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Old May 29 2013, 03:34 AM   #90
Location: Dominion space
Re: Doctor Who accused of racism

She says an episode in 2007 had the Doctor speaking dismissively of Martha's fears that she would be sold into slavery as the two characters visited Elizabethan England.
The Doctor tells her to "walk about like you own the place. It works for me."
The author claims the comment "betrays the ignorance of writers about historical racial violence and contemporary white privilege".
I guess I interpreted the line in that episode (The Shakespeare Code) differently. My understanding was that, in Elizabethan England, the status of black people was more ambiguous than in some later eras---yes, there were slaves, but there were also black commoners and even a few black noblemen. So by "walking about like you own the place", other people might be more likely to assume Martha is of noble parentage, and leave her be. In The Vampires of Venice, Guido was black and appeared to be well-off, and worked building warships for the Venetian navy (actually, a poster on this BBS pointed out the lack of realism here---although the status of visible minorities was also ambiguous in the Venice of the period, military technology would have been a sensitive area, and people who looked "different" would be restricted from working on it, much like naturalized United States citizens are restricted from working on certain top secret projects, despite being citizens).

Actually, I kind of liked that scene in The Shakespare Code, as it was the first time I had seen a show even address the concept of non-white people travelling into a less racially-tolerant past.

Racism is dealt more head-on in some episodes, such as Human Nature, where Hutchinson asks Martha "With hands like those, how can you tell when something's clean?" and Nurse Redfern tells Martha, "Women might train to be doctors, but hardly a skivvy and hardly one of your colour."

As a "visible minority" myself, and a Doctor Who fan, I never really found anything in the show too offensive. It's true that classic Who tended to use white actors to play non-white characters, but that was common in most shows of that era (like "Kung Fu," for example) and it may not always have been easy to find, say, South Asian actors to play South Asian roles (as acting was strongly discouraged as a career choice among many South Asian immigrant children of that era). The "new" Doctor Who uses actors of different ethnicities, and they all tend to be culturally British, as opposed to some sort of ethnic stereotype. (for example, Rita in The God Complex is a Muslim of probably a South Asian background, but she is hardly a walking stereotype).
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