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.

Time Enough at Last

There is nothing in which deduction is so necessary as in religion. It can be built up as an exact science by the reasoner. Our highest assurance of the goodness of Providence seems to me to rest in the flowers. All other things, our powers, our desires, our food, are really necessary for our existence in the first instance. But this rose is an extra. Its smell and its colour are an embellishment of life, not a condition of it. It is only goodness which gives extras, and so I say again that we have much to hope from the flowers.

—Sherlock Holmes, “The Naval Treaty”

I’m trying to put more of a distance between myself and politics these days. I can’t stop following them; I’m too attached to the whole thing for that. But just as I have a tendency to think of having a boyfriend as the go-to thing that will make my life better, I need to stop thinking of everything in religious and political terms. When I was in college, I noticed that I had a tendency to do that when analyzing Shakespeare. The fun of Shakespeare is that you analyze it from virtually any angle, be it gender politics, historicization, metatextual elements, you name it, it’s probably there. But if you get too deep into politics, it just becomes depressing. I knew the Republicans were going to sweep the midterms. And without even bothering to read the commentary from right-wing pundits and politicians on it, I know that they’re going to talk about how they’re “taking back America” and all that other stupid shit they said when the same thing happened in 2010. There’s nothing I can do about it, and that’s that. Because change takes time. And their victory has more to do with the public’s disillusionment and their own gerrymandering than anything else.

People talk about how quickly high school flies by. Or college. Or life. The thing is that it’s always easy to say that about something once it’s over. Just as it’s easy to become attached to your money because every amount is small after you’ve spent it, every length of time looks short after it’s over. But four years is a significant length of time. It doesn’t just fly by, and the people who say it does are looking at it through the lens of nostalgia. These days, I’m just trying to make a living and hopefully have something resembling a healthy social life. It’s funny. Ten years ago, I felt like I was slamming my head up against a brick wall. I kinda felt that way four or five years ago. Depression has that way of shrinking your worldview so that all you can see is how shitty everything is and how difficult it is just to get up and shower and eat breakfast and shit. So I can’t really say “It gets better”, because my social life, romantic life, professional life, and various other aspects are nowhere near where I want them to be. But I want to see the next ten, twenty, thirty, or 200 years if I can.

I’m looking for a second job now. My savings and my income from my current job will hopefully last me up through December, but after that, it’s hard to tell. I’m hoping to make it back to New York for a week or so sometime in January so I can see old friends and visit old haunts, but that would require both getting a week off work and saving up the money. God, I miss NYC. People say they’re going home when they visit their families; New York is home for me. I applied for a job this week and didn’t get it. No biggie, I guess. It’s the same store that sells kitchen utensils and appliances at which I interviewed several months ago. I gave a great interview, but they gave the job to someone else. They don’t necessarily look for people who want the job and are qualified, do they? They told me that I could reapply for a temporary job during the holiday season. I took this to mean that they would keep me in mind for that, but obviously, they didn’t. I should know better than to get my hopes up by now.

I try not to let things get under my skin, but sometimes, I can’t help it. I got into an argument with some dbag not too long ago who called me an “insufferably pompous dudebro”. Wow, that got personal fast. And all I said was that I hate Taylor Swift. I guarantee you that I did not say anything half as harsh about this person, but I think what drives me nuts about these people is that they seem to think that because there is nothing stopping them from doing something, that means they should go ahead and do it. I don’t get that. I don’t understand why hating Taylor Swift makes me a misogynist rather than a misanthrope, and I don’t understand how applying the misanthrope label to myself makes me a faux-edgy dudebro. I guess the reason I’m fixating on this is because I could tell that a lot of people sided with him. The internet baffles me sometimes. Taylor Swift once countered a criticism made of her by Tina Fey by saying that there’s a special place in Hell reserved for women who don’t support other women. Because being a feminist means agreeing with every other woman about everything, and hating an individual woman, even in a tongue-in-cheek way, makes you a misogynist. Got it.

Most of the people I argue with seem to think that it’s wrong to act like people are different. But people are different. That doesn’t mean you should treat them differently. It’s offensive to tell other people that the labels they apply to themselves are meaningless because if you see it as a part of your identity, then anybody who tells you otherwise is robbing you of your individuality. Please do not act as if the key to recognizing everyone as an individual is to tell them that all labels are meaningless. Because then, you’re acting like everyone is the same. And you don’t get to decide for me what makes me me. If I believe that my astrological sign means something (I don’t, but bear with me), then that’s my goddamn business. I like Italian food. There, that’s a label that I’ve chosen for myself. And it means something, because not everybody does (just people with good taste). Am I making sense here?

If I had to choose a spirit animal, I’d go with snake. I’m weird, I know.

snake

A Breakup of Sorts

capaldiI just made kind of an important decision. If you know me or read this blog at all, you know about my obsession with Doctor Who. You also know that I fucking hate Steven Moffat, who has been the showrunner on Doctor Who for the last few seasons and is the co-creator of the BBC’s Sherlock, which reimagines the Holmes stories in present-day London. I’m not going to recount all of the shit I’ve said about him up until this point. Go read some of my previous posts if you want to hear about that. Or read what some other people are saying about him, because he’s a pretty polarizing figure. So what is this big decision? I’ve decided to stop watching Doctor Who.

It’s not that big of a surprise, when you think about it. Season three of Sherlock was so stupid I decided not to watch season four. (How did Milverton not realize that Sherlock would shoot him? If he doesn’t keep hard or even electronic copies of his blackmail shit, then that’s all you have to do, right? Besides, it’s not like he has an endgame. He just likes fucking with people. So kill the bastard.) I had been checking in with the new season of Who only intermittently, anyway, as I found Capaldi’s 12th Doctor to be, while still an improvement upon the 11th, more grating than charming. You have to walk a fine line in presenting that kind of character. The basic idea behind the 12th Doctor is that he’s an arrogant, manipulative asshole, but one who still has a strong moral code and turns out to be right more often than not. Boy, that sounds a lot like Sherlock, doesn’t it?

cumberbatchThe problem is that the Doctor’s/Sherlock’s moral code is becoming increasingly flexible. In season 2, Sherlock drugs Watson and traps him in a lab just so he can monitor how he acts when he thinks a hound is chasing him. In “Mummy on the Orient Express”, the Doctor takes Clara along on a farewell journey without telling her that he knows there is a monster on board because some mysterious presence has been trying to get him to come aboard for a while now. At the end of season three of Sherlock, Mycroft forgives Sherlock for his crimes and allows him to return to England after a four-minute exile because his country needs him. At the end of “Mummy on the Orient Express”, Clara forgives the Doctor for lying to her and decides to keep traveling with him even though she has a job and a man waiting for her at home. Because everything worked out all right, see, and the ends justify the means.

Except they don’t. I’ve had this argument many times, so let me see if I can distill what I’m trying to say here. In “The Day of the Doctor”, the Doctor travels back in time along with previous incarnations of himself to stop himself from pushing the button that will destroy Gallifrey and the Time Lords but also end the war with the Daleks. I don’t think real life is that convenient. People tell me I’m cynical for rolling my eyes at that, but isn’t teaching people that there’s always an option that saves everybody’s life and doesn’t have any negative consequences the most cynical lesson of all? To backup: Doctor Who was rebooted in 2005. The showrunner then was Russell T. Davies, who decided to make the new Doctor (the 9th overall, because he’s an alien who can regenerate and grow a new body when injured) the last of his kind. It’s a familiar trope, but the show ran with it. In the original series, the Doctor had had frequent run-ins with his fellow Time Lords and he rarely got along with them. In the new series, there were no fellow Time Lords (well, except for a scattered few, but never mind that) for him to clash with. It seemed like a step forward.

But then Steven Moffat decided to undo that last year. It used to be that the 9th Doctor, Christopher Eccleston, was the last of his kind (almost). But thanks to some timey-wimey paradoxes, his story has been rewritten so that he and his subsequent regeneration only think they’re the last of the Time Lords. Some people will say that it doesn’t matter, and that all that matters is how they react to what they know. Bull. The Fuck. Shit it doesn’t. Whether my mother is really my mother or a pod person who has been replaced by the Body Snatchers makes a whole lot of difference to me. Likewise, whether the Doctor really blew up his own planet to stop a war with the Daleks (the most evil race in the entire galaxy) or just thought he did makes a fuckload of difference. I’m not interested in any rationalizations. Russell T. Davies had an annoying tendency to bring people back from the dead, but at least he made you feel their deaths. The only episode Moffat has ever written for Who that I liked was his two-parter back in season one, and that was due more to Eccleston’s charisma and the introduction of Jack Harkness (a character Davies created) than anything else.

The Doctor can be a lot of things: outgoing yet lonely, funny yet distant, brilliant but impatient. It’s a difficult balance to pull off. Yet there should still be warmth there. Eccleston’s Doctor could be a real dick, but he was suffering from PTSD, and I’ll be damned if there weren’t moments where I wanted to hug him. With Capaldi’s Doctor, they seem to have been going for the asshole-who-kinda-has-a-point vibe and missed. That vibe is more suited to antiheroes anyway (think Ben Linus), and the Doctor isn’t an antihero; he’s a hero. Capaldi’s doing fine with the character, but I’m checking out. Let me know when Moffat leaves. At least there’s a big backlog to work through.

The Harder They Come

mr rogers

I know it sounds dramatic, but there are times when I feel like the whole world is conspiring against me. I’m not sure how else to put it. I had my first round of interviews recently at a fast food chain that shall remain nameless, but prides itself on being not like all those other fast food chains. I was friendly, professional, and enthusiastic, but they told me that I really should have researched the company and its grand corporate vision (such as getting as much of its food locally and organically as possible) more before coming in. I dunno, I guess I thought knowing what they served would be enough. However, they did call me back in for a second round. As a side note, I’d like to ask: Does anybody besides me still dress up for job interviews. I was raised to believe that even if the place had a casual dress code, you should wear something that’s at least one step up from that (i.e. a dress shirt and jeans) to look presentable. I interviewed for two jobs last week, and in both cases, there was another interviewee who was in street clothes. WTF?

I didn’t really want the other job. It was at a clothing store that you’ve all heard of but which shall likewise remain nameless. The other interviewee was a high school senior who seemed nice enough and was clearly more interested in the company than I was. So I don’t really begrudge them for giving her the job. But the fast food chain—man, did that one piss me off. I’m still not entirely sure why. I know rejection comes with the territory, but is there such thing as being too good for a job? The first interview went fine, setting aside my lack of knowledge about the company. The assistant manager seemed like a swell guy. At the second interview, the general manager told me that the first one didn’t really “count” as he had been out of town and the assistant manager had just gone ahead without him. The other interviewee was a nineteen year-old college student who sat there with her hands neatly folded reciting a few basic facts about the company and otherwise being perfectly bland and pleasant. I had done my homework and knew practically everything about that company, but that didn’t help. I couldn’t be bland if I tried.

I can’t be certain if the other candidates at these two interviews got the job, but I’m pretty sure they did. And that pisses me off. I’m a hard worker. I’m smart, capable, punctual, even friendly when I have to be. But there is something about me that rubs people the wrong way, and I just don’t know what to do about it. Do hiring managers look for people who just go through the motions and don’t rock the boat? I guess they do. Because that doesn’t describe me, never has, never will. It’s why I started this blog. If I had more friends, a cushy job, and Daniel Radcliffe begging me for a date, maybe I wouldn’t need it. But I don’t, so I do.

I had an interview a few months ago at a store that sells kitchen appliances. I can’t remember if I’ve told this story before, so just bear with me. I shop at another location of this store, so I already knew a fair amount about them and what they do. I could not have given a better interview. I had an answer for every question. I was on-point, made eye contact, and clearly wanted the job. I could even see the managers scribbling positive notes about me as I talked. As I left, one of them even said something to the effect of, “I’m sure we’ll be seeing you again soon.” Fuck you. They didn’t even get back to me. I called back a few weeks later and finally got my response. What did the other person do? At first, I thought maybe they’d gone down on the managers, but now I’m starting to think that they were hollow and dead-eyed, like the lady who probably got hired over me at the fast food chain. Somebody just kill me so that I can move forward in life.

I looked at an apartment lately. It could not have possibly gone any better. The apartment was perfect, the location was perfect, I was perfect. Any guesses as to whether or not I got the place? I’m at a loss here, people. My prospective roommates seemed nice. I chatted with them about my living habits and job and asked them about theirs. I even petted their fucking dog. But they gave it to somebody else. Always to somebody else. I’m someone else to someone else, so why can’t I ever get lucky?

Since I have to relate everything to Doctor Who, I would just like to say that “Listen” really wasn’t that good. Like everything Moffat does, it was circular cleverness that ultimately amounted to nothing much. So Clara helps the Doctor overcome a childhood fear. Why couldn’t he do that by himself? Why does everything in Moffatworld revolve around the main character? The Sherlock Holmes of canon was not “a high-functioning sociopath”, not even fucking close. He admitted when he was wrong. But Cumberbatch’s Holmes is never wrong about anything. And yeah, I suppose you could argue that helping the Doctor gave Clara the strength to talk to Danny again, but I kinda feel like she could have done that anyway. I wish like hell Moffat/Gatiss would stop reinventing and re-imagining old stories and come up with something new already. And that’s all that I have to say about that.

When I take over the world, I’ll have everyone who displeases me tossed into an active volcano. So be nice to me, okay?

The Bitch of Living

“Do you remember the first time we made love to this song?”

“Why is it every time you start talking, you sound like you gonna cry?”

–George Washington (film)

I haven’t dug too deeply into the secrets revealed by Edward Snowden since he fled the country last year, but I think what’s important about this issue is simply that we are having this conversation. Too many folks insist that by telling us what the government is up to, Snowden (and his compatriot Mr. Greenwald) are empowering the terrorists or endangering our troops or some such nonsense. I don’t buy that. I don’t agree with everything that he’s done, but what I respect about Glenn Greenwald is that his approach to the matter is rigidly journalistic. He believes that it is his duty to keep the people of the United States informed, and so he shares with us the facts that he thinks we need to make a decision about our leaders. Seems fairly reasonable. But the people who seek to discredit him do not play fair. On the contrary, they’ve made it very personal. And I do not approve of that. At all.

I’m trying to adopt a slightly more sanguine attitude towards my current situation. It’s difficult, but not impossible. Most human interaction bores me. I don’t know if that makes me deeper than everybody else or just a jerk. Of course, I’m not going to change anything about how I do things around here, so it’s really on you to decide what you think of that. I’ve started to externalize things that I used to internalize. That’s probably a good thing. After I had that rather negative interaction with a customer last month, I was almost glad when I found out how much I’d upset him. I was having a shitty day, so why should I make him happy? People need to understand that I don’t owe them a smile. And I can get along with just about anyone so long as they don’t treat me like I’m broken.

I often have a problem when I’m writing, which is that I have all sorts of prepared bits that I’m trying to work into a single piece. Obviously, I rarely succeed. Because that kind of top-down mentality kills all creative thinking. You must be able to take a project in unexpected directions (or let it take you, if you like) if you want to be surprised. A good general rule for me is that I keep doing things for as long as they are fun (or at least rewarding in some fashion) and stop whenever I feel like moving on. This gives me a sense of perspective. These days, my dreams are closer to nightmares than anything else. I can’t seem to turn that off. So I have to extract whatever lesson I can from them. People come and go; I abide. You can’t depend on anyone else to make you feel whole, but I’ll be goddamned if there aren’t people around me who seem intent on knowing me only as the person they want me to be. I must fight that.  It’s rare, but sometimes I get what I’m looking for.

The problem with telling young people to enjoy their youth is that it causes us to worry about whether or not we’re enjoying it enough. I was told that high school would be the best four years of my life. When I realized that wasn’t true, people told me that college was, in fact, the best four years of my life. It didn’t take too long to figure out that that wasn’t true either, but now that I’ve been through both of those and grad school, what now? Oh, I have some ideas. I don’t want to write as a career. The more I do this, the more I think of it as a sideline. It would be useful to have some sort of day job, preferably one with flexible hours that could accommodate whatever the hell else I want to do. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was a physician by day (as was Chekhov, interestingly enough). I have no desire to go into medicine, but you see my point. And I keep harping on this, but sometimes I really do feel like a bit of a real-life Sherlock, except with a gift for intellectual debate in place standing in for his deductive skill. I can take apart just about any argument piece-by-piece and put it back together. I just can’t make anyone care.

I’m thinking that I shall get back into the environmental activism game once I return to New York. There is a lot in this world that needs changing, and I’m not out to “solve” everything so much as to find and create harmony wherever I can. I’m not really a follower or a leader, just independent. That sounds great until you realize that I have almost no friends. But you can’t force that. I have figured that much out, and it doesn’t hurt as much as it used to. I find that the things I truly enjoy don’t ever get old. Great art can be experienced over and over again and reveal new secrets each time. (There are a few exceptions, like The Catcher in the Rye and 1984. I think I got what the authors of those were getting at the first time around, albeit for slightly different reasons.)

This reminds me of my favorite creepy pickup line: "Hi, I'm Big Brother. And I've been watching you!"

This reminds me of my favorite creepy pickup line: “Hi, I’m Big Brother. And I’ve been watching you!”

Sometimes you don’t live to see the fruits of your labor. Sometimes it’s not until after your death that people understand just how much you meant to them. It’s been six months since Philip Seymour Hoffman died, and it still pains me to think about him. If you’d asked me back in January who the greatest living actor was, I would have placed him above Pacino, Day-Lewis, and anybody else you can throw at me. But he is gone, at least from this world. If you’re like me, you can grasp the poetry in that. In my political, creative and intellectual endeavors, I seek only to put the past in the past and show people that they make the future. In the process, I will piss off basically everyone, sooner or later. Oh, well. For a guy who spends most of his time as a shut-in, I would like to experience the great outdoors someday. I hope it’s still there for me when I’m ready.