The BBC’s Been Broadcasting Gay Porn Again…

…or high quality, sci-fi drama, if you’re not a completely mental, Daily Mail reading homophobe.

The main cast for the current "Miracle Day" series of Torchwood (l-r): Gwen Cooper, Jack Harkness, Esther Drummond, Rex Matheson

According to an article published yesterday in the Daily Mail, last week’s episode of Doctor Who‘s spin-off show, Torchwood, garnered over 500 complaints for being excessively and needlessly gay with its portrayal of the relationship between the show’s main protagonist, Captain Jack Harkness (played by John Barrowman), and a character introduced at the start of this latest episode (“Immortal Sins“) called Angelo Colasanto (Daniele Favilli).

N.B. If you’ve not watched the latest episode of Torchwood there’s bound to be unintentional spoilers in the post below, so don’t say I didn’t warn you…

The aforementioned Daily Mail article quoted the following complaints that the BBC apparently received after last week’s episode of Torchwood aired; I have given my thoughts on each complaint immediately after:

“This show is meant to be a sci-fi show. I had to turn it off as my grandson, an avid sci-fi fan, was in the room.”

Here’s a suggestion: the show has always been pitched as a darker, more adult version of Doctor Who, hence the post-watershed time slot. If you think adult content is so corrupting to your grandson, perhaps you ought to vet post-watershed material that he wishes to watch before you allow him to do so, as opposed to winging it, sitting along side him while he watches? He’d probably prefer to watch it without you anyway.

“I am sure both myself and others are disgusted at last night’s show. Leave the gay scenes for the programmes more suited – not sci-fi.”

No gays allowed, huh? But I imagine some of your closest friends are gay, so you’re categorically NOT a homophobe, are you? Also, which, pray tell, are “programmes more suited” for getting queered up?

“The homosexual content is totally out of proportion and so we have decided not to watch any more.”

This kind of comment really gets on my proverbial tittage. There was indeed “homosexual content” in this episode, as this one viewer so clinically put it, however it was most definitely not disproportionate.

First  of all, this kind of stick-up-your-arse umbrage that the Daily Mail seems to love so much, smacks of a certain breed of heterosexual whose sense of entitlement has gotten out of control. Ever since film and television shows have been in existence, the gay community has had to, up until very recently at least, put up with the tiniest morsels of representation in the content made. For decades we have had to watch our favourite movies and TV shows be full of heterosexual characters doing everything imaginable to each other. However, when even the tamest of attempts is made to show us being tender, loving, normal human beings (such as in a recent episode of the soap Eastenders where two gay adults in a mutually loving, adult relationship were shown – shock, horror! – cuddling in bed) there’s controversy & outrage. WELL SUCK IT UP! Hmm, perhaps that wasn’t the best expression to use, but the point remains: we’re here, we’re queer, get used to us sometimes appearing on the programme or film you’re watching. Additionally, we won’t always appear in the stereotypical guise of a bit of limp-wristed, mincing comic relief. Within the heterosexual community there are many different types of people; the gay community is no different.

Secondly, the adult content in last week’s Torchwood was pretty tame. Unless a quick flash of the Barrowman Buttocks had you reaching for the smelling salts, there was very little to get worked up about. Sure, there was a bit of man-on-man kissing and caressing, while rolling about in a bed, but any sexual acts were all very much implied and were no more explicit than those found in an afternoon romantic movie. What has upset these complainants is the gay nature of the love scenes.

"gizzakiss"

As for the suggestion that the gay scenes were superfluous to the plot, if these reactionary bigots who complained to the BBC had waited out the whole episode (assuming they haven’t got a self-righteous, selective memory), it was clear that the relationship between Jack and Angelo was pertinent to the plot. The closing scene of the episode saw Gwen and Jack coming face-to-face with the people involved in kidnapping Gwen’s family and blackmailing her into taking Jack hostage and bringing him to them.  With the help of the rest of the Torchwood team, they manage to turn the tables on the kidnappers. Jack then threatens one of them with violence, but to convince him not to harm them they say the following:

“You’ll still want to come with me…because I can take you to the one man who knows how this miracle began….Angelo”

So, yeah, the character of Angelo is clearly important to the story and isn’t just there to facilitate the gaying-up of the show and John Barrowman getting naked yet again (but seriously, is there a stipulation in his contract saying that he has to get naked every series?!).

I find it particularly amusing (or perhaps that should be fucking ridiculous) that these delicate wallflowers who complain about the unsuitability of the gay scenes didn’t stop themselves, their children or grandchildren from watching after the following elements occurred in the show, ALL previous to this episode, I might add:

  • a character being put to death by lethal injection, convulsing on the bed due to the pain caused by the poison entering and reacting with his body. Incidentally this was in the very first episode, oh, and the character is a CONVICTED PAEDOPHILE!
  • another character, also in the first episode, being in a car accident where he gets impaled through the chest with a metal pole.
  • yet another character getting shot multiple times and then shown being burnt alive.
  • the gruesome depiction of a disfigured  human being that had been at the centre of an explosion, but is still alive due to the effects of the miracle, which means no one can die. The scientists inspecting this charred and mangled corpse then test a theory whereby they sever the spinal cord to see if this would make the person die, but instead we end up seeing an obviously still conscious, decapitated and severely deformed head.

So in conclusion: loving relationships between two adults who happen to be gay – bad; multiple instances of graphic and disturbing violence – all good!

It’s about time the gay community had some proper representation within the sci-fi world, beyond the tokenism of a lesbian kiss for stunt purposes here or unspoken, implied homosexuality there.

For all its fantastical elements, the sci-fi genre is not that much better at pushing boundaries than other genres. Take Star Trek as an example; a programme which is meant to be a semi-utopian view of humanity with its currency-less society and the admirable Starfleet Federation which keeps the peace (think a futuristic take on the United Nations). Yes, back in 1968, during an episode from the original series, Star Trek did push boundaries by having the first televised, interracial kiss between fictional characters, but it didn’t have its first female captain until its fourth (and my favourite) incarnation in 1995, where Captain Janeway took the helm (played by the superb Kate Mulgrew). As for gay characters, there was a brief lesbian kiss in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, but beyond that, nada.

The Star Trek series also flies in the face of the suggestion that adult, sexual relationships have no place in sci-fi storylines. Some of the notable long-term plotlines revolving around a heterosexual couple include Deanna Troi and William Riker from Star Trek: The Next Generation who eventually get married during the film Star Trek: Nemesis; Worf and Jadzia Dax on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine who also end up married; B’Elanna Torres and Tom Paris on Star Trek: Voyager who get married but additionally have a baby – I assume the stork wouldn’t survive a journey through space, so I reckon they conceived by other, more adult means…

It’s bad enough that these complaints have apparently been made, however the insulting bigotry is compounded (unsurprisingly) by the Daily Mail publishing this article to its vast readership, the tone of which is clearly in agreement with these particular viewers.

Here’s a quote from their article:

“But many, including younger viewers who know Barrowman’s character from Doctor Who, have been increasingly alarmed by the current series, which they feel has become obsessed with exploring Jack’s sex life in the most explicit manner possible.”

The most explicit manner possible?! Christ! What a load of grossly exaggerated bollocks. As mentioned earlier, Torchwood is an adult show, parents have absolutely no right to criticise the adult nature of some of its content when it’s always shown after the watershed. People who criticise an adult-aimed programme for being unsuitable for children should not be breeding, because if the fairly rudimentary concept of a television watershed is beyond them, they aren’t fit for the demanding and nuanced job of being a parent.

Torchwood is an excellent show that all those involved in its production, including the BBC, should be proud of. There are elements of the show that I might personally criticise and would rather be removed or toned down a little (such as Gwen’s husband, Rhys, who I find a little insufferable and a bit of a whining, Debbie Downer sort) but generally speaking I love the show and excitedly await each new episode. Along with shows such as the recent reboot of Sherlock Holmes and Being Human, the BBC has been producing some superb television lately and hopefully won’t take a blind bit of notice of idiots such as those behind these complaints.

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10 thoughts on “The BBC’s Been Broadcasting Gay Porn Again…

  1. I totally agree! So typical of ‘The Daily Hate Mail’ to condemn the episode without giving it much thought. “You should be scared because…” should be the first line of every article that rag prints (apologies, I stole that from Russell Brand.)

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  2. Penny

    Just wanted to point out that John Barrowman did not get naked (or hardly ever even out of his braces) in the first two series. We saw Rhys’ backside much more frequently.

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  3. nico

    The only thing I’ve seen “wrong” with the show that I’ve seen is that there is a paralytic agent used as the first injection of the several chemicals used for lethal injection, so Oswald should not have been thrashing around at all. I’m surprised no one with the show bothered to find that out.

    But yes, I think it’s ricidulous that these parents protest “the gay” in this show. True, they could have cut some out, but if they cut out everything that slowed down the plot we’d have 5 or 6 episodes instead of 10. Not every episode can be completely on point. Even in the other series’ of Torchwood, they had several episodes that contained scenes that had nothing to do with the plot. That didn’t make the show any less enjoyable as a whole, though. I also agree that these people should be complaining about the violence as well, if they’re to be up in arms about everything adult about the show harming their precious snowflakes.

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    1. Wow, I didn’t realise that, though I guess it makes sense since for people watching the execution it would be less gruesome or traumatic if you don’t see the person thrashing around.

      I agree about scenes that slow down the plot, but with the Jack/Angelo storyline the flashback scenes all helped the viewer understand how close they were, which increased the ultimate impact of the cliffhanger at the end of the episode, in my opinion. So, while those scenes may have slowed down the pace of the episode (because it was to do with character development rather than another action sequence), it was still necessary to the episode overall.

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  4. Dean

    My good friend Susan forwarded me your link after I listened to you both on a podcast. Torchwood was one of my campaigns at the beeb & I’m glad to see people defend it. Plus, you’ve reminded me of DS9 which is always welcome.

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