Mindy Townsend starts a conversation on bisexual science fiction characters

Here’s one of those articles I come across where the comments actually are an interesting part of the conversation – and that’s not a sentence I write often.

Mindy Townsend over at DoctorHer.com (“more than just companions” – as a Doctor Who fan, I love this) has written a great post entitled Jack Harkness and How We Judge LGBT Characters.

Battlestar Galactica and Serenity have also come up in comments so far. The article starts with Torchwood’s Jack Harkness, who also comes up in Doctor Who. For those who don’t obsessively watch these shows like me, background is in the article and on wikipedia.

For the rest of you, here’s an excerpt:

“In some ways, Jack is the emotional opposite of the Doctor. The Doctor likes to keep his human companions at an arms distance, while Jack seems open to close, emotional, and physical connections. (see, Ianto Jones). He never apologizes for these relationships, nor should he. Jack’s relationships show us that, despite his immortality, he is inarguably human. And that makes him more relatable and likeable. I understand where Jack is coming from even though his life experiences are far different from mine. But does this make Jack a good queer television character?”

I remember watching Jack’s very intense kiss with a man, after watching him pursue Gwen Cooper for episodes and episodes, and having two distinct reactions:

1) FINALLY. On American TV, I felt, they’d never let a guy just kiss another guy without him being the gay character, ie without having his gay-ness define him and be the only thing we really know about / care about with regards to him, and it was really good to see something else, and

2) Could it be… finally… a really bisexual character? Or as Jack has framed it, omnisexual? Oh please?

Afterwards I went back and forth. Sometimes I got frustrated with the shows portrayal of Jack’s seeming promiscuity. And then I’d be like, wait, what the hell is wrong with promiscuity. I think where I’m at with it is that Jack is a really interesting character for lots of reasons, and I get annoyed when I feel like the show writes his sexuality to overshadow everything else, in a way that seems to make his sexuality comic relief, instead of writing it as one part of a complete character. On the other hand, it’s an important aspect of who he is, and I’m glad it’s out there… when I saw that kiss happen, I realized, all of a sudden, how conditioned I was to only expect to view straight mono-sexuals, and the presentation of an alternative was awesome. 

Annnnnyway, enough from me, go read Mindy’s article here, and join the conversation:



2 responses to “Mindy Townsend starts a conversation on bisexual science fiction characters

  1. More on Jack from wikipedia, relevant to this blog and community:

    From http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jack_Harkness

    “Jack is bisexual, and is also the first Doctor Who character to be openly anything other than heterosexual. In Jack’s first appearance, the Doctor suggests that Jack’s orientation is more common in the 51st century, when humankind will deal with multiple alien species and becomes more sexually flexible.Within Doctor Who’s narrative, Jack’s sexual orientation is not specifically labeled as that could “make it an issue”. On creating Jack, Davies comments “I thought: ‘It’s time you introduce bisexuals properly into mainstream television,'” with a focus on making Jack fun and swashbuckling as opposed to negative and angsty. Davies also expresses that he didn’t make the character bisexual “from any principle”, but rather because “it would be interesting from a narrative point of view.” The bisexuality-related labels “pansexual” and “omnisexual” are also frequently applied to the character. Writer Steven Moffat suggests that questions of sexual orientation do not even enter into Jack’s mind… Within Torchwood, the character refers to sexual orientation classifications as “quaint”.

  2. As someone who’s bisexual and doesn’t mind promiscuity, I love Jack. I feel like media tends to forget that bisexual people even exists, with the possible exception of bisexual women when their sexuality is acting as fan service for heterosexual, male viewers.

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