We’re still alive! Finals are just getting on top of us and neither of us has much time for anything other than working, eating, sleeping, drowning in Supernatural feels and dying with excitement for the Hobbit
So I’m going to do the same format as last week: writing the review as I watch the episode. Obviously spoilers abound, hence being tagged as such.
Beginning: BRIAN COX AND THE NEWSREADERS AND OMG I LOVE RORY’S DAD. I really like this episode already.
6 minutes: I’ve not really been posting much because I’m completely sucked in to the story. This is really, truly excellent. I also love that Amy writes travel articles for a magazine; that’s far more what I would expect from one of the doctor’s companions who’s waiting for him to whisk them off at a moment’s notice. It’s great. I like this episode more than last week’s, and last week’s was awesome.
8 minutes: Rory’s line about his job being important to him is great. They start to have a life outside the doctor because you actually couldn’t be going off with him all the time for your entire life. You would eventually want to settle. Very few people are completely nomadic and neither Amy nor Rory are. It’s great.
14 minutes: I got completely sucked in to the story again. This is interesting and it’s just the right balance of telling you something while also telling you nothing. It’s a brilliant story.
…so I’ve finished the episode. I couldn’t handle continually stopping watching, I HAD TO KNOW what was going on. That was a great story and I was completely hooked. I’ve not felt that with Doctor Who since the Doctor’s Wife episode (best episode ever for me). I thought that the ending was a bit rushed (only a weensy bit) but I think that they were introducing those particular aliens so they could bring them back later. However, the vast majority of the episode was pitch-perfect and I really liked Kate Stewart. Brilliant. More like this, please!
Tierney: So this is a topic that’s been buzzing around my head for a long time, and I’ve felt the need to have it out in a post (especially now that we’re branching out into fandoms).
I am not somebody who considers what TV tropes calls “Word of God” to be canon. To quote a section of that trope page, I don’t think that interpretation of any given work of fiction should be limited to “attempts to discern the ‘author’s intentions’”; nor do I believe that because the writer/producer/editor/publisher has said that they intended something to mean one thing that that means it actually does. Once a work of fiction has been shared with an audience, the creators of the work have as much say in its interpretation as its audience.
You still here? Good. The reason I’ve spelled all that out is because it relates to the sexuality of characters in works of fiction I really love.
I’ll start with Dumbledore. As many of you will no doubt know, J. K. Rowling “outed” Dumbledore as gay in 2007. This revelation came a few months after the final book was published. Obviously, with what I said before, this means nothing to me. I was talking about Harry Potter with a friend of mine, and I mentioned that Dumbledore was gay, and she simply said “no, J. K. Rowling just thinks he is. That doesn’t mean he actually is.” She’s right.
HOWEVER, there are a few passages in the 7th book that support reading Dumbledore as gay- namely, when we’re first being told about his early friendship with Gellert Grindlewald; and- the most telling one for me- when Harry is talking to Dumbledore about it. For me, I knew he was in love with Grindlewald then. BUT this doesn’t mean that other people will read it as such. I’ve seen one hell of an argument over Dumbledore’s sexuality and whether Rowling should have stated it in the books floating around tumblr- and both sides raised excellent and valid points, (I can’t seem to find it right now but when I do, I’ll post it here); however for me, the fact that it’s never officially stated in canon therefore means it’s not canon. If you read Dumbledore as gay, you’re right (as you have evidence in the book); but equally one could argue that’s testament to a true friendship between equals and Dumbledore was just sad he could never have that again- and if you think that, you’re right, too. Interpretation of literature relies on both the source text and the audience reading critically.
My next example is a little different, and it comes from Doctor Who. Steven Moffat has said on his (now deleted) twitter that River Song is bisexual. Going with the idea that there has to be even a smidgeon of evidence in the canon for something to be real, she isn’t. River Song is heterosexual.
I say this as a pansexual person who generally has to tell people she’s bisexual simply because they think I’m being pretentious or playing to the idea of creating too many different sexualities for people to keep up with (and to those people I say, go fuck yourself). I’m basically invisible in fiction. What few bisexual characters we actually have play straight into awful stereotypes of being slutty, overly flirty, not particularly picky, etc. etc. 10 points if you can bring me a pansexual character. It’s for this reason I have so many problems with labelling River Song as bisexual- aside from the fact that she fits the “overly flirty” trope of bisexuals, she never shows anything other than heterosexual tendency. Now, if this character is actually bisexual, why isn’t she portrayed as such? It would be a bit like outing Rose or Martha or Donna or Amy or Rory as bisexual. There’s about as much evidence that all of the Doctor’s companions are bisexual as there is for River individually. It would be very easy to have her flirt with a woman- just once. Or it could even be included as a throwaway line.
Speaking of throwaway lines, enter Irene Adler. Irene identifies herself as gay (the conversation has John say “I’m not actually gay”, to which Irene responds “Well, I am”). She then proceeds to go get a crush on Sherlock which is apparently so strong that she feels the need to make the password on her phone refer to him. This phone, by the way, she’s desperate to ensure he doesn’t get access to because it’s the deus ex machina for the whole plot. I’ll probably do a post later about representations of women, so I won’t go into all that- but my problem with having a character identify as gay and then fall for a man is that it plays to the stereotype that gay people are just waiting for the right man/woman to turn them back to straight; to revert them to the ‘standard’ setting, if you will. I’m not saying that sexuality isn’t fluid (because it is) and I’m not saying that this never happens in real life (because it does), but when LGBT people are basically invisible in the mainstream media (and when we do appear, it’s either as the butt of a joke or in a very minor role) then we should be looking to shows like Sherlock to present us in ways that don’t pander to stereotypes.
Going back to Doctor Who, I will talk about two final characters. First, Oswin. *POTENTIAL SPOILER ALERT* I actually really like Oswin. Outside tumblr, everybody seems to hate her; but if she’s going to be the new companion I’m excited. However, the one thing that irked me the second it was said and made my blood boil the more I thought about it was an exchange between Rory and Oswin, where she says “First boy I ever fancied was called Rory. Actually she was called Nina. I was going through a phase”. If I hear one more fucking person imply that non-heterosexuality is just a phase I am going to put my fist through something. Coming out was difficult for me not because people treated me differently, but because they thought that it was a phase I would get over. Once I got older, this morphed into something else which we’ll get onto in a moment. My point is that Moffat is once again using harmful stereotypes of non-heterosexual people and it just angers me.
On to my final character, and to the surprise of exactly no-one, it’s Jack Harkness. Oh, Jack. How I love you. Jack does play in to some stereotypes surrounding non-heterosexuality- such as basically being the universe’s biggest flirt and also not being enormously selective with his sexual partners. This is covered better in Torchwood, but seeing as I’m not including Word of God in my interpretations I’d best steer clear of Torchwood. However, although Jack’s main quirk is that he flirts with everything that moves (a very tired stereotype of non-monosexual characters), he also has an interesting storyline and character development outside that. Yes, his sexuality is one of his defining character traits (which isn’t really a positive thing), but it’s not his only character trait. It’s also consistent, unlike basically every other character on this list (except for River Song, who is consistently heterosexual in outward behaviour).
My general point is that although it’s good that we have more positive LGBT representations in the general media, it’s not good enough that we either a) don’t see LGBT people represented within canon, or b) when we do see them represented, they fall into general tropes that are over-used, out-dated, and frankly just wrong.
I’m going to quote this article just to finish off, because I really like this quote and it’s stuck in my head.
The problem with sexist, racist, homophobic, transphobic, classist, ableist, etc., remarks and “jokes” is not that they’re offensive, but that by relying for their meaning on harmful cultural narratives about privileged and marginalized groups they reinforce those narratives, and the stronger those narratives are, the stronger the implicit biases with which people are indoctrinated are. That’s real harm, not just “offense.”
I’m writing this review as I watch it so I can be as specific as possible.
5 minutes in: this is better than the previous two episodes by miles. This is the Doctor Who I love and it’s awesome. I’m a little spoiled by how great it usually is, sure; but this is a great idea and it’s well-executed. I won’t go into too much detail about the previous two episodes because I think we’re going to review them later, but basically the number of plot holes in the first episode was ridiculous and the second one was a great idea but it was all over the place. This one has a simple idea, it’s already introduced it clearly, and we’re getting on with the episode already. Awesome. More like this, please.
9 minutes in: I really like the Sheriff already, and I’m suspicious of the Carla Doctor.
10 minutes in: Hmm. The Cyborg intrigues me. Why does it say one of them is innocent and the other isn’t? I’m assuming that Rory is the innocent, but watching Doctor Who for this amount of time tells me he might not be. I really like this episode. I promise I’ll stop saying that soon.
12 minutes in: First thing, he says he speaks Horse (well…why not?) and says “he’s called Susan and he wants you to respect his life choices.” I’m going to talk about sexuality in another post I’ve got queued but I’ll go over this quickly: YES I KNOW IT’S A HORSE THANK YOU FOR POINTING THAT OUT but why does he use the pronoun ‘he’? If it’s meant to be that the horse wants to call himself Susan because he likes the name obviously that’s fair enough but if the idea is that the horse is transgender (is a sentence I never thought I’d say) then he should have said she. I know it’s a minor point but this is part of a larger thing with dealing with LGBT issues and I think Doctor Who could improve upon the way it deals with them . As I say, it’s a minor point, but in the wider context it bothers me.
Second thing, WHY THE HELL HAS AMY STAYED BEHIND?? It’s probably because one imagines Rory runs faster and the Doctor didn’t bring anybody at all, but given what I’m about to say, it’s bugging me. So, the Carla Doctor says to Amy “you’re a mother, aren’t you?” and although I really like the exchange that they then have (“You’re a mother, aren’t you?” “How did you know?” “There’s kindness in your eyes, and sadness; and a ferocity, too.” “Well, it wasn’t exactly straightforward.” “It seldom is.”) it brings Amy back again to fulfilling the mother role. Amy is only ever physically involved in the plot, she very rarely ever is given an intellectual role (off the top of my head, the only time she was was in the previous episode where she kicked serious ass). She gave birth to River. She gets kidnapped. She sits in the Sheriff’s office with an alien for no apparent reason. The Doctor wouldn’t bring just anybody with him, but Amy doesn’t personally bring anything much.
This whole thing bugs me because in this most recent incarnation of the Doctor, women very rarely break out of traditional gender roles. There’s been a huge emphasis on women as mothers and I don’t like it. I don’t want to undermine the importance of mothers or say that it’s a bad thing to have strong matriarchal figures in a TV show, but when they’re the only figures, or when they strongest figures are deemed strongest because they’re mothers then we have a problem. River is an exception, but the whole of River’s life revolved around the Doctor- the only thing that previously didn’t was her qualification in archaeology (which was a fine thing indeed), until they went and made that about the Doctor as well. River was a wonderful character and she was strong and independent, but then as we discovered more about her we discovered that she has less and less autonomy. I mean, Doctor Who is still better at including women in its shows than most other TV shows (and it had Rita, who was so beyond awesome I cried buckets when she died and I desperately wanted her to be the new companion); but that doesn’t mean that it’s perfect nor does it mean that we should ignore when it doesn’t get it right. I’m looking forward to the new companion for a number of reasons, and one of them is that I’m hoping we can get back to the relationship that the Doctor had with Donna. I like Rose fine, and I love Martha (DON’T KILL ME WHOVIANS) but I loved the equal pairing dynamic that the Doctor had with Donna. I loved that she didn’t fancy him. They were mates, travelling together and having a fantastic adventure. I hope that the new companion does that, because I find Amy a bit lacking in comparison.
15 minutes in: I love that the spaceship has an alarm. I’m now very suspicious of the Carla Doctor. WHAT’S HE GOT IN THERE??
18 minutes in: I knew it.
19 minutes in: It must be bad. To get 11 that angry you’ve got to be pretty bad. I would imagine that he created the gunslinger through experimentation. This isn’t very new territory in science fiction but they’re handling it really well and doing something interesting with it.
20 minutes in: They’re doing something interesting with the Carla Doctor- he doesn’t repent. Normally they do or say “oh you wouldn’t understand” but his reaction is exactly what it would realistically be: it ended the decade-long war in less than a week and he has exactly no regrets. Obviously this is still awful but generally in science fiction, when this happens they’re at least a little repentant. He isn’t. I love this episode. The only thing is, we’ve found all this out in the first half of the episode so I’m wondering what they’re going to do with the rest of it…?
22 minutes in: WHAT. DOCTOR WITH A GUN. WHAT. Amy arguing with him: 1 million points to Amy. She makes an excellent argument for why they can’t allow the gunslinger to execute the Carla Doctor. Yay Amy! I want to see more of this from the companions.
25 minutes in: DAMMIT I LIKED THE SHERIFF! Anyway. I like his line “you’re both good men, you just forget it sometimes”- it’s a pretty accurate summary of the Doctor. The Carla Doctor…I’m not sure. He clearly needs to answer for his crimes in a trial but I would imagine that he wouldn’t be put on trial on his home planet so I’m not sure what the Doctor will do with him.
28 minutes in: So are they American actors or British? I can’t tell with their accents- are they any good?
33 minutes in: This is why this episode is one of the best ever: Doctor Carla Jax is a complex character who sits neither entirely on the good side nor the bad. The gunslinger is a person who was turned into a killing machine and who wants his revenge- and although one can sympathise, he’s willing to kill everyone to get it. Neither is entirely in light or in shadow. This is excellent.
40 minutes in: So Doctor Carla Jex allowed his ship to self-destruct so that nobody in the town would die and so that the cyborg wouldn’t have to kill him.
End of the episode, verdict: That was excellent. Possibly the best episode of Doctor Who yet, for me. It was interesting, engaging, had just enough plot rather than too much or too little, and best of all, complex and interesting characters.
The next episode looks awesome, too. I can’t wait.
So, all in all this was a really fantastic episode. I totally agree with what Tierney’s saying. The only major things that bugged me where some historical discrepencies, but they were minor so I didn’t let it bother me. I watched with my friend Eric and randomly after one of the citizens talked he turned to me and said, “JUST WAIT FOR THE DUST BOWL, MOTHERFUCKERS. JUST WAIT.”
Also, FINALLY THE DOCTOR IS ANGRY. I LOVE ANGRY DOCTOR.
WHEN THE GUY CALLED OUT THE DOCTOR FOR NOT LOOKING AFTER THE TIMELORDS:
WHEN THE DOCTOR WAS GOING TO LET HIM GET EXECUTED:
BUT ALL IN ALL:
Before we make any kind of post about this week’s episode (A Town Called Mercy), here’s a friendly reminder that you should tumblr saviour “spoilers” if you don’t want to see any. We’ll probably go back over the next couple of weeks and do the previous two episodes, but not yet.
Neither of us have seen this episode yet, so it won’t be for a little while. This is just a heads-up. See you soon!
Hey guys! We’re still here. Sorry we’ve not posted much, but many things have been going on in our personal lives so posting has been pretty difficult.
For me, (Tierney), I’ve just moved to Spain for my year abroad and because there wasn’t much space in my luggage I’ve had to leave my Harry Potter books in England. I’ll do my best to track down some English copies but sadly someone stole my purse so I’ve not much access to money. Hopefully I’ll be able to get them in a library somewhere so fingers crossed!
Emily, here! I’m currently in my last year as an undergraduate at Iowa and am taking 18 credit hours, 15 of which are for English courses. I’m studying for the GRE and I’m getting my graduate school applications ready, as well. On top of that I’m still running the LitReactor tumblr and am helping run their twitter account now, so I have a lot going on. This means I don’t really have the spare time to read novels at the moment and, sadly, probably won’t have said time until Christmas break.
So, on to the announcement. We’ve decided to branch out. We’re going to branch out into movies and TV shows, starting with (probably) the Disney canon and also the current season of Doctor Who. We are still going to continue with the books, of course, but this is partly to tide us over until I can get my mitts on Harry Potter again. This also means we can do each Harry Potter film in turn and compare with the books. ALSO, we’re thinking of switching the name to Traversing Through Fandoms, since now we won’t just be blogging about literary items.
What do you guys think?
We’re still here! I just wrote 7 and a half thousand words in like 24 hours so haven’t read any OotP yet, but here’s two gifs that pretty much sum it up
WHY WOULD SOMEONE DO THIS?
So…I just posted this on my personal….I figured you guys would like to sob along to it with me, as well. Warning: It fucking hurts.
Hi guys, Tierney here- so I’ve got some work that needs to be done by next week, and then an exam after that to take; so I can’t really be spending all that much time reading. Hopefully, I’ll get done quickly so I can go back to blogging but I think it’s going to take us a few weeks to read OoTP. Emily has a lot of work going on as well so posts are going to be few and far between.
I just thought I’d make this so that you know we’re still here, we’re still reading; it’s just going to take us a little longer this time around.
Also OoTP infuriates me because I spend the whole book yelling OMG HARRY SHUT THE FUCK UP.
Emily: I feel like we should warn you guys. I doubt we are going to make many posts for Order of the Phoenix just because they’ll all be so repetitive, “stop being a twat, Harry.” “WOW UMBRIDGE, RUDE.” You get the jist. We’ll post about other things, but we’re trying to speed through this one, just because it’s so rife with angst. DO expect serious OTP feels from Tierney though when Sirius dies. Just thought I’d let you guys knew we are still here, still reading. We just don’t want to smother you in posts that express the same sentiment so we can get to Half-Blood Prince quicker (my favorite).