[LMB] sex and Captain Jack and the themes of Torchwood

Elizabeth Holden azurite at rogers.com
Fri Dec 15 20:46:54 GMT 2006

I asked:

> > Is
> >SCIFI ready to take on a f/sf show with an
> >all-bisexual cast and an action-hero who talks
> >casually about his multiple boyfriends?

Ruth answered: 
>        Jeez, I sure hope so.  :) 

I was trying to think of instances where Captain Jack
talks casually about his multiple girlfriends and I
failed. I think there's an obvious reason - they want
him to appear omnisexual, but at the same time they
don't want it to look as if he exploits or abuses
women. I see a certain double standard in this, if I
squint at it, but that's okay too. It's clear that
Jack likes/loves women as well as men.  They just make
men the focus of his more outre reminiscences.

Meanwhile, while his relationships with men get more
verbal attention, his actual scenes of affectionate 
behaviour have (with one exception so far) been with

Okay, so they're easing audiences into a comfort zone
with a bi hero and I can't fault them on their
methods: they're being careful in a strategic manner.
*And* they're getting phenomenal ratings, so it must
be effective strategy.

> I'm looking
> forward to seeing "Torchwood," and even more to
> Jack's return as a "Doctor Who" character in the
> next season.  

Me too.

> I was delighted to see a character
> like Jack in a "family"-classed show.  

I don't want this to turn into a "me too" post all the
way, but of course I loved that.

> While I
> myself am boringly straight, 

Being straight isn't boring. Really.  

> I have no problem with
> the idea that others *aren't,*  and have lots of gay
> and bi friends.  

Hoping you count me as one of them.

> So, I'm always rooting for good,
> positive depictions of alternate orientations in
> popular culture.


>        The great thing about Jack is, while his
> orientation (or lack thereof, I guess you could say)


> is a major part of his personality, it's not the
> defining thing about him -- he's presented as a
> main-character action hero, first and foremost, and
> I think that's (to borrow a term) fantastic.

There's nothing tokenish about Jack. He doesn't do
'categories', he's 'flexible'.  The actual words
'bisexual' and 'omnisexual' have only been mentioned
in the various forms of BBC publicity, I believe, but
not in any of the aired TV shows (either TW or DW). 
So there's a wonderful free sense of people living
without labels.  I've seen this in novels, never
before on television.

Moreover, and I have *never* seen this mentioned in
the BBC publicity, all the other Torchwood employees 
are bisexual too, or implied to be. And they aren't
swashbuckling 51st century time-travellers, they're
just current-day humans, and not even particuarly
unusual except that they have an unusual job. The show
doesn't make a big deal of their orientation, either,
though we do get some glimpses of their sexual
attitudes.  Without any stereotyping.

It's all very cool.  At least from my point of view.

>  Even
> cooler, from my perspective, was the attitude of the
> Doctor in relation to Jack -- positively Betan.  

It was. Unjudgemental. 

>        Even *cooler* -- at least in England, all the
> DW stuff was playing to kids as well as adults. 


> It's great to think of all those little minds being
> offered the image of a heroic main character who
> doesn't necessarily fit into a standardized gender
> box.

Exactly.  Who, in fact, sees gender boxes as absurd
artificial concepts.
> Sadly, in the US, DW is watched more by
> fannish adults than families per se, and I think
> that's the main reason Sci-Fi was able to let a lot
> of that slide through with no comment (that I'm
> aware of) from the US's Moral Authorities; 

When is it shown?  The BBC makes a big thing of the
'watershed', meaning the moment each evening when the
kids are packed off to bed and television changes to
fully adult fare - I think it's 9 pm. So anything
shown before then is deemed suitable for kids (e.g.,
Doctor Who) and anything after that is Adult Material.

In any case, Torchwood is post-watershed, which is why
there's more of an 'anything goes' mentality.

Does the 'watershed' concept exist in the US? I get
the impression it's more of a 'different Networks show
different things' concept, and that there's much less
expectation that content varies according to the time
of day or night. It might be part of the general
social conservatism in US television.

>  While Beta
> Colony isn't quite anywhere I'd like to live myself

Me too (shudder)

> I have to say I think
> the US could stand to be a bit more Betan in a lot
> of ways . . . So, subvert the dominant paradigm! 

Ah, here we have a kind of subversion I can get
behind.  Yes!  More of that, please!

In a similar vein: when "Heroes" was being advertised
last summer, I read several PR pieces about it saying
there would be several gay characters.  That was a
reason to watch, in my opinion, though not the only
reason.  Having watched as far as the present, it now
appears that there are no gay characters after all,
and the one character who was implied to be gay, Zack,
is, in fact, perfectly straight.

I like the show anyway but I am disappointed. This
seems a lack of moral courage or something.  I wonder
why they did this - because of the show's popularity? 
Its large mainstream audience?  The producers became
cowardly?  What?

>        "Torchwood" may have a harder time, despite,
> ironically, being actually aimed at an adult
> audience, cuz it's a little more "in your face"
> about everything

Isn't it just.

> Heh.  Really wondering what'll happen if the
> current Jack meets up with the Tenth Doctor 

Not 'if', when.  Jack will be in series 3 "Doctor

> (since
> Jack's been all over time and space, it's hard to
> know which version of him will be in DW again).  

Those episodes are being written by Steve Moffatt, who
wrote the first Captain Jack story in series 1.

> I have this image of Jack's opening line being: "Who
> the hell are you and where's Rose . . .?  

"You dirty rat, you stole the TARDIS!"

>. . . And
> . . . heyyyyyy, you're kinda cute . . ."   :D

Funny how many of his conversations follow that line.

He is actually quite different in Torchwood from what
he was like in Doctor Who, and I don't mean out of
character, I mean character development and change.
It's good stuff.  But surprising at first. 
Yeah, right, back to work here....


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