Monday, 20 May 2013

Maybe some of us BELONG in the fields

A very good overview of the squalid pass to which Moffat has brought the show in its 50th anniversary year, with special attention paid to the issue of mysoginy, via River and Clara:

...we're not being encouraged to think there's something wrong with this person [River]: it's the show itself that comes across as jaded and withdrawn from empathy and decency to a psychopathic extent (and what a charming ethical copout to have the Doctor leave before he can witness the rest of the killing). Again, we have the depressingly widespread idea that a woman acting violently is empowering and a corrective to sexism and misogyny. When questioned about his ability with female characters during a Guardian interview Moffat replied:

River Song? Amy Pond? Hardly weak women. It's the exact opposite. You could accuse me of having a fetish for powerful, sexy women who like cheating people. That would be fair.
It would indeed. Unfortunately, a fetish for powerful, sexy women who like cheating people is no substitute for an interest in human beings.

I don't agree with every jot and tittle of this, but it's still excellent.  Very well worth reading, with lots of points which seem, to me, pretty much irrefutable... depressing but irrefutable.

I do want to express my increasing impatience with the idea of accidental reactionary writing, a notion that the writer of the above article flirts with (though his conclusions are nuanced).  Personally, I'm coming to the brain-bending conclusion that people who aren't racists or sexists don't need to concentrate on remembering not to say racist or sexist things. 

Thanks to Johnathan Barlow (or 'old Legohead' as I always think of him) for putting this my way.

Wednesday, 15 May 2013

If Only We Had a Reasonable Negotiating Partner...

Anniversary of the Nakba today, an event that shaped the modern world, creating a festering sore of injustice that still infects global politics.

Also, less importantly, the origin of a situation that provides the basis for a vast number of trite, naive, glib, uninformed political allegories in sci-fi TV shows.

The Silurians got the treatment in their first reappearance in the new series, 'The Hungry Earth' / 'Cold Blood' (2010).

The funny thing is that, wheras the intentional Palestine allegory worked up in these episodes doesn't fit the real facts, patronises the oppressed, excuses the oppressors, etc, the accidental allegory works.  Indeed, it chimes surprisingly well witth the Silurians generally.  Every time the Silurians come back they are still squeezed out, displaced, outnumbered... and every time they are condemned when they dare to get angry about it, and exhorted by the liberal hero to stay indefinitely patient, warned that if they don't then they'll have lost the moral high ground, effectively informed that its up to them to be forebearing to the people who've stolen their world. And they never get anywhere near getting redress or restitution.

Most recently, the solution offered to the matter was for the Silurians to retire again and wait for humanity to become more liberal and tolerant all by itself.  As Charles Daniels argued on the comment threads, this is repulsive.  It says that the oppressed must wait for their oppressors to see the light.  The agency lies with the oppressors.  The oppressed must simply be patient.  Such things happen because humans are just intolerant.  But luckily there's (in Dawkins' vacuous phrase) an "ever changing moral zeitgeist" which will inevitably lead us to greater heights of liberalism, without us having to do anything.  (A millenarian idea if ever I heard one.)

Meanwhile, back in storyland, the best solution is for the Silurians and the humans to live apart.  Well, there's a word for that.  A word increasingly being recognised as an apt description of the Israeli domination of Palestine: Apartheid.

The only bit that doesn't tesselate beautifully is the origin of the situation. The Silurians retired voluntarily because they thought the Moon was going to crash into the Earth.  A natural disaster / tragic misunderstanding with no cause and no agency behind it is the official, mainstream narrative, not the reality.

Tuesday, 14 May 2013

Not With A Bang

Some assumptions 'Closing Time' relies upon: a man being rubbish at looking after a baby is richly hilarious; James Corden has talent of some kind; it's still amusing when someone wrongly thinks two men are a couple.  All very questionable.

And, as ever, (heteronormative) love conquers all.  It kills Cybermen because emotions 'n' stuff, yeah?  Okay, they did something like that in 'The Invasion', but at least there it was any emotion, and it made the Cybermen go bonkers instead of just conveniently dying of endoftheepisodeitis.  Notice the utterly pedestrian, idea-free logic here.  You kill the loveless things with love.  That's like saying you kill poor people with money.  I know the gold thing was stupid, but at least that suggested the logic of using a magical metallic talisman against the zombies.  And at least, when the Cybermen got killed by gold or gravity or radiation, they were simply defeated and chased off rather than being negated or solved.  Kill a Cyberman with radiation and you simply defeat his physical presence.  Kill him with love and you solve him.  You explain him away.  You fill the empty space that he once was... with syrup.  The Cybermen are worthless now.  They have been emptied out of all threat because their hollowness has been stuffed with candyfloss.  Thus is the rump gothic ritually defeated by the power of comforting banalities.

By the way... remember when Gareth Roberts scathingly wrote about how silly 'The Green Death' was because nobody in the audience needed to be told that pollution was bad?  Well... does 'Closing Time' mean that he now believes people need to be reminded that loving your baby son is good?  Are we to understand that banal statements about political issues are a Bad Thing while banal statements about personal feelings are Inspirational Drama?  I guess so, since the former is about boring stuff like public health and business ethics, while the latter is about interesting stuff like oooo i wuv my pwetty ickle baby.  Why are the British public assumed to need weekly reminders that love is a good thing?  Why, furthermore, must love always be reduced to a simple and unambiguously positive thing, as though it's a kind of neurological Angel Delight?  And why is it thought that they need to be constantly reassured that it can conquer absolutely anything just by being felt?  What right to these fucking hacks have to inform us how we are obliged to feel in order to be normal and earn the Doctor's gormless yawp of excited approval?  And isn't this constant emphasis on love as something overpowering and perfect just an emotional version of the media peddling of body images?  Just as we are constantly told how we should look, are we not also being told that our feelings should be just as glossy and perfect and swaggeringly healthy?  There is a catwalk for the feelings, and yours must be capable of poseurising their way down it, looking just right.  Fuck off.

There is something repellently wholesome and healthy about garbage like 'Closing Time'.  If it were a person, it would be the jogger with a muesli bar who sneers down his nose at you as you eat your Twix.  (Yes, yes, I know James Corden is fat.  It's a metaphor.  Give me a fucking break.)  Babies and fatherhood and duty and love, love, love... and all that stuff that, if left alone, is just normal life for most people, but which gets turned into a kind of public school P.E. lesson for the brain when turned into saturday night ideology by people like Gareth Roberts and the BBC.

On top of all this, the Doctor is allowed to notice the revolting sentimentality of saying that James Corden defeated the Cybermen with love... and instead he briefly falls back on reductionist biological determinism.  Before relenting and going back to the sentimentality.  These are the two permitted poles.

Still, at least it has lots of emotional beats in it.  In the same way that a Barbie house has architecture, I suppose.

This is the way the show ends, not with a bang but a simper.

Saturday, 11 May 2013

Excuses, excuses...

Things have been weird for me lately.  In a bad way.  Personal stuff.  Worries.  Health issues.  Melancholia.  And other obsessions, plans, dreams... including a recurring one that I really should've abandoned by now...  but haven't.  In short: no time (and not much inclination) to blog.  The promised Skulltopus post on 'Image of the Fendahl' is stalled, swollen to vast and unruly size, stuck at an impasse, erupting out of the Skulltopus category into all sorts of other genres (appropriately enough).  Bear with me, Reading Few.  I will rally.

Saturday, 4 May 2013

Tygers & Horses

"The tygers of wrath are wiser than the horses of instruction" said William Blake in The Marriage of Heaven and Hell, and on lots of European walls in the 60s, and under the cover of an Eighth Doctor Adventure by Kate Orman.

I disagree.  I think you need the horses of instruction just as much as you need the tygers of wrath.  The thing about the tygers is that they chase you.  The thing about the horses is that you have to chase them.  If you've got a horse ahead of you and a tyger behind... well, that's not comfortable, but it's the better way round.  It gives you both a strong impetus and a goal.

Of course, horses can be wild and tygers can be calm.

I'll stop there.  All analogies can be pushed to breaking point.  Even the ones invented by geniuses.