April 13, 2009

I want to muse for a moment on how the series Torchwood has impacted my views on sex and sexuality. Quick synopsis of the show is that there’s a team of five people, working out of a secret base in Cardiff, Wales, who monitor and alien threats to our world. A sort of Men in Black meets Angel show. What’s really amazing about the show, however, is its star, John Barrowman. I could go on at length about him as a person, but I’ll save the Barrowman fanboying for another day. Instead, I want to focus on his character, Captain Jack Harkness, and the way he and the other characters have really brought home a trend I’ve seen lately.

Saying that the sexuality of Capt. Jack (and team) is fluid is something of an understatement. Though that happens to be how The Doctor describes him in the parent show Doctor Who The character is attracted to anything with a sex drive and flirts with anything not nailed down. The result is that he forms intimate relationships with both men and women during the course of the show, and it’s suggested that he’s had some “close encounters” with aliens as well. This spreads to the rest of the team as well, with various gender mixes going on and no real defined sexuality for anyone. At no point does anyone so much as question this. There’s no comment, and it doesn’t seem to be done for shock value. It’s just… more fluid!

Now I’ve known for some time that I have non-standard sexuality but I’ve never really had anything to go with that. Nothing to latch on to to enjoy and no poster-show for that outlook. It didn’t bother me, but I didn’t know what I was missing. I can sit back and not roll my eyes when two women kiss on Torchwood (as I do with many other shows, you know what I’m talking about) and I can just enjoy two men kissing without feeling like it’s all a put-on or a gimmick. It’s not threatening either, it’s just nice. I’ve seen this sort of programming coming for a while, but I suspect it will be a while before any US companies make anything of this caliber and the BBC will continue to be my supplier of Torchwoodisexual media.

Now I think it’s worth mentioning that a goodly portion of Torchwood‘s ability to present a world in which this sort of behavior is considered normal is its genre. Science fiction is able to present a different world, or even a different version of our world, in which things we do not consider normal are found to be ordinary an not worth commentary. What makes Torchwood interesting in this space is that it does take place in our world, in modern day, only one step outside of what we know and accept. It is so grounded in the real world that I cannot but feel hope that we will all be this tolerant one day. No aliens, though. Don’t need them.


3 Responses to “Torchwoodisexual”

  1. thebeerphilosopher said

    Obviously you’ve never been to Ibiza on spring break.

    Seriously, though, I would love to live in a world that was all Velvet Goldmine, but in order for that show to exist on TV in the USA, it would have to be about the sex, not the story. Not that stations wouldn’t carry it — they carry Nip/Tuck on FX, after all — but it would probably have to be on HBO or Showtime.

    As for “fluidity,” I’ve always thought about it this way: You will probably meet thousands of people in your life. Of those, about 25% will be in your age group. Of those, 50% will be single. Of those, 50% will be physically attractive to you. Of those, 50% will be intellectually and spiritually compatible with you. We’re already at a pretty small number. Why limit it further by selecting mates by their sex? I don’t l imit friends that way, and I care deeply about my friends regardless of their sex. Why not love them?

  2. thebeerphilosopher said

    Oh, and just for the record: “It is so grounded in the real world that I cannot but feel hope that we will all be this tolerant one day.”

    “Tolerant” is a bad, bad word to use here. You only tolerate bad things, like loud noises coming from the apartment upstairs. We shouldn’t tolerate bisexuality (or, I guess, pansexuality in this case) any more than we should tolerate civil rights. We should embrace these things, incorporate them, embody them… but not tolerate them.

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