Queer Eye For The SciFi

If you’re white, straight and male you’ve probably never stopped to think about diversity in genre entertainment; but if you don’t fit into that very specific box it can be a very important subject indeed. Peter MacKenzie examines representation and depiction of alternative cultures in geek entertainment, highlighting when it goes right and explaining why it’s a problem when it goes wrong…

New site, New Year. Time to take stock, look back, look forward and generally moan about anything and everything. At least this year the world’s going to end. Again. So at least we’ll have something to talk about come December 22nd. One way or the other.

I always think it’s better to look forward than back. I must say, cinema’s looking pretty good this year with The Avengers, Prometheus and The Hobbit all coming up, although the cynic in me wonders where the original stories are. British TV’s got off to a shaky start, Sherlock being the exception as pretty much the only decent thing on the box over the whole festive period, with Ab Fab and Doctor Who being two particularly disappointing offerings. Even Mrs Brown’s Boys was cloyingly sentimental.

But we’re also half way through the American telly season and most series are on their winter hiatus, so this is often a good point to take stock of that as well.

American sitcoms are going from strength to strength. I’ve already mentioned Happy Endings in a previous column, and Modern Family continues to impress. Thursday night on E4 is rapidly becoming one of the few must-stay-in nights of the sort we haven’t seen since Top of the Pops in the eighties, what with The Big Bang Theory and How I Met Your Mother sandwiching the aforementioned Happy Endings, not to mention the fact they’ve sneaked Rules of Engagement off Comedy Central.

Drama too is good, with Hawaii 5-0 just restarting and…

OK, OK. I know. This column is called Queer Eye for the Sci-fi. Where’s the sci-fi? Where’s the queer?

These are questions I’ve been asking myself. As have the other half and a few other regular readers.

Science fiction wise, it’s been well documented that the demise of Stargate: Universe has left us with no “ships in space” shows on the telly for the first time since The Next Generation started in 1987 and, let’s face it, that’s what a lot of us, and certainly most non-geeks, think of as TV sci-fi. Without anything along those lines, regardless of how inventive a storyline is, there is a general feeling of there being no science fiction on telly.

Of course, there are plenty genre shows still out there, but my mind tends to go blank when I sit down with an idea for the column.

No matter how many zombies, time travelling frontiersmen or alternate universes in a show; no matter if your vehicle happens to be an old British Police Box; no matter how deep the fantastical mythology, there just seems something wrong when there are no off-white spaceships on a generic starfield to look at.

Of course, I have to admit that I’ve also done my usual habit of watching shows that go nowhere and ignoring the ones that take off. Not always through choice – Game of Thrones in particular got missed out due to a scheduling clash and then us being caught out by, for once, Sky not actually repeating the show ad infinitum as they usually do.

And as for being gay…

Is it suddenly not OK to be gay any more? A couple of years back, I was bemoaning the fact that LGBT characters were being shoehorned into shows whether the premise or storyline needed it or not. Now you can’t find one for love nor money.

Answers on a postcard or sealed down envelope, please…

I guess there’s Jinksy in Warehouse 13, but he’s been killed off already (although I think it’s fairly well signposted how he’ll be resurrected), and obviously, there’s my usual disclaimer that I don’t know about shows I don’t watch, but I honestly can’t think of any other gay character in the latest crop of genre shows. I’m told Game of Thrones had at least one and I believe, Teen Wolf, but seeing as no-one else watched that either, I think I’m pretty safe in my generalisation.

Further, and I’m sorry, but I’m just not into teenage vampirism, being neither a teenager, nor a vampire, nor an offensive gay stereotype, so that cuts out about an additional 72% of the current genre output as well.

The thing is, some of the newer ideas often actually offer more scope for bringing in a gay character naturally, without shoehorning them into whatever demographically disparate artificial group the test audiences never wanted but got anyway.

Take Terra Nova.

Mind you, that whole series screams of missed opportunity after missed opportunity. We want to see more of the world of 2149. To see more dinosaurs. To question the whole time portal thing. Is it natural or man-made?

Why can all of these questions still be asked of Primeval five series in?

Why is their presence in the past not affecting the future? Are they actually in the past? Wouldn’t it have been much more interesting if the symbols on the rocks had been of alien origin?

And what of its dystopian future? In a world where people are imprisoned for having more than two kids, it’s occurred to me that a gay, or at least any non-procreating lifestyle, would be celebrated or even encouraged. But no, not even a mention. I could take it one step further and say that the programme’s insistence on showing how healthy heterosexual relationships are, despite their obvious problems within the show’s premise, are actually promoting some kind of “straight agenda” but then I’m not a contrary bitter old RTD apologist.

I realise that there are people out there who will say to me that if I watched such-and-such a show, I wouldn’t be levelling these accusations of a gay-free tellybox, or if I tried series “x”, I would see that I’m wrong – but the fact of the matter remains that, with very few exceptions, I’m pretty much watching everything I’m interested in. That’s what Sky+ and Catch-Up Sundays are for. If I wanted to watch Hollyoaks does Transylvania, or, for that matter, Hollyoaks, I would be watching it. But I don’t.

So, telly execs: Where are the gay characters being represented to me and, more importantly, my straight, heterosexist, possibly borderline homophobic, counterparts?

Just wondering.