Why Doctor Who's casual lesbianism was annoying
I’ve been a fan of Doctor Who since the reboot and enjoy catching up every now and again. The later series of Steven Moffat’s run wore a little thin and I stopped watching by season 10. Now, with Jodie Whittaker as the Doctor, I was keen to tune in to have my own opinion about the regeneration.
The new series has been biting off a fair bit — bringing on an entirely new team, writing a female doctor, having three companions instead of just one, as well as bringing Chibnall’s vision to life. Along with that there has been a real resurgence in social justice of late where I think even the most average of attention payers will have heard something of. So I understand where the show wishes to address these issues and hear their audience.
Sometimes, though, you can think you’re paying attention but still be as tone deaf as ever. And the casual lesbianism in episode four, “Arachnids in the UK,” really came out like a cold salmon jumping upstream and slapped me in the face. Half of me rolled my eyes, and the other half got into a real grump about it. Madame Vastra and Jenny Flint this most definitely was not!
What happened was, in the very first dialogues, Chris Noth’s dickhead character was talking down to a female staffer, not even remembering how they were related. Turns out that she was his ‘niece’s wife.’
“Ha, nice one,” I thought to myself. I see what you did there with that throwaway comment highlighting a character’s sexual identity. I appreciate what you were trying to service. It wasn’t necessary but also kind of nice. Why shouldn’t a random family member be married to someone of the same gender? And why not let us know about it with your hat-tip, good sir? You’ve paid attention in Representation 101 class, and you want to do good in the world. Most excellent. We definitely wouldn’t have looked at her costume and haircut and come to the same conclusion ourselves, and it’s always nice to have your gaydar reading confirmed.
Do I sound a little snarky? That’s because not that many minutes later, the same staffer (Frankie — why are they always named Frankie?) walked her way into a horrible death by spider, her screams echoing off-screen and into the next scene as she recorded her final confession. I guess we should’ve known: she did walk through a door plastered with a hilarious number of foreshadowing KEEP OUT: DANGER AND DEATH IMMINENT signs.
So what’s my problem? Aren’t I happy to have had representation? She was just a supporting character anyway; it’s not like she would’ve had screen time after that. She had to get killed to highlight the severity of the situation and to increase suspense and tension for what Chris Noth’s dickhead character was trying to hide! And it was her fault she went down the NO ENTRY creepy tunnel. She just happened to be in a same-sex relationship — isn’t that what you want? Incidental sexuality, not a big deal, a character who does her job and lives her life while happening to be queer?
BURY YOUR GAYS, anyone? Have we learnt nothing from the shitstorm that was The 100?
Trust me, I’ve had this conversation with myself so many times to try and articulate why exactly I get that stirring in my gut, that annoyance and irritation and frustration at having to have the same conversation over and over again. But the fact that a disposable character was the one who happened to be gay is exactly why I have a problem with it.
You can’t make the incidentally gay character the character who didn’t matter in the first place. If they’re just there as a plot device, you need to do better. Write better. Don’t add one line of dialogue highlighting their sexuality when there was literally no reason for the actor to memorise that line if it was only lip service. We are not at that stage of representation YET where gay characters can be discarded as easily in the plot as a straight character. We don’t have a thorough, good-enough baseline of happy doo-dah stories of queer characters traipsing around with complex ups-and-downs of life. I’m not the first person to say this. And what you’re really saying to me, a queer viewer, is that at the end of the day, those characters and sexualities don’t matter. At the heart of it, at the bottom line, the character you explicitly told us was in a same-sex marriage, was OK to be written out. To be written off.
Yes, I am saying I would rather not have your queer character at all.
Of course I can’t speak for everyone, but I can guarantee it’s not great to see the above in a fun, family TV show where you tune in once a week for a bit of escapism. What a rollercoaster of emotion! “Wow, a queer character! How awesome — oh wait they just died. Well never mind then I guess. Art imitates life, amirite? Ha ha.”
I sure as heck hope Kevin didn’t have a family waiting for him back home. RIP buddy. Sorry you had to work for Chris Noth’s dickhead character.
end rant. see you all next time i have something to get off my chest!