Tuesday, July 7, 2015

#065 BBC 123

… in which our fearless podcaster explores the pre-Big Finish audio adventures of the Doctor as he reviews three stories from the first three Doctors. Also Steven Moffat takes on the "haters" (sort of) and a listener takes on Capaldi.

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Show Link - The Mary Sue - Steven Moffat Talks Doctor Who Showrunner Hate


  1. Hi JB,

    Your recent podcasts raise some interesting questions. In order to address the topic, I had to write a bit more to reduce potential misunderstanding – it’s a heavy topic.

    I heard that particular RFS podcast when Steven Schapansky made the comment. I’ve listened to a good share of Schapansky’s work (e.g., the Memory Cheats and some RFS here and there) and this comment was not characteristic of him. In all honesty, he seems very professional and positive, and is a good prominent voice for Dr. Who fandom in the podcast/conference world. Warren Frey, as you mentioned briefly, regularly ridicules others fans, or criticizes eras of doctor whole-cloth because he thinks they are “stupid” (e.g., the McCoy era), but yet detailed criticism of poor scripts or problematic content is somehow worse?

    Here is a hypothesis for what may be behind the behavior, and I’d be curious to see what your thoughts would be… (but since it’s such a long comment I’d be concerned for you and your listeners if you read the whole thing on a podcast.)

    First a bit of background… Doctor Who Fandom post-Survival had three dominant discourses (that I am aware of at least – I wasn’t involved at the time). 1) Hardcore detailed fans (e.g., Bentham and Haining’s texts). 2) Deconstruction and humor (e.g., The Discontinuity Guide). 3) Queer (some examples of this can be found in Cornell’s “License Denied”). There are intersections of these, of course, but they were still predominately seen as male-dominated discourses.

    Since the show’s revival and the increasing acknowledgement of female fans, the variety of discourses has increased exponentially. This has had many positive effects, such as women of all ages having more spaces to communicate and participate in fandom. While women have always been a part of Who fandom, in 2013, having nothing but female hosts was seen as a unique ‘gimmick’ (not really the word I want as it isn’t intended as a pejorative towards the producers) for a Doctor Who podcast (e.g., Verity – which is an excellent addition to fandom). Geek culture, as with all culture, still has a problem with sexism and I think that the majority of fans want to see things improve for everyone. However, (here is the crux of my hypothesis – sorry for the delay), we still have problems with defensiveness and unclear discourse rules.

    As for defensiveness, as an example, what I refer to is how Frey and Schapansky (to a lesser degree) frequently try to position themselves as allies by checking their privilege. They note how they are old white men and their roles in fandom are questionable because of that. There is value in having prominent hosts like them verbally checking their privilege, but it seems they occasionally don’t know where the line is between fighting sexism (and other similar -isms) and creating further divisions by unfair associations (e.g., MRAs). I’m not sure it will help build bridges to paint male fandom at large as being OCD creeps. There is a difference between providing representation for different feminist perspectives (e.g., Schapansky’s recent, and very well done, interview with Sam Maggs) and the “see, I’m a better ally than those other creepy men” stance. Of course, if a fan is actually being creepy or misogynistic they should be taken to task, but this isn’t what I’m referring to here.

    (Sorry, I wrote so much that I've got to roll into a second comment...)

  2. As for the unclear discourse rules… I’m not sure fandom has quite figured things out yet, but not all women participate in fandom in the same way, and neither do all men. Yet there are still prevalent erroneous stereotypes about “Fangirls” and “Fanboys”. (E.g., Fangirls ship, Fanboys don’t.) A recent Verity episode discusses which companions were most like the Doctor. Some of the hosts mentioned that Clara was like the Doctor because of confidence, and much of the discussion seemed to lean towards the idea that their perception of what makes the Doctor special is his confidence and luck… something potentially learned and extrinsic. My opinion is that the Doctor’s primary distinguishing characteristics is that he is an alien who has lived 1000s of years, can regenerate, and knows plenty more than any human ever could. This is why the “Ace becomes a Time Lord” plot arc doesn’t make sense if you hold on to the canon where the time spent in education for a Time Lord is longer than most human life spans. If I criticized the Ace/Clara becoming a Time Lord/Doctor arc, in one discourse it could be read as being anti-feminist (just like the Clara in the credits sequence). Or, it could be read as being stodgy, old school canon-obsessing. Or, it could just be an opinion based on the points made. Not all of the Verity hosts were coming from the same perspective and the further you go out into the circles of fandom, the discourse boundaries become less clear. A criticism could come from a feminist perspective, a canon perspective, a craft perspective, etc. or a mixture of them.

    This is where I think the MRA comment on RFS came from. A great majority of the criticism of Moffat in recent years has been regarding his writing of female (and some male) characters. When they refer to “Moffat haters” they go out of their way to imply that they are male and that it has nothing to do with feminist concerns. That’s why they probably pounced on the Clara in the title credits thing as they may have though (sub-consciously) that no feminist fan could criticize that production decision. They love Moffat, and creepy MRA fanboys are one of the only safe whipping “boys” they have. While, I don’t think their intensions are bad, it delegitimizes healthy criticism and discussions, which (as mentioned earlier) has been a strong pillar of Who fandom for a long while.
    Whether the criticism addresses writing, plotting, directing, production decisions, or moral/social concerns, why shouldn’t healthy dialogues be encouraged? Some of the strongest critics of Moffat’s writing from a ‘logical’ perspective (i.,e., purely the craft and not a feminist critique) are women (e.g., the Mary Sue) and others. Women should be recognized as contributing varying perspectives beyond feminist critiques. This stereotype that men are the only ones with these complaints is very problematic, a major reason being that it stereotypes women as well and makes their voices invisible (or reduced through association). People can be very passionate about a show they love, regardless of sex/gender.

    While these are just some loose thoughts and I do not have it figured out, I think your concerns in the podcast do relate to larger issues in fandom. I agree with you that criticism by fans isn’t a threat and shouldn’t be met with hostility, and neither should praise. If you love Moffat’s writing, preach it. Tell everyone why so that we can learn more and appreciate new things.

    Finally, I’m a male and should also check my privilege, but from my limited perspective:
    Feminist (and LGBTQQI) criticism/praise of the show should be encouraged/recognized/appreciated… but it should not be something that is used by allies to further divide people.

    Thanks again for the podcasts,