Radio Free Skaro – Wednesday Cutaway

rfs_ballad_jack_ianto

In a noteworthy Wednesday cutaway, Radio Free Skaro enlisted the help of some of our LGBT listeners to hold a discussion on the recent uproar about Torchwood: Children of Earth (about which there will be spoilers!) and the perceived homophobia many in the fandom community say it presented. Many thanks go to our own Katrina who leads the panel with listeners Erik and Nat in delivering an hour of informed discussion about this fandom reaction.

Direct Download

Show Notes:

- James Moran’s Post from July 10, 2009!
BBC…Shownar!
Was Torchwood: Children of Earth Homophobic? by Nat

About these ads

63 Responses to Radio Free Skaro – Wednesday Cutaway

  1. CB says:

    I’ve never listened to Radio Free Skaro before as I’m not a huge podcast listener, but I’m very happy to have happened across a link to this over on a Torchwood community.

    What an amazing discussion! You three have really dissected the issue down to it’s bare bones. Thank you, thank you, thank you. I hope the fans who are crying wolf over the homophobia in COE listen to this and come away with a different mindset.

    Nat especially did a great job of representing both viewpoints on the subject.

    I had opinions to share, but it’s late now and I’ve forgotten them all. ;)

    All I’m going to say is that if you’re reading this comment and aren’t sure whether to invest an hour into listening to this podcast, just do it!

  2. Rumpio says:

    It’s all very well to bandy about terms like LGBT, but is it not possible to tell people what this is? I’ve never heard of it. OK, true, I can find out from listening to the podcast, but c’mon guys!

  3. Chris says:

    Hi Rumpio,

    LGBT is a fairly common acronym. While perhaps it’s not fair to assume everyone knows what it stands for, it’s honestly not hard to find out via a google search or a site like urbandictionary.com. That being said it stands for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgendered (or Transsexual).

  4. Holdin says:

    A note of clarification regarding something mentioned during this discussion. RTD was given kudos for including GLBT characters in both Who and Torchwood when that had never happened before. As John Nathan-Turner always said, “The Memory Cheats.”

    In this case, you are forgetting (or did not know) that from its inception until the shuttering of the program in 1989, Doctor Who was a product of BBC’s Children’s Drama department and was required to meet their strictures and guidelines. Today, Doctor Who is produced as a pre-watershed Drama by BBC Wales and is not under the umbrella of the Children’s Drama department.

    If RTD was to say, have one of the children featured on Sarah Jane Adventures (produced for CBBC, which absorbed the Children’s Drama Department) have a same-sex couple for parents, that would be impressive. But comparing old vs. new when they had to operate under vastly different constraints is inappropriate.

  5. Becca says:

    Like CB said, “I’ve never listened to Radio Free Skaro before as I’m not a huge podcast listener, but I’m very happy to have happened across a link to this over on a Torchwood community.’ I loved hearing Nat talk about the cliches the writers used whether out of laziness or thoughtlessness. One of the things in Day One that made me roll my eyes was Ianto telling his sister it wasn’t men it was just Jack because it made me think of “the straight character suddenly going gay” cliche. Also I have to say, straight girl that I maybe, the juxtaposition of Rhys/Gwen with a baby on the way versus Jack/Ianto destroyed felt very heterosexist. I’m not fond of Gwen, and have long felt that RTD was trying to force me to like her. I started watching the show for Jack, and the member of the cast around him I found myself growing to identify most with was Ianto. I’d really like for Ianto to wake up.

    http://www.saveiantojones.com/

  6. Nat says:

    @Holdin – I’m afraid you’re wrong, Doctor Who was quite famously made by the BBC Drama Department, to the point where the Children’s Department were quite adversarial in the early years, as any documentary or article on Verity Lambert’s early involvement would tell you.

    Doctor Who since 2005 has had a massive child audience (as has Torchwood, but that’s a different issue), while during the JNT era the series became more and more focused on adult fans and decades of continuity and was increasingly losing that audience. Do you honestly think the BBC Children’s Department would have made Resurrection of the Daleks, Attack of the Cybermen and Warriors of the Deep?

    Also, for reference, the BBC Children’s Drama department (aka Children’s BBC) was including gay characters in children’s drama as early as 1992 and had the first mid-teenage coming out storyline in 1994. So I don’t think anyone would bat an eyelid if a gay storyline was included in SJA…

  7. Johnny says:

    Since when was Gay the new Black?
    I heard the same conversation 20 years ago, substituting the word(s) ‘Gay’ for ‘Black’ and ‘Straight’ for ‘White.’
    You’re commenting on a few internet trolls who do NOT hold the opinion of the majority.
    Please also put SOMEHTING in the podcast title, as i thought i was downloading another entertaining review from the Three(4) Who Rule.

    This doesn’t make me “homophobic”.

  8. Erik says:

    @Johnny–Sorry that you didn’t seem to enjoy our little natter. The description for the podcast indicates that it is going to be something of a departure from the norm; also, 2/3 of the Three Who Rule introduce us by saying this this will be a very special RFS cutaway, so I think that people who wish to skip our blathering have ample opportunity to do so. Personally, I find the boys showing “Madoc” every few minutes more entertaining, as well. :-)

  9. lorannah says:

    Hi,

    Firstly I’m glad you decided to discuss this, however, I think it is a shame that you picked three panellists who more or less share the exact same opinion. It would have been nice to have someone discussing the other viewpoints, though I would like to thank Nat for at least considering these other viewpoints as valid and for being well informed on a wide range of issues. Other than that, I’m afraid this occasionally came across as extremely patronising – with everyone being labelled as over-reactive childish fangirls. Yes perhaps that segment of fandom does exist, but there are other people, plenty of them, who have issues with this who don’t fit that pattern.

    Also, one point that I felt should be addressed – is it’s mentioned during the podcast that there are plenty of other positive portrayals of lgbt couples throughout new Who and Torchwood but you can only think of Alice and May in Gridlock – the reason you can only think of them is because without exception every other lgbt couple have ended with one of the partners being dead, evil or both. Those who are single fair little better, with the majority dying, though there are a couple of characters who don’t fit this pattern. That said, besides Alice and May, every single lesbian turns out to be evil. Even Cassandra who the mention has a throwaway line about being born a boy is presented throughout as being evil and who we’re told has mutilated herself beyond humanity, though at least she does get a redemption arc before she dies.

    I don’t believe the show or the writers is homophobic and I am angry at how some people have treated them – but that doesn’t change the fact that the show is failing to challenge the idea, inherent in popular media, that queer characters lead tragic, tragic lives – so it’s better not to be queer.

    If Ianto’s death had happened without these other examples or/and if Ianto hadn’t been reduced to a plot device to cause Jack more pain in a cliched manner. Then I would have been far more accepting of the storyline, even though that is only two of my issues with how this was handled.

    Lorannah

  10. Nat says:

    @Johnny I think gay became the new black sometime circa 1990…

    You have a valid point though, almost exactly the same tropes appear when well off rich white guys write begin to write about any minority group. We touched on this briefly in the podcast, talking about how some gay tropes were previously applied to race and are now being applied to transgender, which I believe is in the process of becoming ‘the new gay’…

    I do think it’s legitimate to discuss this on the Cutaway podcast though, as this topic is all over the Torchwood fan community forums, so I think it’s equivalent to discussions of accusations of Doctor Who’s ‘gay agenda’. The people who argue the point aren’t trolling, they genuinely believe it and any are LGBT identified themselves so wouldn’t make the accusation lightly.

    But don’t worry, this was a one off ‘Very Special episode of Blossom’ and The Three Who Rule will be back on their thrones to dismiss the news and deride The Parting Of The Ways on your usual scheduled podcast this weekend…

  11. Nat says:

    @lorannah The panel was put together very quickly, I’d never spoken to the other two before I was put on air with them and I didn’t know what their opinions were going to be, nor them mine until we had a brief introduction beforehand. If I was organising the panel, I would’ve tried to include someone arguing the other side of the story, but I understand why this didn’t happen.

    One of the points in my notes http://36.dreamwidth.org/1746.html that didn’t make it into the final podcast was that the episode Greeks Baring Gifts actually fits worryingly closely to the old 1960’s Depraved Homosexual trope, and probably has the strongest argument for being homophobic of any Torchwood episode, especially as we never see this side of Tosh again.

    I personally avoided raising plot points from Doctor Who, barring Captain Jack’s introduction (which I think is one of the strongest arguments you can get against Doctor Who being heteronormative) but ironically I’ve previously used some of the points you’ve made as arguments against fans claiming that Doctor Who has some sort of gay propaganda message.

    IMO Doctor Who isn’t homophobic/heteronormative simply because it shows that same sex relationships exist and that these can be happy, they can be sad, they can last into old age or end in break up or death. Also the fact is that the majority of couplings on Doctor Who end with one or both dying because death is the Doctor’s ‘constant companion’.

    A show where the Ninth Doctor flirts with and eventually kisses Captain Jack goodbye can never be truly homophobic…

    • Erik says:

      On the topic of “Greeks Bearing Gifts,” I can definitely see why that episode would cause concern about the intent of the writers. It turns out, however, that the writer originally wrote the alien as a man; it was only when the show started to go through rewrites, etc. that they decided to change the alien to a female. Clearly, they thought this would add some sex appeal and some naughtiness–they did try so hard to be naughty in series 1. My feeling is that they changed the sex of the alien without seeing what sort of tropes or cliches that might make the story fit when viewed with a critical eye. This is not to be apologist; merely to point out that I often think faults in Torchwood arise from poor or unimaginative writing rather than from any political or social bent.

      • Nat says:

        Oh, there’s a reply button! :)

        It’s a pity we didn’t get to discussing Greeks Bearing Gifts then as it’s a perfect example of how tropes/cliches/unimaginative writing start to look heterosexist when applied to same sex relationships, entirely because there are so few same sex relationships on TV (especially in science fiction).

        However, the fact that this side of Tosh’s character is never developed or even hinted at after this episode makes it look like one off titillation or ‘sexing up’ of a story, which it evidently was. Although the same could be said of taking a straight forward sci-fi plot and adding sex acts of any kind…

      • Steven says:

        The same goes for Gwen’s quick romp with Sex Gas Girl in “Day One” – never touched on before or after that. Shots of that probably looked good in the Series 1 trailer, though, according to the editors, so in it went.

        Excellent work by Katrina, Nat and Erik, by the way! Thanks, everyone.

      • Becca says:

        I think it might have been a good idea to address the question of what determines if a story is heterosexist/homophobic. Is it the writers having a “political or social bent,” or how they present a story? Should a “poor or unimaginative” story that is heterosexist be given a free pass simply because the writers didn’t mean it like that? What about the “if it walks like a duck and talks like a duck” standard? I do feel what CoE is from beginning to end is poorly and unimaginatively written. While it certainly felt heterosexist to me with Rhys and Gwen getting to be a happy family while Ianto and Jack got killed, I am just as disappointed by the more basic feeling that Ianto was as lorannah put it, “reduced to a plot device to cause Jack more pain in a cliched manner.” If there is a fourth series I’d like to see it much better written than I found this series.

        http://www.saveiantojones.com/

    • lorannah says:

      Thanks for the reply Nat and yes I agree with you that Greeks Bearing Gifts was a lot more troublesome. I have been involved in several discussions about that episode since series 2 started airing and whilst people were unhappy with the stereotype it reinforced, they were willing to forgive it to a certain extent because it was balanced out by Jack/Ianto being portrayed as a healthy, satisfying relationship.

      I’m with Becca on this – intent isn’t everything, appearances matter too. I think a lot of the heteronomatist elements that appear frequently throughout Doctor Who stem from the fact that: a) the writing is frequently lazy; b) the production team often put these references in either with good intentions in order to make the world they’re creating more diverse or for added sexiness, without thinking through the ramifications of those decisions; c) that they have a tendency to think that only dark/tragic stories have artistic worth and they want to put queer characters at the center of them (I’m particularly bitter at this because I’m fed up of being told beautiful or hopeful stories aren’t artistic).

      None of these are terrible things, none of these make them bad people or mean they’re trying to put out homophobic messages – but unless people point out these flaws they’re not going to become more aware in the future and more careful. It’s not so much that they shouldn’t tell these stories in the future, it’s that I want them to tell other stories as well. And preferably to try and avoid or at least subvert the cliches, rather than playing into them.

      Sorry that got long and I’ve not even touched on the way that the show has badly handled other issues like disability.

      Oh well

      Lorannah

      • Becca says:

        “I’m with Becca on this – intent isn’t everything, appearances matter too.”

        Thank you.

        “I’m particularly bitter at this because I’m fed up of being told beautiful or hopeful stories aren’t artistic.”

        I’m with you there. I’ve told friends the only way the writers could’ve possibly made the “Gwen and Rhys can have a happy ending, but Jack and Ianto can’t” ending anymore painful for me was if they’d had Gwen and Rhys mention to Jack the idea of naming their child after Ianto. It would’ve given Gwen and Rhys not only the only allowed happy ending but made Jack’s and Ianto’s tragedy part of their happy ending.

        “None of these are terrible things, none of these make them bad people or mean they’re trying to put out homophobic messages – but unless people point out these flaws they’re not going to become more aware in the future and more careful.”

        *Nods.* You can’t get positive change without pointing out where that positive change needs to come.

        “And preferably to try and avoid or at least subvert the cliches, rather than playing into them.”

        Less playing into them would be a start.

  12. Johnny says:

    Thanks Nat,
    i knew you were one of the good ones…or wait, is that heteronormist lol
    I hate labels, i hope the day never comes when i get psycho-analysed ;)

  13. Greg says:

    Ianto was one of the only remaining characters whose death people would actually care about, I think. And I found it heartbreaking.

    The merest shadow of a slip of the idea that his death was indicative of some sort of homophobia never even occurred to me until I read some of the vitriol on the Internet.

    Nobody accused Brokeback Mountain of homophobia because Jack Twist died.

    Every single female companion in the new DW series ever suffers some horrible fate by the end of their run, and THEY’RE not accused of a GAY agenda. No, wait….

    • lorannah says:

      You were clearly never around my sections of fandom when Brokeback Mountain came out – from what I saw it was mostly met with disparagement and eye rolling. Even without accusations of homophobia, it was certainly felt by my friends that it was another instance of queer tragedy being served up voyeuristically for the pleasure of a straight audience.

  14. Mike C says:

    I thought that it was a worthy discussion but it could have been over with in 5 minutes as the consensus was that TW was not homophobic and it was just some fans going a bit mad.

    • Nat says:

      Yes, we were a bit closer to Podshock than The Two Minute Timelord, weren’t we?

      Still we’ve been getting a lot of positive feedback from Torchwood fans and many regular listeners, and we did discuss why it could look dangerously negative to the several million users who’d never seen Torchwood before…

      • Mike C says:

        Absolutely, I still listened to the whole thing and enjoyed the show. I think “dangerously negative” is maybe an over-statement. I think some people get dangerously excited about their favourite shows and that’s kind of the issue here. Today I asked a workmate of mine who is gay and saw TW for the first time last week what he thought about the issue. He said that as self-contained drama, the death of Ianto worked OK and was not conspicuous. He had warmed to his relationship with Jack but, as a three-person team, Ianto seemed sign-posted to die; not because of his sexuality, but through the way the written drama (particularly his interaction with his family) was unfolding. In other words, to them it wasn’t a cheap shot. And that’s how it came over to me too.

      • Inigo says:

        Nat, the impression I had was that the people throwing around the homophobia accusations were not first time watchers – far from it. These were people who were invested in the character from previous series. That’s why, although it was interesting to hear your points, I thought that in respect of a podcast posing the question “the perceived homophobia many in the fandom community say it presented,” it seemed a little redundant. Perhaps someone who is a fan who watched S3 and perceived homophobia would at some point be able to say why.

  15. Al says:

    I was really glad to hear a well-informed, thought-out and insightful discussion on what is obviously a very important issue. I’m a gay man, and I share the opinion of the hosts that the Jack/Ianto story arc was not intended to be homophobic or political in any way, but I do see why some people have expressed concern at what on the surface may appear to be just another perpetuation of the tired gay stories. Thanks everyone for the best cutaway yet, and in the future I’d love to hear more from all three of the hosts– maybe a spin-off, the Torchwood to RFS’s Doctor Who? Stranger things have happened!

  16. Milla says:

    Scrolling down the comments, I was thinking about what to write, and there goes Al who says it for me.

    Great podcast guys, keep it up.

  17. Matthew says:

    This is a comment I left on James Moran’s blog about this:

    ———————————–

    “Of all the people to survive, he’s not the one you would have chosen, is he? But if you could choose, Doctor, if you decide who lives and who dies that would make you a monster.” – Mr Copper, Voyage of the Damned.

    Captain Jack is neither evil nor dead. Ianto is not dead because he was in a gay relationship. The universe does not sit in moral judgement of people, bad things happen to good people and vice versa. If Captain Jack had had a girlfriend she would have died in the same way as Ianto did. There was a storytelling reason for doing it – you may not like it, but that’s the only reason.

    Also, to simply make a character simply evil is bad drama – regardless of their sexuality. Bad drama in the service of homophobia is even worse, but that doesn’t mean that LGBT characters can’t have moral complexity or failings. Making a character simply good is equally bad drama, regardless of a the worthiness of the cause it is apparently supporting. Moving away from dramatic truth and towards propaganda always damages the cause you’re trying to advance.

    If, as some of the more conspiracy-oriented postings here and elsewhere have suggested, the idea was to “de-gay” the show for BBC1, then Ianto would have been written out on Day One (or even before), not placed in the emotional centre of the story. Just look at Russell T Davies’ history in mainstream TV (which includes introducing Captain Jack on BBC1 in a family slot) to see what arrant nonsense this is.

    As has already been said, drama tends to be about crisis, so happy relationships and people are few and far between regardless of sexuality. Also people tend to die, especially in thrillers (see also Spooks).

    Off the top of my head, though, here are three happy, not-dead, not-evil, not-hetrosexual couples: the Cassini “sisters” in Gridlock, the private detectives in Jekyll and Maxxie and James in Skins. Also, I’d say that Ian Gallagher is one of the more well-adjusted (and non-evil, non-dead) characters in Shameless – not currently in a relationship, but he is only twenty.

    Last of all, the success of Doctor Who and Torchwood has brought a number of happy, successful gay men (and their stable relationships) into the spotlght: including John Barrowman, Russell T Davies and Mark Gatiss.

    This whole dead/evil gay thing is overly simplistic and only applies (if at all) to bad, propagandist drama which is mainly, thankfully, in the past (I’d accept that The Celluloid Closet has some valid points about this). You can’t just trot out the trope every time an LGBT character dies, that’s just a lazy knee-jerk reaction. If you’re trying to make a point about the portrayal of LGBT characters in drama you need a much more thoughtful anaylsis, not just “thou shalt not kill the gays”.

    You also have to be honest about your personal attachments to a character and your feelings about their death and what extent they may be leading you to an erroneous conclusion about the cultural impact of that death. I think some comments are confusing this and, in the emotion of the moment, are unwittingly accusing the writers reinforcing homophobia – not understanding how offensive such a simplistic conclusion is.

    None of this is to belittle how hurt some people are feeling at the moment. I just think you should be a bit more thoughtful in your critical analysis – and maybe the best way to start would be to give it some time so that you can detach the analysis from your emotional response. Especially if you’re planning to comment here, on the blog of someone who is closely involved and who cannot help but take ill-thought out remarks personally.

    —————————–

    Plus, from an earlier comment:

    ——————————
    Ianto didn’t die because he was gay, he died because shit happens – and it happens tenfold if you’re a member of Torchwood. The fate of characters isn’t a moral punishment – there’s no deity of fiction handing out lessons.

    The line: “The good ended happily, and the bad unhappily. That is what Fiction means.” from The Importance of Being Earnest is a piss-take of just that kind of thinking.
    ——————————–

    I do agree that series one’s Day One and Greeks Bearing Gifts are much more troublesome, though. Day One just about gets a pass because of the alien pheromone thing, although it still loses marks for titillation. Tosh’s story in Greeks… is essentially the story of someone being emotionally manipulated by a criminal (and, arguably desparate, alien). I think the main problem isn’t so much in the portrayal of Tosh, but in that of Mary as being essentially an evil character. Despite this, I still put it down to her being a criminal on the run, rather than simply because she was a lesbian (if that’s the correct word to use about an alien attracted to a human female) – but some more moral complexity would have been better, I think.

  18. Matthew says:

    Just a quick post about LGBT characters on US TV, which I’m by no means an expert on. A couple of shows I’d like to stick up for: The Wire and Six Feet Under. They were both on HBO though so not mainstream in the way that Torchwood and the UK shows discussed in the podcast are.

    Oh, and I didn’t say: great discussion.

  19. hemligalugnet says:

    Great discussion! I have lots of comments and they’re not really coherent, but please bear with me. ;)

    1. There are a lot of fans who liked COE and the fact is, that those fans who are screaming about homophobia are a minority. They just tend to SCREAM a lot. ;)

    2. Ianto didn’t die because he was gay, he died because he was the most important person for JACK.

    3. Actually, that would go for Willow/Tara too. Tara didn’t die because she was gay, she died so that Willow could go completely mental dark-side. ;)

    4. The story COE had to show that Jack had to sacrifice everything he had to save the world, to show that some choices destroy your life – that’s what a hero is.

    Compared to the government who were willing to sacrifice those furthest away from them and their families…

    5. The Who-universe has a lot of characters that are obviously bisexual or omni-sexual if you like, so I don’t think that an evil character being LGBT can be avoided.
    That would be impossible, if every good character was LGBT and every evil character would be straight and it doesn’t fit in with what I’ve seen at all.

    6. How many evil people have been straight in DrWho/TW? How many straight ppl have died?
    It’s stupid to blame these two shows for this because, to me, both shows show that most people are bisexual.

    7. I see Ianto as gay/bisexual right from the start. To view him as a straight man seems ridiculous to me.

    8. It almost annoys me that som fans are accusing the writers of being homophobic when it’s so obvious that those fans only watch Torchwood because they think Ianto/Jack is hot…
    Fine, you want a gay soap opera? Watch something else. Torchwood was supposed to be a scifi-show and when it finally got a GREAT story delivered with such excellence – it’s not appreciated. :P

    Some fans think that Ianto was the most important character in Torchwood, which to me just is ridiculous because not even I who liked him can pretend that. ;)

    He was the person Jack loved, in that way he’s important, but not for Torchwood in general.

    On the other hand, I’ve always hated Gwen and could never see her as the core of Torchwood. I always thought Tosh was more the heart of Torchwood…

  20. Hope says:

    So, to summarize – Ianto didn’t die because he’s gay (despite his gayness being underlined throughout CoE in a way the previous 26 episodes of TW didn’t for him or any other character), he died because he’s the hero’s love interest and that’s how drama works. Different cliché, same result. All the fans who are reacting negatively to this are over-emotional fangirls mourning the loss of their slash couple. The Whoniverse isn’t homophobic or heteronormative because it DOES have gay characters, it just doesn’t happen to have any happy gay characters except two elderly lesbians in one episode of DW who are really just window-dressing. But that’s just a coincidence. There are lots of unhappy straight and bi people and most of them are dead too. It’s another coincidence that such happy endings as exist in the Whoniverse are for straight people. What this episode does to Captain Jack as a hero and a beloved character in children’s TV isn’t homophobic either – Jack doesn’t suffer endless loss and pain and self-loathing because he’s not-het, he suffers because that’s the kind of flawed antihero he is. Have I got that right?

    • Matthew says:

      In Torchwood fictional universe terms, Ianto dies because he’s in a building where a deadly virus is released. He goes to that building partly because he’s a member of the team and partly because he encourages Jack to make a stand, wanting to believe that he can be a better man than he was in 1965. That’s an entirely believable thing for a lover to do, regardless of the genders or sexuality involved. There’s nothing to suggest that we’re being shown a universe where LGBT people take unnecessary risks as a result of their sexuality.

      Everyone in the building dies, so there’s no hint that different sexualities are affected differently by the virus. The virus is released by the 456 in response to Jack’s confronting them, there’s no sense that the event was caused by fate or God or some other mysterious force as a moral punishment for Ianto’s sexuality. So, in terms of the fictional universe, Ianto clearly didn’t die as a result of not being heterosexual.

      In terms of what the writers were intending, we’re quickly into the realms of speculation. However, it seems to me that story is about making a stand or compromising. Jack compromised in the past and now he makes a stand – and loses the closest thing to him. Then, in the end, he compromises once more, at great personal cost. The death of Ianto seems to me to be an integral part of the this story, which Jack is in the centre of, having to make the choices. Gwen and Rhys are peripheral to this which is why they survive, and Frobisher is a parallel version, which is why he and his family die. There are plausible storytelling reasons why Ianto dies when he does – the alternative explanation being that Russell T Davies chose to make the show more hetero-normative. Which seems more likely to you? In short then, it seems unlikely that the writers killed Ianto because he was gay.

      So all we’re left with is the apparent unintentional effect of the death of Ianto on the audience. Here we’re even further into the realms of speculation. My guess is that audiences in general don’t see tragedies as demeaning to their central characters or assume that death is punishment for some moral transgression. The “fridge the queer” trope strikes me as a valid starting point for criticism when a character is introduced simply to explore a “gay storyline” and then removed once that storyline is over – ie they only exist in terms of their sexuality. I don’t see this as the case in Children of Earth, even if you take it in isolation from the rest of Torchwood (and I disagree with Nat’s assessment here) as Ianto is a key member of the cast and his relationship with Jack is more of a love story than an exploration of issues around his sexuality – although there is a bit of this in the conversation he has with his sister. So, honestly, I can’t see any viewer drawing the conclusion that Ianto’s sexuality got him killed or that all non-heterosexuals are doomed to unhappiness from watching Torchwood.

      In terms of how much positive attention Torchwood gives to non-heterosexuals, if the series ends here then I’d say that it has done a lot better than most TV shows. If the series continues and becomes dominated by heterosexual relationships then the death of Ianto will look like a turning point and it will be plausible to say that he was, in effect, “fridged” (regardless of the intentions of the authors). However, that hasn’t happened yet – and I don’t think that it will.

      In terms of happiness in the Whoniverse, there’s a reason why the lesbian couple in Gridlock are minor characters – it’s because happy couples are quite dull. Most of the time, we don’t know much about the sexuality of the characters anyway, it’s not made an issue. On the whole Doctor Who and Torchwood are about having adventures in time and space, not settling down in a relationship (or even using sexuality of any sort as the main aspect of a story) and so we simply don’t know about the love lives of most of the people we meet. In post-2005 Who we have the guiding hand of Russell T Davies, who is far more interested in misery and suffering than happiness anyway, for all characters, regardless of sexuality. In 1963-89 Who we’re talking about a different television age – and basically LGBT characters are invisible. In new-Who terms though, I think you’d be hard-pressed to find the idea that non-heterosexual behaviour causes unhappiness or that people are being punished for their sexuality.

      As for Jack’s suffering, some of it is inevitable because he is immortal. Most of it in Children of Earth results from the hard choices he has to make, which are part of the central theme of the story. In many ways he is similar to the Doctor in this respect. I honestly think it is reaching to try and connect his suffering to his sexuality.

    • hemligalugnet says:

      The question is: Does DrWho and Torchwood have any really happy characters at all?

      I think you’re reading too much into this, and your analysis is flawed.

  21. Cindy says:

    I didn’t think it was homophobic but seeing how Gwen got off with so much less pain, I do think it was a little too heteronormative. (But Gwen’s characterization has been a sore point with me for a while; different discussion.)

    Actually, I’m less upset that Ianto died, than I am with Jack’s extreme emotional constipation wrt the relationship. It never struck me (except from the captain’s blog) that Jack had real feelings for Ianto. I hope I wasn’t supposed to think that from the (very) occasional kiss? He not only didn’t “make eyes” at Ianto as he did with Gwen, but he was barely even kind to Ianto. Jack spent much more time holding him at a distance. I got an “he’s just not that into you” feeling. I definitely see how Owen would characterize Ianto as a “part time shag.” That’s how Jack treated him on the whole, I think.

    So: I wish that we had gotten to explore an actual relationship between the two men. I think that is more the tragedy… Unlike the panel, I didn’t think we got to see everything that this relationship could be. We got to see Ianto into a relationship with Jack, and Jack doing who the hell knows what. (Not that they had to pick out wallpaper. Bleh. But this appeared to be too one-way to be called a “relationship.”) When Jack fell apart after Ianto died, the thought that struck me was, why is this affecting him so much? That’s a bummer! It wasn’t (to me) believable and that took away from the CoE story.

    • Matthew says:

      As I’ve just said in reply to Hope, I think the reason why Gwen doesn’t suffer as much is because the story isn’t really about her. The main theme is making a stand or compromising in the face of a huge threat. The main subjects of the this theme are Jack and Frobisher. This puts Jack and Ianto’s relationship right at the centre of things.

      Gwen’s story is a peripheral one that sheds some light on things – and she is linked in by being pregnant when the story is about children. Mainly though, she is just doing a lot of the heavy lifting of the plot. Her most relevant dramatic moment is when she doesn’t want to have the baby and just the way she expresses this is sufficient. Her dying or losing the baby or Rhys dying doesn’t really add anything to the central theme of the story.

      Honestly, this persistent idea that what happens to character reflects the validity of the their sexual choices is striking me as more and more nonsensical. Also the idea that all characters have to suffer equally to make this good drama is absurd.

      As for Jack and Ianto, I thought it was a proper, reciprocal relationship – especially in Children of Earth. I believed in it and didn’t need to see more (especially since Torchwood is mainly about the adventures). I felt Jack’s pain when he died. So, it worked for me.

      • Cindy says:

        Matthew, I agree with your analysis of why Ianto died, and I can understand why you think that Gwen gets to live and play happy families with Rhys, who she really doesn’t appreciate.

        I think I need to back off my thinking that she gets to live because she is somehow part of an ideal (or at least better) way to be: the “heart” of Torchwood with a “normal” outside relationship. I think it’s having this shoved down my throat for the first two seasons that made her ending feel like an ad for her way of life.

        Interestingly, it still felt that way even though I didn’t think that Ianto died because of his sexual orientation. I agree that he died because he was in harms way. I even agree as to why he was there. What didn’t work for me was that his death made Jack fall apart so completely, because I wasn’t buying into Jack being really into Ianto, other than casually.

        Hope this helps clarify my opinion. Thanks for helping me do that (even to myself) by answering.

    • hemligalugnet says:

      I never saw Jack as being more into Gwen than Ianto, but it rather showed us that Jack might not be interested in the “relationship” lable as such…

      Which is why it was doubly emotional to see Ianto die, because to me it showed that Jack finally realised that he could lose Ianto.
      I think he had taken Ianto for granted for a long while, maybe that’s what you interpret as Jack not being interested, I don’t know.

      I just never saw Jack as an emotional man like that.

      • Cindy says:

        I think you might be right — perhaps it was the taking for granted that I interpreted as not being very interested.

        Also, I didn’t mean to say that Jack was *more* interested in Gwen than Ianto in the previous seasons, but that she was one more thing that he used to hold himself away from an emotional connection with Ianto. And I thought he was doing a good job of distancing himself in CoE too, without using Gwen as a foil: sitting at opposite ends of the couch in Hub 2, practically spitting the words at Ianto about his daughter, and things like that. I dunno, maybe it’ll make more of an impact if I watch it again, with the “taking for granted” in mind, but as it was, it didn’t work well for me.

        Thanks for the thoughts! I’m glad to have them to ponder.

  22. Joe Bua says:

    I can’t post this yet, as my blog is a Torchwood Spoiler free zone until the 20th, but as soon as the episode in question airs I will.

    Interesting. Though I do have to say that if the decision was to excise LGBT content would we not have seen the critical moment dramatized so beautifully.

    So, what of that?

  23. Joe Bua says:

    And, btw, it certainly doesn’t prevent Jack from meeting another guy.

    Or girl.

    He IS pansexual, after all.

  24. Joe S says:

    Thank you very much for this discussion, both here and in the podcast itself.

    As I was thinking about Jack’s loss of Ianto and it’s dramatic weight, the only similar example in the Who universe I could come up with was the Doctor’s loss of Rose at the end of Season two, a heterosexual relationship.

    As it’s been said before, happy conflict free situations make for bad drama. The only person who has exceeded Jack in terms of being tortured by the writers is the Doctor himself. One of the main ways they have tortured them is not just by causing them to endure adverse situations, but also by hurting the ones close to them. No companion of the Doctor’s has emerged unscathed in the new series. It’s not because the writers hate gay folk, or time lords, or companions, it’s because it’s in extreme situations that the true nature of characters are revealed. And when that happens, it’s good drama.

  25. First let me say it was a very fascinating, and a very bold podcast to put out. It was an interesting and informative listen, and I thank you all for participating.

    I think the point was reached about 20 minutes in by one of the participants that if a hetero character had died there wouldn’t be this fuss.

    But because it was a gay (?) character the “community”, which seem to me to have very itchy trigger fingers reacted strongly to it.

    My apologies if it comes across as homophobic (my god all those new terms in this show – I think that’s another scene of the community wanting to apply too many labels to things that perhaps don’t really exist… but anyway) but the community in some respects does look for fights.

    To me the best way to champion same-sex relationships/plot lines in TV series and film is to just let it happen organically. Don’t fight for it. Don’t wave the placards when something apparently goes wrong with a gay character.

    Just let it happen.

    And slightly tangentially – it might be something that will never happen. Not that I am saying it shouldn’t, but in the long run it just may not pan out that way. Things change, attitudes change. The world changes. Trying to promote something artificialy will always fail.

    But anyway.

    One thing I wanted to mention – all this talk of Ianto dying and nobody seems to be concerned by the conversation he had with his ex-wife a few eps before that. You remember the one, it went kinda like “I am not gay, I just fancy Captain Jack A LOT”.

    To me that seemed to set back the communities agenda far more than any nonsense about “oooh, they only killed him cause he was gay”.

    They kill Ianto because as you rightly said, he was pretty much the only character left who would make such an impact by passing. He wouldn’t have left Earth if Ianto was still there I would think. Torchwood would soldier on.

    Anyway, I have rambled enough. Great show guys and gals.

    Trev.
    The WhoCast

    • Matthew says:

      That wasn’t his ex-wife it was his sister.

      In terms of “killing him because he was gay” trope it is sufficient to be non-hetrosexual, he doesn’t have to be exclusively gay. Indeed, another cliche is to make a big deal of “turning” a straight character gay because you want to do a “gay storyline” but the default sexuality of all your existing characters is straight. I don’t think this applies to Torchwood (although I can kind of see how Children of Earth, taken in isolation, looks a bit like that).

      Personally I think that that conversation is a mini version of Russell T Davies’ “Bob and Rose” with the sexuality reversed. If you don’t know, “Bob and Rose” is about a self-identified gay man falling in love with a woman. It was inspired by one of Russell’s friends doing exactly that and they way that it challenged his prejudices about sexuality. “Bob and Rose” got some flak from parts of the gay community at the time, but RTD has always felt it is better to explore particular dramatic stories (as he did with “Queer as Folk”) without regard to how some people might want their sexuality to be portrayed. I think this attitude carries over into “Children of Earth”.

      The argument against this is that there aren’t enough LGBT characters on TV to avoid a few standing for the many. My answer to this is that you should be devoting your energy to shows where LGBT characters are invisible, not the ones where they are there but flawed and (sometimes) killed.

  26. Nat says:

    @Inigo I’ve only talked to a couple of people who’d watched Doctor Who but not Torchwood before Children of Earth, neither commented on Ianto looking like a standard coming out story but there was consensus that Jack comes across as a complete jerk who doesn’t deserve Ianto and that the death scene seems heartless.

    I don’t think you’d think Jack didn’t have feelings for Ianto having seen/heard the whole of Torchwood, so that was the basis for considering Children of Earth as its own stand alone entity.

  27. Tess says:

    Most of what I wanted to say appears to have been said already by others who no doubt worded it better than I could have – I loved the podcast, I found the discussion fascinating and relevant, I lament the fact that there wasn’t a whole lot of divergence of opinions but understand that it couldn’t be helped, and I appreciate Nat in particular’s broad knowledge and effort to rationalise the opinions of others.

    One thing I did want to take issue with was the representation of what another commentor calls “over-emotional fan-girls”. I really hate pointing fingers, and don’t mean to offend, but there was a lack of sympathy towards the Ianto/Janto fangirls and fanboys that I found slightly annoying.

    I do not in the slightest hold the idea that CoE was homophobic; but I was upset by Ianto’s death. Not to say that I didn’t understand why they did it, because it did have narrative value. While I believe that Jack running away from not just Gwen, but Ianto too, at the end would have been even more powerful, I do value the way Ianto’s death clearly affected Jack. Really, what I’m basing this on would probably be seen as a small nitpick to some, but has caused much grief in the circles I move in: RTD and JB mentioned at a panel before CoE aired that ‘Janto’ fans would be really happy with their story in CoE.

    The term “betrayal” has been bandied about quite a lot, and if anything I think it would be applicable here. While it was great to have their relationship developed, it still met an abrupt end that many people have trouble accepting, for purely emotional reasons. There was a lot of talk in the podcast about saying “and then she woke up” – using fan works to change the ending. As comforting as that can be, at the end of the day canon is canon, and those who get emotionally invested in their characters and ships react to it as such.

    (Which of course, for some people, leads to overreaction, and finding silly reasons to target the writers for killing Ianto.)

    What I guess I am long-windedly trying to say is that while abusing the writers and making claims of homophobia is certainly an extreme reaction, and not something I condone in any sense, people at both ends of the intensity spectrum are having to deal with the death of a favourite character and ship, on a show with a small cast. To an extent, the insanity of the fandom of late is understandable. Writers may view themselves as artists, but their audiences take that art very personally, and I think a lot of people feel that at least the CoE writers forgot that for a moment.

    • Matthew says:

      Yes, I think that the “over-emotional” comment did give an unfortunate impression. However, the podcast commentators were speaking live – so things can’t always be as well nuanced of considered as you’d like.

      I don’t think anyone who is serious about this has any problem with the levels of emotion involved. Who are we to tell anyone how upset they can be?

      The point, in relation to accusations of homophobia and related ideas, is that people should try and separate their personal emotional response from a critical analysis of the of themes of the show. Nobody needs to accuse the show of homophobia to validate how upset they feel – it’s perfectly fine to be upset regardless. The fact that you describe this as an “extreme reaction” suggests to me that you’re on the same page as the commentators regarding this.

      As for “betrayal”, regardless of how much you feel it, this isn’t what has happened. The writers of a show have no contract with any part of the audience to write it in a certain way, so they cannot betray you. They just did something you didn’t like.

      Regarding comments that were made in advance of the show, I’ve yet to see anything that explicitly said that Jack and Ianto would be in a happy relationship at the end of the show. All I’ve seen is quite reasonable answers to questions where the person answering can’t give the plot away. Jack and Ianto were at the centre of the story more than they ever have been before – and Janto fans were extremely pleased by this up until the point that Ianto died. So, the answers given were as correct as they could be without giving the game away. They could hardly have said “you’ll be rally happy and then you’ll be absolutely devastated” could they? Even “I can’t say how you’ll feel, it’ll give too much away” would have aroused suspicion.

      If anyone feels genuinely betrayed, then I suggest you look closely at what was actually said (rather than what you wanted to hear) and as honestly as possible see if you can think of what they should have said instead.

      Ultimately, though, misdirection in advance publicity is part of keeping the integrity of story intact. To expect otherwise is naive. The cast and crew have no obligation to you just because you have made an emotional investment in the characters – their main obligation is to not spoil the story in advance of it being transmitted.

      • Tess says:

        Fom an objective viewpoint, I would agree with you 100%. The writers don’t have any contract with the fans, so can’t technically betray them. The writers have a certain direction their story needs to move in, and they need to serve that story regardless of the fandom. Actors have an obligation to keep secrets in the face of publicity. All true.

        I wasn’t personally trying to label what happened to Ianto as a betrayal (maybe I got my wording wrong), I wasn’t trying to personally justify the homophobia accusations, and I wasn’t saying that I wanted absolute truth from those involved in the lead-up publicity – I doubt I’d be able to think of something that they could have said that would be better. I’m not trying to get into semantics here. I’m just trying to express how a significant portion of the fandom is feeling. Clearly you are not one of these people, and that is great, but what I wrote was a watered down version of the conversation I have been having and have seen being had over and over and over since CoE aired with lots of different fans.

        Regardless of how objectively speaking there couldn’t have been a “betrayal”, I just wanted to try and rationalise why some fans were calling it so.

        You say that people need to seperate their emotional response from critical analysis, and I completely agree. But to be honest, I don’t think most of the “Torchwood is homophobic” reactions are coming from a weird mash of emotion with critical analysis. To me, it is all emotion, a knee jerk reaction that snowballed. Because as this lovely podcast demonstrated, if people think it through rationally than the homophobia argument doesn’t hold up.

        I think we’re probably in violent agreement, and I apologise if I misunderstood anything you wrote. I didn’t mean to sound like a rampant emotional fan on the attack, and I really do get that live podcasts can’t always touch on every base!

      • k says:

        Actaully, in one interview I read, when asked if fans would get what they want in regards to his character and Gareth’s he said this: “They’re going to get the relationship explored, and they’re going to get the humor. They’re going to get everything they want, but they’re also going to get stuff they don’t want. Which is kind of like a real relationship anyway.”
        This MIGHT have be subsequent to the show airing in Britain, but the interview was intended for Americans (and Children of Earth still has yet to air there).

  28. josee says:

    The ‘fridging the queer’ trope doesn’t work for Greek mythology. Pederasty was a common practice amongst greek soldiers. An experienced soldier took a young man under his wing, trained him as a soldier, and outfitted him for military service. During this process they developed an intimate, loving relationship. It was perfectly accepted, and killing Patrolclus worked because Achilles loved him not because Achilles loved a man.

  29. Jenny says:

    Thanks for a really interesting discussion.

    I’m a straight Brit but could I point to Brothers & Sisters as an example of an American show with a character who “just happens” to be gay? Kevin is a well-rounded character with flaws as well as good points who is struggling just as much as the rest of his siblings with his father’s legacy and who has a number of relationships of varying seriousness before settling down with Scotty.

    From reading lj i get the impression that a lot of people wanted Jack and Ianto to have this kind of story arc, but given that Torchwood isn’t actually a soap, it was never going to happen.

    • CB says:

      I agree that the majority of the LJ fandom wanted Ianto and Jack together as a couple (some to greater/sappier extent than others), but I disagree that Torchwood isn’t the type of show that could make that happen.

      Soaps aren’t the only shows that chronicle relationships. Jack and Ianto could have been a couple, if that were the direction RTD wanted to take them. Look at Gwen and Rhys. Torchwood showed their relationship fairly thoroughly, warts, retcon, and all.

      It’s not Torchwood or Sci-Fi that makes the Jack/Ianto relationship impossible; it’s Jack himself and to some extent the direction the writers wanted to take him. You can’t have a tragic hero live happily every after. Not if you want to keep him immersed in suffering.

      That’s why the second a lot of us heard rumors, myself included, that Jack and Ianto would form a more solid relationship in COE, we figured Ianto would die. The tragic hero’s love interest always kicks the bucket. Always.

      It’s just so utterly predictable, and that’s the only real problem I have with Ianto’s death. Nothing really, truly came across to me as homophobic. Lame and heart breaking, sure, but homophobic? No, not at all.

  30. Tarc says:

    As a non-fanboy, non-fangirl, not “emotionally overwrought” intellectual, scientist, and sci-fi writer, I’m rather diappointed that the three speakers selected all had the same point of view, and seemed to be fairly eager to dismiss the idea that CoE trotted out the same old homophobic tropes we’ve been seeing for decades. The trouble is, there is no real denying that that exact thing happened, whether RTD intended this or not. Judging from this track record, he has a blind spot a mile wide to seeing this issue because he often repeats this in his work (along with several other themes including a disdain for love and happiness, a penchant for ensuring no happy endings, and a athiestic POV). I gave a quick read through the lengthy rebuttals to the original topic, but I’m sorry, but most do not wash for me, and it has nothing to do with ‘fandom’ and ‘emotional responses’ which seem to be a convenient way of dismissing an opinion to the contrary. If I can find the time to relisten to the podcast and read in detail some of the comments, I’ll clarify, but for now, sorry, I’m not seeing anything here that absolves the writers of their burden of judging their audience or understanding their tropes and thematic content when writing.

    • Matthew says:

      Honestly, I think you’re misrepresenting (or possibly just misreading/listening, in your haste) both the podcast and the vast majority of the comments. I think some people did jump on the homophobic trope idea as a way of giving an apparently rational dimension to their emotional response. However, that’s not really that important – and not a reason to dismiss the argument. The could be emotional and right or emotional and wrong – I happen to think they were emotional and wrong. Equally, I will probably think you’re calm and wrong – if you do expand on your arguments (although I’m always willing to be persuaded).

      As I see it, the stuff about fangirls and fanboys and emotions was an attempt to give some context to what happened, it wasn’t an argument against what people were saying and has no validity as such (being essentially an Ad Hominem fallacy). However, this also means that knocking down the strawman of “emotion” or “fandom” doesn’t suddenly make the “homophobic trope” argument valid. To do that you have to do some proper critical analysis and present a thorough case.

      Personally, I’d love to see something beyond “here’s a trope, here’s a story with some similarities, this makes the story bad”. Please go back to first principles a bit on this one and explain how the story is a negative portrayal of the LGBT people. I’m not really trying to row with you, by the way, I’d just love to see some detailed literary criticism on this theme. I thought Nat’s analysis was particularly interesting, even though I don’t share all of it.

      This probably isn’t entirely relevant, but it is interesting, it’s Russell T Davies talking about his series Bob and Rose:

      http://www.guardian.co.uk/theobserver/2001/sep/02/features.review67

      Something else to ponder, from a discussion board (via the Google Cache as the board seems to be broken at the moment).

      ————————-
      About 5 minutes and 25 seconds into Aliens of London, we were presented with this exchange between the Doctor and Rose atop an apartment building in London:

      Rose: she slapped you!
      Doctor: 900 years of time and space and I’ve never been slapped by someone’s mother.
      Rose: your face…
      Doctor: It hurt!!
      Rose: You’re so gay!

      Now mind you, Doctor Who has a massive gay fan base and the writer and executive producer Russell T Davies is himself gay. So it’s hard to believe that Russell intended this remark as some sort of affront to gays.

      Yet on mailing lists and the popular Outpost Gallifrey Forum debate rages among fans over the last line of this exchange. Some are offended that Rose would use the word “gay” as an insult or to suggest that the Doctor was weak. Others see the use of the phrase as colloquial and meaningless. One poster wrote, ‘”You’re gay” or “You’re so gay” is so common in today’s school-playgrounds, that it didn’t even register as odd to me.’ Another said, ‘It seemed wrong to me that the show should be, however much a throwaway remark, endorsing the use of the word ‘gay’ as an insult or derogatory comment…I don’t care if it is common these days, which it sadly is. It shouldn’t be. And yes, I *know* who wrote the damn episode, but that doesn’t excuse it.’

      In an email response to an aquaintance, writer Russell T Davies explains, “The simple answer is: that’s how people talk. And although that’s simple, it’s very powerful. I can’t imagine a proper drama which is couched in terms of how people *should* talk…Second, the word is changing. This is an irreversible process beyond anyone’s control. It seems to me that we’re becoming people who complain about the use of the word gay, much as people *used* to complain about the word gay, because it no longer meant ‘happy’. No words stay static.”

      Davies went on to explain that by introducing controversy, he’s gotten people to talk about the phrase and its usage as an insult, though some fans found this explanation unconvincing.
      —————————————————–

      http://209.85.229.132/search?q=cache:_vIJ4LdfGJkJ:beta.morons.org/tally-ho/article/read/6165

  31. Matthew says:

    RTD has said a few words about the Ianto backlash:

    http://ausiellofiles.ew.com/2009/07/backlash-shmacklash-thats-torchwood-creator-russell-t-davies-reaction-to-the-outcry-over-the-death-of-gareth-david-lloyds.html

    In particular:

    “Question: One of my readers wondered if you were under pressure to de-gay Torchwood and that’s why you killed him off.
    DAVIES: I think you can forget about people picking up gay rights as an issue. It’s rather like children picking up nursery blocks and waving them in the air but having no idea what it entails. We’re talking about issues in my entire life here, not just one small television program. If they did research they’d go and look at the history of gay and lesbian characters that I have put on screen. They should simply grow up, do some research, and stop riding on a bandwagon that they actually don’t know anything about.”

    It’s blunt, but I agree.

    • Tarc says:

      And as someone who is quite aware of what RTD has written in the past, I point out that he has a long track record of doing this same thing – falling back on some of these same tired homophobic tropes. The very fact that he doesn not acknowledge that he just killed (or in the case of Jack, killed and then emotionally crushed) all of the queer case whilst leaving the straigh memeber of the cast alone is *very* telling. Just because you are gay does not mean you cannot be homophobic on occasion (to wit, the most homophobic bit of film I’ve ever seem – the gay acted, written, and produced Boys In The Band). And just because you are a really good writer (and RTD is one) doesn’t mean that you see your own flaws. I don’t particularly believe RTD is a bigot at all (or that he deliberately writes these things to be homophobic): he just has a hole the size of Montana when it comes to seeing his own biases. Like Moran, sticking his fingers in his ears and humming loudly does not change the critical analysis of what he has done. It’s likely that RTD sees what he’s doing as promoting his own personal values (athiesm, disbelief in love, a disdain for happy endings, etc.) But in the real world, intent doesn’t particularly matter, and a healthy (minority) chunk of the CoE audience picked up on what was written (and that speaks to the heart of the matter). In my extended circle of mostly people with graduate degrees in science or literature, this is a (barely predominant) view. So cheekily, I’d suggest that RTD grow up, take a hard look at his own writing to identify his own biases, and get on the bandwagon that he’s been trying to ride.

      • Matthew says:

        And I think that’s just a knee-jerk trotting out of the idea of tropes without any kind of literary analysis whatsoever. If you’re going to argue a homophobic effect then you’re going to have to do a lot better than that.

        If your talking science, how about a peer-reviewed study that shows a connection between killing a non-heterosexual character and homophobia? If it’s literature, how about some proper analysis of the morality of outcomes in fiction with particular reference to non-heterosexual characters?

        I’ve argued at length against this being homophobic in my comments above and have yet to see any counter-arguments that go beyond the extremely simplistic.

  32. Tarc says:

    Well, that would be because it *is* simplistic – and that’s why many people are seeing it. Look at the facts of the last two episodes (deconstruct the plot lines ofr the cast and Ianto) of what happened: 1) all queers were either killed, or killed and punished, while the heterosexual cast memeber(s) are fine; 2) man settles into a gay relationship comes out, and is prompltly killed. Simple, straighforward, and two of the most dislike homophobic tropes. I don’t need a literature search to call a spade a spade. It’s plain as day to anyone that looks, and you’ve not addressed this at all. (And the ‘research’ you request isn’t particularly relevant to this arguement. Just look at the facts, please.)

    • Matthew says:

      In what way is the death of a character a comment on the morality of that character’s sexuality?

      • lorannah says:

        It isn’t when taken as an isolated case, but when it becomes part of an overall pattern that shows again and again that those in gay relationships will die, be evil or become bereaved – it can become one. Whether intentioned or not.

        If Ianto had been the only gay character who had died within the Doctor Who franchise then me and others I know wouldn’t be so annoyed – or if there was a balance between different outcomes of queer relationships, as we get with heterosexual relationships – so that there are tragic endings and angry endings and happy endings. Then it wouldn’t be so much of a problem.

        But the fact is that in Who and Torchwood all but one queer couple have ended up with one partner dead or evil. (And as the exception is an elderly couple, whom are perceived to be non-sexual (not my belief)- which in traditional storytelling allows them to be innocent despite their underlying ‘wrongness’ – doesn’t particularly help).

        Regardless of what RTD has done in other shows (which have been targeted at entirely different, often already queer-friendly, audiences) – this is the pattern he has created.

        The fact that Ianto was killed in a way that followed quite closely a stereotypical ‘bury your gays’ motif – only served to underline the issue and frustrate me more. But this isn’t simply about Ianto it’s about a bigger picture.

        And for the record, I’ve never argued that either show is homophobic – but I do believe it’s distressingly (for me) heteronormative – and could do better.

      • Tarc says:

        Character death as a literary device (or script device) is *always* meaningful,often in complex ways. It’s overtly naieve for you (or RTD) to suggest that it’s irrelevant, where the timing, charactization, and character arc all concur to the contrary, and the death fits neatly into well-established trope. When referring to gay characters, this nearly *invariably* happened for decades, and is a common feature of RTDs work (as the other reply also pointed out).

  33. Matthew says:

    I disagree Tarc, but I think I’ve already said everything I want to say on this, so I leave it at that. I’ve gone into much more detail about what I think in my previous comments, above. If carried on, I would just repeat myself and we wouldn’t agree, so that seems a bit pointless.

    For another perspective though, here’s an article I just read:

    http://www.dailykos.com/story/2009/7/24/757421/-Yearning-for-Ianto:-TorchwoodRedefining-Sci-Fi,-Gothic-Horror-and-Gay-Romance

    • Tarc says:

      Ah, I see! You’ve spent many hours of posting on tangental (or irrelevant) issues, but no response to the actual core issue. Why am I not surprised – I know it’s a tough point to tackle. So, no, we’ll not agree to disagree (because that implies that I think there’s validity in your arguements even when there is residual disagreement); you’ll go on to doggedly pursue your predetermined opinion (despite reasonable facts to the contrary), and as for me, I think I’ve made my point well enough, and I’ll be moving on since this discussion (like the podcast) are highly biased.

  34. Matthew says:

    Tarc

    One last response. You’ve come up with absolutely no facts only unsupported and simplistic assertions.

    The core issue: killing LGBT characters does not make you homophobic. You haven’t said any more than it does and that’s both simplistic and arrant nonsense.

    My previous points on this have been relevant and do address the core issue. I didn’t make that last post because your assertions scared me off but because you are quite clearly not amenable to reason or argument.

    ===1===

    This is a comment I left on James Moran’s blog about this:

    ———————————–

    “Of all the people to survive, he’s not the one you would have chosen, is he? But if you could choose, Doctor, if you decide who lives and who dies that would make you a monster.” – Mr Copper, Voyage of the Damned.

    Captain Jack is neither evil nor dead. Ianto is not dead because he was in a gay relationship. The universe does not sit in moral judgement of people, bad things happen to good people and vice versa. If Captain Jack had had a girlfriend she would have died in the same way as Ianto did. There was a storytelling reason for doing it – you may not like it, but that’s the only reason.

    Also, to simply make a character simply evil is bad drama – regardless of their sexuality. Bad drama in the service of homophobia is even worse, but that doesn’t mean that LGBT characters can’t have moral complexity or failings. Making a character simply good is equally bad drama, regardless of a the worthiness of the cause it is apparently supporting. Moving away from dramatic truth and towards propaganda always damages the cause you’re trying to advance.

    If, as some of the more conspiracy-oriented postings here and elsewhere have suggested, the idea was to “de-gay” the show for BBC1, then Ianto would have been written out on Day One (or even before), not placed in the emotional centre of the story. Just look at Russell T Davies’ history in mainstream TV (which includes introducing Captain Jack on BBC1 in a family slot) to see what arrant nonsense this is.

    As has already been said, drama tends to be about crisis, so happy relationships and people are few and far between regardless of sexuality. Also people tend to die, especially in thrillers (see also Spooks).

    Off the top of my head, though, here are three happy, not-dead, not-evil, not-hetrosexual couples: the Cassini “sisters” in Gridlock, the private detectives in Jekyll and Maxxie and James in Skins. Also, I’d say that Ian Gallagher is one of the more well-adjusted (and non-evil, non-dead) characters in Shameless – not currently in a relationship, but he is only twenty.

    Last of all, the success of Doctor Who and Torchwood has brought a number of happy, successful gay men (and their stable relationships) into the spotlght: including John Barrowman, Russell T Davies and Mark Gatiss.

    This whole dead/evil gay thing is overly simplistic and only applies (if at all) to bad, propagandist drama which is mainly, thankfully, in the past (I’d accept that The Celluloid Closet has some valid points about this). You can’t just trot out the trope every time an LGBT character dies, that’s just a lazy knee-jerk reaction. If you’re trying to make a point about the portrayal of LGBT characters in drama you need a much more thoughtful anaylsis, not just “thou shalt not kill the gays”.

    You also have to be honest about your personal attachments to a character and your feelings about their death and what extent they may be leading you to an erroneous conclusion about the cultural impact of that death. I think some comments are confusing this and, in the emotion of the moment, are unwittingly accusing the writers reinforcing homophobia – not understanding how offensive such a simplistic conclusion is.

    None of this is to belittle how hurt some people are feeling at the moment. I just think you should be a bit more thoughtful in your critical analysis – and maybe the best way to start would be to give it some time so that you can detach the analysis from your emotional response. Especially if you’re planning to comment here, on the blog of someone who is closely involved and who cannot help but take ill-thought out remarks personally.

    —————————–

    Plus, from an earlier comment:

    ——————————
    Ianto didn’t die because he was gay, he died because shit happens – and it happens tenfold if you’re a member of Torchwood. The fate of characters isn’t a moral punishment – there’s no deity of fiction handing out lessons.

    The line: “The good ended happily, and the bad unhappily. That is what Fiction means.” from The Importance of Being Earnest is a piss-take of just that kind of thinking.
    ——————————–

    ===2===

    In Torchwood fictional universe terms, Ianto dies because he’s in a building where a deadly virus is released. He goes to that building partly because he’s a member of the team and partly because he encourages Jack to make a stand, wanting to believe that he can be a better man than he was in 1965. That’s an entirely believable thing for a lover to do, regardless of the genders or sexuality involved. There’s nothing to suggest that we’re being shown a universe where LGBT people take unnecessary risks as a result of their sexuality.

    Everyone in the building dies, so there’s no hint that different sexualities are affected differently by the virus. The virus is released by the 456 in response to Jack’s confronting them, there’s no sense that the event was caused by fate or God or some other mysterious force as a moral punishment for Ianto’s sexuality. So, in terms of the fictional universe, Ianto clearly didn’t die as a result of not being heterosexual.

    In terms of what the writers were intending, we’re quickly into the realms of speculation. However, it seems to me that story is about making a stand or compromising. Jack compromised in the past and now he makes a stand – and loses the closest thing to him. Then, in the end, he compromises once more, at great personal cost. The death of Ianto seems to me to be an integral part of the this story, which Jack is in the centre of, having to make the choices. Gwen and Rhys are peripheral to this which is why they survive, and Frobisher is a parallel version, which is why he and his family die. There are plausible storytelling reasons why Ianto dies when he does – the alternative explanation being that Russell T Davies chose to make the show more hetero-normative. Which seems more likely to you? In short then, it seems unlikely that the writers killed Ianto because he was gay.

    So all we’re left with is the apparent unintentional effect of the death of Ianto on the audience. Here we’re even further into the realms of speculation. My guess is that audiences in general don’t see tragedies as demeaning to their central characters or assume that death is punishment for some moral transgression. The “fridge the queer” trope strikes me as a valid starting point for criticism when a character is introduced simply to explore a “gay storyline” and then removed once that storyline is over – ie they only exist in terms of their sexuality. I don’t see this as the case in Children of Earth, even if you take it in isolation from the rest of Torchwood (and I disagree with Nat’s assessment here) as Ianto is a key member of the cast and his relationship with Jack is more of a love story than an exploration of issues around his sexuality – although there is a bit of this in the conversation he has with his sister. So, honestly, I can’t see any viewer drawing the conclusion that Ianto’s sexuality got him killed or that all non-heterosexuals are doomed to unhappiness from watching Torchwood.

    In terms of how much positive attention Torchwood gives to non-heterosexuals, if the series ends here then I’d say that it has done a lot better than most TV shows. If the series continues and becomes dominated by heterosexual relationships then the death of Ianto will look like a turning point and it will be plausible to say that he was, in effect, “fridged” (regardless of the intentions of the authors). However, that hasn’t happened yet – and I don’t think that it will.

    In terms of happiness in the Whoniverse, there’s a reason why the lesbian couple in Gridlock are minor characters – it’s because happy couples are quite dull. Most of the time, we don’t know much about the sexuality of the characters anyway, it’s not made an issue. On the whole Doctor Who and Torchwood are about having adventures in time and space, not settling down in a relationship (or even using sexuality of any sort as the main aspect of a story) and so we simply don’t know about the love lives of most of the people we meet. In post-2005 Who we have the guiding hand of Russell T Davies, who is far more interested in misery and suffering than happiness anyway, for all characters, regardless of sexuality. In 1963-89 Who we’re talking about a different television age – and basically LGBT characters are invisible. In new-Who terms though, I think you’d be hard-pressed to find the idea that non-heterosexual behaviour causes unhappiness or that people are being punished for their sexuality.

    As for Jack’s suffering, some of it is inevitable because he is immortal. Most of it in Children of Earth results from the hard choices he has to make, which are part of the central theme of the story. In many ways he is similar to the Doctor in this respect. I honestly think it is reaching to try and connect his suffering to his sexuality.

    ===3===

    As I’ve just said in reply to Hope, I think the reason why Gwen doesn’t suffer as much is because the story isn’t really about her. The main theme is making a stand or compromising in the face of a huge threat. The main subjects of the this theme are Jack and Frobisher. This puts Jack and Ianto’s relationship right at the centre of things.

    Gwen’s story is a peripheral one that sheds some light on things – and she is linked in by being pregnant when the story is about children. Mainly though, she is just doing a lot of the heavy lifting of the plot. Her most relevant dramatic moment is when she doesn’t want to have the baby and just the way she expresses this is sufficient. Her dying or losing the baby or Rhys dying doesn’t really add anything to the central theme of the story.

    Honestly, this persistent idea that what happens to character reflects the validity of the their sexual choices is striking me as more and more nonsensical. Also the idea that all characters have to suffer equally to make this good drama is absurd.

    As for Jack and Ianto, I thought it was a proper, reciprocal relationship – especially in Children of Earth. I believed in it and didn’t need to see more (especially since Torchwood is mainly about the adventures). I felt Jack’s pain when he died. So, it worked for me.

    At the risk of going on to long but to refute the allegation of being tangental here are the relevant posts one more time:

    • lorannah says:

      “One last response. You’ve come up with absolutely no facts only unsupported and simplistic assertions.”

      Likewise. Yes, what we’ve been saying are opinions – but so is what you are saying. You haven’t given us anything that could be considered a fact and in fact haven’t even attempted to refute some of the arguments we’ve raised. Though I have admit we have also not refuted all your arguments, though partly that is because sometimes I’m not sure of the relevance.

      As to us not having facts, I’m currently working my way through the last 4 series of Who and the last 3 series of Torchwood – in order to see whether my current beliefs concerning the portrayal of lgbt couples (and queer characters more generally) vs heterosexual couples are supported. So far they are, but it’s taking time and I don’t want to draw any conclusions until I’m done. But yep – it’s taking time.

      *sighs* I’m sorry if this sounds annoyed, but what’s frustrating me is that I feel the way the original question was framed is very limiting. A few people issued homophobic insults against RTD, but that’s not necessarily the main issue for me. For example, it seems to me that for you Ianto’s death could only be homophobic if the creators intended it as a judgement on his sexuality. Fine – that’s your opinion.

      But for me, the problems with Ianto’s death and the portrayal of queer characters more generally is not limited to whether it was intended as a homophobic statement. I’m more concerned about heteronormativity in the show. But because the original question was specifically concerning these homophobic accusations I feel the debate is stalling. Is the show homophobic – no, most likely not, for starters it’s at least given us queer characters – does that mean the show is 100% successful on it’s portrayal of queer characters – no. Should we be able to discuss those problems – yes.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

%d bloggers like this: