Thursday, August 28, 2014

What's Wrong With a Kiss?

WARNING: Spoilers for the season premiere of Doctor Who follow (though it's not TOO spoilery). But just to be safe...DON'T LOOK if you haven't seen it yet! 

Last weekend, my Twitter feed EXPLODED...all day...with the internet equivalent of "SQUEEEEEEEEEE!" as Peter Capaldi's Doctor (Twelve...or Thirteen?) appeared for the first time on Doctor Who. He was brilliant, as I knew he would be. While there have been quibbles about the episode (yes, I'm about to quibble, too), I have yet to see anyone who hasn't jumped on Capaldi's bandwagon. He was brilliant. He was heartbreaking (that PHONE CALL...BOTH OF I right!?). He was funny. He has attack eyebrows.

But there was another distinct theme to the Who-tweets and posts as fans everywhere rallied around the idea of a Vastra/Jenny/Strax Victorian whodunit spinoff series. These demands have been steadily increasing with every appearance the trio makes on the series. They've now taken on a feverish pitch that I'm fairly certain Moffatt and the BBC can't ignore. The trio were such a significant part of this episode (they even acquired a Lestrade!) that I wonder if the BBC isn't already making those plans.

Unfortunately, this episode only managed to reinforce one of my issues with the depiction of Jenny and Vastra's marriage: though they seem to be deeply committed and closely bonded, their physical relationship doesn't seem to move past holding hands. Has there even been a peck on the cheek between them? I can't remember one.

Jenny and Vastra, by all accounts, seem to have a splendid and very realistic marriage, for the most part. But their relationship has never seemed to actually be a marriage. It's always so...platonic between them. Prior to this episode, we saw Jenny more physical with the Doctor than she ever was with her spouse.

Remember this!?
And then, after years of flirtation, fans finally saw a kiss that was years in coming. But it only happened by virtue of a life-threatening situation where a kiss from Vastra literally saved Jenny's life. Does it take a life-or-death situation for these two to show any physical affection? That doesn't really jive with the character of the rest of their relationship. So, why did it take so long for us to see this gesture that takes place daily between most loving couples? And why did it seem like it needed to be "excused" in the cloak of a dire scenario?

I realize that this is Victorian England and the pair have to keep up appearances in public, but we've seen numerous instances of their private lives. Though there's plenty of affectionate banter flying between them, it's not balanced by the physical affection that's common between a couple as madly in love as they seem to be. The audience seems led to believe that these two have plenty of physical interactions off-camera. Why does Moff seem so hesitant to depict it on screen? I always had the impression the UK was more progressive in regards to accepting a variety of relationships, but the depiction of Jenny and Vastra has made me wonder. Am I wrong about that?

I'm sure I'm not the only one asking this question. Maybe it's too much to expect that any media depict a loving lesbian relationship that expresses physical affection as well. Maybe people just don't know how to write that. But we should learn. As George R.R. Martin said when asked how he writes women so well, "You know, I've always considered women to be people." One strength of the writers of Doctor Who is that they've always been able to see even the most inhuman characters as complicated people when the dust settled. It can't be too difficult to write a well-rounded long-term relationship between two PEOPLE (even if those two people happen to share the same gender and one has lizardy ancestry) that includes the typical physical contact that takes place between a couple.

Please tell me if I'm wrong. I'd love to just have missed noticing this affection, because it SHOULD be there. Why can't everyone show their affection on TV? Why is this diversity somehow "not okay" in the twenty-first century? Are we really THAT afraid of a few hateful zealots?

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