Doctor Who – The Evolution of LGBTQ Representation
What I love about the the UK, is that they really don’t give fuck. Their TV shows on air right now, including Doctor Who, derive from a cultural with that mentality. And we get to use their media as a lens of how their culture deals with societal issues. In no way do I mean it as the only lens, or that this is exactly what their society is like. But you can tell the overall climate of a nation with what they are portraying in their mainstream media. Which again, brings me to the notion that Brits don’t give a fuck, and it’s beautiful!
One thing you need to understand, in the UK, Doctor Who is mostly categorized as a children show; shocker right? And the messages that we send out about our societies, in children’s television, takes part in their understandings of what is acceptable and what is not. And they take those values along with them as they grow up. So
It’s important what we show our kids. And it is important to note that having an array of LGBTQ characters in Dr Who and on any TV sends the message that LGBTQ people are not any different.
When you have The Doctor who is accepting of everyone and show runners who say things like this:
These are people kids look up to and it send the message that it is a-okay, thus normalizing the concept of LGBTQ people. And in the UK it seems it’s starting to become the norm.
Good on you mates! …Is that racist? Is it like only Brits can say it?
Doctor Who has various characters associated with being LGBTQ over the years of the reboot. But we will look at the recurring characters:
Captain Jack Harkness
Captain Jack Harkness was introduced in 2005 the very beginning of the reboot. He is an omnisexual badass who can’t die. Stripping away that stereotype of queer characters always getting the boot, when their token representation has fulfilled its duty. They made their statement quite loud and clear with his character, that this is a generation of Who where all would be expected.
He’s a great guy, loyal, and a heroic baadass. Though he can be quite sexual and flirtatious at times. And he wasn’t a series regular, so he wasn’t always there. Though he went on to make appearances until Tennant’s run was over in 2010, and when Captain Jack was there, people loved it! So much that he did go onto be a main character in the DW spinoff series- Torchwood!
River “Baddass Mother Fucking” Song. And yes, that is her middle name (dubbed by me), it’s like A Tribe Called Quest you say the whole thing. She is either bisexual, or omnisexual as well, as she has stated she has dated other than just men and women, like an android? And I don’t know what to classify that as. Another recurring character, but her importance was made known when she had a whole entire arc spanning over 3 doctors and actually married the Doctor in Season 6. She’s a bad girl!
Again, she can be oversexualized as fuck though…But she isn’t surrounding by that. Her arc is about the love between her and the doctor. And because of that we don’t get to see her get to interact with too many women (other than her mom, who’s younger than her). But with her and the Doctor’s open relationship (at least on River’s end), it gives River time to be on her own and bounce around with other partners. And when she’s back on the TARDIS, we get to hear about her many wives and other husbands in a nonchalant manner.
Vastra & Jenny
Vastra & Jenny were a landmark in Who history, giving us the first lesbian kiss on the show. The two are married and live in the Victorian era of England, badassing their way (I’m sensing a pattern here), like the female…and lizard version of Sherlock Holmes.
They again weren’t series regulars, but they were predominantly featured throughout the beginning of Clara’s ark. And it seems the show made some stride with these ones. They weren’t oversexualized, and they had a very normal marriage..ignore the lizard aspect of it. And it showed a very healthy relationship between two women. Their kiss was met with some backlash. Some saying that it was unprecedented for a children’s/family show, yada yada yada…But more importantly to me, I was afraid it would put Who off from showing any other LGBTQ characters in fear of the naysayers.
Clara Oswald was the first ever queer person to be a series regular on Doctor Who. She traveled with both the 11th and 12th doctor and is bisexual.
She isn’t oversexualized, even though she is usually the one to pursue people. But again her sexuality is heard through lines, that you might miss sometimes. Though just because we don’t see her with any women doesn’t mean she still isn’t bisexual!
BILL BILL BILL BILL, Bill gay the lesbian-ay! So we had our first queer companion with Clara, but we have our first queer companion with not just audio representation, but also with visual representation as well! And a person of color nonetheless (THE LIZARD LADY DOESN’T COUNT)! Love me some Bill, I have to say.
We see her pursue women on screen, going on dates, and meeting women out at the club. And a really awesome scene, we also her interact with men pursuing her:
Respectfully, she lets him down. And respectfully, he backs the hell off. And it’s done. Alot of the time, we see men trying to “turn” a lesbian, or a culture of “if you try it you may like it…”. Which isn’t respecting other’s personal lives. With this representation, it shows that respect goes a lot further.
What’s amazing about all of these characters, is that their sexaulities don’t define their experience on the show. It is apart of them, just like being straight is apart of any character like ever. They are just normal people, who have their best qualities and some faults.
Doctor Who’s representation of the LGBTQ community isn’t perfect. It has it’s low points, in the past, oversexualizing characters, and telling but not showing. But then again it has its high point as well, with these pretty fleshed out queer characters, both male and female, and attempting to normalize the showing LGBTQ people in physical relationships.
Doctor Who is trying to grow with it’s representation as it continues on. And with a good basis, and the willingness to listen and change, this show is a leader in LGBTQ representation in my mind! America needs to take a page out of our mother country’s book, and just start accepting people for who they are!