Wednesday, 19 January 2011

How I learned to stop worrying and love Jack Harkness*

* Possibly the most overused blog title construction of all time? Sorry.

Two things everyone who has heard of Torchwood knows about Torchwood:
1. OMG the sex!
2. OMG the gay!

One thing that is pretty much not mentioned or depicted in Torchwood, ever:
1. OMG the homophobia!

And now, my friends, we must discuss whether or not this is OMG the good!

This is a show in which every major character is bi, or at least open to experimentation, including experimenting with doin' it with aliens. (Missed opportunities, possibly due to budgetary constraints: tentacles.) And no one cares. Cap'n Jack and Ianto's shenanigans are no more remarked upon than those of Gwen and Owen. Tosh falls in love with a lady-alien and also Owen. Gwen cheats on her boyfriend with a lady possessed by an alien and also Owen.

God I love soap operas. With aliens. And Owen.

And, again, no one cares! No one's even doing the "oh wow, you had sex with a girl" sideways glance, implying that ladylady sex is so much more salacious than the ladydude equivalent. Or the "but - I thought you had a girlfriend?" double-take. Let alone, y'know, barring them from full participation in society or calling them perverts or kicking their heads in.

When I first noticed this, it gave me a slightly uncomfortable feeling: isn't it kind of cheating, somehow, to make the ellgeebeeism such a central part of your show while completely ignoring the downsides of ellgeebeing in a world full of bigoted bastardry?

Much chin-stroking, deep thought, reading of The Internet, and discussion with fellow people-who-do-not-exclusively-have-sex-with-people-of-the-"opposite"-sex ensued. (PWDNEHSWPOF"O"S. What? As a member of the PWDNEHSWPOF"O"S community I am entitled to acronymically define my own experience. STOP OPPRESSING ME.)

Things I discovered on my journey of deliberation:

1. Russel T Davies and John Barrowman, creator and star of Torchwood respectively: gay dudes.
2. This is common knowledge to pretty much every single person in the UK who isn't me. (Look, for someone who devotes maybe half her thrilling blog posts to the critique of pop culture, I really don't pay much attention to it: I don't know who won X Factor, I don't know who Jordan's dating, and I'm not trying to make myself sound all cool and up-my-own-intellectual-arse, because I also have seen maybe four films in the last six months, which is a bad thing. I never watch TV shows until they've been off the air for at least a year. My bezzie mate periodically sits me down and force-feeds me Kanye and Rihanna and Lady Gaga just so I actually have some idea what's going on in the world. None of this is intentional, I'm just wackily lazy, and have demands on my time like "rereading every Miss Marple mystery ever published" or "watching all seven seasons of Buffy, YES AGAIN".)

Now: if something were flat-out homophobically awful, the sexy preferences of its creators would make precisely zero difference to its awfulness. But as this is more a case of "hmm, kinda weird" rather than "jesus jumping johnny bags, you hate-filled dick machine", their orientation puts a different slant on their portrayal - or non-portrayal - of anti-LGB prejudice.

My imaginary evil-or-maybe-just-careless straight writer on his desire to create a loudly 'adult' show in which lots of hot people kiss each other in various gender/species/planetary origin combinations, set in a of version 'the real world' where homophobia doesn't exist: "Muahaha! Observe as I spicily edgify my show by appropriating queer identities without balancing that with a commitment to acknowledging my complicity in heterosexist privilege, which I sure don't have (see above re: possibly evil)!"

My imaginary gay creator of the same show: "Dude, I am creating an alternate universe, and in my own personal alternate universe which I am creating, people don't get picked on for their kissing decisions. Also: bi people do other things than come out or get kicked in the face. Like save the world!"

Davies has said that he's not interested in heavy-handed Writing About Issues, where "the only aspect being portrayed is the trouble, the tears and the angst" of the queer experience. Without wanting to downplay the seriousness or horror of bi/homophobia, it's not the defining factor of our lives: we do other stuff too, like eat biscuits or join the army or knit llamas or quit our jobs due to unbearable levels of boredom, or fight aliens. And if all you ever show us doing is having sex, coming out or dying sad and alone, it keeps non-straightness in a little box marked Other, only to be opened in case of emergency/deciding to address non-straightism as the Issue of the Week.

Yeah, visibility is important, but now we've more-or-less got to the point where not being straight on TV is acceptable, it's time to move on to where not being straight on TV is run of the mill. Not invisible in the sense of not there, but invisible in that it's just one aspect of the multifaceted harlequin Rich Tapestry Of Human Experience. Matter of fact to the point that it doesn't even occur to me to write about how matter of fact it is.

TL;DR: OMG sex! OMG gay! OMG good!

Mad props to my partner in WHAT THE FUCK IS WRONG WITH THE WORLD ing, the very excellent Eleanargh, for hashing this out with me over hummus.

No comments:

Post a Comment