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.

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Editing History

This one comes after “Things That Happen”, but you can read them in either order.

It has been my experience that it is useless to argue with somebody who sees the presentation of evidence as a sign of weakness.

I’ve crashed up against a brick wall of ignorance before, so a certain recent argument over Doctor Who wasn’t infuriating so much as just frustrating. I knew the instant I went in that I wasn’t going to convince anyone that I was right. Even so, I was taken aback by just how insulting some of the comments were. It’s so easy, when somebody uses an example to back up their point, to say, “Oh, is that ALL you’ve got? Just one example?” Uh no, I refrained from giving you a zillion more examples because I didn’t want to waste your time. People see what they want to see. If they want to claim that you’re being unfair and arbitrary, all they have to do is find something you didn’t mention and act as if that disproves your point. Well, that, or it’s just a counterexample. There’s a difference. What is remarkable to me about Doctor Who is that for a show that is ostensibly about time travel, it seems less interested in the mechanics and paradoxes of time travel than virtually any other time travel story I can name. There are no episodes (none that I’ve seen, anyway), in which somebody steps on a butterfly in the distant past, then returns to their present and finds that everything has changed. The Doctor isn’t afraid to change things every now and then, but up until the last few seasons, he has always been dead-set against oh, let’s say, taking Vincent Van Gogh to a modern-day exhibition of his work in the hopes of convincing him not to kill himself. (In “Genesis of the Daleks”, he basically does refuse to kill Hitler, and it’s one of the most famous serials in Who history, for good reason.) It’s not so much that the Doctor has never changed the past or that he never gets caught up in some weird dimensional tangent, just that he never does so casually or just because it’s convenient. That all changed with the Vincent Van Gogh episode, and let me tell you, I was angry as hell.

Not Van Gogh's fault, though.

Not Van Gogh’s fault, though.

I find that it’s usually best to stop the instant you think you’ve hit upon an argument that’s so rock-solid that your opponent will immediately recant their position. That’s usually the part where they just scream, “No, you’re wrong!”, and either ignore you or get violent. You have to quit while you’re ahead, is all, and more important than refuting the other person’s every point is showing them that you have other shit to worry about. So that’s why I always try to walk away as soon as I realize I’m not getting through. At a certain point, the disagreement gets to whether the sky is blue or just a very light purplish color, and that’s when I realize that it’s time to bow out, even if it looks to everyone else like I’m just a coward in an ivory tower. So I’m moving on.

I’ve always hated false equivalencies. I have no use for the notion that for every issue, there must be two equally valid points of view. That’s not just unfair to the issues that have only one valid position (gay marriage, anyone?), but unfair to the issues that have more than two valid points of view. It’s unfair for one person to pretend to be wiser than another just because they’re older and more educated, but not unfair for them to assume that they know something the younger and less experienced don’t. You can disagree with the past, but not dismiss it, is what I’m saying, because we’re all products of our parents, blah blah blah. Understand your own history, don’t pretend that it’s no longer relevant.

I’ve heard history described as “just one fucking thing after another”. That’s kind of the fun of it. By studying how we got here, we figure out where we’re going and all that lovely crap. And since people are basically the same, it’s nice to be reminded that even in Victorian England, people still laughed at crude jokes. The biopic is one of the safest and least interesting movie genres because biopics all follow the same formula and tend to smooth the rough edges of what is usually a very interesting life. Part of the reason that we’ve never gotten a biopic about Martin Luther King could be because the dude, at first glance, was so saintly that it’s almost difficult to make him human. He probably had his prickly moments, though, just like anyone. (Digression: Is Jeffrey Wright too old to play the part? Because if anyone is considering making that movie and isn’t considering him, they’re insane.) But it is possible to make a great film about a great man. Malcolm X would probably be the best example of that, as it’s not only well-made and entertaining, but worth watching more than once. I can’t really say the same for Gandhi.

I have to finish this quickly, as I’m writing this at work, a practice which I keep trying to rid myself of. I sort of have an excuse, though, as I finished the project that I’m supposed to spend my downtime doing and will get a new one next week (although I could easily find something else to do if I tried.) I’m still tired, though, from the past week. A lot has happened in the past few days, and I haven’t gotten much rest. Funny that the most drama came from an argument about Doctor Who. Hey, this shit matters to me. Nobody is taking that away, but believe me, they’re trying.

Fun Things

I’m not sure if I’ve made this clear, but I really hate Tyler Perry. Really, really, really hate him. I mean, I’m all for diversity, but when someone has no more to contribute to the discussion than, “I’m black, how about that?” I start to wonder if there aren’t more deserving people to lavish our attention upon. So you can imagine how delighted I was to discover this video, in which one of my favorite living filmmakers calls Perry out for what he is. I think it’s time we added the phrase “coonery buffoonery” to the cultural Lexicon, don’t you?

It’s only natural, then, that somebody asked Tyler Perry what his response to that was. Suffice to say, he didn’t really address the underlying issue.

His central claim here is bullshit. First of all, he doesn’t respond to what Spike Lee actually says, offering no defense of the quality of his art. Second, he asserts that black people are the only group of people who snipe at each other like this. That is false. Gay people bicker like, well, a bunch of bitchy queens. At least one Italian did criticize The Sopranos for its stereotypical portrayal of an ethnic minority, and if Jews don’t complain about Seinfeld (which some of them very well might), it’s just because that show was awesome and Tyler Perry’s movies suck. I love the way that he implicitly compares himself to Zora Neale Hurston. She was a very talented writer. Tyler Perry isn’t. He’s out to glorify himself, first and foremost, and he does so by piggybacking off of the ignorance of the people he claims to speak for.

Chris Rock was dead-on when he said that black people are more racist than white people. It doesn’t mean that white people aren’t to blame for slavery and the disenfranchisement of black voters, just that whereas most well-meaning white people aim to be deferential, black people have no such inhibitions. The most obvious manifestation of that is in the way that black people frequently throw around a certain word that white people have to be very, very careful about saying. There are, by the same token, gay people who figure that since being gay prevents them from being a homophobe (which, paradoxical as it sounds, is not entirely true), they can talk shit about other gay people. I’ve heard the more masculine, “straight-acting” types talk shit about swishy guys because they think they’re presenting the wrong image. There might be feminine guys who hate straight-acting ones because they’re “not gay enough” as well, although I, personally, have not encountered any. The point is that whichever way you swing it, this kind of talk is bullshit. Let straight people tear us down. I’m not even a part of the gay “scene”, really, and I get sick of all this talk about what a gay man should and shouldn’t be. I have other things to think about. Besides, what’s wrong with dissent? I fucking hate Glee. If Ryan Murphy is TV’s voice of gay Americans, I’d rather he were silent.

I don’t think it is possible to say anything hateful unless you are a hateful person. There was a scandal about a year ago when Tracy Morgan said something borderline-homophobic at a stand-up comedy show and immediately set about apologizing. Over and over again. Some of his 30 Rock castmates stepped forward to attest that he was not a bigot. I don’t know about the rest of you, but that’s good enough for me. More than good enough, actually. I’ve been alive long enough to know the difference between real hate and a joke that went too far, and let me assure you that this incident was the latter. When I was in high school, I once jokingly threatened to burn my history teacher’s mother’s house to the ground. I don’t know why I did that. I have a sick sense of humor, but even by my standards, that was excessive. He forgave me, though, and went back to disliking me just because I’m an asshole (as opposed to, you know, an arsonist.)

It’s time for me to talk about feminism now. This photo has been circulating some blogs lately, largely because, if this story is to be believed, it was not the tender romantic moment so many thought it was, but totally non-consensual.

You’ll notice that I didn’t call it sexual assault. I don’t think it was. I have been sexually assaulted (basically stalking and groping that persisted for over a year), and I honestly don’t think I would feel violated in quite the same way if an overexcited sailor who had probably lost a few friends to the war that had gripped the world for the last five or six years kissed me in his enthusiasm upon learning that said war was over. The woman in this (for me, anyway) still-iconic picture appears fairly blase about the whole thing. Clearly, she didn’t want it, but she appears to have gotten over it fairly quickly. Well, that settles that. Or does it? As one blogger argues, we live in a rape culture, meaning that such violations as the sailor’s are seen as normal rather than a deviation. That may be true, but there comes a point at which we have to start taking people at their word. I’m sick of people arguing that, oh, I don’t know, A Song of Ice and Fire is misogynistic even if George R.R. Martin isn’t. I don’t see how that’s possible. If we’re all just victims of larger forces, then are we even in control of our own lives? What’s the point of fighting if nobody can even begin to understand the evil influences that are working through them? Maybe the feminists I’ve argued with over the years are right. Maybe I just don’t get it. But I do know that ASoIaF contains all manner of fucked-up shit, and while I’ve only read the first book so far and seen almost none of the TV series, I didn’t notice an inordinate amount of violence towards women. Maybe I’ve just internalized the gender politics of this rape culture and can’t see beyond my own prejudices. But I really don’t think that’s the case.

Feminism is not a religion, but an idea. It deserves skepticism and even dissent, just like any other movement. I accept nothing without question. Tyler Perry should do the same.

White People Are Annoying

Before I begin, I’d like to say one thing: I’m not white, I’m cream-colored. With that out of the way, I’d like to talk about how much I dislike Caucasians. The most condescending words I’ve ever heard spoken about race are, “I don’t see race. I’m color-blind.” Strangely, I’ve never heard those words spoken by a person of color. That’s probably because Asians, Arabs, Hispanics, and the like know that pretending race doesn’t exist won’t solve racial inequality—in fact, it will make it worse. It’s like pretending a tumor doesn’t exist. Ideally, the tumor wouldn’t be there, but if you want to make it go away, you have to remove it. So if you’re one of those people who thinks affirmative action is “reverse racism”, this article is not for you. This article is for people who live in the real world, not the one we would all like to inhabit.

There was a controversy at my school not too long ago when the student Republican organization decided to hold a bake sale and charge different prices based on the race and gender of the patrons. This caused a big scandal, even making national news. I’m not providing any links, however, because I don’t feel like giving those fools free publicity. The president of the group argued that they were making a satirical point about the difficulty of not belonging to any minorities. I think he was just butthurt about not being granted special privileges for a change.

A white person complaining about affirmative action is no less petty than a rich person complaining about paying higher taxes. No, you did not do it all by yourself. To be white is to be granted privileges that one is not even aware of. I’m not black, but I can imagine how obnoxious it must be to be pulled over for no reason. I used to be an actor, and as a cream-colored man, I had it made. In almost every show I was ever in, there were more roles for men than women, and for a person of color, the selection was even more limited. Sometimes directors would cast a woman in a man’s role or a black person as a character who, in real life, would have been white, but their even having to do that in the first place speaks volumes about the marginalization of non-whites and females.

I should make one thing clear: not all white people are bad. In fact, many of my friends are white. I’m not even going to generalize and say that if you like the stuff at stuffwhitepeoplelike.com, you’re one of the bad ones, because some of those things are legitimately awesome (Barack Obama, The Wire, books, I could go on…) But really, they’re the exception rather than the rule. Most white people irritate me, especially white liberals. They talk incessantly about how we all need to have sympathy for people who are different and try to understand their unique point of view, but if they stopped spewing shit like a broken sewage line for two seconds, they’d realize that our points of view aren’t all that different. What exactly does liberal guilt accomplish except to make sanctimonious white people feel good about a superficial show of contrition? Sometimes, I honestly wish I were conservative. Actually, I don’t, but one of the few upshots to belonging to a group whose members frequently are racist is that you spend more time dismissing legitimate criticisms than beating yourself up over imaginary ones. At the very least, you sleep a little better.

A couple years ago, I performed Edward Norton’s tirade from 25th Hour for an acting class. You should see the movie if you haven’t already, but essentially, he spends five minutes spewing venom at every group of people in New York City before realizing that he’s the one he hates most of all. If that were all there is to it, it would be a rather trite sentiment. But that’s not what it’s about. It’s about the way that so much of hatred disguises itself as resentment over what people do rather than what they are. One might get legitimately annoyed by black basketball players taking five steps on every layup and blaming all of their problems on white people, but if one is moved to uncontrollable rage by something like that, there are deeper issues at work. My class, by the way, responded positively, although my teacher warned me that performing something this edgy for the wrong crowd might not provoke a positive response. Fair enough. I’m not trying to make people feel good about themselves. Actually, I am. But that doesn’t mean that I approve of everything they do.

Is there anything more hateful than telling another person that you’d like them more if they were different? Love has to be unconditional or it is not love at all. If you ever begin a sentence with, “I’m not a racist,” stop. If what you’re about to say is racist, prefacing it will not help. If it’s not racist, all you have accomplished is to put people on their guard. And if you think that something like that is enough to insulate yourself against charges against racism, you’re probably a racist.

Got that? Good. I’ve worn myself out. I’m going to go watch TV.

Photo Credit: http://pusiva.blogspot.com/2007/09/pastry-cream.html

I Love Black People

I hate Tyler Perry. For the longest time, all I had was secondhand information, but I recently did something that few white college-age males ever do: I watched a Tyler Perry movie. Not surprisingly, it sucked. More than that, it had a message that is only positive when viewed in a very particular light. Daddy’s Little Girls is a film about a single black father who falls in love with a black lawyer and, with the help of his black Christian community, wins custody of his daughters from their cartoonishly evil black mother and rids the community of her (black) drug-dealing boyfriend. Noticing a trend here? There’s nothing wrong with making movies about and for black people, but Tyler Perry doesn’t seem to have even asked himself how white people fit into his worldview. When the female lead talks about her difficulties finding a date, she says that it’s very hard to find a successful, single black businessman. Is it just me, or is there an unnecessary word in that sentence? Is chocolate merely her favorite flavor, or is she convinced that only someone with a similar cultural background could truly understand her? Something tells me it’s the latter, but the man she ends up falling in love with is a mechanic whose blue-collar background contrasts sharply with her well-to-do upbringing and Ivy League education. Oh, I forgot: he’s black. Well, that explains everything.

From what I can gather, pretty much every Tyler Perry movie is like this: no matter what your problems are, they can all be solved by embracing Christian values, marrying someone of the opposite gender, having children, and being black. So it’s a little odd that Perry himself, despite being over 40, has never married and has no children. I’m not going to speculate about his sexuality (although I’m hard-pressed to name any straight writers as given to female-centric melodrama and cross-dressing as he is), but it’s hard not to talk about the man who makes himself the center of his own empire. In addition to putting his name above the title of everything he writes, directs, or produces, he has named his production company after himself, and on the DVD I watched, every ad except one was for something with his name on it. Is he trying to take over the world? Truth be told, I’m kind of scared. The only people he seems to have any use for are straight, black, and Christian, and I’m none of those. Many have remarked upon Perry’s business savvy at catering to an underserved demographic, but I think his success has more to do with making that demographic feel like they’re the only one that matters.

For further proof, you need look no further than the title characters in Daddy’s Little Girls. The tagline reads, “She needs a good man. He wants a smart woman. There are only three things standing in the way”, but that really isn’t true. The girls are not three things; they’re one. By the end of the film, I couldn’t even remember their names, let alone any of their personality traits. They love their daddy, and he loves them. There, that’s their relationship. Had the film focused on them getting to know their father’s new girlfriend and the difficulties of building a life with someone from a radically different economic background, this film could have been a charmer. Instead, those issues are largely glossed over in favor of the larger social points that Perry wants to make. I hate to break it to him, but if the black American community wants to make progress, it’s going to need allies. Malcolm X had a massive epiphany when he realized that not all white people are devils—what will it take for Tyler Perry to understand that we matter as well? Even Spike Lee remembered to present us with a white character who was sympathetic to the plight of people of color. And you, Mr. Perry, are no Spike Lee.

It saddens me that those are the only two successful black filmmakers that most people can name. Remember John Singleton, who wrote and directed the wonderful Boyz N the Hood, and last I checked was churning out shitty action movies, presumably because he can’t get anything more ambitious off the ground? It’s sad but true that despite decades of progress in this area, racism is still a prevalent force in Hollywood. Don’t even get me started on the lack of good Asian-American cinema (Justin Lin, I am so sorry.) But no matter what your goal is, you cannot achieve it on your own. Spike Lee, as angry and occasionally ham-fisted as he can be, gets that. That, along with his extraordinary talent, is what makes him one of the great living American filmmakers and Tyler Perry no more than a hack. And with that, I shift this discussion to the only topic that makes any sense: George Lucas.

You might have heard about Lucas’ new movie Red Tails, which he dubs “one of the first all-black action movies ever made”. Setting aside the questionable business practice of making that into a selling point, it amazes me that he isn’t getting more credit for breaking new ground. The folks at Red Letter Media—the website responsible for those phenomenal takedowns of the Star Wars prequels—even mocked Lucas for being out-of-touch. Really? When was the last time you saw an action movie with a black lead who wasn’t Will Smith? Blaxploitation movies don’t count, because they haven’t been around since the 70s, and were generally low-budget anyway. And black cop/white cop movies don’t count either because they’re so cliché by now that it’s almost offensive. Give up? Yeah, I thought you would. Most movies about black people focus on slavery or the Civil Rights Movement, and while Red Tails no doubt has plenty of speeches about the importance of seeing past skin color, that’s not ostensibly what it’s about. I applaud Mr. Lucas for what he has done here, and while I doubt I’ll see the film due to its poisonous reviews, I’m going to go out on a limb and say that anyone who can’t see what a good thing Mr. Lucas did by producing this movie is at least a little bit of a racist. Yeah, I said it.

I’ll conclude by talking about one of my all-time favorite TV shows: Lost. Among other things, Lost broke new ground by showing us that diversity is an end unto itself. The cast is a multiethnic, multiracial group of people whose varying religious, cultural, and socioeconomic backgrounds create a tapestry of experiences unlike anything I’ve ever seen. When a minor character is revealed to be gay in season four, I could almost hear the writers turning to each other and saying, “Eh, why not? We haven’t had any gay characters yet.” In my fiction, I always strive not to make my characters all white men simply because I am. To get an insider’s perspective on a certain group of people, one needs to be a member of said group, which is probably why George Lucas neither wrote nor directed Red Tails. But to write about a group of people, all one needs is respect. Spike Lee has it. George Lucas has it. Tyler Perry doesn’t. For that reason, I will always respect those first two, no matter how much they do to destroy my goodwill (and boy, has George Lucas done a lot of that.) But in spite of everything I’ve said, I still think having Greedo shoot first was a really fucking stupid idea.