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Tuesday, November 20, 2007
Wanting To Do It
Some of the recent talk about gay representation reminded me that I wanted to point out an example of someone doing it right. I usually read light fantasy and humor novels on my lunch breaks. It gives me something to get my mind off of managing inventory and purchasing for half and hour to forty minutes, and so I want something I can open, read a bit of, and finish, without having to feel any pressure to really think about what I'm reading. For this, the "young adult" aimed novels that tie into the Doctor Who show are great. I can get through two or three chapters of easily digestible prose while I eat, then go back to work.
Now, one of the hallmarks of the latest incarnation of the show has been the commitment to racial and sexual identity diversity. Not every character on the show is white, not every character on the show is straight. It's a science-fiction program that actually acknowledges that not everyone in the world now is a straight white male, much less everyone in the future or the past. In one of the recent batch of books, Forever Autumn, by Mark Morris, there's a gay character. It's a minor role, just a hapless townsperson the Doctor and Martha must rescue, but he's there. And the text acknowledges he's gay. It's just his interesting back-ground detail, something to keep him from being Mr. Generic Town Guy. This is a young adult novel that ties into a massively popular (in its home country) television show. And it deals with gay characters (and black characters and Asian characters and female characters) as just yet another aspect of the world.
The Doctor Who franchise can do this because the producers and creators want to do this. They could very easily have brought the show back and had a curious dearth of characters with melanin. They could have avoided those icky sexuality discussions entirely. They chose not to. And that's the difference.
In much the same way, one of the most successful authors of our time, an author that has already borne much undeserved scorn for her works by closed-minded people, found time to obsessively detail every adolescent heterosexual crush of her characters, but decided that openly dealing with the fact that some boys like boys and some girls like girls wasn't something she was interested in doing. In much the same way, a major American comic book publisher could have decided not to hire the outspoken homophobe to write a book featuring two lesbians of color. But for that author and that publisher, dealing realistically and positively with issues of sexual orientation, well...it's simply something they didn't want to be bothered to do.