Understanding the Gay Fanboy (and Fangirl!)
Are queer fans different from straight fans? When we read a comic book or play a video game or navigate the waters of popular culture at large, do we find ourselves doubly distanced from that straight mainstream? This panel unites Comics Studies scholar Kane Anderson (UC Santa Barbara), Video Game scholar Evan W. Lauteria (UC Davis) and gay fan/blogger Dorian Wright (postmodernbarney.com) to discuss how queer fandom functions.
2010 April 3, 6:25 PM GMT
First episode of new series of Doctor Who airs.
April 3, 6:27 PM GMT
“Doctor Who” becomes a trending topic on Twitter as fans rush to the internet to declare their hatred of the new opening titles.
April 3, 7:00 PM GMT
Internet petitions calling for show-runner and head writer Steven Moffat to be fired appear.
April 4, 6:00 AM GMT
First message board post proclaiming that having a straight show-runner for the first time since 1979 has saved the program from almost certain cancellation appears.
April 10, 7:30 PM GMT
Next episode preview leads to fans complaining about the Daleks, the most profitable and recognizable recurring enemy in the series, appearing on the show yet again.
April 17, 5:00 AM GMT
“The Eleventh Hour” premieres on BBC America.
April 17, 6:00 AM GMT
Message boards begin filling up with complaints about the lack of Rose in the new series from American fans.
April 19, 9:00 AM GMT
A review of “The Eleventh Hour” appears on this website, the author having gotten tired of writing spoiler-free discussions of episodes in order to maintain the pretense that the bulk of his readership hadn’t downloaded the episode two weeks ago.
April 24, 7:00 PM GMT
A fan liveblogging the episode complains that living statues are too “kiddiefied” an enemy to be taken seriously, and that the show needs to depict onscreen blood and violence to be considered a viable adult drama.
May 20, 6:35 PM GMT
Several fan blogs complain about how having a straight show-runner for the first time since 1979 has robbed the show of an essential element of its appeal, as Moffat keeps ramming his “Straight Agenda” down the audience’s throat. There is no indication that they are joking about this.
June 26, 7:30 PM GMT
Message boards fill up with complaints about the resolution of the series finale. The phrase “deus ex machina” gets used frequently, occasionally correctly, in regards to this.
June 29, 3:00 PM GMT
Long exegeses on Moffat’s first season as show-runner appear on fan blogs and message boards. Reactions range from wildly over-enthusiastic to lamentations that Russell T. Davies is no longer working on the show. Strangely, most of the people lamenting the lack of Davies are the same ones who were calling for him to be sacked in 2005.
2011 April 30, 6:30 PM GMT
Several thousand goths sit down to watch their first episode of “Doctor Who,” having decided that it is cool to do so now that Neil Gaiman has written an episode.
2013 June 11, 2:00 AM GMT
Harry Lloyd is announced as the twelfth Doctor, to take over the role from Matt Smith in 2014. American fans are curiously outraged that once again Patterson Joseph has been passed over for the role, and see this as proof that the BBC is a racist organization. Joseph, currently filming on location in New Zealand for his role as the lead in the newest James Bond film, is unavailable for comment.
2015 April 4, 7:00 PM GMT
A new series of Doctor Who premieres, with new show-runner and lead writer Mark Gatiss. Blogs and message boards are immediately filled with nostalgic recollections of the Golden Era that was the Steven Moffat period. Several deaths from terminal irony are reported.
Approximately ninety percent of fans sit down on Saturday night to enjoy themselves some Doctor Who, enjoying some episodes more than others, remembering that, at the end of the day, it is just a television show.
It’s an interesting time to be a Torchwood fan. First of all, you have to be able to watch the show past that Cyberwoman episode. Which means you have to spend some time defending the show from the people who couldn’t watch past that episode. You also have to find some way to talk about how you’re glad that the show found a way to put a gay relationship in the foreground of a sci-fi action drama without sounding like an obsessive shipper who only watches the show as fodder for slash-fic stories.
Which all made the meltdown over the third series, broadcast over five nights as a mini-series, so interesting. Given it’s biggest audience and biggest venue yet, the show performed very well and attracted critical acclaim.
And fans raged.
As for the praise, it was well deserved. “Children of Earth” was a fantastically plotted, amazingly acted television event. A frequent point of criticism for the series is that, while it aspires to mature story-telling and was presented as a more “adult” take on Doctor Who, producers and writers seemed to think that all you needed to make a sci-fi series mature was add in lots of swearing, violence and sex. It’s a partly valid complaint, and the unevenness of the first season is testament to that. But by the second series most of the tonal problems had worked themselves out and the show was able to balance a sophistication in story and character with a self-deprecating sense of humor. That frequently focused on sex. This third series continued that evolution even more, and it’s probably telling that shortening the series to one story told over multiple episodes allowed for a more carefully crafted and thoughtful approach to the series than the need to get out thirteen weeks worth of episodes out the door.
The regular cast do a remarkable job, with Gareth David-Lloyd in particular turning in a excellent performance, and Eve Myles stepping up and showing us a Gwen that wasn’t quite always there in previous seasons but comes to the fore remarkably as well. The supporting cast, particularly Peter Capaldi as ill-fated civil servant John Frobisher, do excellent jobs as well. It’s a terribly well-acted show, and writers Russell T. Davies, James Moran and John Fay should be congratulated for giving such meaty roles for strong actors. If there is a fault to be found with the show, it’s in the rather laggy pacing, particularly in “Day Five”, which frequently felt like a thirty-minute story padded out to sixty.
There are some nice nods to the wider universe the show appears in as well, with Gwen making a fairly convincing case as to why, in certain times of deep crisis, the Doctor doesn’t appear on Earth. It’s a telling indictment, since for those who have been watching the new series of Doctor Who, a significant part of the problem faced here can be traced back to the Doctor upsetting history by removing Harriet Jones from power. And, of course, even if it is slightly selfish praise, it is nice to see a big, mainstream, action sci-fi show headlined by an openly gay man that places one of its heroic leads in a same-sex relationship.
And now, for those of you wishing to avoid spoilers, don’t read past the uncomfortable looking gentleman…
Lately, a lot of the chatter amongst Doctor Who fandom has been the possibility of a Who feature-film entering into development. I’ve found it very entertaining, as if anyone should know that there is a world of difference between saying a film is “being developed” and “coming out soon”, it’s Doctor Who fans. And yet, the bulk of online reactions seem to be from people operating under the assumption that the film is a done deal. Which, of course, leads to Who fans making decidedly definitive statements about what a Who film absolutely must or must not be.
One popular theory is that the film would be a continuation of the story about the half-human Doctor and Rose in the parallel world, because this wouldn’t cause any contradictions with television continuity. That this only leads to other fans complaining that such a film wouldn’t “count” because it doesn’t feature the “real” Doctor leads to amusing shouting matches, but not much else. A larger problem, as I see it, is that Billie Piper, charming though she may be, is not exactly a big name in the United States. And that’s the larger problem with any fan discussion of a Who film; fans don’t seem to want to take into consideration that the United States is a very different country from Great Britain.
Let’s be blunt here: a Doctor Who film is unlikely to get made without American money. Which means American input. It also means, by necessity, a story that acts as a fresh start for a new audience of film-goers, many of whom will probably never have heard of Doctor Who. That’s just simple fiscal and demographic reality. Compromises must be made to reach an audience larger than British television viewers who don’t care for reality competitions. If Who fans are very lucky, we might reasonably expect that David Tennant will play the Doctor, as anyone with only vague familiarity with the show probably associates his face at least with the role. But beyond that, it seems unlikely that any other cast members of the television show would make it into an American-financed film; they simply don’t have the recognition. The most probable outcome would be for a new companion to be cast, either an affordable known quantity or a cheap up-and-comer.
If the producers of a film version want to have any kind of connection to the current television series, that might actually be the most sensible approach to take anyway. A Who film has to introduce the entire concept of the show to an American audience. That means, to borrow metaphors from the last four years, that a movie would not follow the pattern of, say, “New Earth” or “Partners in Crime.” A film’s structure would probably have to follow something like “Rose” or “Smith and Jones” as a model: introduce us to the companion first, make us care about her, and then have the Doctor enter her world. The companion, at best, is more than simply someone for the Doctor to exposition at; she’s the view-point character that allows the audience to identify with what they’re seeing on screen. Someone with potential global appeal (and probably an American accent) would be the best choice for the role.
That is, of course, assuming that any kind of connection to the television series would be desired. Given the success of Star Trek and the drubbing of Terminator: Salvation, it’s understandable that the word du jour in Los Angeles is “reboot.” In such a climate, a Peter Cushing-style Who film could be very likely. Take the core concepts of the show (time and space travel, a ship that is bigger on the inside than the outside, and the roles of the Doctor and the companion) and toss everything else out in the name of narrative simplicity. As much as purist Who fans would wail, they are only a very small percentage of the total global film-going population, and divorcing the film of all that fan-baggage could easily be seen as a good thing. After all, fan anger over the “rape” of Deadpool in the Wolverine film, and the loud disapprobation of online fans over the film in general, does not appear to have hurt it at all financially (a fact more fans should probably take to heart and likely won’t).
In any case, if a Doctor Who film gets made, and that’s a pretty damn big “if”, what we’re likely to see is something between what we think we want to see as Who fans and our worst nightmares:
So, Doctor Who, once again we see that there is nothing in this space-universe that you can have that I cannot take away. Now, pitiful fool, if you value the life of your companion, you will toss me the X-TARDIS space-keys or I shall kill her slowly at the hands of my minions, the Al-Daleks.
Don’t do it, Doctor Who! My life isn’t as important as yours! I’m just a former space-whore trying to turn her life around! You are the last of the X-Lords! Only you can stop the Al-Daleks!
Baby, the death of all the other Xtreme Lords would have been for nothing if I let an ass as fine as yours get wasted by this queer. K-9, get your metal rear end over here and toss me my Sonic 9 Mili-Meter.
Yeah, baby! Now we’re going to see some serious ball-busting!
Eat Sonic Lead, Davros.
[DOCTOR WHO shoots DAVROS. DAVROS and the Al-Daleks explode.]
Doctor Who, you saved me! How can I ever repay you?
I think you know how. Just do that thing with your tongues again this time.
Yeah, baby! The X-TARDIS is going to be rocking tonight!
“Oh, Uhura, thanks to your lingerie kung-fu, we’ve managed to defeat the villains!”
“Yes, and you are so beautiful that Nero has decided to become a good guy in hopes of wooing you.”
“Boo-hoo, it’s so hard being a perky ingenue, no-one understands me!”
Tom Clancy’s Star Trek
“Captain the Muslims Klingons are aiming their suspiciously phallic weapons at our ship.”
“Dammit, Spock, if only the Democrats Federation hadn’t forced us to stop monitoring their sub-space communications! We’d have been prepared for this!”
Dan Brown’s Star Trek
“Mr. Spock, I’ve been staring at this holo-image of the Mona Lisa, and I believe it contains valuable clues as to the true parentage of an obscure historical figure. We must abandon our current mission and investigate this matter thorougly!”
J.K. Rowling’s Star Trek
“Captain Kirk, Starfleet Command finds your actions irresponsible, dangerous, and in violation of the Prime Directive. But since you’re so special, here’s a present.”
P.G. Wodehouse’s Star Trek
“This business with Spock and the Ponn Farr, you know. Bally rummy. I was trotting down the deck with Leonard “Bones” McCoy, and everything seemed to be all boomps-a-daisy. As I may have mentioned once or twice before in these memoirs of mine, whenever Spock was around, young Nurse Christine “Biffy” Chapel had a bit of a birds-tweeting around her head expression, but for Spock there was not even a touch of the old hey-nonny-nonny and a hot-cha-cha.”
Geoff Johns’ Star Trek
“Captain Pike, you’re back!”
Roy Thomas’ Star Trek
“Captain Pike, you’re back!”
“And it turns out I’m your long-lost cousin, Jim!”
Fanfic Writer’s Star Trek
Old Spock gazed at Young Spock through rheumy, heavy-lidded eyes. One eyebrow suddenly cocked upward.
“Forgive me, Young Spock,” said Old Spock, “for I know this is a thought most…illogical, but my pursuit of knowledge demands that I must know what it is like…to kiss myself.”