When we learned last week that Pearl Mackie’s new Doctor Who companion Bill Potts is gay, it prompted a lot of discussion. Understandable, too – while the show has featured a number of gay, and even pan-sexual, characters (some of whom have travelled in the Tardis), it hasn’t previously had a full time companion who was gay.
The basic response to the news was generally the same as Mackie’s – “it’s great”. There’s a recognition among most right-thinking people that greater representation of previously underrepresented groups is a good thing.
But as showrunner Steven Moffat has since pointed out, spend too much time talking about it and we run the risk of going in the other direction and de-normalising it for a generation who, by and large, don’t see being gay as anything other than a simple fact of life.
“There are children here and they are much, much wiser than our generation,” said Moffat, speaking at a press screening of the Doctor Who series 10 opening episode. “They’re set in their heads and they’re honest and they are like ‘What the hell of a fuss are you making?’ They don’t understand. ‘You [journalists] just did a headline out of someone being a fairly average person. What are you talking about?’
“It is important that we don’t make a big fuss about this in a children’s show, which communicates directly with children. We don’t want young kids, who may happen to fancy their own gender, we don’t want them to feel as if they are some of kind of special case, as that’s frightening.
“And it’s not your job, journalists, to frighten children. It is my job, and I will decide that.”
We’re of course aware of the irony of reporting Moffat’s words – just as he must have been about saying this to a room full of journalists. But it’s a thorny issue. Are we at a point in society where it’s better not to discuss an issue like this for fear of making it just that – an issue, rather than simply a part of life – or is there still some value in communicating that message of support? It probably depends on where you live and what your personal experiences have been.
For now, we’ve decided on the latter. Hopefully it won’t be long before the former is the obvious choice.