Friday Ephemera

Ray Gun Patriarchy

Readers may recall Theo Hobson’s rather colourful assertions regarding James Bond. Among them, his belief that the implausibly competent fictional spy is  

a deeply malign cultural presence. He represents a nasty, cowardly part of us that ought to have been killed off long ago.

And that,

Bond is a big factor in the sexual malfunction of our times; the difficulty we have finding life-long partners, and the normalisation of pornography.

Yesterday, one of Hobson’s Guardian colleagues turned her righteous disapproval to the subject of science fiction and its

paucity of simple respect and human understanding.

A paucity demonstrated by the genre’s alleged inability to

create women who are not token geishas (or, given the genre, wild assassin women, escaping court hookers or muscly babes in bronze breastplates), non-white characters who are not noble magical heathens with psychic abilities and a strong connection to the earth, or perverted gay interplanetary warlords.

“Perverted gay interplanetary warlords” sounds promising and readers may wish to Google further and report back with their discoveries. However, the claim that the world of science fiction is inordinately populated by “homophobic white male straight writers” and “woman-hating racists” – none of whom are named - sits uneasily with the author’s admission that science fiction fandom is noted for its breadth and inclusivity and a propensity for discussing “sex, race, whatever.” Nor is it entirely consonant with her own extended list of suitably inclusive authors. Indeed, so extensive is this list, and so numerous are the writers and characters unfairly omitted from it, one might suppose the author of this article is intent on disproving her own premise. (One might even wonder if the real objection here is that some science fiction doesn’t yet comply with how she feels it ought to be. Which seems rather at odds with the title of her article, Planet Diversity.) The author also concedes that the popular series Battlestar Galactica is actually rather good, not least because its most interesting characters come in various ages, shapes and colours and are very often female. We are, however, told that for every BSG - or Buffy, or Voyager, or Firefly, or Alien - there’s

a homosocial all-male fantasy fest like the film Dark Knight.

Well, I too was disappointed by Chris Nolan’s overpraised, overlong Batman sequel and its glib ambiguities, but its grievous status as a “homosocial all-male fantasy fest” somehow escaped my notice. I shall, of course, try harder to detect such things in future. After all, the forces of patriarchal oppression are everywhere and eternal vigilance is required:

We should take it as given that sex, race and sexuality bigotry manifest in cultural works just as they do in society. Outrage against such bigotry is met with bafflement by apolitical people who simply don’t get what the big issue is and are too lazy and complacent to fight the status quo.

The animated, nay heroic, author of this article is Bidisha, a woman so unassuming she declares only one name and describes herself as “a non-white angry political female.” She also defines racism as, exclusively, “despising non-whites.” So no bigotry there. Those who’ve followed Bidisha’s penetrating insights will surely recall her no less remarkable assertions regarding the sexualisation of the Olympics and its “brutalising” and “devastating” effects on the male psyche.