When I was 13 years old, my best friend introduced me to Doctor Who. Growing up as a brown girl in a predominantly white neighborhood in Sacramento, people would ask me, “What are you?” When I explained that my family came from Armenia and the Philippines, I might as well have said they were, like the Doctor, from the planet Gallifrey in the constellation of Kasterborous. The show played perfectly to my fantasies of escape into wider possibilities. Yes, funny smart man with your English accent, please whisk me away in your blue box as far in space and time as I can get from 1980s Northern California.
Nearly two decades have passed since I first watched the show, but on the occasion of its 50th anniversary, to my eyes, the show looked a bit… like 1980s Northern California. “The Day of the Doctor,” the episode marking the special occasion, was simulcast globally in 94 countries, an official Guinness World Record. So why was so little of the world in it? I had expected the diversity of the audience to be reflected on the screen, but instead the episode seemed Anglo in every dimension.
I monitored #DoctorWho50th on Twitter but couldn’t find many people of color livetweeting the simulcast. The few that did seemed to have “the feels” like everyone else. No one mentioned race. With Matt Smith’s tenure in the title role ending on Wednesday, I turned to Facebook to find more Whovians: friends, friends-of-friends, and strangers, mostly Americans, mostly people of color. What did they think about the whitewashed “Day of the Doctor”?
Just about three months after leading a discussion on #POC4CulturalEnrichment, activist Suey Park hosted another critical Twitter talk on Sunday with #NotYourAsianSidekick.
But this time, the impact spread beyond social activism circles. NYAS was covered not only on sites like Race Files and Angry Asian Man, but the tag trended so highly that Buzzfeed,the Washington Post and the BBC, among others, covered it. Park was also contacted for an interview with CNN anchor Don Lemon.
It also led to this image being circulated around Twitter and Tumblr:
“Even if the representation of women is changing in mainstream America, it’s not changing for Asian-American women,” Park told BBC News on Tuesday, and the segment as a whole is worth viewing. We’ll post Park’s CNN interview as soon as we can.
Peter Capaldi addresses his casting as the Twelfth Doctor in “Doctor Who.” Image via Mashable.
As jarring as it was to see Doctor Who get the kind of drawn-out prime-time infomercial special reserved for reality show winners, the confirmation that Peter Capaldi got the nod to play the Twelfth Doctor is also striking, for a number of reasons — many of which, it should be mentioned, have less to do with Capaldi than with the program itself.
Make no mistake: Capaldi will emerge as a capable, perhaps superlative, lead for the show. But it’s fair to worry whether he was the right person for the job, or just the one best tailored for showrunner Steven Moffat. Continue reading →
Current executive producer Stephen Moffatt on the Doctor Who set. Image via WhatCulture!
Over the last few weeks, fans have called for a person of color and/or a woman to star in Doctor Who. If you care about race and gender presentation in Doctor Who, then pay attention to who serves as the show’s next executive producer.
When it comes to who should replace Matt Smith as the next star of the TV show Doctor Who, many fans are hoping for one thing: anyone but another white guy.
For nearly 50 years, the Doctor, the time-traveling main character of Doctor Who, has been portrayed by white men. Fans concerned with social justice are right to clamor for a different sort of Doctor. While the Doctor may be an alien, over the course of the show the character has come to represent the best of humanity. That’s why it is especially important that the Doctor be portrayed by a person of color or a woman – or, dare we dream, a woman of color, a person with a disability, a queer person, or transgender person, or a combination of all the above.
But while we wait to meet the new incarnation of this beloved sci-fi character, fans should turn their attention to racial and gender representation in an area of Doctor Who that isn’t immediately visible on screen: the executive producer.
The debate regarding Doctor Who and race and gender reopened in a major way on Saturday when Matt Smith announced he will leave the show after this year’s Christmas special, meaning the search is on for the Twelth Doctor — an especially crucial role, according to series canon, since this would be the Doctor’s final regeneration.
Naturally, it’s not just showrunner Steven Moffat looking for a new Doctor, but fans and bookmakers. Continue reading →
Promotional poster for “Doctor Who.” Image via crimsontear.com
Calling this past season of Doctor Who uneven might be doing it a favor. Presented as two separate seasons marked by a change in companions for the Eleventh Doctor and capped by the prelude to the show’s 50th anniversary special in November, critiques of the show under Steven Moffat’s watch got louder than ever. That discussion, we hope, will only get louder when Doctor Who and Raceis released in August.
Edited by Dr. Lindy Orthia — who has published several academic works dealing with the shows including one on Who’s “inability to acknowledge the material realities of an inequitable postcolonial world shaped by exploitative trade practices, diasporic trauma and racist discrimination” — the anthology will feature more than 20 essays explicitly tackling several aspects of the show’s presentation (and, one presumes, lack thereof) regarding issues regarding racial issues.
Naturally, some people are out to silence her efforts before the book’s even released. Warning: Misogynist language just under the cut. Continue reading →
I’m not luring you in here to tell you to watch Doctor Who or Sherlock. You have my word.
Upfronts are done, premiere schedules are set; Stefon and Seth ran off into the sunset; and, even though it’s only May, it feels like we’re already halfway through the summer blockbuster set list…so what’s a pop culture junkie to do? I humbly suggest using this hiatus season to catch up on a few British shows you may have missed while our gladiators were white-hatting.
At no more than six episodes per season, I promise you’ll be done before Olivia Pope’s return. Just give us a moment to close our eyes and turn around, so we don’t have to witness whatever it is you have to do to get your hands on the four shows underneath the cut.
Supporters of the “Black is Beautiful” campaign and several others similar to sought to redefine beauty in ways that both included and uplifted black women from what Princeton professor Imani Perry describes as the “generally degrading and unattractive, or hypersexual and less feminine” images of black women in society. The message was clear: as Bill Cosby famously put it, “It isn’t a matter of black is beautiful as much as it is white is not all that’s beautiful.” Could it be that black women ignore the dominant images of beauty and instead dance to their own tune, or have we simply flipped the coin and replaced one set of controlling images with another?
Being skinny was never a crime. Yet somewhere along the way, African American pop culture took over and a binary standard of beauty once more became dominant among black women. In a classic two-steps-forward-one-step-back scenario, the Washington Post announced what watching any rap music video will tell you: skinny is out, “thick is in,” and having some extra meat on your bones is a virtue (cue the parade of “fiercely real” women with curves, because “real” women obviously come with curves.)
One self-proclaimed “real” woman is the British TV and radio presenter Mica Paris, who, with her less-than-real hair, claims that black women are happier with their appearance. Paris wrote in the UK’s Daily Mail in 2012: “I don’t know any black women who aspire to be skeletal, and even if we did, nature decrees that we shouldn’t be. We’re made with breasts, bottoms and well-developed quads.” It doesn’t take a genius to know that aligning black women to the supposed naturalness of a fuller figure is not only incorrect but also horribly subjective.