess that’s progress.

I find myself wondering a lot how much timing has to do with my opinion of somebody. The thing about being in your twenties is that so much of your life feels like a series of missed connections. I like to think that if you really have a connection with somebody, you’ll find a way to make the relationship work, regardless of just what kind of relationship it is. But sometimes my practical concerns clash with my more idealistic ones. My needs are fairly simple, but most of the time, it still feels like my crazy thoughts and desires are just stacked up on top of each other and I’m just a vessel for whatever bizarre ambition has found its way into my subconscious this time. On the outside, I probably look more focuses and stable. Former NBA player John Amaechi’s mother once asked him, “Would you recognize your soul in the dark?” I love that question. Can people ever really change? I maintain that they can, but I acknowledge that the difference between becoming somebody else and simply maturing into a better version of yourself is vague and subjective at best, completely arbitrary at worst.

It happens sometimes that people from my past come floating back into my life. Somebody from high school messaged me on a dating site not too long ago, except his profile was blank, so I couldn’t figure out who he was. I went digging through old yearbooks and shit to try to piece it together, and I have a strong hunch, but I’m only 80% sure. I had a friend in college who basically stopped returning my calls after being very close to me for years. Still hard to explain it, really, but I think what was going through his head was that I wanted more from him than he was willing to provide, and since he had a girlfriend and a nice circle of friends who, when push came to shove, seemed to like him way more than they liked me, he wondered why he even bothered with me at all. So I’m not sure if I’ll ever see him again. I’m not sure if I want to either, but I wonder if he ever grew out of his selfishness. Because it’s still on him, you see. I wanted to be his friend and nothing more. It’s not my fault that he couldn’t go there with me.

It’s been my experience that anybody who excuses their asshole behavior with “I’m a straight-shooter, I tell it like it is” or words to that effect is really just an asshole. I’m a notorious asshole, and even I’ve never said anything like that. I’m actually not confrontational at all; I just don’t see why I should have to explain myself to other people. Because when you get right up in somebody’s face over something, it usually says more about you than it does about them, even if what they said is legitimately offensive.

I’ve seen a fair amount of talk on the internet lately about women and how they are portrayed in the media. Geena Davis wrote a fascinating piece about simple methods that screenwriters can use to level the playing field a little. It’s especially powerful coming from her, as she is a very talented actress for whom roles seem to have dried up once she reached a certain age. Well, I suppose it’s possible that she took time off to raise her family, but there’s no denying that few women in Hollywood ever remain commercially viable for very long past the age of 40. John Travolta still gets work despite being over the hill, but the women playing Tom Cruise’s love interests are typically in their 30s even though he is over 50. Seriously, how does that work? Why the hell are a few facelifts and a hairpiece all it takes to keep an actor’s career strong but not enough for an actress? Geena Davis is still pretty, not that that should be the only thing determining whether or not she gets to have a career. Oh, well. I wish her well in her feminist work.

I noticed something after starting up on season six of 30 Rock: Jenna is absolutely killing it. For whatever reason, I never found her as funny as Tracy until now, even though they’re both stuck-up prima donnas. Maybe I had some deep-seated sexism, I don’t know. All I know is that I’m loving the hell out of it.

Joanna Newsom is really something. I wish she were more famous.

Nightwatching

michigan j frog

I would love a singing, dancing frog. Not to make money off of, just because he seems like he’d be good company.

I find that the more I watch The X-Files, the more I stick with it just for Scully. She’s the most nuanced character on the show, being the one who actually has stuff to learn. Mulder is almost always right about the mystery having a paranormal explanation, and Scully is almost always wrong about it being more mundane. I don’t care about Fox Mulder. I am much more interested in people who turn out to be wrong just because the deck is always stacked against them than people who turn out to be right because the TV show they’re starring on depends on it. Scully is the audience surrogate, but unlike some audience surrogates, who are blank slates existing primarily for self-insertion, she has a personality. If she were a real person, she and I would be very close friends. (I have said similar things about Kira from Deep Space Nine.) And on the rare occasion that the mystery has a mundane explanation, it’s nice to be reminded that sometimes, things are exactly what they seem. Kind of like the episodes of House where the patient dies.

I’ve been watching some old MLK speeches on YouTube lately. I’m posting this one, which is not a speech, just a joke. Let it never be said that you can’t be a fearless human rights crusader and still be funny.

I’m currently reading a book called Queers Dig Time Lords: A Celebration of Doctor Who by the LGBTQ Fans Who Love It. It was nominated for a Hugo Award for Best Related Work, and is a follow-up to the Hugo-winning Chicks Dig Time Lords: A Celebration of Doctor Who by the Women Who Love It. To my knowledge, nobody has written similar books about Star Trek, and that makes sense. Star Trek has never had the feminist/gay following that Doctor Who does, probably because its ideas about gender and sexuality are sadly quite dated. Yes, Gene Roddenberry deserves credit for putting the first black woman in a regular role on prime time TV and casting an Asian man in a major role (something that is fairly uncommon even today). But he also made that woman little more than a glorified secretary.

The best essay in Queers Dig Time Lords so far is one called “Longtime Companions”, a deeply moving piece by a lesbian who met her partner through Doctor Who and continued to watch it with her until her partner’s death from a brain tumor 27 years later. Her partner never got to see Jack Harkness, the first out LGBT character in Who history. But that doesn’t matter, because all Harkness did was make explicit something that had always been implicit. Doctor Who isn’t gay—at least, not necessarily. It just isn’t straight. Star Trek is almost aggressively straight. The original series, for all the ground it broke, was basically about your typical straight white male hero tooling around the galaxy and seducing alien babes. The Doctor’s sexuality is somewhat ambiguous. His relationship with his companions was, in the original series, always strictly platonic. Now, we have him kissing Harkness on the mouth and sorta kinda not really falling in love with Rose, but even then, it’s hard to tell just how deep his attraction runs. Is he asexual, but with the occasional stirring of desire? Is he straight, gay, or bisexual (but chaste)? I’m still leaning towards asexual, but I’m old school that way. I know people who think his relationship with Rose is one of the all-time great love stories. (They’re wrong, by the way.)

John Waters said that his movies are for minorities who don’t fit into their own minority. That’s how I feel as a Whovian. It used to be that Doctor Who was a cult sensation. According to some of the people in Queers Dig Time Lords, it wasn’t always cool to like Doctor Who even in England. Until relatively recently, most Americans hadn’t even heard of it. But now, it’s mainstream. The bookstores I frequent have stands set up devoted specifically to Doctor Who memorabilia. It’s cool to be a nerd, so long as, you know, you don’t actually challenge the status quo. Because nerdiness is the status quo now, and I feel the need to rediscover my athletic side.

It’s important to understand the difference between self-identifying and appropriating someone else’s identity. Somebody I follow on YouTube pissed me off recently by identifying himself as a recovering alcoholic. Rock bottom, for him, was getting drunk and being a little nasty to his friends, then realizing that he automatically reached for a bottle whenever things got stressful. That’s not alcoholism, and calling it such is offensive to actual alcoholics. You aren’t an alcoholic until you’ve lost a job, a house, or a car and have alienated at least some of the people close to you. No, almost alienating them doesn’t count. You have to go all the way.  I think it’s wonderful that people are watching comic book movies and Game of Thrones in such great numbers, I just think that if you really want to consider yourself a nerd, you have to do a little bit better than that. Someone is going to accuse me of being a gatekeeper, but that’s just not fair. I don’t think something is bad because it’s mainstream; I just think that if you have to add a love story to make it mainstream, don’t be surprised if some of us pull away. There is more to life than romance. Believe me, I know.

Looking for Inner Peace

There is a point at which the fight against marginalization turns into an addiction. Most people who have had to grapple with feeling “different” have had to face the possibility that maybe they really are. For me, the quest for acceptance and normalization (to use a loaded word) is less about assimilating into society as a whole than about realizing that everyone else is just as crazy as I am. I’m not out to make myself exactly like everyone else; I just recognize that the whole point of fitting in is to understand that we really aren’t so different, even if we’re not all exactly the same. Where am I going with this? Let me explain.

I hear a lot of misogynistic bullshit these days about how feminism is destroying the American family. You can dress it up however you want, but that’s all it is. Mainly, what’s hurting us is this deeply held conviction that so many of our, well, primarily religious and right-wing friends have that the only way to live is to marry somebody of the opposite gender at a young age and have monogamous sex with them for the rest of your life (after saving yourself for marriage, then eschewing contraception because we all know both of those things are sinful sinful sinful). Their logic is purely circular. Why must we do things this way? Well, because we always have, obviously. What’s that you say? Polygamy and even gay marriage have all been practiced at some point in world history before now? All the more reason we should ban those things, because they were the hallmarks of less-civilized societies. Basically, just don’t disagree with us. Because God always agrees with us about everything always. Even when the Bible contradicts us, because then you’re just not interpreting it selectively enough correctly.

In a way, the reason why we need gay marriage and perhaps even polygamous marriage to be legal in this country is to shake things up for straight, monogamous people. I believe that no relationship is automatically superior to any other, provided that the participants are consenting adults. Period. End of discussion. No, seriously, that’s all there is to it. Spare me this nonsense about how allowing people to follow their hearts undermines the fabric of society. Society is an arbitrary construct. You’re just jealous of people who are living more freely and openly than you are. There might be something about the Y chromosome that makes the male sex drive somehow more immediate and animalistic than the female sex drive, but that doesn’t mean that sex is less important to women or that they can’t initiate it; it just means that men and women might have subtly different points of view when it comes to how they approach sex. But to boil that down to “women want commitment, men just want sex” is idiotic, reductive fucking nonsense.

Dan Savage, one of my idols and someone whose praises I sing around here pretty often, gets dinged a lot for supposedly hating asexuals/bisexuals/transgender people/women/Christians/whoever. It’s all nonsense. Dan has a long history of being blunt. He has told off asexuals for going on dates with sexual people and failing to disclose that they aren’t interested in a sexual relationship. I think that’s fair. Sex and dating, for most people, are inextricably intertwined, and if you don’t see it that way, that’s fine, but it’s on you to inform the other party of that. Being straight might not be “the norm” so much as the default, but there’s nothing wrong or even heteronormative about assuming somebody is straight unless given reason to think otherwise. It’s numbers, nothing more. People are individuals. Making assumptions isn’t bad, just don’t hold onto your assumptions even after someone has corrected you, that’s all.

Basically, what I’m saying here is that everyone is responsible for standing up for themselves. When I was a teenager, I read my fair share of shitty gay teen romances because that’s what I needed to escape. Those books bear little-to-no resemblance to real life, and the only difference between them and Twilight or whatever teen girls are eating up today is that they don’t shy away from the sex. It’s funny: we spend so much time telling men to act like men and women to act like women that when bigots are confronted with a couple that upsets that paradigm, their only response is to deny that party’s right to even exist. If the only valid sex is penis-in-vagina intercourse, then why do bigots care at all what gay people do? Shouldn’t they just shrug and say, “Well, I don’t approve, but whatever“?

I don’t know if anyone else here is watching Looking, the HBO show about gay guys in San Francisco, but the last episode was phenomenal. Basically, it was a two-character play about young lovers getting to know each other. It starts off with randy sex, then moves to getting-to-know-you shit like exchanging coming out stories and talking about HIV and topping vs. bottoming. If you believe, as I do, that there is universality in specificity, then you should relate to that. You may not have dealt with those issues yourself, but certainly you can recognize the basic beats of a budding relationship. A straight or lesbian couple is not likely to deal with exactly those same issues. The words are different. The music is the same. And Richie is the most perfect fictional boyfriend I have ever seen. I can’t remember the last time I wished a fictional character were real that hard. I want to have his babies.

I...I...*fans self*

*fans self*

Since I’ve run out of things to say about sex and gender and stuff, I’ll just say that for a guy whose stuff seems aimed primarily at kids, Weird Al is still pretty funny. His act has not gotten stale. I haven’t moved on from that part of my life, not entirely.

Endgame

To let understanding stop at what cannot be understood is a high attainment. Those who cannot do it will be destroyed on the lathe of Heaven.

—Chuang Tse

Sometimes, I think my coworkers thing I’m a little less competent than I really am. This is the problem with being an INFJ: it’s almost impossible not to take criticism personally. People won’t let me explain myself, but they think they know what I’m doing better than I do. And oftentimes, it’s nothing more than a misunderstanding. I take a long time to commit to things, but once I do, I fucking commit. I guess that’s why I spend so much of my time lounging around wondering what to do next. It would be a lot easier if other people weren’t so eager to pin me down just so that they know what to do with me.

My life is getting a little more amorphous, a bit more complex. A few months ago, I was still preoccupied with recovering from a very stressful and difficult summer. Now I’m trying to build my life once again, and not surprisingly, it’s a lot of trial-and-error. I’ve been here before. It’s hard for me to figure out what order to do things in. I have books sitting on my shelf that I got for Christmas years ago and have yet to read. Why is that? Some of those books I even asked for (and of the ones I didn’t, there are a few that are probably still good). What am I waiting for? The right time, whenever that is. I try not to rush into things, but I think I might be overdoing it.

I am the sort of person who can spend all day brooding over one little incident. Something like that happened a few days ago. I prefer not to go into details, except to say that I think my coworker was wrong to scold me the way he did, and I don’t think the customer much minded the way I treated her to begin with. I could be wrong here, but I really don’t think I am. So with that out of the way, let’s talk about something else.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what it means to be an ally. I am a feminist, but as I am not a woman, it’s not exactly my rights that are on the line in the struggle for women’s independence. Or are they? I’ll tell a quick story. A couple years ago, I was at a party. I told a story about a play I had been in in which some of the men carried guns. Since my character did not get to carry a gun, I would pick up the prop guns and played with them backstage. “Having a second gun is like having a second cock,” I joked.

The room went dead silent. The host’s roommate informed me that, as a woman, she found my comment deeply offensive.

“No offense, but I really don’t see how—” I began.

She cut me off. “You can’t say ‘no offense’ after you say something offensive and expect that to make it okay.”

Fair point, I thought. But I still don’t see how that was sexist. Seriously, it was a dick joke. If anyone in the room were to get offended, shouldn’t it have been the men? Maybe you don’t think it’s funny. Maybe you think it’s crude. But I’ll bet dollars to fucking doughnuts that that woman went to bed that night patting herself on the back for smacking down the big dumb chauvinist patriarch.

I’ve told this story before on this blog. I’m telling it again because I think it illustrates a point. The fight for independence is the fight to be master of your own fate. Feminists want to abolish rape culture because it’s up to them to decide when to have sex and no one else. Most women think abortion should be legal because it’s up to them to decide whether they want to have a child, not me or any other man. And I want birth control pills to be readily available to anyone who wants them because, well, it’s none of my damn business what a functioning adult does on her own time. What do I want out of this? The right to tell dick jokes at parties. Michigan Representative Lisa Brown was barred from speaking on the state House floor a year or two ago for making a very funny comment that *drops monocle* contained the word “vagina”! Let’s all try to be grown-ups around here. The joke I made was at my expense. It’s my dick and I’ll decide what to do with it, thank you very much.

I know one or two people who think that now that they have Spotify on their smartphones, they might never have to buy music ever again. That’s silly. It assumes, first of all, that the stuff on Spotify Premium will always be there. It also assumes that Spotify will always be there. And lastly, it assumes that smartphones will always be there and you’ll be able to use them wherever you go. The odds that we’ll all go back to using basic cellphones anytime soon are slim to nonexistent, but let’s not all jump on the mobile computer that you can carry in your pocket wagon just yet. If you want something to be readily available, you kind of have to own it, and if Spotify is like a digital library, then Spotify Premium is just a rental service. I am as convinced as ever that people will someday realize that online shopping/streaming/torrenting/whatever is not going to replace physical media and stores, not completely. Maybe it’s just wishful thinking on my part that we’ll see the return of independent book/music/video stores sooner or later, but maybe not. The point is that if you want something to be yours, you have to own it, not just make it readily available. There’s a difference.

Here’s Paul McGann reading a speech from classic Doctor Who. That man has an absolutely beautiful voice.