This Is Not a Post About Rape

This is not a post about rape, though it was prompted by one–or two–sort of.

It’s not a post about Doctor Who or science fiction or fantasy either, sorry.  I’ll get back to my usual Who-centric musings sooner or later, I promise.  What this post is about is how adding negativity to something that’s inherently negative just gets us deeper into negativity.*  It was, in fact, prompted by a discussion of rape.

Today I read a post by Kristin McFarland that really got me thinking.  Her article was in response to a John Scalzi post that I read and RTed and shared on Facebook a couple days ago.  You should probably read both so you’ll understand what I’m talking about, though if you’re easily triggered, skip the Scalzi piece.  Really.

Go ahead, I’ll wait.

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Ok.  So McFarland’s piece really got me worked up.  It’s titled, in part, “How John Scalzi Pissed Me Off,” but it seems like maybe she’s less pissed at Scalzi himself and more pissed at the world in general for being the kind of place where white males have the podium instead of females, even when the issues discussed center around women.  As well she should be!  That’s the world we live in, and it does suck.  And hooray for everyone (McFarland and Scalzi included) who advances the discussion and does something to change it.

That said, I came away from the piece with a really negative feeling.  It seemed to imply that I suck because I enjoyed (well, that’s not the right word–appreciated is probably a better choice) and shared Scalzi’s post.  McFarland mentions a piece by Seanan McGuire that was shared around the ‘nets, but that didn’t get the high-profile views it deserves.  Well I don’t know who Seanan McGuire is.  She’s probably super-awesome.  Her piece is probably most excellent.  And I’ll almost certainly read it…someday.  Right now, my inner 9-year-old has taken over and she’s all huffy about being told I did something bad–that I’m in the wrong because I didn’t share a post by a person I’ve never heard of and because I did share one by someone I admire.  9-year-old E gets defensive easily and is currently saying “Fine!  I don’t care what you think!” and storming off to her room to read Nancy Drew.

So that brings me (finally) to my point.  When it comes to feminism and women’s issues and such, I agree we’ve got a long way to go before things are truly equal and fair.  I feel just as strongly that every single person who’s speaking out for that fairness and equality should be allowed their voice.  I don’t think any man speaking about women’s issues takes away my right (or anyone else’s) to do the same.

Should we help the less-heard women in the crowd reach a larger audience?  Absolutely!  Should that be achieved by silencing other voices who are speaking out for us?  I don’t think so.  I don’t even think that would work.  Silencing anyone scares me.  In my book it’s never okay to keep people from speaking their mind.  A world like that frightens me as much as a male-dominated one, if not more.  I feel that silencing men, especially when they’re on our side, is the wrong way to go about things–a step backward in fact.**  That’s the wrong approach.  Instead, we should work to make sure everyone is heard.

I think we all can and need to work together: girls and boys and men and women and the many good folks who eschew those labels altogether.  We’re all human beings, and we can and should all love and help each other.  Let our voices be heard.  All of them.  Let’s use the loud voices to lift up the quiet ones and use love and encouragement*** to make us all stronger.

All of us.

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*Hey!  Just like in math!

**Or perhaps just a step towards something scarier, like I said.

***With a healthy dose of discussion and amiable critique!  I laud both Kristin McFarland and John Scalzi for contributing to the cause and fighting the good fight, each in their own ways.

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New Doctor Who Through Classic Who Eyes

I am still learning how to watch Doctor Who.  I know that’s an odd thing to say, given I’ve been watching it since 1983, but to be honest, that’s precisely why I find myself unsure of how to watch it now.

When I was a child, I consumed everything with the same wide-eyed guileless wonder.  There was no cynicism, no irony—just deeply felt joy and excitement.  Watching classic episodes first experienced in that way dredges up those same feelings, even now.  I get echoes of childish thrills when I watch “Seeds of Doom” or “Full Circle” or even “Warriors of the Deep,” and that creates its own problem—trying to reconcile my ingrained wonderment with my adult recognition that the effects are really rather crap.*  That’s not the issue I mean to talk about now, however.  That’s something I’m familiar with, having re-watched plenty of beloved childhood films and tv shows.  I think we’ve probably all had that experience by now.

What I’m talking about here is my inability, still, to comfortably watch new Doctor Who.  Note that I still adore it.  I am not made uncomfortable by it.  I’m just not at a place where I can watch it…100% comfortably.

You see, new episodes bring on a frisson of cognitive dissonance.  Doctor Who is the show I love above all others, yet new episodes don’t strike me in that pure, innocent way the classic series did.  It can’t.  I’m no longer a five-year-old, oblivious to the flaws and seeing the show in its Platonic ideal state.  I’m now in my mid-30s, and I have a television degree under my belt so I’ve been trained to look for those flaws.  I can’t miss them, and once I’ve seen them, I can’t unsee.  Missing the flaws completely and ignoring them purposefully are two very different animals.  My brain expects the former, experiences the latter, and then seizes up in an awkward “reverse-squee.”

Thus after my first viewing of a of new Who episode, I’m in the weird position of always saying “it was pretty good.”  My gut reaction can never be better than that, nor worse.  I find it impossible to hate on anything because…well because it’s Doctor Who!  There is no hating Doctor Who in my world.  On the other hand, I can’t quite ride the emotional high that other programs** can give me, because I have this long history of unconditional adoration the new show can never quite live up to.  There will always be an emotional gap, and that gap itself irks me like an unfilled cavity.

So even after watching my favorites of the new show,*** there’s a teensy part of me that’s hollow.  That is in no way the fault of the show.  It’s poor wiring on my part, and it’s why I’m still “learning” how to watch Doctor Who.  I have to find a way, as a grown up, to let that childish expectation go—to recognize that I’ll never feel quite the same way about Doctor Who, and to further recognize that that’s ok.  I need to get better at ignoring not only the show’s flaws but my lack of a five-year-old’s glee.  Then I need to replace that artless glee with the more sophisticated glee of a 35-year-old—a 35-year-old watching a show created by folks who clearly felt that same naïve glee when they were wee ones.

I’d like to think I’m not the only one with this problem (though it wouldn’t surprise me at all if I were).  Has anyone else felt this way?  Do you longtime fans (of roughly my age) struggle with unreasonable and immature expectations like I do?  Or have you lot all successfully put your inner moppets to bed so you can look upon new Doctor Who with fresh and jaded eyes?

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*And the performances may be off and the lighting is ridiculous and what the heck are they wearing? …

**Twin Peaks, Babylon 5, Red Dwarf, Firefly, Leverage

***”Dalek,” “Doomsday,” “Human Nature”/”Family of Blood,” “Blink,” “Utopia,” “The Impossible Astronaut,” “Asylum of the Daleks”…  (Ok, I should not have started listing those.  I keep wanting to add more.  Stopping now.)

Discussing, Not Dismissing: The Perils of Talking Doctor Who

I think some of you were expecting a follow-up to my Pond article here, and indeed, that’s what I intended.  Some IRL sadness coupled with what prompted me to write the following post have at the very least, delayed that.  Perhaps they’ve preempted it entirely.  In case of the latter: I liked “The Angels Take Manhattan” quite a bit.  I thought the title and Statue of Liberty were dumb, but on the whole, I enjoyed the rest.

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A while back I wrote a post about how shitty it is when non-Doctor Who fans bag on the show I love so much.  I still stand by everything I said there.  It sucks when people insult something you care about.  It sucks even more when people insult you for caring about it.  It’s stupid, really.  We should be happy when others enjoy stuff.  Does Joe Schmo’s enjoyment of Generic Program One really make the world a lesser place for you?  No.  It doesn’t.*

I’ve noticed a similar problem within the ranks of Doctor Who fandom.  We all like the show (or claim to, anyway)—that’s a prerequisite.  We don’t all like the same things about it.  We have favorite Doctors and companions and stories and eras and even writers, directors, composers, and production designers.  That’s all great.  Diversity is fun!

On the other hand, we also have least favorites of all of those.  And that’s where the trouble starts to rear its ugly head…

There are scores of nits to pick when it comes to Doctor Who.  We have decades of poor effects, hole-filed stories, stiff performances, questionable directorial choices, and an unending list of other complaints.  That’s the nature of the show, and we love it despite these things.  That said, we all have different nits that we choose to pick.  Again, that in itself is just peachy.  Diversity—yay!

It’s when those differences—specifically, discussions about them—start to skirt the realm of personal attacks that things turn grim…

As Doctor Who grows in notoriety (as we all have to admit it’s doing), there are more voices clamoring about what they think.  It’s easier than ever to get tugged into a discussion of the nuances of the show.  All too often I’ve seen those disagreements turn ugly—or at the very least, snarky.

So Terry Televiewer liked aspect X of the classic show, and you thought it was puerile.  Maybe you saw some sexism in the way a certain new series character was written.  Jane Doh didn’t.  I loved “The Angels Take Manhattan” despite a few plot inconsistencies that had to be overlooked in order to enjoy it thoroughly.

So is Terry a simpleton?  Is Jane sexist?  Am I a vacuous airhead because I’m able to enjoy something without asking too many questions?

Hell to the no.

Sadly, responses to Who-based disagreements** too often seem to imply that those types of things are true.  Because someone disagrees with an opinion, they’re clearly a lesser person and often not even worthy of engagement for further discussion.

That sucks.  Like I said in my previous post, it’s uncool to make me feel like a jerk for loving the show I love.  It’s every bit as uncool (if not more so***) to make me feel like a chump for liking (or even just tolerating) aspects of the show.

Doctor Who is an amazing program.  It covers a whole universe of issues and questions and emotions, and those deserve to be picked apart at length and examined and appreciated.  I’m not anti-discussion.  On the contrary, I’m very much pro-!  I’m pro-discussion; I’m anti-dismissing.  It’s not a discussion if all you do is put the other person down for not seeing things your way.  You do both the show and fandom a disservice when you shoot someone down.  Why not listen and explore why they feel the way they do?  You might learn something or at least come to understand their point of view.  If nothing else, you can agree to affably disagree.  There should be no harm to your ego in that.

For the record, I’d like to state that there are plenty of wonderful, friendly, open-to-civil-discussion fans out there.  I feel incredibly lucky that I’ve surrounded myself with some of the best of the best of Doctor Who fans and that I listen to some of the “friendliest” Doctor Who podcasts around.  The phenomenon I cover here seems to happen most when I dip my toe into the larger waters of fandom.  There are some cold bastards out there.

Try not to be one of them.

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*And don’t give me crap about Joe’s annoying habit of pushing Generic Program One in your face.  That’s a separate issue.

**I realize this phenomenon isn’t unique to Doctor Who fandom, but that’s the fandom with which I associate most, so I’m framing the argument in these terms.

***Because you profess to love it too.