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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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.

Things I Hate Doing, Part 7

5. Getting Old

I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but nobody watches television anymore. Seriously, do you watch TV? Of course you don’t, because you’re on the internet. And the internet is the only valid means of media distribution right now. Even if you do watch TV, it’s probably on the internet. And you’d rather watch internet anyway. But seriously, at least one study has shown that kids these days recognize YouTube personalities more easily than movie stars. That’s not actually that surprising for anyone who spends much time on YouTube. Tyler Oakley has 4.5 million subscribers, last I checked. How many people saw the last Sin City movie? (Okay, maybe that’s an unfair example, because that movie really tanked. I mean, it’s not like I was going to see it, but I thought it would have at least cracked $20 million.)

L to R: douchebag, douchebag, douchebag

L to R: douchebag, douchebag, douchebag

The point is that YouTube and social media are, as much as it pains me to say it, becoming as popular a means of consumption as the ones I grew up with. That might not necessarily be a bad thing, but it does leave me feeling a little out of place. A lot of YouTube personalities are around my age or younger. (If we broaden it to stuff like Vine, you get people like Nash Grier. Fuck that guy.) The average YouTube subscriber is almost certainly younger than I am. Of course, the majority of YouTubers are a walking case for eugenics, but that could just be an illustration of Sturgeon’s Law. I still remember shrugging when I realized that podcasting was becoming a popular medium. There are a few that I listen to, but overall, it just doesn’t interest me. I already read books, watch TV and movies, and occasionally see plays or concerts. I don’t need to be an expert on all forms of media. And sometimes, I think that the real problem is just the way that we let the 18-24 year-old demographic dictate the direction of our culture. Maybe that’s because they don’t know any better, which makes them easier to manipulate. But what do I know? I’m a blogger. Who the fuck reads blogs anymore?

4. Having Neuroses

It occurred to me recently that I have only once or twice in my lifetime had anything resembling a stable home life. From my well-documented issues with my parents and occasionally the rest of my my family to my also well-documented roommate issues, building a home that is worth returning to every evening definitely seems to be one of my weak points. I’m not sure what to do about that, but the result is that I have any number of habits and insecurities that I can’t stop myself from having but hate myself for. The best living situation I’ve had so far is that one spot I stayed in Manhattan for the latter half of my time there. The landlord did have one weird rule requiring us to pay our rent in cash (I think he’d gotten stung by somebody passing him bad checks before) which meant that once a month, I had to walk down to Wells Fargo, withdraw a large amount of money, then walk back with it in my pocket, but if that’s your biggest complaint, you’re probably doing okay. The only answer here, I suppose, is what RuPaul would say: learn to love yourself. But I could really use a leg up.

3. Not Being Able to Express Myself

cloverfieldI would like to take this instance to sort of defend J.J. Abrams. Most of my nerd friends don’t much like him. I can see why: Most of what he does is just a rehash of other stuff. Cloverfield was basically Godzilla-minus-Godzilla-plus-found-footage-gimmick. Still a decent movie, in my opinion. Super 8 tried really hard to be E.T., but abrupt ending aside, it wasn’t too bad. And then there’s his Star Trek films. Into Darkness had…issues, but it didn’t make me angry, which is saying something. Honestly, what is the harm in rehashing old shit just with a shinier presentation? It’s not going to be particularly good, but it’s not exactly harmful either.

I know I rag on Steven Moffat all the time, but bear with me: In The Day of the Doctor, he added a sub-regeneration between Doctors 8 and 9, now leaving it to us to debate whether Peter Capaldi is really the 12th or the 13th Doctor. Except that there is no debate: He’s the 12th Doctor. You could maybe call John Hurt Doctor 8.5, but that’s exactly what pisses me off. Why did we need to see what happened between Doctors 8 and 9? Even if the only reason they came up with him is that they couldn’t get Eccleston back, the rationale for doing this seems to be that nobody explicitly said there wasn’t a sub-regeneration between Doctors 8 and 9. And that’s not a good reason for doing anything. But as usual, nobody will listen to me. So, you know, I’ll keep howling into the wind.

2. Being Out of Touch from the Moment I Was Born

Let’s return to YouTube for a second. I probably spend more time on there than I should, but the thing is, I’ve been yelling at those damn kids to get off my lawn since I actually was a kid. So I might be able to offer a little bit of perspective on the whole thing. When I was in middle school, one of my best friends told me that XXX was an awesome movie and that he couldn’t wait to see it again. He was a great guy, and probably does not feel the same way about the movie today. Then again, let’s be careful as to what we will excuse in children as a result of their age. Even when I was sixteen, I did not yell “fag” as indiscriminately as Nash Grier does. Never mind that, I didn’t even do that when I was ten. And his apologies are all half-assed “I’m sorry, I didn’t know what I was saying” nonsense. Yes, you did. If you can use the internet, you can go to Wikipedia and read about the AIDS epidemic. I was lucky enough to have missed it, but I’ve seen The Normal Heart, and let me tell you, that shit is terrifying. You have to at least try to learn from your mistakes. Try.

1. I Don’t Know What to Call This One, So I’ll Just Get Right Into

I think part of the issue here is that YouTube and social media cut out the middleman. Miley Cyrus may be headed for a meltdown, but that’s just because she’s surrounded by agents, producers, and possibly friends and family telling her that what she’s doing is a good career choice. Is it better when anyone with a camera can just upload a video and let the world hear their unfiltered thoughts? I’m not sure if I can make that call, but I expect YouTube, Vine, and all that other shit to become a lot more like the music and movie industries in the coming years. They’re too lucrative not to. If you’re a big star on YouTube, you are legitimately a celebrity, even if nobody over 35 has any idea who you are. How long do you think the current model will last? It’s already changing: The big stars on YouTube get bussed around at conventions, assigned a security detail, and mobbed by screaming girls if they dare to step out alone. So really, the content hasn’t changed, just the medium.

It's nothing new, really.

It’s nothing new.

There are some child and teen stars who grow up to be well-adjusted people. Mara Wilson was one. She’s a talented writer, an accomplished humanitarian, and as far as I can tell, a nice lady. In her case, that’s probably because she was blessed with a supportive family and smart enough to get out when she realized that Hollywood was through with her. If there is one thing that separates the flash-in-the-pan stars from the ones who just might stick around, it’s the ability to recognize that all of this attention can’t last forever. If you want to stay relevant, you have to be willing to change with the times. Joan Rivers stayed relevant for five decades in showbiz. Regardless of whether you find her funny, that’s some kind of miracle. Her jokes didn’t change all that much, it was just that she never took anything for granted. Smart woman, that one.

When I was in college, some people suggested I start a YouTube channel or something similar instead of writing a blog. I guess they just wanted to hear and see me instead of reading me. I’m glad I didn’t. Even if I had, I would certainly never have gotten all that famous or popular. Because I’m a weirdo. But I like to keep my ear to the ground, and I flatter myself that I have a clearer idea of what’s going on in pop culture than many so-called experts. Let’s face it, nobody is going to know who most of these people are in another twenty years.

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?

Something Just Broke

The way of the world is to bloom and to flower and die but in the affairs of men there is no waning and the noon of his expression signals the onset of night. His spirit is exhausted at the peak of its achievement. His meridian is at once his darkening and the evening of his day.

—Cormac McCarthy, “Blood Meridian”

The new season of Doctor Who has started up, and with it, plenty of opportunities to talk about how much I hate Steven Moffat. Except there’s not much that I can say about him that I haven’t already said. If you read this blog, you know that I have literally thousand of words’ worth of opinions on Doctor Who and, to a lesser extent, Sherlock, but there are folks out there who think Steven Moffat is one of the greatest minds currently working in TV, and if you believe that, you believe that. What I will say is that while I like Peter Capaldi plenty, I do feel like the 12th Doctor is sounding a little bit too much like either the 11th Doctor or Sherlock so far. Moffat has always had a bit of a tendency to turn his characters into interchangeable dispensers of wit (and his monsters into interchangeably faceless entities—those ticking clock dudes from the premiere reminded me way too much of the clock dudes from “The Girl in the Fireplace”). The 12th Doctor is darker than his previous incarnation, but only a little. It’s like they changed things up just enough to make people think they were witnessing something new, but not enough to challenge them. And the Matt Smith cameo was pure fanservice.

The 6th Doctor’s image has been revived somewhat in the past few decades. Almost everybody agrees that his first season was a low point for the entire series. “Trial of a Time Lord” was an improvement, but only an incremental one, and “The Twin Dilemma” remains one of the most excruciating viewing experiences I have ever had. That said, Colin Baker is markedly better on the Big Finish Audio Adventures. Not good enough to bump him up in my rankings, but good enough that I recognize that it wasn’t really his fault. He played the character to the best of his abilities. But nothing worked about “Timelash”. The writing, directing, production design, and yes, acting were all execrable. And bad Doctor Who is like a bad acid trip: queasy, nightmarish, and downright painful to sit through. So I still can’t say that I’m much of a fan of the 6th Doctor. Instead, I’ll say that good Doctor Who is about more than just who plays the Doctor.

We all like to believe that we are special snowflakes, but I wonder if my individuality runs a little bit deeper than it does for most other people. Or maybe it’s just that what I want out of life is somewhat unconventional. These past few weeks have been very stressful. I can’t go into detail yet, except to say that whatever the consequences, I choose not to be a rat racer. I wonder if part of the reason that I’ve fought with roommates, teachers, and various authority figures over the years is that they can sense that I don’t like them. They’ll ask me to do something and I’ll do it, but they can tell from the look on my face that I’m doing it only to get rid of them. That doesn’t excuse Psycho Queens Guy for barging into my room at ten at night and threatening to kill me, but it does place his behavior in some context. People are baffled by the idea that the person they live with/work with/get coffee from would rather they just left him alone. And you either learn to live with that or you don’t.

I’m trying very hard to adapt a Zen attitude towards the shifts that are occurring in my life right now. It’s tempting to fall back on comfort food, and to an extent, that’s what I’ve been doing lately, rereading some of my favorite funny articles on the internet and watching the TV shows that I already know I like. But a part of my brain is pushing back against that. It believes that now is the best time to be setting out and trying new and radical stuff. Maybe there is some truth to that. The hard part is setting a balance. When I’m under a lot of stress, everything goes to shit. I want to eat either too much or not enough, I have trouble sleeping, and when I was living with Psycho Queens Guy last year, I started having diarrhea like, twelve times a day. (I went home for a few weeks and it cleared up almost immediately. Funny, that.)

If I could synthesize everything that I’m complaining about here into once coherent point, I would say that what I’m going through is not my fault. It’s just the world, and I’m trying to push back. If I could externalize everything I’m feeling, I would, but some people just want control, and it’s all I can do to tell them that they can’t have it. So with that out of the way, I’ll talk about something that makes me feel a little bit more hopeful: I started watching “The Enemy of the World” not too long ago, and it’s really good so far. That, for those who don’t know, is a 2nd Doctor storyline that was lost for years before being rediscovered. Very few of Patrick Troughton’s serials still exist in their complete form, which is a shame, because he’s one of my favorite Doctors. So it’s a relief that this one not only turned up again, but is really good. I watch one episode at at time to mimic the way that people watched it when it originally aired. It’s better that way.

There’s no rationalizing what you feel.

 

Be ye not afraid.

Be ye not afraid.