NOTE: I am posting these two articles, which previously appeared in my now defunct "Random Notes" blog, not only because I am going to cite them in an essay I hope to post tonight, but because both are also cited pretty frequently in articles I have reposted here.
I wrote a while ago about the faux "realism" of movies that need to include graphic violence to seem "real" ("Faux "Realism""), as if everyone's life were wall to wall torture and murder. Or, as if abstraction and idealization of life were not an inherent aspect of art in general and cinema in particular. However, I was reminded today of another sort of faux "realism", or perhaps faux "maturity" that seems prevalent today, so much so that it even has its own spurious justification whenever it is criticized1. And that is our inclusion of sexuality in every venue, even when either inappropriate or irrelevant.
This came to mind as I was reading some reviews of the original series of Doctor Who, and came across some which were critical of the revived series. As I have made clear in several posts ("More Off Topic Musings", "A Science Fiction Story", "A Final Digression On the New Dr. Who", ("Musings About A Television Series", "Off Topic Post - A Question of Scope", "Ironic") I am not fond of the new series for many reasons, from its preachiness, to it open agendas, to its juvenile need for every struggle to be more grandiose than the last, and probably a dozen other complaints as well. But one thing I have not mentioned, or not mentioned often, was brought up in an Amazon review, and that was the needless inclusion of sexuality in the series, something the original avoided for over twenty years.
To me it always seemed self-evident the Doctor would not be sexually interested in his companions. To begin with, he is a different species. It would be akin to a human finding a talking baboon attractive. We may look similar, but we are not. Second, and much more significant, he is several hundred years old. All but the most superficial individuals know that at forty you have a hard time seriously connecting emotionally with a twenty year old. Some may chase after them, but if we are honest, the emotional extremes and immaturity of most twenty year olds seem absurd to those of us who lived through them decades ago. So, how could a several hundred year old being even begin to connect with a human a few decades old? Unless he is the time traveling version of the man in a mid-life crisis, he is going to have no emotional connection, at least not romantically, with someone so much his junior.
And the original show solved that by largely having him serve as a mentor to those who traveled with him. A few were his equal, mostly Romana, another member of his species, but the majority behaved as if he were a wise elder, and they were his proteges.
But not the new Doctor Who. The new Doctor is a time traveler on the make, using trips to the future and past to pick up chicks (and dudes) to bring back to trans-dimensional sugar shack. (I was going to make a "bigger on the inside" joke, but that would be tasteless...)We have his romance with Rose. His flirting with Jack. Martha's pining after him. His apparent future romance with River Song. Amy's attempt to jump him. His romance with Madame de Pompadour. I am sure there were more.
Now, when this criticism arises,t he complaint is always made "but people ARE sexual, so why not show it?" To which I inevitably respond "Why hasn't the doctor defecated on screen yet?" My point being, there are many aspects of life that are natural, that are universal, and yet we omit as being irrelevant to the story. We omit defecation, flatulence, stomach upsets, nail trimming, buying socks, cooking pasta, burning toast, opening the window, ironing his pants, and a host of other things that are "a part of life" because they are irrelevant tot he story, and would distract from it. We include them only when we think they would be relevant.
And that is the reality of these new sexual elements. It is not that sexuality is "a part of life", but that those who are writing Doctor Who cannot move beyond it. They imagine sex is involved in every relationship, that one cannot exist without a sexual connection to those around him. And it is that juvenile attitude about which we complain. Sadly, it is also that complaint that many have so much trouble understanding. Caught in a similar juvenile mindset which sees sex everywhere, they can't figure out what we mean when we say it doesn't need to be included as they can't imagine a pretty girl, or any girl (or boy), without thinking sexually.
Sadly, it seems the juveniles are winning. More and more of our culture is becoming sex-besotted. And more and more often any attempt to suggest that sexual matters need not be included in every aspect of life is being seen as unrealistic and prudish. Which is truly a depressing reality. There is nothing wrong with romance, even with more explicit sexuality, but like every other aspect of life, it has its place. But, because we have adopted the self-control of a teenage boy as our model, we seem to no longer understand where that place might be.
1. I can actually name a third variant, which I touched on in that earlier post. Besides violence and gore, and needless sexuality, there is also the inclusion of coarse language, inevitably justified by the argument "I know people who talk just like that." But, as I said in "Faux "Realism"", perhaps people speak in that way because, through our popular media, we have made it seem acceptable, and, were we less accepting of it, maybe we would not behave i such juvenile, crass ways.
For those interested in my other writings on our juvenile culture, and its effect on the arts, I suggest the following posts :
Pushing the EnvelopeThere are many others, but they can be found by following the links in these posts.
Cranky Old Man?
O Tempora! O Mores!, or, The High Cost of Supposed Freedom
Our Complete Lack of Creativity
Frightened for our Future
The Adoration of Youth
I Blame the Romantics
All Life in a Day, or, How Our Mistaken View of History Distorts Our Understanding of Events
Musicals? -- An Off-Topic Post
Disturbing Entertainment, Ethnic Quotas and Distorted Views of Pop Culture - A Potpourri of Post Topics
Hoist By Your Own Petard
The Fascination with Change
In Defense of Standards
Addenda to "In Defense of Standards"
Shame and Behavior
Our Rude Behavior
Revisiting an Old Topic
How Fast Things Change
Self-Serving Cynicism and Our Cultural Immaturity
Graphic Novels, Comic Books and Cultural Barometers
Tired and Annoying Theme
IMDB Makes My Case
Why I Hate Modern Humanities Departments
The Ethical Dimension
Brief Follow Up To Two Earlier Posts
The Dishonesty of Avatar
Rousseau's Foolish Legacy
Opinion Masquerading as Fact
A Western Evil?
Off Topic Comment on Science Fiction
UPDATE: Having started this list, I plan to go back soon and add to it until I have a complete list of posts on this topic, in chronological order.
Originally posted in Random Notes on 2011/05/22.