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Suddenly

The BBC Responds To Doctor Who Racism Accusations


Racism in pop-culture is hard to prove but easy to speculate on. Calling someone a racist for something they created is not to be taken lightly but delving into the implications of written works can open up larger discussions on the subject. So was the intention of an upcoming anthology series titled, “Doctor Who and Race,” but the essays within contained strong enough accussations for the BBC to make an official statement on it. 

Racism in Doctor Who was something recently discussed by our readers thanks to the Season 7B episode “Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS,” but Dr. Lindy Orthia edited the anthology, which tackles a lot more than just a single episode. It’s summarized on Amazon:

Doctor Who is the longest running science fiction television series in the world and is regularly watched by millions of people across the globe. Though its scores of fans adore the show with cult-like devotion, the contributors to this book argue that there is a darker side to Doctor Who. Bringing together diverse perspectives on race and its representation in Doctor Who, this anthology offers new understandings of the cultural significance of race in the program—how the show’s representations of racial diversity, colonialism, nationalism, and racism affect our daily lives and change the way we relate to each other. An accessible introduction to critical race theory, postcolonial studies, and other race-related academic fields, the contributors deftly combine examples of the popular cultural icon and personal reflections from viewers to provide an analysis that is at once approachable but also filled with the intellectual rigor of academic critique.

While we’ve not read the book, Digital Spy says part of it “claims that the sci-fi program is racist for failing to cast a black or Asian actor as the Time Lord and accuses the title character of being dismissive of black companions.”

Orthia said, ”The biggest elephant in the room is the problem privately nursed by many fans of loving a TV show when it is thunderingly racist.” With strong language like that, the BBC felt the need to respond.

Doctor Who has a strong track record of diverse casting among both regular and guest cast. Freema Agyeman became the first black companion and Noel Clarke starred in a major role for five years,” said a BBC spokesperson. ”Reflecting the diversity of the UK is a duty of the BBC, and casting on Doctor Who is color-blind. It is always about the best actors for the roles.”

The BBC’s statement only addresses one aspect of the overall concerns of course, it’s not just casting but presentation and trends. Do you feel the anthology is being unfair to the long-running sci-fi series or bringing attention to a much-needed discussion? How do you feel Doctor Who compares to other sci-fi as far as representation?

(via Blastr)

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  • Anonymous

    That Digital Spy summary seems awfully simplistic.

  • Anonymous

    …now that I think about it, I can’t really remember seeing any significant asian or indian characters of the top of my head. There’s been a lot of talk about how they could have cast the doctor as a woman, but this is the first time I’ve seen it pointed out that he’s not only always a guy, but always a white guy. He’s also always been straight?

  • Wednesday’s Serial

    I’d have to see the anthology to judge, but offhand I’d say it would be hard to take it seriously if they’re giving the BCC a lot of flack for the representation before the relaunch when the show was never as popular or had the budget to seek more diverse roles in a time when I’d imagine more so in Britain there were less minority actors. Since the relaunch it’s been pretty diverse, but could use a push to see more earthly minorities. But it’s harder in a sci-fi show when there are aliens everywhere, to blance that. But it feels really poor to point at a series for racial depeiction when it’s been pretty stellar for gender equality.

  • http://twitter.com/EmberDione Kim Pittman

    Arguably 9 had some dialogue with Capt. Jack that would imply he is potentially bi.

    The existence of Capt. Jack (played by a gay actor no less) in such a prominent role on Doctor Who and Torchwood is impressive. Further, Vastra and Jenny support that as well.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=763249923 Rob Carr

    Doctor Who continues to mock and humiliate the great race of Sontarans. The one regular Sontaran cast member is shown to be an incompetent buffoon. Strax threatens destruction at every turn but failing to kill almost anyone. This is speciesism of the highest order.

  • Gordon Borland

    I’d love to see a female or non white doctor. outside those that have shown up in the EU.

  • http://www.thenerdybird.com/ Jill Pantozzi

    Yeah, I’m sure there are essays in there that are positive and much more in depth but the BBC is of course responding to the criticisms.

  • Anonymous

    I feel that the Davies run was a lot more inclusive in a variety of ways than the Moffet run has been. During Davies’s run, I saw a a lot of characters of color just hanging out in the background, existing (something not even American shows set in NYC can manage to do), plus the major speaking roles of Mickey and Martha. And then there’s all the gay/bi/poly characters and the women who very accomplished.

    Moffet’s run doesn’t really have that. Though I do remember really loving the Muslim woman in that one episode at the death hotel, but then she died.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=52903659 Charlotte Van Zee

    I would say that there’s probably a good point in there — there are relatively few recurring characters in the series that aren’t white. I don’t think it’s fair to single out Doctor Who when it’s really a problem in all genres of television and film (I say this as an American with little knowledge of what’s on BBC program besides what comes on BBCA here in the states). It’s also a little unfair because the show has been around for 50 years. Up until the last 10 years or so no one would even talk about this or even recognize that it’s wrong.

    That said they could do more and personally I’ve always thought that Idris Elba would make an interesting final regeneration — he definitely plays desperation and intensity well.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=708927181 Debbie Valenta

    Honestly, I’m so sick of it all. It’s a work of fiction and the producers can cast whomever they choose. I’m assuming that the majority of Who fans are white and there’s nothing wrong with appealing to your majority demographic (a female Who is another story entirely–most Who fans I know are female). Instead of whining about it, create something just as good with a non-white lead.

  • http://twitter.com/EmberDione Kim Pittman

    Oh also, there was the Indian woman who was offered a spot as a companion in the God Complex, she just died before she could go. Then recently Hilla Tecorian in Hide…

    I realize it’s not the best to compare to other shows, but yeah, as compared to other shows, Doctor Who is great.

  • Anonymous

    Yeah, why be inclusive of a more diverse population? Only white peoples’ money is good, right?

  • http://www.thenerdybird.com/ Jill Pantozzi

    “I’m assuming that the majority of Who fans are white ”

    Words like that never make for a strong argument, FYI.

  • http://twitter.com/Proi_RS Robin S

    I would say “thunderingly racist” is hyperbole. Whether Doctor Who itself has issues with race, colonialism, sexism, etc…is a valid issue to discuss, and without reading the essays I can’t comment on their individual points.

    I do think it is high time for the Doctor to regenerate into something other than white. It would be totally in keeping with his character as someone who does not put much stock in racial differences, especially within one species.

    I wrote a post a little while ago with my choices for a new Doctor/Companion/Showrunner trio, and my suggestion was for Alexander Siddig to play the next Doctor. He or someone like him would go a long way for the BBC to prove that they’re committed to diversity.

  • http://twitter.com/Proi_RS Robin S

    And that also implies that white Who fans only want to see white actors. Which, um, really not the case. To most people I know, no matter their racial background, a more diverse show means a better show.

  • Wednesday’s Serial

    But there are more than white actors, and recently there have been more racial side characters, and this comes out so the series is being punished for taking a step in the right direction.

  • http://twitter.com/Proi_RS Robin S

    It’s true. Media as a whole has a problem with diversity. I think Who’s problems in that regard are symptomatic rather than unique. It should still be criticized, but we should talk about the problem as a whole instead of just leveling our criticism at one show. We should think about the problem in a broader context.

  • http://twitter.com/Proi_RS Robin S

    Rita in “The God Complex” would have made a stellar companion.

  • Anonymous

    If we go to the spinoffs, the Sarah Jane Adventures managed it. One of Sarah’s primary sidekicks in the later seasons was Rani Chandra, who was indeed of Indian descent.

  • http://profiles.google.com/rickbman Rick Bman

    Why exactly do characters need to be white to appeal to a white audience? Also, why would they want to exclusively appeal to once race over another? The show would not be any less appealing to me if The Doctor weren’t white, as long as the show continued to be well written (that is a whole nother issue though).

  • http://twitter.com/Proi_RS Robin S

    I wouldn’t call criticism and discussion, “punishment.” I think it’s fair to keep pushing for better and better representation instead of saying “that’ll do, pig.” Sci-fi especially should be at the forefront of these kinds of issues.

  • Adam R. Charpentier

    That IS fairly typical, though. While the rest of meathead television slogs on as blindly offensive as ever, the so-called smart TV takes risks and steps forward for a smack in the face for not taking a leap instead of a step. I think, sometimes, fans think of themselves as parents or guardians rather than enthusiasts.

  • Cafeeine

    Well, there was an indian girl that starred in the Sarah Jane kid show off-shoot they did.

  • Anonymous

    And meathead television also gets its fair share of critiques, too. Forget “parents,” fans of color are investors, just as much as white fans. And the fact we’re still talking about baby steps nearly 50 years after the Civil Rights movement shouldn’t be seen as some sort of honorific.

  • Anonymous

    Moment of inspiration! Danny Pudi as the next doctor with Donald Glover as his companion!

  • Anonymous

    Oh, of course. As a majority white fan, I know I find it impossible to sympathize with characters who aren’t exactly like me in every way.

    ಠ_ಠ

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=517488475 Alyssa Favreau

    INSPECTOR SPACE TIME FOREVER

  • http://twitter.com/Proi_RS Robin S

    It’s a huge idea that the powers that be have in their heads for whatever reason – that white males appeal to the broadest audience. I think that’s patently false, but it’s an attitude that is proving really difficult to get past, across the board in all sorts of media.

  • Wednesday’s Serial

    That’s one thing. But the show just made a push to show more racial diversity, and instead of celebrating that, people are looking at the history and saying it’s wrong that there’s not more. It sends the message that a crowd is condemning the show right after taking the right step forward for their interests, instead of them being glad it happened, it’s not the ideas, it’s the angle from which it’s addressed which sends the wrong tone.

  • http://twitter.com/captainsharmie sharmylae

    all pop culture is subject to this sort of criticism… if the BBC feels it has to respond to every criticism levied in print against its shows, they had better start trolling the academic journals for fodder. what’s more likely is that the essay suggests that race in doctor who is influenced by or indicative of racism in society… which is the way that much pop culture criticism goes. and just because a show seems/is racist, doesn’t mean the fans will love it any less. they are just more likely to be critical of what it says about the world, or in the case of Doctor Who, the universe.

  • http://profiles.google.com/rickbman Rick Bman

    A lot of it has to do with the fact that the powers that be just don’t like to stray from a formula that works. They know they can get an audience if they cast white characters in the lead because they always have. They are afraid to try anything new simply because they don’t know what will happen. TV and Movie executive don’t like to test the waters by trying new things. However, it is a really sad commentary that casting a black actor in a major role is considered new and different.

  • http://twitter.com/Proi_RS Robin S

    I don’t think media deserves pats on the head for taking small steps towards diversity. It’s perfectly valid to keep asking for more until the day when stories are told in a way that is reflective of all sorts of people.

  • http://twitter.com/EmberDione Kim Pittman

    Rita! (Wow, what a terrible name for that character, no wonder I blocked it.)

    She felt very Martha to me, in that episode at least, but who knows what she might have grown into.

  • http://twitter.com/thatfilmgirl Nat

    Well firstly, the Doctor can’t regenerate into a female because Time Lords aren’t a monogendered species. The Doctor IS a male so I really wish this whole female!Doctor thing would slow down. If anything, female!Time Lord (which hey! Clara was at one point it seems). I agree that diversity is important and someone commented below that Davies’ era seemed more ‘inclusive’ than Moffats in terms of showing people around in general.

    One thing I learned in film school is that when you create parts, unless race is specific to the character (or you have a family that needs to be related), always keep your casting options open. Obvioulsy this is not something regurlarly practiced in the real world (as we’ve seen!). But on the other hand, if I envisioned say, my psychic character as the spoilt blond beach babe with the killer IQ who wants to work with NASA and you’re telling me I have to make her… asian, well then that would defeat the use of the trope on that character.

    TLDR: Doctor Who is one of the better shows out there and I think some of the critiscism is a bit harsh but it’s an issue in the industry as a WHOLE, not simply a single show.

  • Sabrina

    Nine also didn’t seem to mind the goodbye kiss! ;)

  • http://twitter.com/Proi_RS Robin S

    The thing that’s the most frustrating is that even when the occasional creator/studio takes that risk and creates something that proves that formula wrong, the studios still go back to the same formula. There’s also evidence that suggests the production companies expect say, a woman-led or a person of colour-led show/movie to fail, so they don’t put the money into marketing it.

    Wanting to stick with ‘what works’ is one thing, but ignoring new formulas despite of evidence that proves it does work is another.

  • Gordon Borland

    The Audio “Exile” and the character The Corsair would disagree with the who time lords not being monogenderd.

  • Anonymous

    But during “The Doctor’s Wife,” we’re explicitly told that the Corsair chose to regenerate into a woman at least once. And you’re saying an Asian woman can’t a) have blonde hair and b) a killer IQ?

  • Sabrina

    There’s also the throwaway joke of Eleven wondering for a moment if he was a girl. And of course Nine explaining that regeneration is like a lottery and he could end up with anything (“Imagine me with no head!”). Even if it’s only jokes the fact that the Doctor doesn’t have much control over the process opens up more than enough possibilities for the casting.

  • Wednesday’s Serial

    It’s a show with tons of races, people of diversity, and many genders. It’s leaps ahead. I don’t even really get where you think they would have put in more diversity. Half the time they’re in Britain’s past where most people they’d be dealing with were white. Sure they could slip in more minority side characters here and there I guess, but it wouldn’t’ amount to much and possibly pull away from the show. The companions have been pretty diverse since ‘white’ covers British, Irish, and so on as well.
    Also again the show is pretty stellar with age differences and gender, so where are you feeling we need more race?

  • http://twitter.com/Proi_RS Robin S

    Not to self-promote or anything, but I wrote a blog post about why we talk so much about the idea of a lady Doctor. I’d love to hear opinions.

    http://fandomnista.wordpress.com/2013/05/04/why-we-crave-a-female-doctor/

  • Eva Catherine Harding

    I really am failing to understand how modern Doctor Who could be considered racist in anyway. The casting actually reflects the population of the UK. Casting people because of their ethnicity and not their suitability for the role would be wrong.

  • Wednesday’s Serial

    We’re not talking baby steps. There’ been diverse major side characters, companions, villains, and high ranking military types in the show as well. Basically I think it comes down to the doctor hasn’t been black or Indian yet, he also hasn’t been a ginger, it’s one show, they can’t do everything, and the conceit that’s been made to keep the show going also comes to a point where with so much money is tied up in the franchise and the only major thread from season to season is a weird white guy in a suit that producers won’t allow him to change that much, meaning it’s not the writers’ fault or even really the producers’s in this case, it’s the fledgling public’s for giving the impression they won’t jump onto an already weird show.

  • Anonymous

    it’s not the writers’ fault or even really the producers’s in this case,

    Next you’ll be blaming the manatees who write Family Guy’s jokes.

  • http://twitter.com/Proi_RS Robin S

    Having different types of white people is not contributing to diversity, no matter where the characters come from.

    I don’t see how adding in a diverse background of characters would “pull away” from the show. It’s also not about just having lots of faces in the crowd, it’s about what those people do and how prominent/complex/positive those roles are.

    I’m not saying Who is terrible about racial diversity, but they could certainly do better, as could pretty much every bit of media out there – and the only way for it to get better is to keep telling them they can do better.

  • http://www.thenerdybird.com/ Jill Pantozzi

    As I mentioned in the article, it’s not simply about casting, but how POC are represented on the show. Follow the link to the episode recap I linked and you can see some of the discussion of this in the comment section.

  • Saronai Aldarion

    I honestly think they’re being a bit dramatic about it, especially to accuse it of being “Thunderingly racist” and also using old who as any sort of basis.

    I can’t speak for BBC television back then, but tv was doing all kinds of racist things everywhere at the time. Likewise, there’s still tv-show segregation all over. It honestly irritates me why all our friends have to be white, unless we Big Bang our way into a token Indian or something. At least in the latter, they’re trying.

    I like seeing a lot of variety, and for Dr. Who to have a black companion, at least they’re trying and I felt Martha was way more than a token black.

    In fact, speaking of Martha directly…if Dr. Who were truly “thunderingly racist” I imagine Martha would most definitely not be a doctor in training, not be intelligent, and not be well-spoken (among other things)…she probably would have been Rose minus the love interest angle (shiftless and without a job).

    I disliked the way The Doctor treated Mickey through most of his run, but I actually kinda disliked Mickey as well until he grew into his own.

    However, regarding Martha, I read “word of god” says the Doctor was going to tell Rose that he loved her as well…any companion following immediately on the heels of a lost love is bound to get marginalized and side-lined. It is sad that character happened to be black, but…wow, what a character.

    I love Martha. In my opinion she is one of the strongest female companions ever on the show. She’s smart, thinks fast on her feet, saves the doctor without magic tardis juice more than once, uses her brain to solve problems quite often rather than waiting on the doctor to help her out and she’s going to be a doctor.

    After reading some other fans gripe about how selfish Martha was in the doctor’s grief over Rose (and Martha’s insistence he see her and forget Rose anyway), I didn’t expect to like Martha at all. However, I’ve now seen at least a little of every companion and Martha is actually my favourite so far. She’s the doctor’s Hermione Granger.

    In short, I don’t think I’d like Martha at all, let alone favour her if the show was as “thunderingly racist” as they claim…I also don’t think I’d like the show either.

    Now segregation and token issues…sooooo many shows have that, write an anthology studying the trend overall in television. I’d love some solutions and brainstorms on how to overcome that without gimmicks or being overly focused on visual differences between characters and the problems that might cause. Horror movies actually tick me off the most with this one. Not only do they segregate and have “token” characters, but said token characters almost always die and they KNOW it’s a trope and they still play to it and it makes me want to pull out my hair because it’s NOT a trope worth playing into. I’ll never get that one.

  • Sabrina

    I think you’re pretty much spot on with this. :)

  • Saronai Aldarion

    Sorry about the double post, the comment board is acting crazy on me.

  • Wednesday’s Serial

    it’s not… meaning… I’m not blaming them?

  • Gordon Borland

    It was a very well thought out. Your criticisms of River Song are very good as well, Bernice Summerfield is in my mind River Song done right, or rather River is Bernice done not as well.

  • http://profiles.google.com/rickbman Rick Bman

    Oh, I totally agree. They ignore the evidence because they can write it off as being a fluke or an anomaly. It is just that they are afraid to change, it is that they don’t even want to put the effort into trying to change.

  • http://www.facebook.com/bogslug Daniel Latta

    Well, so much for Doctor Who.

  • Saronai Aldarion

    And now I can’t delete this one that somehow ended up apart form my login *sigh*

    Gonna quit trying until this comment board behaves itself on my computer!

  • Anonymous

    I was so sure she was going to get picked up as a companion (at least temporarily), and so disappointed when she wasn’t.

  • http://twitter.com/Proi_RS Robin S

    And today’s media, especially movies, are ridiculously risk-adverse. That’s why Hollywood currently has a bad case of sequel-itis.

  • Anonymous

    I think the show does do a good job with diversity in regards to one-shot characters, and I do like seeing that they’re usually sure to include black people in future-set stories. But yeah I do kinda feel like there should be another non-white companion at some point. It’s almost like they brought in Martha for the accolades of finally having a black companion, and then felt they didn’t have to ever worry about it again.

    I will say there are a LOT of shows that do far worse, I just think there’s definitely a bit of validity to some of the complaints.

  • http://twitter.com/Proi_RS Robin S

    I know, right? I loved how she talked back to the Doctor and was brave and capable. She was everything a good companion should be.

  • http://melancholywise.tumblr.com/ Sophie

    This is a problem I’ve noticed in a lot of English shows. We have quite a proportionally high Asian population, but they seem to be very under-represented in our media. The Sarah Jane adventures was pretty good for representation, especially towards the end. There’s a rather sweet moment between the Tenth Doctor and Clyde where Clyde asks the Tenth Doctor if he could regenerate into someone of a different race, which the Doctor confirms, and yet he’s still always been white and male. As the comments below point out, I think there’s been a lot of suggestions that the doctor isn’t straight, but they they show him almost exclusively in relationships with women regardless.

  • Anonymous

    “Singled out” is pejorative language — do you think the authors should have done a systematic review of all TV? That’s a daft argument and one that silences the important research done.

  • Anonymous

    The thing is that the Doctor having the potential to be regenerated as a different race or gender as been confirmed pretty much outright in the show and it’s spin-off.

  • Anonymous

    Well all of the companions have also been English speaking, which makes sense since it’s a TV show, but if he was really The Doctor, I imagine he could find a Spanish speaker or a Chinese/Urudu speaker, etc. Native English speakers are more likely to be white (especially if they’re actually English). Ideally the companions should have a normalized racial distribution. If 5% of English citizens are Asian, then 5% of the companions should be Asian. Since it’s such a small sample size, it’s not really indicative of racism at this point.

  • Snowflake

    fair enough, I hadn’t heard this

  • Hanne Toft Christensen

    I read the article where the quotes about the lack of Asian and Indian actors originated from. As I see it the criticism is not as harsh as people might think.

    This is a large quote from the conclusion of that same article, if anyone would like to read it.

    “The new Who reflects the New Britain, but it still has some way to go to
    reach the type of colour-blind casting and colour-blind representation of
    characters that one expects in the 21st century.
    The characters of Martha Jones and Mickey Smith do not depend on their race to add meaning to their portrayals, and the Mickey Smith–Rose Tyler romance was seen as being perfectly natural and no mention was made of the interracial nature of the relationship.
    [...]At the same time, the producers of Doctor Who were not above trying to use race to energise the show as well as gain greater viewership and higher
    ratings.[...]

    To sum up, Doctor Who has made interesting moves in its new
    incarnation to be racially inclusive. What it needs to do now is to have story lines that do not blindly portray a race-free utopia, but, instead, use the programme to meet the transformation of racial issues in the 21st century head-on with stories that bring up the continuing challenges that are faced in creating truly multiracial societies”

    Qouted from: Amit Gupta (2013): Doctor Who and Race: Reflections on the Change of Britain’s Status in the International System, The Round Table: The Commonwealth Journal of International Affairs, 102:1, 41-50

  • Emily Miller

    And I desperately want Jane Espenson to write for the show, particularly if there was a female doctor (but really, at any time ever)… this must happen. -_-

    After this only semi-related comment I return you to your regularly scheduled comment thread…

  • Anonymous

    It’s not a Dr. Who problem, it’s a television in general problem. I read in a recent article about Kerry Washington that she is the first African-American woman to star in a show since the 70s. I don’t want to misquote and don’t have the article in front of me but I may be generous saying African-American woman, it may just be African-American.
    I don’t think that pointing fingers at any one show is going to make the difference that is needed. It’s just going to make fans & networks angry.

  • Elias Algorithm

    Winner

  • Anonymous

    “It is always about the best actors for the roles.”

    I always love this line. Because proportionally, who would have thought that white people were just naturally the best actors out there, considering how much they get cast compared to minorities in non-race specific roles…

    Minorities: Step up your acting skills. White people are apparently much better actors all around.

  • Elias Algorithm

    I’d break my own legs to see that.

  • Emily Miller

    Arguably a lot of his incarnations are pretty asexual, really… sort of a “yeah, you look timelord but you’re actually… human” sort of vibe. The more recent incarnations have been seen as more potentially attracted to characters than I remember the older ones being.

    (as a disclaimer this could be due to the fact that at this age I pick up on it more readily than I would have as a kid…)

  • Anonymous

    Maybe in a TV drama, but Living Single was one of my all time favorite comedies when I was a kid (1990s) and Queen Latifa was def. the star of that show. Now I’m getting nostalgic I also loved Friends, the Fresh Prince of Bel Air, and Seinfeld. Such good TV!

  • Elias Algorithm

    Oh my I liked her. I think everyone was hoping she’d at least get to go around in the Tardis for just one more episode.

  • Gordon Borland

    “Exiles” it’s rather marvelous.

  • Anonymous

    Interesting. I wonder if Elle doesn’t have the best Googling. I didn’t watch that show being a small child in the 90s. Do you know if she was the “headline” of the show? Like in Friends, Jennifer Aniston is the “headline” but it was more of an ensemble cast than in anything else.

  • Emily Miller

    See, that just makes me want to pick up the anthology… I know that I get privilege-blinded on things like this without even noticing it… though, I hope I react as well to correction as I want to tell myself I do (hopefully it helps in that I can see the other side of the privilege wall on other issues)… and that sounds like a really good, well-written, thought-provoking article that is giving examples of doing it right and wrong and not enough….

  • Emily Miller

    I felt really bad for Strax during the Christmas special when the doctor was being all mean to him… Come on Doctor! He’s just trying to help the best way he knows how… you don’t have to insult his looks to tell him not to blow anyone up. =(

    But yes, you win.

  • Gordon Borland

    She was responsible for the episodes of Miracle Day that weren’t awful right ?

  • http://melancholywise.tumblr.com/ Sophie

    I know I’ve said this before, but the BBC is a publicly funded company, and as such they work differently from channels which are funded through advertising. For instance I believe they have quotas for representation, at least in terms of who they employ, which will count for actors as well, hence the colour blind casting. They also would have been obliged to respond the the criticism in this book, as they generally do respond to complaints. I think they also give quite a lot of creative freedom to each of their showrunners provided all is going well. I’m not saying that they don’t need to improve or that they’re perfect –there are a lot of criticisms I could level at the BBC–, but it’s less likely that executives at the top are controlling this than that the people running Doctor Who specifically are.

  • Anonymous

    Queen Latifiah was the headliner and by far the most famous person in the cast (she was the only really big name before the show became a hit). I suppose it was an ensamble cast, but since the cast was predominantly female (4 out of the 6 main characters were women, and they were the focus for most of the episodes’ plots), I think Elle is splitting hairs.

  • Snowflake

    I shall check it out, thanks! :)

  • http://twitter.com/Taste_is_Sweet Aundrea Singer

    Oh, God. Not this again.

  • Elias Algorithm

    I remember when Tennant left someone suggested Patterson Joseph as the next Doctor. I can still see that unless he’s gonna turn into the Valeyard. I would also accept Lennie James but I can’t really see him doing it, he’s a little too serious an actor and he’s shaping up to be kind of a big deal here in the States (AMC sure loves him anyway, putting him in both the Prisoner and Walking Dead). One of the main attributes I see with a Doctor is the ability to be having some real fun with it and that suits Joseph.

  • Anonymous

    “”Reflecting the diversity of the UK is a duty of the BBC, and casting on Doctor Who is color-blind. It is always about the best actors for the roles.”

    This… seems simply untrue to me. Casting *has* to bear race in mind. This sort of statement is the thing that smacks of “you don’t know what you’re talking about” to me, and has been thoroughly debunked in any post colonialist work.

  • http://discord-inc.tumblr.com/ James Fletcher

    It’s a great idea, in theory. I used to believe it wholeheartedly until I started to notice that it was mainly used to justify the lack of non-white actors in major roles. Now I tend to cringe whenever I read or hear it being used.

  • http://twitter.com/Taste_is_Sweet Aundrea Singer

    But why the hell can’t they take a leap? Why must we applaud so much of the genre media we enjoy for baby steps when it’s possible to do better than that? One example: I saw ‘epic’ on the weekend with my kid. One of the five main characters was a female, and all the human-shaped characters were white. Sure, we *saw* female ‘Leaf Men’ (teeny forest warriors), and Leaf Men of color, but only the Queen of the forest (played by Beyonce) had lines, and she had maybe 10 mins screen time total.

    Sure, I suppose it was awesome baby steps that the movie even bothered to have non-white and non-male Leaf Men at all, and hey! Female main character. BUT, there was no reason whatsoever that *any* of the main characters had to be white. And I’m pretty damn sure that the kids in my son’s grade one class with whom he saw the film wouldn’t have cared in the least if all the heroes were people of color. Hell, I just asked my kid if having the main characters look like some of his friends instead of like him would have changed the movie, and he stared at me like I’d lost my mind.

    “No,” he said, “because we’re all the same.”

    If he knows that, why doesn’t Hollywood or the BBC?

  • http://twitter.com/Taste_is_Sweet Aundrea Singer

    I can’t watch TV unless the main female character is a 40-something 5′ 1/2″ brunette, personally. I just don’t care about anyone else.

  • Anonymous

    IKR? Honestly, I’m so sick of it all. It’s a work of academic writing, they can criticize whatever they choose. Sometimes other people want to have debates about things that don’t affect you personally. Instead of whining about it, create your own blog post about Daleks or whatever.

  • Gordon Borland

    The Unbound story’s are all pretty amazing.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=52903659 Charlotte Van Zee

    Well, you could put words in my mouth or you could read what I wrote and see that I completely agreed with the findings, but merely expressed the opinion that this is not a problem isolated to Doctor Who and that I felt that that needed to be mentioned. Because calling the show “thunderingly racist” can make it seem that the show’s behavior is an anomaly when it is the norm, which will pretty much result in the opposite of what the authors want to happen, which I believe is change in media practices as a whole to become more diverse. When you call out one show and fail to mention that it’s a global problem when you do it, you end up with a situation like what happened to Girls where they grudgingly wrote in a black character because everyone said that their NYC was too white and then promptly write him back out again.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=52903659 Charlotte Van Zee

    Bashir as the Doctor… that might bring me back to watching :D

  • http://melancholywise.tumblr.com/ Sophie

    Whoever’s doing the casting will certainly suffer from internalised racism and that will show in the way they cast, and certainly we see this in episodes like ‘journey to the centre of the Tardis’. However, ‘colour-blind casting’ has a very specific meaning separate from the whole problematic idea of pretending race doesn’t exist. What it means is unless there is a specific reason why the character should be a certain race, casting calls will be open to all people races. This is the reason why, say Angel Coulby was cast as Guinevere in Merlin, and as such I think this is a good policy. That said I still wish they’d been less dismissive of the criticisms at hand. I don’t think there’s any doubt that Doctor Who has issues when it comes to the handling of race, and I’m sure that we’re not always getting the best actors for the roles, especially since as has been pointed out above, Doctor Who seems to have gotten less diverse recently.

  • http://melancholywise.tumblr.com/ Sophie

    I think it’s okay for people to focus on problems one at a time though. I mean it’s true to say that all TV should change, but I don’t think anything will improve if all criticism is that broad. I’m sure some of these other shows also have their critics. Maybe the people who wrote this book just really like Doctor Who and want it to be better. Or maybe they’re hoping that if Doctor Who takes steps to improve then so will other British programs, since it’s a pretty iconic show.

  • http://twitter.com/Proi_RS Robin S

    If you’re interested in my reasoning, the post is here: http://fandomnista.wordpress.com/2013/04/28/project-twelve/

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=52903659 Charlotte Van Zee

    Speaking as someone who’s worked in the entertainment field what they’re saying is that when they put out a casting call for roles they’re not specifying the race of the character (it’s probably along the lines of “Wanted: female actor age 20-29, to play spunky Victorian ninja maid…”). Casting notices can be creepily specific about age/race/appearance/weight. The problem with that is that it basically passes the buck onto the agents to recommend someone to audition for the role. If the agencies are sending in mostly white people to the audition then you really haven’t solved your problem of being more diverse. The solution would be to be more specific in looking for actors other than white to portray roles.

  • Anonymous

    You said “I don’t think it’s fair to single out Doctor Who”. I think it is totally fair to single it out. It’s a flagship program funded by the UK taxpayer. I don’t think that’s misrepresenting what you said.

  • Anonymous

    Oh, I see. I guess “colour blind” sounds like a synonym for “we’re not doing anything about how white it is” in my book. Only by analysing race directly can anything be done about it!

  • Anonymous

    Right? It’s a post-racist idea used to defend a contemporary racist society.

  • Carl Jackson

    I think the issue is, like any other reading you can make, if you don’t set out to be representative first and foremost you probably won’t be. Star Trek has been charged with sexism and lacking LGBT characters which is valid because Roddenbury was more affected by race relations and that’s what he concentrated on. X-Men in the film version tends to hit the LGBT reading fairly hard to the point other groups that identified with the X-Men in the comics didn’t as much while watching the films. GoT? Where to start…

    In Dr. Who, how many people have said they won’t watch it until there is a female Doctor? I think the fact is, if you’re going to be a mainstay of geek culture you either need to preemptively be inclusive or your response to these readings needs to be, “we told the story we wanted to tell.” Essentially, be aware of the environment you’re writing in or just be extremely auteur about it. You really can’t please everyone. It’s not possible.

  • Sabrina

    Me too – it’s on every bullshit bingo card regarding racism and diversity in casting right next to “colour blind” and “look we cast PoC as extras!”

  • http://discord-inc.tumblr.com/ James Fletcher

    Don’t forget “tokenism”, I remember that one coming up a lot a few weeks ago when some commentators were discussing how horrible it was that Jimmy could have been Jenny in Man of Steel.

  • Tink

    First off, judging the show as a whole, from ’63 to the present, isn’t fair. How we think on race and gender had changed significantly in the last 50 years and to complain NOW about what happened in the past doesnt make much sense and simply isnt fair to the show. Any arguments on race, gender, or stereotypes must only be taken from this current version of the show, from ’05 to the present.
    That being said, so far the show, at least in American terms, is already leaps and bounds ahead of others with its acceptance toward race, gender, and sexual identity. There is no mention that Martha and Mickey are black, that Jack is “omni-sexual”, aside from the “Not now Jack” in-joke. They are who they are. Here in the US, to have Jack kiss the 9th Doctor would have been cause for a MAJOR EVENT and instead just happens and we move on. All of the women that have traveled with the Doctor, while some have been the doe-eyed young woman, have all turned out to be kick-ass heroines in the end. (In fact, more could be said about the stereotype of the brash cougar who always gets what she wants that is River Song)
    That we haven’t had characters on the show that fit the notion of what an Asian, Arab, or Indian might be I think speaks more to how those races are still perceived than to the issues in casting a TV show. Even in the UK, parts for other races still end up as stereotypes and will continue to do so until we can see past those tropes.
    As for the Doctor ever being a woman or of a different race, I think the issue of race will change first before he ever changes genders. Changing genders brings a whole host of complications and implications from the Doctor’s past that I’m not sure a TV show is ready to deal with, especially since so many still have real life issues with those that are transgendered. Science fiction may be blind to it, but unfortunately, current socitey is not. Making him Middle Eastern, Asian, or African is a lot easier to deal with.

  • http://mordicai.livejournal.com Mordicai

    Warning flags: when people claim to be colour blind.

  • http://mordicai.livejournal.com Mordicai

    Slightly more seriously, aliens can often be used as a blind for race. Both knowingly, to spoof racism or tell stories about it (blackwhite alien & whiteblack alien from ST:TOS) but also can be a way of othering real life people by casting them as intrinsically alien (ST:TNG Klingons, sometimes).

  • Sabrina

    Add in “reverse racism!” from when they they cast Idris Elba as Heimdall and we have a BINGO! :D

  • Lady Rainicorn

    There were episodes of Miracle Day that weren’t awful?

  • Gordon Borland

    touche, but I think if it stuck to the Children of Earth format, the story could have been decent.

  • Hollyanna

    Neither of those roles were significant. I remember the woman in the God Complex because I was impressed with both her acting and the episode, but the other woman you mention, I had to google it and I still didn’t remember her. The episode was about her, yet she was barely in the episode. The show thinks including a lot of inconsequential token characters is being “colour blind?” I know I could get arguments against affirmative action, but maybe they should actively try to include some really amazing characters played by people of colour. Maybe the opposite of colour blind casting is what they need. We don’t live in a colour blind society, therefore we desperately need positive representation for POC. The BBC invoking that ridiculous concept is just the perfect example of their obliviousness.

  • Anonymous

    I agree with your first part. To be truly inclusive, you need to be active about it. But I disagree that telling your story and being aware of the world you live in are mutually exclusive ideas. If you’re unaware of the world around you and focusing only on what’s going on in your head, then all you’re writing is a mastabatory fantasy. Great fiction, in all media, reflects reality. Even fiction about a time traveling alien with two hearts. It’s the reality that makes it a good story, not the blinking light and things that go woosh. So by ignoring reality for “what I the auture wants to see”, your really just damning yourself.

    Also, you can write “your story” and cast people of color or switch up the genders, it’s really easy and can add to your story (for example, Toph from A:TLA).

  • http://twitter.com/Taste_is_Sweet Aundrea Singer

    And Teal’c, Ronon and Teyla on Stargate: Atlantis…

  • http://twitter.com/EmberDione Kim Pittman

    Well, apparently Martha wasn’t “significant”? I found those characters to be significant as both were the impetus for the resolutions of the stories. Rita was significant in that she receives a invitation to be a companion.

    My point is, they could have just as easily NOT cast poc into those roles. But they did. They had no problem casting Micky as a poc even when he was dating Rose.

    Their comment to color blind clearly deals with the fact that they have no problem casting people regardless of color, and when they write a character, they do not make their race a facet of the character so they CAN be any race.

    Like I said, it’s not prefect (who wouldn’t love a Lady Doctor or a poc Doctor? – well okay, most of us, but I do know Whovians who would hate a woman doctor just because there has never been one) but compared to American shows it’s wondrous.

  • http://twitter.com/EmberDione Kim Pittman

    It’s interesting you bring this up, I am discussing the whole “significant characters” as poc later in other comments and I almost brought up the tree woman from the second episode, then remembered she was technically an alien.

    That was some beautiful character design though.

  • http://www.facebook.com/vlazuvius John Barrie

    Could Dr. Who be more inclusive? Sure. Almost all TV could be. But “thundering ” racism? That seems a bridge too far. Whether series regulars (Mickey) or guest characters (like the father in the Venice episode with the current Doctor), people of other races always seem to be capable and fully fledged people, and it goes even more so for females. Just because the Doctor hasn’t been black/Asian/female, doesn’t make the show racist.That doesn’t mean it wouldn’t be good for them to explore those avenues (I’d watch the shit out of an Idris Elba Doctor, for one), but to be racist Dr. Who would need to actively denigrate people of other races, not simply not make them into Time Lords.

  • Adam R. Charpentier

    Investors typically pay prior to receiving a product, so there’s a fairly big difference there. “Baby” steps is pretty disingenuous. I didn’t say anything of the sort. “Fans of color” are not alone in their pursuit of inclusive television, so I’m not sure why you would phrase it as if they’re pitted against one another. It’s sort of racist to even mention a distinction. Aren’t we all just fans?

  • http://www.facebook.com/mark.matson6 Mark Matson

    England:
    85.5% White
    7.7% Asian
    3.4% Black
    2.2% Mixed race
    1.0% other
    Given this, I’d say Dr. Who does a reasonable job casting Africans but fails miserably casting Asians. The actual characters themselves are another matter, of course.

    One pet peeve I have of all science fiction, though, is in the future everyone should be some lighter shade of brown. Clearly white and clearly black should not exist, nor should any other “race”, unless you explicitly are saying racism continues for hundreds or thousands of years.

  • http://www.facebook.com/mark.matson6 Mark Matson

    As I state above, in the future there should be no white or black. Everyone should be look, to our eyes, “exotic”. In the future we are all multi-race mutts.

  • Hollyanna

    I didn’t say Mickey and Martha weren’t significant. I said Rita and Hila were not. Yes, they were significant for their episodes. That’s what I mean by tokenism. They were one off characters who died or disappeared after they were no longer useful. They were catalysts for resolution more than they were characters. Hila didn’t even have a personality.

    I agree that they do a better job than most American shows. I appreciate the efforts they have made. I just demand more because I love the show.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=507849795 Seanna Tucker

    I would agree that it’s completely unfair to judge the show based on the Original.

    More than anything, I feel as if plenty of the issues arise when it comes to Moffatt’s Who, as I have not seen very many characters of color on the show since he started with Matt Smith.

  • Anonymous

    The reason I don’t like population percentages as an argument for casting is because, as has been noted in the article and in many comments, casting is about more than just the number of roles – it’s also about the quality of those roles. Are those roles central or background, three-dimensional or shallow, stereotypes or novel, etc. Dr. Who could do a better job of inclusiveness overall, but I think the biggest issue is diversity in central roles – and the Doctor himself is the biggest example (time traveling alien who regenerates into different forms – as long as that form is that of a straight, white, male, Brit…hmmm). Mickey, Martha, Jack, and River are a good core (though this core needs continuous replenishment), but outside of that core the diversity is severely lacking – especially for non-white or black actors.

  • http://www.silverpixiefly.com/ Silverpixiefly

    I stand by only a Brit should play the Doctor.

  • http://www.silverpixiefly.com/ Silverpixiefly

    I wonder, too, how true that excuse is. Do they mean out of the lot they had auditioning? Maybe cast a wider net. Who knows what they are missing out on. It isn’t like the UK has a shortage of nonwhite people. . . right?

  • http://www.silverpixiefly.com/ Silverpixiefly

    I think the Bond being a white guy has more do to with the books it is based on (and real person it is loosely based on). I think there are occasions where changing the character’s race works and some that don’t.

    The Nick Fury change worked well. And I think King Pin actually made more since black. I had always assumed he was some fat ass white dude and I was never impressed. Michael Clarke Duncan made that character realistic. I think the Doctor could very easily be any race they wanted to make him.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=507849795 Seanna Tucker

    I believe the article was pointing out that she was the first Female African American Star of a Network Drama since the 70s. I remember hearing about it as well. Edit: I found one of the articles: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/01/17/arts/television/scandal-on-abc-is-breaking-barriers.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

    Unfortunately, a lot of the shows that were predominantly African American in the 90s were Comedies, not dramas, and most of them were ensemble cast, not driven by a singular lead. If they were lead by a single actor, it was usually a male.

  • Anonymous

    I feel like Strax would introduce you to his grenade collection if you suggested that he was anything like sweet and protective. In fact the only thing Strax is sweet and protective over IS his grenade collection.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=507849795 Seanna Tucker

    I feel a lot of the comments being made here are about how Dr. Who doesn’t have any responsibility towards racial casting and it’s not their fault if the world is currently racist or if television in general is racist.

    I feel as though some of the point is being missed. It’s not their responsibility, no, but as a largely popular program that reaches millions of viewers and is one of the leading programs currently on television, it could be, and perhaps should be, seen as a trendsetter. If the show itself were more equal in presenting it’s female characters and People of Color, then other television shows, at least in the geek world, would be likely to follow.

    No, they don’t have a responsibility, not technically. No, the show isn’t outright racist, not on purpose. But could they change? Could they cast more People of Color and demonstrate equality in it’s casting and treatment of their characters? Absolutely.

  • http://twitter.com/sarahtarium Sarah

    The racism issue is yet another example of how the Davies era is more superior than Moffet’s IMO.

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  • Anonymous

    I realize it’s about perception and not everybody notices River’s racial features, but it is worth noting that the Doctor’s wife is racially mixed. Born white (Melody), she regenerated black (Mels), and then became racially mixed River. Unlike some roles Alex Kingston plays where they use makeup to lighten her, River shows Kingston’s racial features.

  • Anonymous

    The Doctor said the Corsair became a naughty girl a few times, true, but he didn’t say the gender swaps happened by choice.

    Admittedly, the regenerations aren’t 100% random. Romana chose her new face, River concentrated on what her size would be, and the Doctor’s new personality usually seems to be heavily influenced by the manner of his previous “death” each time and whatever he regrets most about the previous regeneration, so some degree of choice is possible but definitely not certain.

  • Jaime A. Garcia

    The Nick Fury casting wasn’t entirely made solely to change the character’s race. Samuel L. Jackson was asked permission to use his likeness for the Ultimate Universe Nick Fury, on the condition that he be cast in a potential movie.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=52903659 Charlotte Van Zee

    Look this really isn’t my field so I’ve probably stuck my foot in it and I apologize. I’m not trying to derail or shut down the work here at all and I could have expressed that better. Focussed studies like this need to be done in order to show that there is a trend. That’s very important, I agree. The problem for me comes to the practical application of the research at the end. The findings of these studies have relevance beyond Doctor Who because it shows a general trend, and can also highlight some things the show has managed to handle well. Off the top of my head, Walking Dead could probably learn a lot from this sort of general critique (like please don’t kill T-dog, replace him with another AA character, and then kill him over the course of one season, it’s bad form). Making it clear that Doctor Who is not isolated in it’s failings, even just a brief mention in the conclusion summary, can help with that.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=52903659 Charlotte Van Zee

    Colorblind casting as it’s run today tends to be a very passive way of trying to bring characters of color without having to actually try. They wouldn’t deny an actor consideration for a role because the failed the paperback test, but they’re not actively trying to recruit them either. They’re inching in the right direction, but they could do more. If you’re going to do colorblind casting you need to make sure that the agents understand that you really do what a diverse group of people to chose from, and what precisely you mean by that.

    I went to a theatre school that did colorblind casting — or we would have but most of the people who auditioned were white (and one Asian girl). The perception was because we were doing “white” plays that they weren’t welcome (We were a 90% white student campus in Minnesota, there wasn’t a whole of diversity to start with). It wasn’t until the department actively started pursuing people by going to our “diversity center” and stopping in on Pan-African/Asian/Latino clubs that we started to see any change in who was cast simply because the directors had a more diverse pool to pull from. Colorblind casting can work, but you can’t be lazy about it.

  • Anonymous

    No worries. Frankly most academia has no practical application at all, so you’re not wrong on that front. Books like this are generally within a media studies/cultural studies framework that isn’t really interested in outputs, and translate badly to blog posts summarising a quote which everyone agrees seems to be out of context ^^

    Academia – usually right, rarely relevant :)

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=52903659 Charlotte Van Zee

    Which is why I completely bailed on the idea of becoming an academic after getting my BA. I’m much more action-oriented and so anything that involves hours/decades/centuries of debate with no clear-cut answer to be found is almost migraine inducing. Debate and philosophy certainly have their place, and can be useful, but I’m just more interested in pursuing applications.

  • Anonymous

    The professionally aggrieved can always find something to whine about; it’s how they make their bread and butter, after all.

  • Anonymous

    And fans invest their time, enthusiasm, online time and cosplaying skills into their particular fandoms, so now you’re the one being disingenuous. But then again, that’s kind of your comment history at this site. Save the whitesplaining for somewhere else.

  • Indigo

    They did cast Freema as martha, yes. But they also had the doctor take her to the 1800s, where she was little better than a slave.

    And they had Mickey end up as suspect for murdering Rose. Y’all have already heard me remark on the Van Braalen brothers.

    The only black character I can think of who wasn’t given short shrift was the “life is short and you are hot” police officer from “Blink.”

  • http://twitter.com/MellyFlickster Melly Flick

    My personal hope is for Adrian Lester or Lenny Henry (for vastly different reasons, obviously). Hell, Lenny Henry’s already gotten a head start on it: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EdfwXiVyE8I

  • http://wrongsirwrong.blogspot.com/ Magic Xylophone

    Well, let’s not forget that in the UK, the population is 90% white, as opposed to the US, which is about 65% white. Now, obviously Doctor Who’s audience is the world, not just Britain, and the more diversity the better, but it doesn’t seems like British shows are the ones most behind in terms of focusing on overlooked demographics.

  • http://wrongsirwrong.blogspot.com/ Magic Xylophone

    Dev Patel?

  • http://www.facebook.com/ashe.samuels Ashe P. Samuels

    ”Reflecting the diversity of the UK is a duty of the BBC, and casting on Doctor Who is color-blind.”

    “and casting on Doctor Who is color-blind.”

    “color-blind.”

    Found the problem!

  • http://www.facebook.com/ashe.samuels Ashe P. Samuels

    You’re right on most things, but it’s worth remembering that intent isn’t magic. “I/We didn’t mean to.” or “It wasn’t on purpose.” is one of the oldest tricks in the book in order to get away with routine discrimination.

    I can’t remember how many times my mother said something blatantly racist, only to tell me she ‘didn’t mean to’, and how that apparently absolves her of responsibility.

  • http://twitter.com/thebravestheart thebravestheart

    The casting decision on Journey to the Center of the TARDIS was cringe-worthy. This has been the whitest run of Doctor Who since new!Who started, and the episode kicks off with three black men who are not only jerks, but criminals who are all killed before the episode is over- oh, and it’s their fault because they start the trouble in the first place.

  • http://www.facebook.com/ashe.samuels Ashe P. Samuels

    Really good point you make here. It’s quality AND quantity we’re asking for here. They’re not mutually exclusive things!

  • http://www.facebook.com/ashe.samuels Ashe P. Samuels

    Did you really just say ‘multi-race mutts’?

    I’m multiracial. Am I a dog, then? Or is that just really unfortunate wording on your part?

  • http://www.facebook.com/ashe.samuels Ashe P. Samuels

    Isn’t that how it usually is?

    “Okay, okay, we’ll do a black character. FINE. There. We did it. We’re done now. Will you guys be satisfied? No? You’ll never be happy so why bother. Now, on to the next avalanche of white men…”

  • Adam R. Charpentier

    Sure, use buzzwords that make your prejudice OK. Makes sense.

  • http://www.facebook.com/ashe.samuels Ashe P. Samuels

    “At least they’re trying”

    If only that were good enough, huh?

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=507849795 Seanna Tucker

    I’m not arguing against that at all, actually. I agree that “not meaning” to be racist is still be racist. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard “I’m not racists but…[insert racist thing here].” But, there is a difference between being ignorant about your racism and knowing.

    Of course, outright denying it by saying that leave all of their casting open based on acting and not race tells me they’re either really, really, ignorant about the lack of PoC or they simply don’t care. I hope that there will be changes.

  • http://www.facebook.com/ashe.samuels Ashe P. Samuels

    Yes, appeal to the majority demographic. I agree.

    Especially if that demographic would balk at being invested in someone who doesn’t look like them. These are the people we need to be concerned about!

  • http://www.facebook.com/ashe.samuels Ashe P. Samuels

    How come people always say “Make your own movie” or “Write your own book”, but you rarely hear, “Build your own car!” or “Start your own restaurant!”

  • http://www.facebook.com/ashe.samuels Ashe P. Samuels

    Er, don’t tell people how they should react to the measly table scraps the media throws their way. If people want better, deserve better, then they should keep asking for better.

    If a chef were creating a soup special at a restaurant, but only heated up the stock without adding any vegetables, seasonings or meat, would you roll your eyes if he said, “Hey, just be glad for what you got! At least it’s a step in the right direction!”?

    These are professionals. They can do better.

    Also, sorry for the food metaphors. I’m hungry.

  • larksong4

    This is an issue that we as fans must take some responsibility for as well. The way we all responded when Martha was chosen sent a message to the writers and producers, a message that we like our doctors and our companions white. We need to send a new message now and threads and discussions like this help to do so,

  • http://www.facebook.com/ashe.samuels Ashe P. Samuels

    You’re right, definitely. I’ve found that people who are more innocently ignorant, the ‘I-don’t-actively-judge-and-criticize-my-surroundings-oops-did-I-really-say-that’ ones, are more open to change than the ones who are more rigorously defensive.

    And, yeah. It’s pretty common for casting calls to tout a colorblind philosophy, yet, strangely, all that colorblindness leads to majority white actors…

  • http://www.facebook.com/ashe.samuels Ashe P. Samuels

    It’s almost like white superiority isn’t solely coined with mass genocide and incarceration.

    To all those people who say, “I’m not racist!” and “I’m not a supremacist!” after rigorously defending why POC actors are always, mysteriously, less talented and qualified than white actors.

  • Anonymous

    I knew it! You’re one of the guys in this Cracked article, aren’t you?

  • Adam R. Charpentier

    Hah, okay…look, you got a little hostile with me, so I responded in kind, and maybe I was a little out of line. I’m sorry. And, yeah, I’ve seen that article, I know what you’re saying…and, no, I don’t think prejudice is dead, that things are great and people should stop complaining, but I don’t agree that blame is helpful or separating people into groups based on privilege, marking where or how this company, that television show, meets a certain quota. I don’t have a better solution, though.

  • Anonymous

    That “better solution” is the apparent point of the anthology – to examine what this show is doing and what it could do better. And privilege is a part of that discussion, as is marking the numbers behind the casting choices, as are a number of other factors. So if you’re not against people raising the issue (or “complaining,” as you rather dismissively put it), why do you continue to downplay it with meaningless sentiments like “aren’t we just fans?”

    Fact of the matter is, I didn’t just include that Cracked link as a shot — you sound like you seriously need to read it and re-examine some of your arguments.

  • Marshall Hopkins

    This argument is unfair and disingenuous. Do these race issues exist in media? Yes. Are they more glaringly prevalent in Doctor Who than in most television in the U.S. and the U.K.? No. Who is a massively popular, nearly universally beloved show. Which makes it an easy target. To question whether it should work on how it portrays race would be a valid point worth exploring, but to call it racist is just a cheap shot to make headlines.

    There’s a big difference between “racist” and simply “not as racially progressive as maybe it could be with more effort”.

  • BabeWoreRed

    Siddig would make an awesome doctor, totally agree!

  • Anonymous

    There isn’t a popular television program that isn’t guilty of racism and sexism. Doctor Who is less offensive than most because there have at least been attempts as inclusivity. That doesn’t let them off the hook. A Doctor of color or a female Doctor (or a female Doctor of color!) would be amazing and is totally workable. That said, there are a lot of other sci-fi shows I’d pick on for bigotry before DW.

  • Alex Hardison

    The problem with Mickey and Martha is that they’re both extremely weak, ineffectual characters defined by a puppy like devotion to a white character, Rose and The Doctor respectively. Not a great portrayal.

  • Anonymous

    I have to disagree with “ignorance” being a legitimate excuse for racism, or at least something that mitigates the ugliness of racism. While it is true that many people say or do racist things not out of malice but out of a lack of awareness, that does not excuse their lack of awareness. It is everyone’s responsibility to be educated about our world – its realities and its problems. If I make a racist comment out of ignorance, it’s still a racist comment with the power to harm and I should take responsibility for it. That doesn’t mean I can’t learn from that experience and become a better person, but it doesn’t absolve me of the damage that I’ve done by being uninformed. We all share in this responsibility, even the producers and casting agents that work on Dr. Who, because if it isn’t their responsibility to be aware of racial dynamics then whose is it? If we say it’s ok for a television show to discriminate in terms of hiring, then why wouldn’t it be ok for any business/company to discriminate in the same way?

  • Anonymous

    I think asking why Dr. Who is the focus of this discussion is a legitimate question. I’m not sure what about the show makes it any more ripe for exploration than any other popular show, but the author of the book is described as a lecturer in Science Communication, and her website indicates that she is interested in and has done a lot of research on Who. In addition, she seems to have a background in the research of gender, race, and sexuality in fiction, so she seems uniquely qualified to write about such matters as it pertains to science fiction. Seems like an example of “write what you know.”

  • Adam R. Charpentier

    Perpetuating the separation and distinction of people based on ethnicity results in discrimination and prejudice, no matter the aim. I disagree with the concept.

  • http://www.facebook.com/amanda.murray.9822 Amanda Murray

    The only example of blind casting that wasn’t just an excuse to cast a whole bunch of white people is Grey’s Anatomy. So, uh… good job, Grey’s Anatomy.

  • Anonymous

    My response to that one is always “But he was the best actor for the role! He’s Idris Elba!”

  • Anonymous

    There’s the planet Shan Shen in “Turn Left”. The main villain was a sinister Asian fortune teller. That one also had the magically-attuned Spanish maid and the wacky Italian family aaand I’m going to stop there because this is getting depressing.

  • Anonymous

    The Doctor’s sexual orientation wasn’t really a thing in Old
    Who. That wasn’t the direction they were going for with the character,
    apart from some reality subtext between Tom Baker and Lalla Ward!Romana.
    The romance angle was opened up by Russell T, who introduced the Jack
    stuff at the same time, so… yeah, I think they’re good in that regard,
    relatively.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=507849795 Seanna Tucker

    I’m still not saying it’s an excuse for racism, just that there’s a difference between the two.

  • Adam R. Charpentier

    Why can’t they take the leap? I dunno. Money, proof that they won’t lose any, or the abundance of recognizable actors that have been tried, successfully, and whatever racial quotient they make up, maybe. Maybe they cast the best actor from a given pool regardless of race “because we’re all the same.”

  • Adam R. Charpentier

    I thought I should add (because I just this very moment learned this) that I didn’t realize that Doctor Who (well, the BBC) was LITERALLY funded by UK taxes, so fans are actually and not only figuratively (my heart, my childhood) investors. That’s pretty interesting. It does place a whole other spin on the show in my eyes.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Alan-Alexander/502988241 Alan Alexander

    It was hard to avoid sexual subtext between T Baker and Lalla Ward since they actually were having sex at the time. I think issues of the Doctor’s sexuality first took off with Peter Davison. He was closer in age to the companions and the producers were so adamant that there be no hints of “hanky panky” in the TARDIS that they ordered that Davison never be allowed to actually touch the female companions. This, naturally resulted with him having a more physical relationship with the two male companions, Adric and Turlough (both of whom were thought to be gay by many viewers).

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Alan-Alexander/502988241 Alan Alexander

    Initially, Mickey was a buffoon because he wasn’t meant to be a rounded character in his own right, just a living McGuffin to provide a spark for Rose’s actions. When he joined the crew (and more importantly, got over his own romantic attachment to Rose), he blossomed as a character. Also, does anyone else find it odd that Donna was engaged twice and both times to a black male. Nothing against interracial marriages, but I assume she doesn’t actually remember the circumstances that led to her first fiance’s death, and then she later married someone else who looked like him.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Alan-Alexander/502988241 Alan Alexander

    I think his point was that within a few more centuries, the racial lines we take for granted in the Western world will have broken down to the point that there is no distinction between “white” and “black.” I don’t know if that will happen or not, but I see the appeal of the vision.

  • http://twitter.com/LauraTruxillo Laura Truxillo

    They could potentially cast a not-white Bond. Doing so would probably make canon the fan-theory about the name being a legacy rather than one person. But we’d probably be more likely to get a bisexual Bond.

  • http://www.facebook.com/ashe.samuels Ashe P. Samuels

    I know his point. It’s the same phoned in garbage people tout in order to seem progressive, while not actually acknowledging and confronting oppression. Want to seem racially profound? Invent an idealistic fantasy!

    Anyway, mutt is a slur for people of mixed ancestry. That was MY point. It’s not okay to refer to people like me, like my little brother, as mutts, no matter how benign the intent.

  • Anonymous

    Idris Elba should be the next James Bond

  • Marshall Hopkins

    I guess my only issue is “Why ‘Who’?” There are any number of popular series on Television now and in the past 2 decades that could be singled out. ‘Seinfeld’. ‘The X-Files’. ‘Smallville.’ ‘Community’ ‘Breaking Bad.’ ‘Arrow.’ ‘Modern Family’. We could go all day with any genre imaginable, even things geared towards Children.

    That’s what makes it seem cloying in it’s self righteousness. Out of all of the shows on Television to look at, or take a cross-section, she took one of the most popular on television right now, and called it out for what 90% of all English language shows are guilty of. We should be assailing the entire media culture, not just one to get the attentions of geeks.

  • Anonymous

    Remember this: in academia, the ticket to first publication is often either A) directly attacking and opposing a leading voice in the field or B) making an outrageous statement that is hard to (dis)prove. This can be especially true in Culture Studies where this anthology is situated.

    I am not making any allegations of these tactics in this anthology as (and this part is REALLY important) I have not read it, as I suspect most of the commenters here also have not. Without a reading of the essays, everyone’s comments on it is just opinion. We should first see what the authors actually have to say before praising or damning it.

  • rare avis

    While i agree with much of what you say, in his defense, the woman HAD to die. Every episode needs it’s fair share of Red Shirts…

  • rare avis

    NO Jane, PLEASE! BSG was fab til the last episode, and I don’t think it was RDMs idea… Please, we have a perfectly good science fiction story. Let’s not bring in god, a deity, a goddess, paganism, polytheism, or any example of deus ex machina.

  • Sabrina

    The basic premise was pretty cool but it was too drawn out, a couple of plot strands went nowhere and the big reveal was a rather meh. It could have been as good as CoE if they’d just cut it down and concentrated on the really interesting bits.

  • http://twitter.com/thatfilmgirl Nat

    Okay? I don’t know who those characters are. I’ve only been a casual viewer these past few seasons because of work. As for any work, unless it comes to play on the show, extra material such as comics, books, radio plays, etc aren’t fair to consider ‘canon’.

  • http://twitter.com/thatfilmgirl Nat

    You can support a character without putting down others. Rose Tyler is just as nuanced a character as any other companion.

  • Saronai Aldarion

    If only it were good enough to get the job done, yeah (as in, trying doesn’t mean succeeding).

    I honestly wish there was no such thing as “At least they’re trying” and these things were just done, automatically, with equality in mind, rather than people having to “try” and be inclusive and non-discriminatory because otherwise they’ll be more likely to forget.

    I do still love Martha the most so far though, she’s brilliant, independent, and strong, I can’t see the show that conceived that character with her lovely actress as “thunderingly racist.” However, I will agree, as with most tv, there’s definitely room for improvement in inclusiveness.

  • http://www.dpsinfo.com LaurieMann

    I think that’s a fair point…though the first few years of the Dr. Who reboot had more black characters AND more gay characters. Since Moffatt became the show runner, no major black characters, no major gay characters (well, two minor ones). It may not be deliberate racism, but it’s showing a real lack of thought

  • Gordon Borland

    The BBC has never had a stance on cannon, though references to EU works have cropped up a few times in the new series. The Corsair was key to the plot of The Doctors Wife , where it was firmly established that Time-Lords can indeed change gender.

  • http://twitter.com/thatfilmgirl Nat

    I never saw ‘The Doctor’s Wife’ so I can’t comment on that. Secondly no, that’s not what I’m saying? At all? I believe you missed my ‘trope’ comment. But please, continue to try bait me.

  • Wednesday’s Serial

    I’m not trying to tell people how to react, I’m asking people to think about the manner in which they do so. Most of the comments here are incredibly vague and not constructive. If we think about the issue as “They are failing at having a diverse cast, if we complain and analyse it will show the problem” what does that do? It highlights the times they’ve had race and them condemns it, it’s incredibly negative.

    Now if we take the times there have been race in the show and say that was great, but we want more! Give us more of that! We think there’s a lot of rich ground in Africa’s history for Doctor Who episodes, man that would be cool.

    See the difference? Celebrate when we get race, don’t settle for scraps, but if you’re the hungry man at the table will you get more for bitching about what you got, or will you peak their interest by finding something special in it complementing it then saying you want more?

    There’s so much bitching about not enough race in doctor who, the show jumps all over, there’s been color of all kinds in companions, side characters, background cast, a queen, high ranking officials, villains, so where do people feel these different racial characters should have been? Is it the doctor himself? Is that the problem?

  • Anonymous

    The BBC’s response is still extraordinarily rubbish, isn’t it?

    ‘Freema Agyeman became the first black companion and Noel Clark was a recurring character’? Freema and Noel were regulars in the show years ago now, and pointing out Freema was the first black companion isn;t an argument for anything, beeb, someone had to be the first, and frankly it not happening until the noughties is nothing to be proud of.

    There are probably defensive arguments that the BBC could make (there are things DW does well in terms of racial representation, I think), but waving around names that haven;t been attached to the show in its current incarnation is not convincing anyone.

    I think DW is pretty good for non-racist casting in terms of its incidental/one-appearance cast, but the leads have been very white for the last few seasons, so I can certainly see the criticism.

    For contrast, I’ve been re-watching Star Trek TNG. Without wishing to claim that show was problem free (anyone who has ever seen Code Of Honour will know it’s not), it did strike me at one point that I was watching a scene between Guinan, Geordi and Worf and that there was nothing unusual in seeing scenes in TNG with only POC principal cast members in. TNG is like 20 years old now, and it’s still unusual to see a cast featuring this many non-white actors. That’s kinda depressing.

    DW doesn’t get a pass just because it’s part of a wider picture, though. I love my BBC but one of the reasons I love it is because I feel it makes a genuine and principled effort to represent and promote a modern, multicultural, liberal Britain. They need to buck their ideas up re. Doctor Who. The show is meant to be progressive, not backward.

  • Arakiba

    Doctor Who’s come a long way since the 1970′s, when the BBC was so convinced the audience wouldn’t accept a “blue-eyed savage” that it forced the actress who played Leela to wear brown contact lenses when she started on the show.

  • Carl Jackson

    “So by ignoring reality for “what I the auture wants to see”, your really just damning yourself”

    I agree and disagree. The auteur defense comes in with a Woody Allen, a Joss Whedon, Lena Dunham or someone that absolutely gets the reality of what they’re writing but are telling a very specific story. When we relegate anything we deem unrepresentative to the realm of masturbatory fantasy we shortchange the writers intelligence. Heck, we allow that conceit just by allowing the Dr. to always sound like he’s from the UK.

    The functional difference here is, those auteurs tend to write the reality of their setting. Their settings are usually internally consistent (although people had a field day with Firefly). I don’t find Allen or Dunham particularly unrealistic given their settings. It’s when we get into the broader context that it becomes problematic.

    By all means diversify the Doctor if you’re the BBC. Make your next showrunner someone who wants to take on that task because it’s the BBC’s brand. I’m just curious which writers of Dr. Who are being masturbatory and which ones aren’t.

  • Gordon Borland

    BBC doesn’t have a cannon policy, And even if you choose disregard the audios or books (missing out a huge amount of great story’s) The Corsair was established by on screen dialog as having been both male and female.

  • Anonymous

    I am a ginormous Joss When Fan, but he has a severe problem with diversity. He was telling a specific story with in that “the blond girl in an an alley being chased by monsters” trope was being turned on it’s head, that explains Buffy being a white girl. But he also continued to cast white actor after white actor for all the other roles. In fact, throughout all 7 seasons of Buffy, only 4 significant black characters come to mind (Kendra, Principal Wood, Rhonda & Mr. Trick). Telling a specific story doesn’t mean not being inclusive. Sunnydale is set in Southern California and the only Hispanic characters I can think of are the Incan Mummy and the kid that Dawn hung out with for one episode.

    Essentially, what I’m trying to say is that unless telling a specific story requires you to have only one race/gender/orientation, there’s no legitimate reason to not be inclusive. And that the excuse of “That’s not the story I wanted to tell” will only take an author so far.

  • Anonymous

    Why do they feel the doctor is dismissive of black companions? I will be open minded.

  • Daniel E. Jacobs

    I think you have to go beyond JUST the doctor and his companions to the stories, and the much like the first star trek, how the stories of the aliens were about he fought against racism and with Capt Jack it was opening doors LGBTQ and with Davies were taking about of showing strong Female characters Moffet has taken some stumbles backwards on that I know. But you have to look at the stories sometimes to see the Doctor and what he means not who he is with. That is where they made their voices heard that is where they got to be brave. Casting they had to go through BBC brass and rating charts and money… you don’t get those chances to take risk in casting especially in the early years of the Doctor, but story you could. I think that is where they miss the mark

  • Anonymous

    I personally think it’s reasonable to keep the Doctor as a white male. Given these things play into our sense of identity (or it wouldn’t be nearly as much of an issue in the first place) I don’t think it’s unreasonable to keep them consistent for what is, essentially, different faces of the same person. That being said, I certainly wouldn’t be upset if the next Doctor wasn’t another white male. I just don’t think it’s racist or sexist if he isn’t.

    Everything else… yeah. I remember being deeply uncomfortable back in Series 1 and 2 with Mickey. When the only black person on the show is generally impotent, buffoonish, and treated by the Doctor like something on the bottom of a shoe… it’s hard to say that isn’t racist.

  • Carl Jackson

    I agree, which is why I kept my further point to Dunham and Allen who are both writing about very specific pockets of New York life. But Whedon’s sins are often glossed over because many assume he’s thought about it and he gets that leeway as a writer. What you’re talking about is why I tend to love Star Trek as a franchise although they have certainly misfired and fell behind the curve towards the end.

  • Guest

    That’s what’s wrong with the world today. You are FORCED to cast black actors because if you don’t, you are labeled as a racist. But let Tyler Perry cast an all black cast, and no one bats an eye. But god forbid if Perry White or the Human Torch are played by white people. Black people say they want to move past racism, but then commit reverse racism by getting upset about the casting of a white person.
    I remember seeing comments on one website when it was announced that Andrew Garfield had been cast as Spider-man in the reboot. The black people in the comments were screaming, “another damn honkey playing Spider-man? Why don’t they stop casting white people as super heroes!? They are so racist!!!”
    That’s what’s wrong these days. A white person is cast as a white character, and BOOM! Someone cries racism. But let a black person talk about how wrong it is that some “honkey” being cast and it’s not considered racist.

  • Gary Freeman

    Well, then Tyler Perry better have a white main character in his next movie. Because if Perry always casting all black casts (unless he has a white killer like Alex Cross), then it shouldn’t be seen as racism to not make a white character black just for the sake of political correctness.
    Black people say they want to move past racism, but they keep it alive by making race an issue for EVERYTHING.

  • http://www.facebook.com/ashe.samuels Ashe P. Samuels

    lol reverse racism

  • Jesse

    sci-fi is mad racist, even when it’s sci-fi that deals with race. Best example I can think of is star trek where racism is directly addressed numerous times in positive ways but the show still manages to be racist on occasion (though less so depending on the series and year of production).

    compared to other sci-fi shows i don’t think dr. who is any better or worse. But to say an immortal alien who (theoertically?) has no prior knowledge of human race or gender just always picks (seemingly hetero) white men to change into? it doesn’t make any sense at all. And always picks women companions? Doesn’t make sense. It’s just one of those cases where the people behind the show are clearly just showing their own decisions without any logic within the universe of the show.

    show producers gotta stop pretending and bullshitting like they don’t sit down and calculate how many white people they can put in a show before they fear losing their white audience.

  • Jesse

    Why are there so many upvotes on some stupid comment mocking a serious discussion of racism?

  • Liz

    I’ve read about this, and it seems to be classic who that they have the most problems, not new who. The 60s and 70s were very different to modern times so shouldn’t be judged by our values, even Uhura would be viewed badly by our standards as she only gets to answer the “phone”, and not much else. But that would have been unthought of for a black woman to do that on an actual military ship in the 60s. Some of the “racist” examples, are that having the doctor like cricket represents british colonialism and our “inherent” disdain for other races. And Leela represents our “hatred” of savages, but she was actually from a prehistoric tribe so was very different to us nowadays, there was no mention of race. These points seem a bit ridiculous to me.

    Another things to remember, is that Doctor Who is set in Britain, where 86% of the population are white (http://www.ons.gov.uk/ons/rel/census/2011-census/key-statistics-for-local-authorities-in-england-and-wales/rpt-ethnicity.html), and in most of the new series about 80% are white (http://doctorwho.livejournal.com/6903360.html). I would view it as tokenism, if they were to hire mostly non-whites, instead of the best actor for the role (as the BBC states). There are good and bad characters from all races, the one the doctor disliked the most was Adam, the companion who was kicked out of the TARDIS. There is some racism shown on new who, but those people are viewed as backwards e.g. Martha meeting people the in the past. Liz Ten was shown to be a caring, strong character, and Toshiko Sato was a genius (mostly Torchwood, I know but did appear in Doctor Who).

    Overall, I would say that Doctor Who does a good job. There are more non-whites than the real Britain at times, they show interacial relationships (Rose/Mickey), and they also have openly gay main characters (Jack), and have really strong female characters (Donna). I would say that this is much more realistic than a lot of US TV shows.

  • Heather MacDonald

    I think this is silly. The show if fine the way it is. I have never seen anything racist on it what so ever. This whole idea is ridiculous. This person must have watched that one episode and jumped to their own conclusion on the show.

  • Anonymous

    “but the author of the book is described as a lecturer in Science
    Communication, and her website indicates that she is interested in and
    has done a lot of research on Who”

  • Anonymous

    I agree, there’s a difference between racism done out of malice and racism done out of ignorance. However, that difference, in the end, is trivial to those targeted by racism/discrimination. We have a responsibility to be both 1) kind to one another (combating malice), and 2) aware of the world we occupy and interact with (combating ignorance). If Who producers/casting agents are deficient in either way, the fault still lies with them. They are wrong for being ignorant, or wrong for being malicious – and as such should be the target of criticism (like all other shows that are guilty of the same).

    So, I believe the distinction in why the casting in Who is racially problematic is irrelevant. The fact remains that it IS problematic, and due to an issue on the part of the show’s higher ups. Whether they’re ignorant or malicious doesn’t change how racism affects opportunity for actors, and enjoyment of the show for audiences – especially people of color who feel they aren’t represented in a show that is still asking for their patronage.

    Now, while the difference doesn’t change the fact that Who should be roundly criticized, it does change how we would go about advocating for change. In the case of Who, I think their ignorance to the lack of diversity (and that’s giving them the benefit of the doubt, a benefit that I’m not at all sure they deserve considering I can’t believe that for years they haven’t considered the ethnic makeup on the show) can be addressed most appropriately by appealing directly to the producers, writers, and casting agents (and I think that’s what the study by Orthia is doing). Had their problems been rooted more in malice, I think a more appropriate response would be to just stop watching the show. But to return to the main point of this response, malice vs ignorance doesn’t change the fact that the casting is problematic and deserving of criticism. That’s why I’m hesitant to allow ignorance to be used as an excuse or explanation for somehow mitigating their responsibility in creating the problem. And I feel that by drawing the distinction that you did (completely appropriate), but not holding ignorance up as just as problematic as malice, you are giving apologists an opportunity to deflect any legitimate criticism of the show.

  • http://twitter.com/thatfilmgirl Nat

    As I’ve only been a casual viewer (especially during the Pond era) The Corsair was in an episode I’d never seen before so thank you for telling me where exactly it was. :)

  • http://www.facebook.com/winter.crawley Dara Crawley

    Well the problem is that Mickey and Martha were very one dimensional at first, but the writers figured out who they were. Martha realized her feelings for the doctor were going no where and, almost in a counter point to Rose, realized she could lead a much happier life without following the doctor. Mickey became less whining as time went on. His journey was really figuring out his place when he doesn’t have one. For example when his gran died he left Earth because his home is with those he loves. Hence his strong attachment to Rose. Mickey, like Rose, was drawn into the world of aliens and couldn’t just ignore it. He wasn’t as smart as others in constructing ideas, but he was crafty and intelligent without much of a way to use it. Eventually he realized Rose didn’t love him and moved on focusing on living the life of the other Mickey (who if you note still had his Gran). When Mickey returned he and Martha got together, which makes sense. They’re both characters who have been rejected only to realize that they don’t need Rose of the Doctor to have adventurers. They ended up growing into their own.

  • Anonymous

    I really would like to see Idris Elba as the 12th Doctor. That would be amazing.

  • Anonymous

    “Casting *has* to bear race in mind.”

    That depends on what you’re casting.

  • Nina

    Tosh was a one-off, who went to a spin-off, who died years ago. One character doesn’t absolve anything. In fact it makes the lack of reoccurring characters of color under Moffat stand out more. He’s pretty much ditched all of RTD’s attempts at inclusiveness (I have other issues with RTD, but racism generally isn’t the first one that comes to mind).

  • Anonymous

    You may have some valid points in there, but any argument that starts with, ‘First of all Doctor Who is NOT racist’ is not one people are likely to take seriously. No accusation of racism (or any other ‘ism’) can be dismissed so wholeheartedly and cavalierly.

    Are you really claiming a show that – even if we’re just looking at its current incarnation – has years of programming and related media to its name, has never displayed any racist elements?

    Whether or not these elements add up into anything substantial enough for the show to be singled out is a matter up for debate. And of course, that’s the very debate others are having here.

    Some of the points you make are valid points within said debate, but they are your opinions, not the hard-and-fast facts you present them as: many would disagree with you, for instance, that the only time there is an obligation to cast according to race is when the character has a historically-defined race. Some would counter-argue that in the normal course of things the scales are tipped so much in favour of white actors (as a product of wider white privilege) that casting-directors need to employ ‘positive discrimination’ in favour of actors of colour to redress that balance to some extent.

    I don’t think your analogy of straight actors playing gay makes a lot of sense. Sexuality is not a visual issue. Gay people look exactly like straight people; they are not discriminated on visual grounds. As soon as you start to explore the idea that only gay people should play gay people it becomes ridiculous anyway. Wouldn’t it mean that only straight actors could play straight characters? There’s a great discussion of the issue on Russell T. Davies commentary for the original Queer As Folk, where he also points out – how could you enforce it anyway? Sexuality isn’t visually overt in the way race is.

    I agree that films that marginalise non-Americans are very irritating but the practice is bad on the exact same principle that casting shows too white is bad: it portrays an on-screen universe where White Americans are heroic and everyone is, at best, support staff.

    When it is Canadians and Brits being sidelined in accounts of historical events its annoying. But Britain and Canada are powerful first-world countries to whom this kind of shit is nothing more than culturally annoying. When the victim of marginalisation are groups that have been historically oppressed, enslaved and mistreated, the media is actively CONTRIBUTING to this very oppression.

    Now I’m not weighing in one way or the other re. DW, I haven’t quite perceived the racism that’s described but I’m willing to accept that if a lot of people are having a problem its probably for a good reason. People don’t make this stuff up for shits and giggles.

  • Anonymous

    Yeah, people who jump to their own conclusions and then can’t imagine they’re not right are so annoying

    :/

  • Anonymous

    I too feel that ‘thunderingly racist’ might be overstating things. I;m quite willing to accept that, if people are calling racism, there’s racism. I’m not qualified to be the judge – white privilege and all that.

    but that doesn’t mean I can’t see that there’s a broad spectrum of racism and that DW for all its sins hardly seems to fall at the ‘thundering’ end of matters. That’s not a Get Out Of Jail Free card, the fact that other shows are worse.

    But describing the problem in such hyberbolic terms is surely only going to make the claim seem ridiculous rather than be taken seriously as is deserves to be?

  • Anonymous

    …wait, what? In what alternate universe was there a protest over Martha’s race? The only critiques I’ve heard of the character are that her storyline didn’t meet her potential.

    Sorry, I’m not taking any responsibility for stuff I haven’t done.

  • Anonymous

    Because having a serious discussion of racism and making an in-character Sontaran joke are not mutually exclusive?

  • Garet Jax

    [facepalm] Really?!??!?? Then call me racist, I love the Doctor. Funny how nobody calls BET racist. Oh, I forgot…only white people can be racist.

    And the show is from the UK….where, according to the last census, just over 90% of the population is white! Considering this, and all the aliens in the show, minorities are probably overrepresented on Doctor Who.

    Look, I’m an American and can understand this type of criticism about the melting pot country I live in. But the UK?!???!?? Kind of like lamenting the fact that most people on Japanese TV are Asian.

    An accurate portrayal based proportionally on current UK ethnic demographics is basically about 1 out of 11 people being some type of non-white. Doctor Who exceeds this and still gets called out!

    This article is just thinly disguised race-baiting. It’s offensive as well as illogical and inaccurate!

  • Garet Jax

    Riiiight….a multicultural country where the latest census shows over 90% of the population is white. Doctor Who actually over-represents minorities.

  • Garet Jax

    [facepalm] Really??? Then call me a racist, I love the Doctor! And funny how nobody calls BET racist…oh, that’s right, only white people can be racist.

    Dr. Lindy Orthia does realize that this show comes from the UK, where according to the last census just over 90% of the population is white, right? I’m an American and can understand this kind of criticism in my melting-pot country. But the UK? Kind of like lamenting the fact that most of the people on Japanese TV are Asian.

    Considering that an accurate representation of the races would be about 1 in 11 people being non-white, Doctor Who does just fine. Actually, considering all the aliens on the program minorities are probably over-represented! Just look at the picture above: 5 of 8 are women, 1 of 4 is non-white, and at least 1 of 8 is gay. Good lord, one of them is even a black, female doctor. Wow, talk about over-representation of minorities!

    This article is thinly disguised race-baiting as well as being illogical. Dr. Lindy Orthia obviously doesn’t have a PhD in demographic statistics, that’s for sure.

  • Saronai Aldarion

    I wrote an entire blog-post worth of a response to this. I decided to delete it in favour of an extreme sum up: I agree with you completely, but for what I think are good reasons, I don’t think white privilege gets in my way of having a valid opinion on it though. But I do think white privilege is undeniable in television and movies.

    I agree not being “thunderingly” racist or the only one is not a get out of jail free card and this is important to talk about. Yes, hyperbolic, attention-grabbing statements as from this new book on Dr. Who undermine all the potentially decent arguments it might have made, and also undermines the idea that Dr. Who (and other series) could improve on this.

    But I still like Martha best and Jabe is my favourite character of all time (I so wish she hadn’t died), I loved both her species concept and her character.

    Also, Dr. Who is potentially more at fault when it comes to Indian characters (I only remember two: a good girl who died in the same episode she appeared and a greedy, selfish, slavery-loving Ood oppressionist snitch who…also died in the same episode she first appeared in) and fat people (farty fat alien mobster families, the episode where we all almost die from dieting, and the episode in which we were a nice loving interracial couple constantly reminded of how gross and deserving of being left behind to die we were by a greedy arse-hole who not only lived while we died, but got rich off the whole thing after we died by falling (heroic jumping and weighing the enemy down with us)–because fat people falling never gets old, right?–but not before the female fatty showed some arguably blatant stupidity by admitting she paid just as much in credits trying to win the cruise as she would have paid just buying the tickets out-right when they could’t afford it).

    Then again, it’s a lot harder to convince people that being sizist is just as harmful as being racist. It all leads to an atmosphere that inspires most of us into hating ourselves and our more obvious-than-thin-people weakness (or illness in some cases, like my own) too much to have the energy to fight the uphill battle toward caring enough about our fat useless bodies to do right by them (if we could even do anything about it in the first place).

    Again, however, Dr. Who is a bit better about this than other shows I’ve seen (at least the doctor wanted to actually save us fatties and disliked the fact that Mr. Greedy-two-shoes lived and got rich while decent folks like the fat woman he hated on died saving everyone else…nevermind she was apparently only useful to everyone else by dying heroically–she was a burden until that point).

    *rubs face vigorously* This is why I never use to really watch tv until I met my husband (who enjoys it enough that a few shows pulled me from my passive resistance of the annoying crap to watch their stories). Conversations like this though make me think I’m on the exact track I need to be in pursuit of my own stories, purposefully injecting them with realistic and diverse people, questioning why I envisioned this person or that one how I did, and how they could be otherwise, and what I might change to make it more inclusive, or less stereotypical, and how I might portray that diversity without derailing the story or relying on cheap tricks or tokenism. I think it’s helped me grow as a writer and a person. Often I end up with a better story.

    That’s what I can do. That and let those who pick what stories to go with and are in charge of casting know I think they should make an effort to be more inclusive too and challenge their stories to change the status quo for all our benefits. I do think life imitates art and it’s far easier to challenge and improve our own art first than it is to challenge people who cling to art and public opinion as evidence the status quo is correct (ie it’s what sells and you can’t argue with the numbers).

    So…I just wrote an entirely different TLDR, Sorry! Does it help knowing this is far shorter than my first reply? Yeah, probably not.

    Thanks for your response anyway!

  • Saronai Aldarion

    I most definitely agree with all of this :)

    I think “thunderingly racist” was a bad, hyperbolic choice of words, but bringing it up? Not at all, and for the exact reasons you point out.

    It always makes me sad when I see fellow white fans flip out at the mention of non-white beloveds, such as the recent upset over Spiderman possibly being black. Well, seriously, why the heck not? I still don’t understand the argument of why Peter Parker has to be white. What about him labels him as a white dude?

    I can kinda see the point that they should make a new black hero that kicks butt instead…but that ignores the historical context in which the really popular and well-established heroes were created (which makes them all pretty much white).

    I’m inclined to go with sarcasm on that attitude. Apparently, Peter Parker’s essence is white because, not only could he have nothing in common enough with another race to ever not be white, but he’s just not not white. So…what are they saying? They could maybe see him as black if he was a hot mess thug like Hancock? Or perhaps if Peter had purposefully helped rob that wrestling manager, holding the gun to his head personally for his just dues before his uncle got shot by his partner in crime? Could Spiderman be black if that were part of his creation story? I feel ill thinking…if someone made spiderman black, they might just then make that part of the rewrites on his origin.

    It’s even worse when I think of all the fuss over Rue from the Hunger Games movie. I was literally floored and disgusted by the reactions. Bad enough to claim en masse that Spiderman can’t be black, worse still to hate on Rue because, despite being described like a mixed-race girl in the books, she somehow didn’t come out in the movies as a blonde, pale-faced angel, which made her death far less sad. WTF? Are you serious?! I felt so sorry for the actress who played her, she was adorable and didn’t deserve any of that bull and hate.

    Yeah, fan reactions, especially when they frequently get that bad and unreasonable irk me the most.

    But yeah, I think a lot of this perception over Dr. Who is because, in America…I don’t know, watching several different BBC shows lately, I feel like we’re more awkward about race than they are, like we have to spend at least one episode explaining the presence of our token minorities and why they’d end up hanging with the main characters in the first place. Frequently, especially on Dr. Who, they’re just there and not white, with -maybe- a throw away line about race when ignoring it would be kinda…odd…I like that they just show it and don’t feel the need to explain diversity when it appears (again, most of the time).

    Likewise, even having said that, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with suggesting it could be better and asking why the Doctor and his love interests are always white, even the minor, one-episode ones (though that kinda ignores the flirting he was doing with Jabe–the tree lady and my favourite character and species concept so far). Especially if it leads to embracing further diversity in our art and stories :D

  • Anonymous

    I don’t know what you’re saying. That DW should be less representitve of non-whites?

    And as many other posters have said, it;s not simply a numbers game. It;s about how POC are represented, what roles they’re cast in.

    I’m aware that only 10% of britain is non-white, I don’t think that precludes the idea of Britain as a multicultural nation though.

    I honestly don’t understand what point you’re making so I’m not sure how to respond.

  • Anonymous

    Thanks for your reply, there’s some really interesting thoughts there.

    I started writing a treatise there on whether any cultural product can be free of the prejudices of the society that produced it and so on, but realised it’s late and I’ve got work tomorrow, so you’ve been spared a ramble :)

    Cheers!

  • Saronai Aldarion

    The only complaints I’ve seen about Martha are after her run regarding how selfish and self-absorbed she was as a companion because she kept insisting the doctor look at her while he was still heart-broken over Rose.

    It made me think I wouldn’t like Martha until I moved on to that season recently (I’m a recent who fan and decided to mostly do it in order while watching a few Pond episodes and the new ones with Clara). I don’t like selfish and self-absorbed, but I loved Martha and so far feel that she is/was perhaps his strongest, most capable, most independent, useful, and intelligent companion. It’s very unfortunate that she followed the doctor’s heartbreak and fell for him. I do wonder if she would have been better received if she hadn’t immediately followed the Rose heartbreak and/or pined after the doctor.

    Either way, I feel like broad inclusions about how we all felt as fans and are therefore responsible are just as hyperbolic as claiming Who is “thunderingly racist.” It hurts the point you’re trying to make. Because, yes, I agree that discussions and threads like this help to slowly change those producing our entertainment, but I’m put off by being told everyone responded to Martha with dislike (I can’t be the only one who favours her) and therefore helped send a message that I only like ‘em white.

    I didn’t originally know what colour Martha was when I expected not to like her, then I saw her picture (before watching the series) and I was afraid that they were going to do to her what they did with Mickey for most of his run (a lot of scenes with Mickey early on made me uncomfortable with the writers). Then I turned vocal about how I felt when I discovered that I not only liked her, but loved her. I loved watching a highly capable and intelligent female companion who didn’t need to swallow tardis juice or be non-human to do something other than get into trouble a lot and need saving…but she managed it believably (imo, rather than being the writer’s perfect darling in that Wesley Crusher sort of way).

    My husband thought I might prefer Ace given how I responded to Martha. She’s okay…but in the episodes we watched…yeah, she was tough, but her free spirit and go get ‘em attitude usually got her into trouble. Martha has a different sort of strength and was very intelligent and helped or rescued the doctor as a mere human more often than the other way around.

    I will accept that I’m party responsible because I was not a Who fan in time to tell them how much Martha rocks my socks.

    I only just started watching Donna but I’m not holding my breath. I’m irritated knowing that all her character growth is undone as though we may as well not have ever watched her at all. First impression though (and apparently the only valid one since she’s reset to how she was before the doctor) stubborn and mouthy all on their own isn’t the same thing as a strong female character.

  • Saronai Aldarion

    I’d forgotten about this on new (moffat, I guess?) Who and think it’s a valid point, I couldn’t help cringing about all that as well. I watched this newest season with Clara through, but spent much of its run catching up on previous who (with only a few episodes with the Ponds just before), so much of my opinion on the matter is coming from previous moffat era (in which Mickey made me cringe for the longest time before I came to love him, and I just can’t get enough of Martha)…now that I’m thinking on it, Mickey’s character didn’t start improving until David Tennant became the doctor, at which point the doctor’s attitude toward him became more dismissive of him than disdainful, and then respectful.

    I loved Chris’ doctor aside from that, but now I’m hoping that wasn’t the creative differences on the doctor’s character that led to him leaving…that he didn’t like the idea of Mickey becoming a character the doctor was not only not disdainful of, but eventually respectful toward. He alluded to bullying as well, but I suppose someone with an unpopular attitude having his character forced contrary to how he feels as an actor might feel like he’s being bullied?

    Or, perhaps Mickey’s treatment as a character thus far was at least part of what Chris had a problem with and after he left the writers conceded he had a point and wrote Mickey into better character growth. Or it had nothing at all to do with Mickey. I don’t know.

    Bottom line, though I love Martha (and Mickey since his character growth), I concede that Dr. Who could always improve on how minorities are represented and what sort of parts they end up getting)…as could a lot of other tv and movies around the world.

  • Saronai Aldarion

    I might’ve (even probably) would have enjoyed the ramble, but I understand about work. I should be writing the next episode on my blog series, actually.

  • larksong4

    I withdraw the remark about how we as fans ‘all’ responded and instead would say ‘many’ responded.

    I too really liked Martha. For me she was even better in Torchwood. My point is that she was the first companion who wasn’t white and I feel that perhaps we didn’t give her a proper chance to establish herself.

    I am sure that many critiques were the result of Rose grief, but I think that some (and these the BBC took note of) were rationalisations of not wanting a strong, feisty independent black woman. And the reason I believe that is contained in your post where you pointed out so clearly that the impression you had been given of Martha, being self centred, did not hold true.

    Finally, thanks for replying so thoughtfully to my post, I will try to avoid massive overgeneralisations in future.

    Cheers
    Chris

  • larksong4

    The critiques that her storyline didn’t meet her potential – not sure what that means- but all the critiques about Martha being selfish and self absorbed don’t hold water. My view is that they are code for race. When Donna became a (brilliant) companion she was truly self absorbed initially but most fans loved her. She was of course white.

    You might feel personally free from any responsibility but my conception of the Who fandom is that we are sort of like the Borg, and when some of us indulge rationalisations and critiques which at their heart are expressions of coded racism the rest of us have an obligation to stand against it.

  • Garet Jax

    You should check my later post with a lot more detail. Sorry for the drive-by commentary =).

    Doctor Who is not racist in any form and has cast POC and minorities in many roles, quality roles.

    Most commentary like this “anthology” begins with “beancounting” the quantity of minorities. Doctor Who wins that hands down.

    The second phase in these types of critiques, if the quantity aspect is considered proper, is a “quality” argument. This is completely subjective and much more difficult to defend than the “quantity” argument. But few shows of this genre in the last few years have given us as many strong female roles as Doctor Who, good roles. And what about Captain Jack? That’s GROUNDBREAKING. And to just dismiss a major character that is a black, female Doctor by basically calling her the token POC? That’s ludicrous and offensive.

    Very few shows today are as progressive in casting for women and minorities as Doctor Who, especially considering the demographics of it’s home country. It’s kind of like lamenting the fact that the majority of people on Japanese TV are Asian. And I’m sure the people of Japan consider themselves just as liberal and multicultural as the UK. Doctor Who goes above and beyond any reasonable expectations concerning roles for minorities. Shame on anyone for suggesting otherwise!

  • Anonymous

    Those are actually really interesting points… you’re right about DW v. TNG. The latter is an ensemble show and DW is generally two-hander (plus episodic characters).

    The other point you make about tokenism in TNG and DS9 also speak to another point I’ve been thinking about: it;s probably impossible for a show NOT to be racist if it comes from, and is viewed by, a society in which racism is A Thing. No story or character can entirely avoid racist tropes because when applied to a single character or story some anti-racist tropes become mutually exclusive.

    As for multicultural Britain, I think you’re oversimplifying matters. The national picture might be an average of only 10% non-white population, but this is misleading: it varies hugely according to area. For example, Leicester where my family lives is just over 50% non-white (mostly people of South Asian descent). Now there aren’t many DW stories set in Leicester (because it;s boring as hell, probably), but there are lots set in London, which averages out at about 35% non-white population. After New York, it has the highest immigrant population of any city in the world. So I’ll grant you that you probably won’t find many non-white faces in Little Dithertington on Avon, but in the kinds of places DW is generally set the picture is a bit different.

    That’s without taking into account that DW is a SF/fantasy/time travel show and talking about historical demography etc.

    I’m actually playing devil’s advocate a bit here since I don’t personally have a problem with DW’s casting race-wise, though I’m happy to accept that others have a valid issue. The people best placed to comment would be British POC. I do feel the Moffat world-view is a bit buttered-crumpets-for tea and middle class, but calling that overt racism might be overstating things for me.

    My original post was not so much that I agreed with the complaint but that I thoughts the BBC’s response was crap. They’re accused of an overly white cast and they point out that three years ago there were some black main characters? Not very convincing.

    Now I do take issue with the ‘women’ part of your statement ‘very few shows today in this genre are as progressive in casting for women and minorities’. I think DW is deeply misogynistic under Moffat and have commented as much elsewhere.

    But that’s another discussion for another time.

  • Anonymous

    “The critiques that her storyline didn’t meet her potential – not sure what that means”

    She started off as a distinct character among other companions due to her rather direct approach to problem solving and her apparent goals of wanting to be something independent of the Doctor. Not to mention she was clearly a gifted and bright young lady who didn’t let other people’s problems prevent her from achieving those goals. And then they just ran her through the same story arc as Rose, which we just saw, except now with the added bonus of Martha constantly being told she’s not Rose and she should feel bad about it. It was a waste of both a great character and a great actress (seriously, her performance in the Family of Blood two-parter was incredible.)

    “My view is that they are code for race. When Donna became a (brilliant) companion she was truly self absorbed
    initially but most fans loved her. She was of course white.”

    Oh, so you don’t have any examples of racist invective, you’re just calling everyone that liked Donna and not Martha racists because the only difference apparent between them, to YOU, is their race.

    Come back with examples of actual racist behavior instead of claiming it’s “code” (something else you didn’t provide evidence of.)

  • Garet Jax

    I would love to watch DW with you LOL =). And hey, just heard Matt Smith won’t be back! Though I loved him, wouldn’t this be just the time to have a regeneration into a female POC? I would be thrilled, but if they don’t I will still love the show.

  • Anonymous

    It’s no fun watching DW with me these days, I just scowl and throw things at the screen :)

    I’ll be really interested to see what they do in the nest regeneration. Not excited, because I distrust Moffat to do anything that I don’t find face-palming any more, but definitely intrigued.

    I’d advocate Sophie Okenedo except she’s already been on the show… she’d be a cool Doctor.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=507849795 Seanna Tucker

    I completely understand and agree. I would have to watch more BBC television shows in order to understand if the issue is with BBC themselves, or the current Executive Producer. I haven’t, unfortunately, had the chance to watch other shows such as Orphan Black or Sherlock. As I understand it, Sherlock is not very diverse, but again, it’s the same EP. I hope that they work to employ a more racially diverse cast and that, in America, we do the same as well with our Network Television.

  • Craig Forshaw

    Actually, people do project their pet issues onto all kinds of things. ‘Postman Pat’, a childrens show in the UK, about a rural postman delivering items was accused of racism for not featuring any prominent black characters, largely because, at the times it was made, the areas in which Pat worked were statistically white. Black people weren’t so much a minority, as a genuine rarity, for all kinds of socio-economic reasons. However, as most television is produced and broadcast within built-up urban areas, it didn’t matter if it was representative – the communities nearest to the broadcasters, and nearest to the media, complained of racial insensitivity – regardless of whether or not it was representative.

    Further, positive discrimination is still discrimination. Casting someone because they are black is as bad as not casting them because they are black, because it suggests that talent and ability are not important, just having the right, or wrong, skin at the right time. The truly disgusting thing is that the same people who complain of sexism and racism will not stand up and complain about positive discrimination because, at the end of the day, for a lot of campaigners it is about getting their own way. Hence why people campaign less for equality across the board, and more for their own team, or someone they have a vested interest in.

    As for the issue of homosexuality being an invisible problem: that only stands for people who are in the closet, which would be their choice. For those who are out and open about it, they can be very visual. Some people prefer to make their sexuality clear to prevent any awkward moments later on – especially as people don’t like being lied to, and react more violently, or angrily, when they experience that. Further, the fact that homosexuality, bisexuality, transgenderism, or even mental health issues, can be invisible makes them even more important to be represented, doesn’t it? After all, these would be the things you don’t see. The issues you might not be aware of. If you aren’t aware of women or black people, you’ve probably been raised in a cell your entire life. So, then, who gets to judge which minority is most deserving of representation? And that is what is ultimately most insulting about these arguments – that some groups deserve to have more representation than others.

    In addition, there is also the assumption that, somehow, the character has become lesser for not being more representative. Just because the Doctor could change skin colour, or hair colour, or gender, doesn’t mean that he should. The Doctor I grew up with has always been a white geek with a manic grin traveling in a blue box. Now, for some reason, some fans have decided that the character cannot continue to remain the same. And it isn’t because of the show, or the story, or even the best actors for the role. It is because of their own political reality-tunnel, their own projections onto ‘Doctor Who’. And it is, at its heart, the reason why the world is becoming such a terrible and awful place to live in – because this isn’t redressing imbalances, what it is doing is pandering to increasingly vocal minority groups who do not care about the show as much as they care about what they want. It is rampant individualism, rather than collaboratively striding for a better future. As I’ve always said, there is something terribly creatively bankrupt about people campaigning for a female Doctor, or a black Doctor, or etc. If you want one: pitch a TV show with a female hero, write a book, do a kickstarter comic book. I would love to see those stories, but I don’t necessarily want them to be done as experiments on a television show that I see absolutely no problem with.

    And I can dismiss the racism allegations, easily, because there is not a shread of evidence to support the racism allegations in the first place. A lack of representation does not mean that the show was deliberately stopping minority characters getting onto the show, which would be racism. It is correlation rather than causation. Did these essays do extensive research into not just the hiring practices of the show, but also into breaking down the available acting talent through socio-economic, racial and gender breakdowns?

    It states that “the sci-fi program is racist for failing to cast a black or Asian actor as the Time Lord and accuses the title character of being dismissive of black companions.” But does it go into detail on the hiring and firing practices of, say, the decision to employ the early Doctor’s? Does it take it out of the social and historical context? To suggest racism presupposes that the show was going out of its way to either portray minority groups in harmful ways, or to deny black actors access to the show, but without a full and frank look at how the show is run, instead of just a media theory reading, makes the second point moot: you cannot state racism if the BBC didn’t turn down black actors who were categorically the best actor for the role. In fact, the only news we have ever had on something relating to this was when Patterson Joseph and Chewitel Ejiofor were up for the role, and Matt Smith got it instead, with the answers being two-fold: (1) neither Joseph nor Ejiofor would commit long-term to the role (both have successful careers elsewhere, after all, and neither really need ‘Who’ to get them out there), and (2) Matt Smith’s audition was just better than everyone elses. But as neither Joseph nor Ejiofor then accused the BBC of racism, there is no evidence that it was racist, at all.

    As for the media reading of the show itself, I find it staggeringly one-sided, and it tends to assume a lot. Firstly, it assumes that a Time Lord, a fictional character who exists only in a fantasy universe, should be considered an aspirational and representative character for people ONLY if he is shown to also be non-white. The implications of this are staggering: that people of colour cannot look up to white people at all, and that all white characters, if they can, should change skin colour regularly, not in service of the plot, or the ability of the actors to play the character, but solely because of the political persuasions of theorists and critics who want to cause a bit of controversy. The idea of a black person being told, as is implied by this, that they cannot find The Doctor aspirational, or at least should feel guilty in some way, if he doesn’t share their skin colour is incredibly racist, and, in fact, lies at the heart of a great deal of the positive racism we see today: it is more about selfish individualism, and less about co-operation, collaboration, and working together, and recognising we are all, deep down, the same.

    Think on it this way: Barrack Obama being President is great because a black man was elected because he was the right man for the job, not because he has black skin. If, say, one of the actors I love and would love to see as The Doctor, Daniel Kaluuya, was cast as The Doctor, I would love it because he is an awesome actor, not because he is black. But if he was cast solely for being black, and that got out, I would probably stop watching the show, because once decisions start to get made for increasingly political reasons then it is a snowball which tends to grow bigger and bigger until it crushes everything in its path.

    Oh, and for the record, there was once racist trope that I didn’t really like in ‘Doctor Who’, and that was Mickey and Martha randomly ending up together because they were the only two black cast members. It felt a bit tacky. But it was brief, and I’m just going to assume they divorced about five minutes after Ten saved their lives.

  • Craig Forshaw

    Liz Ten was black.

    Guido and Isabella were black in ‘Vampires in Venice’.

    Meera Syal was in the Silurian two-parter.

    Canton Everett Delaware III’s boyfriend is stated to be black. (And had to remain off-screen for that joke at the end of the two-parter to work.)

    The General in ‘A Good Man Goes to War’ was black.

    Melody Pond had darker skin than either of her parents.

    Rita, the Muslim lady played by Amara Khan, was definitely non-white.

    The first person they meet in the Dalek Asylum is black.

    Nefertiti definitely is not white.

    Clara’s adoptive family weren’t white.

    The time-jumper woman was not white in ‘Hide’.

    All the supporting cast in ‘Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS’ were black.

    And those are just the main characters I can think of off the top of my head. Further, it wouldn’t make sense to start including black or even white characters into some stories. The Rings of Akhaten, after all, was set in an alien market. The Girl Who Waited had three human characters, all of which we’d met before.

    However, the real issues may be three-fold:

    (1) The big name guest stars everyone seems to rave about seem to be popular genre actors who are white, and the question is, again, where they wrong to hire Mark Sheppard, or Michael Gambon, or Surrane Jones?

    (2) Many of the stories take place in times and places where there wouldn’t be a lot of non-white characters.

    (3) There are actually a lot of episodes without much in the way of a supporting cast. A lot of episodes seem to take place in contained locations, often for budgetary reasons, so… you don’t tend to see a lot of people in the background. Think of ‘The Bells of St. Johns’ – there were probably only two places you would have seen any mixed groupings of race in the background: in the cafe, and at The Shard. The monestary would likely have been white, and there weren’t many people on Clara’s street. Then, when you consider episodes like ‘Victory to the Daleks’, or ‘The Doctor’s Wife’, or ‘Cold War’… well, there aren’t that many people in the background, and if there were, likely they would be white (WWII in Churchill’s bunker does seem likely to be a bit segregated, ‘The Doctor’s Wife’ has, like, six characters other than the Doctor, Amy and Rory, and two of them don’t have bodies, and ‘Cold War’ was on a Russian sub’ at the height of some kind of war whose name I cannot remember). Plus, on alien worlds, white and non-white humans are the least visually distinctive, and tend to blend into the background beyond the big blue thing or etc.

    Meanwhile, Martha was a cut-price version of Rose, Mickey was always seen as lesser than The Doctor, and, eventually, the two major black characters during Davies run ended up together, which was a trope I found a bit… off. It was as bad as Davies Mary Sue-ing Jack so he could write his own private slash-fic’ about Russell Tovey. Yeesh.

  • Craig Forshaw

    If we get a female Doctor, I want a man to play Carrie on the eventual reboot of ‘Sex and the City’.

  • http://duckofminerva.org/ Dan Nexon

    Forgive me if this has been addressed already, as 288 comments are a lot to wade through…

    Racist? Maybe, maybe not. But the current run is light-years beyond where the show used to be. Talons Wang-Chiang? Tomb of the Cybermen?

  • Garet Jax

    Why do I get the feeling that, ironically, most of this outrage comes from over-privileged white intellectuals?

  • JamesJournal

    I’d say DW is notably more diverse than a lot of American shows I watch, but I can see how it can not feel that way when they are so few central characters.