Archive for the ‘Jodie Whittaker’ Tag

Bigotry, Social Media, and Psychological Self-Defense Mechanisms   2 comments

Above:  The DVD Cover for Series Eleven of Doctor Who

Scan by Kenneth Randolph Taylor


Never underestimate the human capability to ignore one’s faults yet recognize them in others.  All of us need to be vigilant in efforts to be honest with ourselves about ourselves.

Recently I spent much of a Saturday participating in Dismantling Racism Training at church.  The Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta offered the training, required for those who lead in their congregations.  The training was valuable and has remained thought-provoking.

My society influences me, of course.  It influences me for better and for worse.  One cannot grow up without learning preferences and biases.  In my case, the better angels of my nature affirm that any human being who has both a pulse and brain waves also has unalienable rights.  Nevertheless, I admit that I learned certain sinful biases from my culture.  I thank my parents for raising me not to be a racist and acknowledge gratefully that their lessons dominate my thinking.  However, I am not immune to other influences, which I resist in my mind.  I, as a heterosexual Caucasian male, have a different set of experiences than many other people do.  I, as a decent human being, can learn from the experiences of others and question many of my seemingly innocent assumptions, rooted in ignorance.  I do so and seek to continue to do so.

Social media have done much to unleash the ids of many people, unfortunately.  Entertainment franchises have become targets for many online expressions of bigotry.  For example, before Jodie Whittaker filmed her first scene as the Doctor, many people on social media complained about her because she was a she.  Later, many of these individuals complained about socially progressive messages in the new episodes.  How many of these people watched serials (Yes, I understand the difference between serials and episodes.  A serial consists of episodes.  Inferno, from 1970, is a serial consisting of seven episodes.  Please do not refer to Inferno as an episode.) from the classic series (1963-1989)?  (I covered some of that ground in a recent post.)

Sometimes I listen to people discuss a series I have watched then wonder if they have watched the same series I did.  Consider Star Trek (1966-1969), for example.  I hear people contrast it with the contemporary substandard shows, such as Discovery and Picard.  Some points of criticism of Discovery and Picard are legitimate.  I even agree with many of them.  Dropping F-bombs in Star Trek makes me want not to watch a Star Trek series guilty of that.  Nevertheless, the condemnations of socially and politically progressive messages, as if they are unusually preachy for Star Trek, contradict objective reality.  As I consult my copy of The Star Trek Compendium (1986), part of my library since 1988, I notice many “bonk, bonk, over the head” episodes.  I know that Gene Roddenberry designed the series to consist of morality plays.  Cold War allegories pervade the series, as in Errand of Mercy (1967).  The name “Vietnam” is absent from A Private Little War (1968), but the allegory is obvious, and dialogue hints at Vietnam.  Let That Be Your Last Battlefield (1969), with the black-and-white inhabitants of Cheron fighting each other until all are dead, is hardly subtle.  The Mark of Gideon (1969) addresses overpopulation, one of the major concerns of the time.  The Cloudminders (1969) has to do with social stratification.  Patterns of Force (1968) is a story about a recreation of the Third Reich, down to the uniforms, on another planet.  I could continue, but why belabor the point?  Who can legitimately claim that the original Star Trek series was not preachy?

The space Nazis in Star Trek:  The Next Generation and Star Trek:  Deep Space Nine are the Cardassians.

My theory, not original to me, is that many of these vocal critics of socially progressive messages in media feel threatened.  Why else would they be so vocal?  A basic grasp of human psychology points toward this conclusion.  I also factor in an unfortunate social reality that is either worse that it used to be or seems to be worse that it used to be; offending people across the spectrum of opinions is easier to do these days.  Too much is needlessly partisan.  Objective reality is objective reality.  The preponderance of scientific evidence points to certain conclusions.  Not liking objective reality does not negate it.  Finding scientific evidence offensive does not change it.

Other “offending” series full of socially progressive messages include The Twilight Zone (1959-1964) and The Outer Limits (1963-1965), two of my favorite classic series.  They are full of “bonk, bonk, over the head” moments.

We should be less defensive and more self-critical, individually and collectively.




Against Toxic Fandom   Leave a comment

Social media (properly a plural term, given that “medium” is singular  and “media” is plural) have some useful, positive functions, but are overwhelmingly destructive forces in society.  One can use social media to spread important announcements, family pictures, and cute cat memes.  One can also propagate rumors, hatred, fear, and misinformation.  Social media aid and abet the spread of toxic fandom, too.

I am not so naïve as to imagine that human nature was less coarse prior to the dawn of social media.  I argue, however, that social media provide more outlets for both the dark and light sides of human nature.  Social media, therefore, contribute to the coarsening of cultures and the decline of what passes for discourse.  Human depravity is not an article of faith for me.  No, I have a plethora of evidence for human depravity.  I do not need faith to accept that which I can document objectively.

Much of that depravity manifests itself in toxic fandom.  This is frequently hateful, on the grounds of skin color, gender, or both.  Words matter; they convey ideas.  Based on many of the words many people write or speak via many social media websites, I conclude that a host of people define themselves by what upsets them.  Apparently, egalitarianism and diversity offend them.  Hence we have the term “social justice warrior” (abbreviated “SJW”), intended as an insult.  There are actors of African and Asian descent in Star Wars movies.  Horrors!  If one does not find that casting offensive, is one a social justice warrior?  Jodie Whittaker plays the Doctor in Doctor Who.  If one affirms that she is a fine actress and that her casting does not constitute political correctness, is one a social justice warrior?  And if one is a SJW, is that bad?  No!  And what about the newly-revealed past incarnation of the Doctor, a woman of African descent?  Jo Martin has gravitas; she plays the Doctor well.  I wonder how her incarnation fits into the timeline as I await the inevitable answer.  I also want to see more episodes with her.  If that makes me a SJW, so be it.

I first encountered toxic fandom years ago, at a now-defunct science fiction website.  I read BBS boards, where people asked and answered questions.  I stopped reading those BBS boards because many people were insulting each other and engaging in toxic fandom.  I chose not to consume that content any longer.

Toxic fandom infects many YouTube channels.  By trial and error I learn which channels to avoid for this and other reasons.  We humans need not like everything we hear, see, or watch, but we also need not define ourselves by our bigotry and what we dislike.  I offer some advice to everyone:  If you do not like some form of media, do not consume it.  When you express your displeasure, do so without resorting to bigotry and toxic fandom.  Write and speak mostly about what you like.  I consider Star Trek:  Discovery (properly abbreviated as STD) to be a series that indicates total disregard for Star Trek canon.  I am not shy about making my displeasure known, but I prefer to write about topics about which I hold positive opinions.

Being mostly positive should not be difficult.