Seriously? People are getting exercised over this? I suppose these will be some of the same people who will come out in angry revilement if the next James Bond really is a black man.
There’s a certain space wherein this kind of angst is perfectly acceptable. Private conversations with people who share the same interests and have Opinions about the condition of a favorite bit of entertainment and how it would be if certain changes were made. Three or four of you get together over beers (or floats, depending) and pizza and spend an hour or two reconstructing the whole æsthetic as you would have it. This is good, healthy use of imagination and the application of ratiocination over something that is fun and has no real impact on anything else. The relative merits of various incarnations of the Doctor (or Bond) is a legitimate question within the confines of a small subject relating to art and storytelling and critical appreciation. Same kinds of questions apply when a reboot of an old film or tv show is in the works or when a dead author’s work is licensed out for new books. We flex our gray cells and participate in a way in the creative process. We can draw lessons from such interactions.
But when someone, like a John C. Wright, weighs in to tell us how this is all part of the feminization of civilization at the expense of masculine role models and that civilization itself is at risk because after 12 incarnations of a fictional character who is also an alien being several centuries old the people in charge decided to give a female version a try, and a cadre of spoiled, semi-privileged misanthropes go on a tantrum in agreement, condemning the change and anyone who might like it to the nether regions of Hell…
Get a life.
If you don’t like it, you don’t have to watch it. You can go back and rewatch the umpteen seasons already available (you will anyway, probably). You have several options here. You can even discuss—discuss, as in have conversation, engage discourse, exchange opinions—the merits of it among yourselves or others. What you don’t get to do is tell other people how they’re about to bring on the end of the universe because they like something you don’t.
Really, that’s going just a bit far, don’t you think?
This is the flip side of insisting that everyone must have an opinion about something, even if it’s something of zero interest to them.
We’re talking about art now.
The fact is, there’s room for all opinions, as long as we remember they are just that—opinions.
This is one of the places wherein we learn to play nice with people who disagree with us.
But a lot of people don’t know how to do that anymore. Maybe they never did. But they also never had access to such incredible amplification systems before.
At it’s base, though, this is what a certain kind of privilege looks like. It’s taking a position that what I believe is the absolute Norm and anything that deviates from it is unacceptable. We can’t have a female Doctor Who because it runs counter to the way I want the universe to work, and what is it with these girls anyway, trying to shove their way into something they don’t fit? They have perfectly good heroes of their own that are just as good as mine, so they should leave mine alone!
Sound familiar? If it doesn’t, that may be symptomatic of the problem.
We see this time and again when a group previously thrown a bone by society asks for more respect and society, or the arbiters thereof, look at them like they’re being selfish and demanding something undeserved. In reality, the most vocal opponents have been skirting by on the earned privilege of others for ages, and when according something like equality to a group that has never had it before is presented to them they realize, in their bones, that they just might not be able to compete on a level playing field and everything must be done to convince the world that everything as it has been is meant to be. Because, damn, what if that group turns out to be better than us?
Well, tough. The fact is, fanboy, sitting there on your couch feeling one with the Superbowl Star because you bought the jersey and cheer the team and you are, somehow, the same as that quarterback because you both have testicles, you can’t compete with the standard model you already feel you own. You don’t get to claim superiority because someone else can do all that shit that presumably only males can do.
Or white people.
This is instructive, really. The response to the change came before the first episode aired. Among those screeling anthrophobes so unhinged at the idea that the Doctor no longer has a penis (if “he” ever did, which is an interesting question in itself from a purely science-fictional standpoint, since the Doctor is Gallifreyan and may well have a completely different sexual arrangement) and now has, gasp, a vagina (again a presumption), it is not so much that they ever identified with the Doctor but that, on some level, they possessed identity because of the Doctor.
Here’s where I start to have problems with this whole process. Are you drawing inspiration from the idea of the role model—brains, ability, character traits—or are you hitching a ride on all that by hitching your ego to the one thing you don’t have to do anything to achieve to be “like” the role model? To say “I want to be like that character” is to make a commitment, however small or temporary, to doing some work toward. To say “I am like that character” because you happen to share certain physical similarities is to borrow a sense of self-worth that you haven’t earned.
Now, there’s nothing wrong with that as long as you keep it in perspective. As long as you know that, really, you aren’t anything like that character but might occasionally pretend to be, in your own head, your dreams, or in a bit of cosplay, and you only pay homage because you think that character is cool. Some of the cool might rub off. But that fact is these things change.
How important is it that what may be the least important aspect of a character remain constant and unchangeable just so your shortcomings stay neatly hidden away behind an act of mental pretense?
None of this would rise to a level requiring a response had it not become evident that as role model, The Doctor has failed for these poor, disheartened misogynists. Failed in that the essential message of the Doctor didn’t get through, didn’t translate, didn’t manifest. The whole point of the regeneration, aside from need to explain all the new actors, is that what you are on the inside matters infinitely more than the plumbing. And no gender has exclusive rights to the interior. The Doctor moves from one incarnation to the next, changing, becoming different, yet always bringing along the most important things, which have nothing to do with anatomy. In that way, inadvertently or not, the Doctor has been a role model for people, not boys.
Discussing narrative consistency, the needs of logical drama, the pros and cons of story and character arc choices, all that is one thing, and legitimate. But that’s to do with the interior, because you already have a character who transforms from one person into another as an essential element of the interior. Having already established that and had it accepted as part of the way this thing works, to go off on a tear when the transformation doesn’t conform to your limits is small-minded and disingenuous, especially when you couch your complaints in some variation of requiring a role model for gender identity when that was never an essential aspect of the character in the first place, mainly because it’s an alien.
In other words, the shock is all about you, not the character. Quite possibly there’s always been an attendant fantasy about the Doctor getting it on with the Companions, which now becomes incommensurable with certain neuroses when it might be a female Doctor taking her pick of male companions—or, for the sake of consistency, still doing so with the females. That opens a whole other door of unmanageable unfathomables, I suppose. What, the Doctor not only a woman but a lesbian? Or just bi?
But according to canon, the Doctor never did do that, and we have the fey thread with River Song to even suggest a sexual attachment, and she wasn’t a Companion, and—
Rabbit holes can be fun, certainly, but be careful that they don’t start in your own fundament.
Civilization will not end. The Doctor will survive. As for role models, the Doctor has been serving as one for People since the beginning. This will be just more of the same.
And that is about all I have to say about that.
I’ve got some timey-whimey shit to think about now.
(Oh, the title? How does all this explain everything? Well, think about it. Taking issue with things just to have a snit because you’re uncomfortable…well, look around.)
For anyone who can spot it and decipher it. (Yes, this is frivolous, yes, it was fun, yes, sometimes I have no deep thoughts.)
I put up a new gallery of images from our trip.
One of the things we did since returning was go see Santana at the Fox. Stunning show. Carlos has always been one of my favorite musicians. His sound…well, I can’t get enough of his guitar sometimes. But this night. My ghod, what a performance! I’ve seen Santana more than a couple of times and they have never been better. If I never see another major show like this, I would, I think, be content. The emotions wrung out of me during the show…
Anyway, we noted that Hamilton is going to be there next year. Donna expressed interest, so while we waited for the doors to open I pulled up tickets on my phone.
We shan’t be going to see Hamilton. Not at those prices. We’ll wait for the dvd. (Though it would be very cool to see it live.)
Being now in the midst of our annual sauna, I have plenty to do indoors. So I’ll leave you with another photo just for grins. Stay cool.
And you didn’t even know I was gone.
We went to Florida for an extended weekend with Donna’s sister. Right now, I have little to say about it other than we had a very fine time. I just want to leave some images here to show you a bit of the flavor of the trip.
A bit rough in the beginning…that’s what happens when you aren’t quite sure where it’s going…but then, maybe, it picks up.
Just fooling around a bit.
For the weekend, something I just completed. Enjoy.
Just musing on the amazing quality of light. I’ve been reading several science books lately, one in particular (The Invention of Science by David Wootton) that goes into considerable depth about actual Seeing as essential to the transformation of culture from a pre-scientific to scientific basis. But all of them deal with light as a founding subject for the apprehension of the world. Einstein won his Nobel because of the work he did on photons, Newton began with a study of optics, and quantum mechanics wouldn’t be giving both the joys and headaches of our present understanding of nature if not for the whole revelation about quanta and photons and wave functions…
It is essential to everything we are, whether we can see it or not. As Carl Sagan said, we are made of star stuff and you cannot think of stars separate from the light.
So a couple of images for you, showing the marvelous manifestations of light.
Caught out the window of the car on our way back from Pittsburgh.
Stepping out of my car in an underground garage, early morning, where an opportune window let this beauty in.
Have a good week.
In all the chatter about Russian interference in the last election, one question keeps coming up. It’s never fully answered and because of that, the question as to whether or not such interference occurred remains in play. At this point, it’s like climate change—everyone knows it happened, but how, in what form, and to what end are details the absence of which seem to insulate the president for the time being. That seems about to change with Comey’s testimony.
But that question—why, what does Putin hope to gain, what’s the pay-off?—bedevils people. Especially people raised on spy thrillers and James Bond and post-Cold War conspiracy porn.
It seems fairly evident that any hacks of voting systems were ineffective in changing ballots or anything so direct. What is important is the fact of the attempted hacking not the direct results on tallies. Something was done, but because there does not seem to be the kind of result that makes sense in terms of past history and strategic movements of the sort we expect, the whole thing exists in a murk.
Which was the point.
Putin would like to “restore” Russia to the size and influence of the former Soviet Union. He doesn’t necessarily want to resurrect the U.S.S.R. politically, at least not in terms of collectivist, Marxist ideology. That nonsense doesn’t interest him. He’s interested in power, pure and simple, and the one threat to that is still—the United States.
The telling moment was this whole mess in Ukraine. Not till the threat of NATO membership did Putin act. Despite what Trump might say, NATO still has teeth. Membership in the alliance carries many benefits beyond simple military cooperation and mutual defense, although that is huge when you stop to think about it—the confidence that the member states will guarantee your sovereignty has tremendous ancillary benefits. You can act in your own best interests without, or at least with much less, fear that those actions will be crushed by a neighbor. Which is what has happened to Ukraine.
Power and money, at this level, are two sides of the same coin. The sanctions imposed on Russia by Obama have throttled a potential windfall from the Siberian oil fields. Ukraine was a part of that. There is a huge amount of money bottled up because of Putin violating Ukrainian sovereignty. What he wants more than anything else is to get those sanctions lifted so the oil will flow.
But more than that, in the long run, he wants a free hand in his part of the world. He’s not exporting revolution, that’s no longer part of the Russian identity. He just wants to be a big, bad bear, in charge of his tundra, and able to play as an equal on the world stage. He wants what he possibly believes the West has been keeping Russian from since 1917.
In spite of the fact that over the last three decades we have hamstrung our ability to be a positive force in the world because we can’t see how making money and human rights conflict in the Third World, and because we are unwilling to put a muzzle on our corporations when they go into other countries and poison environments, undercut reforms, and damage the people we think we’re helping, it remains possible for us to actually do what we should have done after the Soviet Bloc collapsed, namely rebuild and stand for justice. We in fact do that, in limited but occasionally spectacular ways, but we rarely hear about any of it and too often we do a half-assed job because of our inability to see our way past our own paranoia and self interest. (The chaos and mess in Iraq is an example of shortsighted greed undercutting what might have turned out to be a major success, but I won’t go into that here.)
What Putin wants most is for our political will to remain locked up in a struggle with itself over questions of money versus ethical action. We have been doing a reasonably good job of keeping ourselves disorganized and conflicted without his help. But it is just possible that he sees what we do not yet see, and that is a younger generation coming up that is fed up with this kind of inanity that will put into power people who will act positively. That will impact the money sector, certainly, but its biggest impact may well be globally with an America once more of the kind that created the Peace Corps and embraced a humanitarian mission. It might create an America willing to call Putin’s bluff.
Of course, it’s not just the United States. And so we’ve been seeing signs of Russian interference in many elections, most recently in France (where it backfired and where the newly elected president publicly scolded Russia), not with a view to invasion or anything so dramatic, but purely for the chaos resulting that will distract the West from Putin’s actions. Putin can do nothing but benefit from a West that is paying little or no attention because it is tangled up in petty feuds and ideological mudwrestling. Undermining our confidence in our own electoral process will only feed that chaos and render us even less effective.
Did Trump and his people collude with the Russians to fix the election? Probably not, at least not in those terms. I think Trump really believed he could win without interference. I think he may have thought he was playing Putin, accepting a hand that would gain him advantage with the Russians afterward. Did he do it out any embrace of treason? No, he did it because a deal was on the table and there was a lot of money to be made, and that is simply how Trump sees the world. If he is impeached over any of this I suspect he will be genuinely surprised. It was, after all, the Game, and he sees himself a master of that game.
What he will not understand is that his game is the least important one and the one Putin is playing is both more sophisticated and more devious and with stakes Trump just might not understand.
But the bottom line is likely to be, all Putin wants is what he now has. We’re distracted, we’ve suffered a blow to the confidence in our systems and institutions, and the bitter squabbling over the right to make as much money as avarice demands continues but now with even less intelligent players.