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08 May 2010 @ 06:27 pm
Vampires of Venice  
I hate having to say that I liked everything about this episode but the race-fail. Is it really that hard to avoid???

In fact I am crabby enough about this not to be able to think about the episode as a whole. Maybe later. Or maybe not.
 
 
 
Gileonnen: One of THOSE Daysgileonnen on May 9th, 2010 12:06 am (UTC)
This was exactly my reaction. ;__; Rory was splendid and I adore him! The Doctor was even more awesome than usual! I CANNOT BE EXCITED ABOUT THESE THINGS BECAUSE THE BLACK CHARACTERS GOT FRIDGED.
tempestsarekind: excuse me whattempestsarekind on May 9th, 2010 12:31 am (UTC)
I KNOW! And I was all ready to be excited, too, because Rory did research and called the Doctor on that moth-to-flame brilliance he has, and Helen McCrory was fab, and then the show had to go and STOMP ON MY HAPPY.
viomisehuntviomisehunt on May 9th, 2010 12:33 am (UTC)
I'll have to wait until next week to see what you mean. I've seen the previews. The previews of the episode looked more nostagic than historical -- a tribute to the Hammer films.

And frankly, after Season Three, I'm kind of dodgy on DW people glancing back at the history of African in Europe, so I'm guessing this is a matter of color blind casting, rather than accurate story telling, or as with Martha in Human Nature they decided at the last minute to throw in some "intolerance" or something inane for the characters to deal with. Venice, 16th century, most Africans living would have been either from one of the North African nations, and if not Muslim then, they were Catholic and either merchant, or trades class? Of course, there would have been slaves as well. I'll wait.

tempestsarekind: martha londontempestsarekind on May 9th, 2010 12:42 am (UTC)
Oh, it's definitely a "colorblind casting" thing, I think. Which is not in and of itself a bad thing, but it can result in problems when the casting and the story intersect in frustrating ways.
clean all the things!!!: compartmentthepresidentrix on May 9th, 2010 07:49 pm (UTC)
Yes, I was actually really pleased with the casting, but then these two characters show courage and singularity and even - especially in the father's case - a good sense of humor, and they just *die* in a way that's convenient for the plot and nobody ever speaks of them again. The Fish-Lady gets to make a whole speech about how the Doctor had damn well better have nightmares about the death of her whole Tragic Fish Race, but this was supposed to be an episode about helping the heroic boat-builder save his daughter, and its TOTALLY OKAY TO JUST KILL THEM AND FORGET ABOUT THEM. All the white people of Venice seem to have survived.

It's especially ironic, because Eleven is so angry at the Fish-Lady for not remembering Isabella's name.

ETA: And the killing and the forgetting is a big deal, because the story of the episode is arranged in such a way as to telegraph to the audience that it was always going to happen this way and it's okay, because these are the sort of characters (named characters marked for death, as you put it elsewhere) to whom these things happen. You can tell by the way the Doctor doesn't try to fight the father to prevent him blowing the building. (The way the scene is set up, Eleven doesn't have time, but where the human guest stars are taken seriously, the Doctor always has time to try and talk them down!) You can tell by the way they don't go right back to storming the castle, trying to get to Isabella (with a better plan, this time) before it's too late. The characters act as if they've accepted her death and moved on - before they even know it has occurred. Which is the sort of thing that typically happens to named characters marked for death, but when those named characters marked for death are Black, one set of story tropes becomes joined to another, far more unfortunate one in a way that the show creators should be better about noticing and preventing.

But, oh, THE RORY. THE RORY WAS EXCELLENT. I ADORED THE RORY.

(And I was so sure when I wrote about this episode a few minutes ago that I'd somehow be the only person in all the universe to like it. Dunno why. Because Fish-Vampires are corny? Because Rory is the sort of loveable bloke who pushes all *my* buttons - but not necessarily anybody else's? Because I love Amy and Eleven with all my heart, but I'm already balking at the prospect of all the shipping that seems likely to take place within the fandom. (Eleven just seems like Amy's *uncle,* for butt's sake! She may be infatuated right now, but it hardly seems like something that should be encouraged to go anywhere... And Rory is a splendid fellow, even if Amy isn't ready to marry him - or anyone - right now!)

Edited at 2010-05-09 08:02 pm (UTC)
tempestsarekind: keep calm and rock ontempestsarekind on May 9th, 2010 08:24 pm (UTC)
this was supposed to be an episode about helping the heroic boat-builder save his daughter, and its TOTALLY OKAY TO JUST KILL THEM AND FORGET ABOUT THEM.

YES, this! I think this is why it bothered me more than in "The Time of Angels": all the clerics died (even if the PoC were first to go), and that was their plot function--which sounds callous, but the setup of the episode is that the Angels are unbelievably dangerous and picking people off one by one. But "Vampires in Venice" sets itself up as an episode that's going to be about infiltrating the school and getting Isabella out alive--and then she and her father die in a couple of eyeblinks. And I suppose that sometimes that kind of reversal is good storytelling--the Doctor can't save everyone, even with the best intentions, and we need to know that, sometimes--but then it should matter more than it does in this episode.

And your ETA describes the disconnect I was feeling, perfectly. There's hardly any struggle to save them, because they "have" to die. I kept wanting them to try harder--or for Eleven to say something comforting to the man who's just lost his daughter, or *something*, but it never happened.

I *heart* Rory, though! And I think Amy/Eleven shipping is inevitable in fandom; it doesn't necessarily mean there's no room for Rory in that, and I hope fandom gets that. But yes; I friend-ship Eleven and Amy like mad, as I was saying to someone else a little while ago, but I don't get a romantic vibe from them (which is why I thought the end of "Flesh and Stone" was rather weird, from a character standpoint).

Edited at 2010-05-09 08:25 pm (UTC)
Neaneadods on May 9th, 2010 01:41 am (UTC)
I didn't like *everything* about the episode, but the racefail is on the why I didn't list. It seems that "colorblind casting" is leading to tone-deaf delivery.

I do take some happiness - if a white girl's allowed to - in that the Doctor outright said he was going to avenge Isabella. This was at least an acknowledgment of her and not "Random Q Extra of color just bit it, movin' on."
tempestsarekind: eleven and amytempestsarekind on May 9th, 2010 01:51 am (UTC)
Well, I think there were some holes in the episode; "everything" might have been a stretch. But the other things were more in the "lol Doctor Who" camp than the "OH DOCTOR WHO NO" camp.

I mean, I liked Isabella. I liked that she was brave and saved Amy. That should be acknowledged, and I like that she mattered to the Doctor. The problem isn't even the episode itself; it's that we're not anywhere near the levels of representation of PoC in media that a show can do that sort of thing and have it taken on an individual basis instead of a trend. The simple answer to "well, are you saying that no PoC can ever die on TV?" (not that you said this, but people have) is actually *really* simple: cast more PoC, in all kinds of parts. Not just the extras and the "marked for death" named characters.
Neaneadods on May 9th, 2010 02:27 am (UTC)
The simple answer to "well, are you saying that no PoC can ever die on TV?" (not that you said this, but people have) is actually *really* simple: cast more PoC, in all kinds of parts. Not just the extras and the "marked for death" named characters.

I've had this conversation - not with you, but boy, did it show up during the Mickey/Martha furor and an isms panel at ChicagoTARDIS. And it is the cure - JUST HIRE MORE PEOPLE OF COLOR, it's not hard - but does casting get a clue? No.
viomisehuntviomisehunt on May 9th, 2010 03:54 am (UTC)
Not just the extras and the "marked for death" named characters. I'm laughing, not at you, but I can hear Conspiracy Brother talking about movies, and of course that scene in Scream Two where Jada talks about the life span of a Black person in a horror film.

It would be nice to see more POC hired as part of the creative staff, to give the writers a different point of view, and a different way of looking at things. How many women are on Moffat's team? I know Russell had one. I think it would be good to have a female writer work in an environment where she can speak up and say, no woman worth her salt would say anything as inane as that! rather than being forced to tow another's vision that she knows doesn't ring true. At least, in the Sontaran Episodes, Helen Raynor could finally stop giving Martha the fan-girl lines. Helen's Martha in that episode dealing with a grown-up woman, who had outgrown her "need" for the Doctor's approval, and I think she wrote her that way.
I know a lot of fans got upset when Martha told Donna what happened to her family; but look what happened to Donna! Anyway, tonight for me,(I'm in the USA) when I get home and if I'm not too exhausted, are River and angels-- I love them both.
Neaneadods on May 9th, 2010 12:48 pm (UTC)
It would be nice to see more POC hired as part of the creative staff, to give the writers a different point of view, and a different way of looking at things.

Yes it would! And until then, it wouldn't hurt to have a lot more hired in front of the camera, so that the very few who show up don't end up coming across as so emblematic.

It would be nice if we could get past this as a literal black and white issue as well. Where are all the Hispanics? Asians (outside Tosh, who upheld the stereotype of tightly-wrapped geek)? Indians, after all those years of the British Raj?

River and the Angels are an excellent combination.
viomisehuntviomisehunt on May 9th, 2010 05:47 pm (UTC)
There definitely should be more representation of Indians, Chinese, Middle Eastern peoples and other ethnic groups that we would meet in today's Britain. Because the show is done in England, I would expect to see people from Spain, but those images in the Classic show were not exactly praise worthy- or politically correct, although the Americans at the same time did little better. We did see Asians on Torchwood -- all bad guys. Tosh was a nerd, Susie a serial killer, and the Doctor in Children of Earth had the ethics of a flea. Owen's ethics weren't much better. In fact physicians don't come off that well.

The best way to get better representation in front of the camera in more positive images is to get POC behind the camera, at the writer's desk, and in the director's chair, but then we should put a hold on our expectations, as the culture is different, the stories would be different.
End of Time is the principle reason I would like to see more POC BEHIND the camera. Given a choice between a lot of Brits of African, Indian, Chinese descent standing around in scene after scene reciting the most inane lines possible, or consistently portrayed as weak, victimized, neutered, evil, too noble to survive, mindless muscle, or idiots and an all white cast- I'd rather the all white cast with a decent script.

I watched shows and movies with all black, Indian, hispanic cast all the time, just like I've watched shows and movies with all white cast. Got no problem with that. If Moffat and his team writers are more comfortable writing stories for people who look like them, then color blind casting seems the best way to. I really rather they not try culturally traditional role, but stick with basic Brit, those things all Brits have in common. There is no reason that a young Brit should not be cast (think of Sophie) because they are attractive, sexy, powerful and given roles to reflect that, simply because of their complexion or ancestry. Hopefully they can attract more British actors with clout like Sophie Okenedo to do strong roles.
viomisehuntviomisehunt on May 9th, 2010 05:53 pm (UTC)
Then again
As I write this, I'm watching classic Monty Python: Michael Palin in "Blackface"...... Of course, that's satire, but
in 1969 Martha and the Doctor would have sat in front of their television to watch the Black and White Minstrel show....
Diana Ross famously refused to perform on the same stage.

Neaneadods on May 9th, 2010 07:26 pm (UTC)
Given a choice between a lot of Brits of African, Indian, Chinese descent standing around in scene after scene reciting the most inane lines possible, or consistently portrayed as weak, victimized, neutered, evil, too noble to survive, mindless muscle, or idiots and an all white cast- I'd rather the all white cast with a decent script.

Point!

If Moffat and his team writers are more comfortable writing stories for people who look like them, then color blind casting seems the best way to.

I don't know. Color-blind casting seems to be giving us the same problem as we had in RTD's era - all the storylines are valid ones, but when you look at the long-term casting choices, certain storylines inevitably happen to certain people. And that's the real problem. Not that characters of color die, but that they *always* die. (Or in RTD's era, were always unloved by a white person. That, at least, Moffat has dodged so far.)
tempestsarekind: martha at the globetempestsarekind on May 9th, 2010 08:07 pm (UTC)
Color-blind casting seems to be giving us the same problem as we had in RTD's era - all the storylines are valid ones, but when you look at the long-term casting choices, certain storylines inevitably happen to certain people.

Right. Because when you cast almost all your leads as white, and then try to check off your "diversity" points with extras and "expendables"--especially on shows with high body counts, like Doctor Who--you're always going to get the same result.

What I don't get is the fact that this practice is so recognized as to be a (bitter) joke, as viomisehunt mentioned upthread, with Scream 2 et al, and RTD proves he's aware of it in The Writer's Tale (or so I hear; didn't he write something about not being able to kill Mickey because of this?), but somehow that awareness never seems to affect the casting decisions.
viomisehuntviomisehunt on May 9th, 2010 09:06 pm (UTC)
If they are casting all white actors as the leads or the good guys and all others as bad guys- that is NOT color blind casting. Color Blind casting would be to have Rory played by Aml Ameen. What RTD did was, thinking (and I have no reason to believe he wasn't sincere) that he is showing a diverse case is tokenism and exploitation. RTD's tokenism and exploitation of POC is never more obvious as in Season Three with the Shakespeare Code (Where the Doctor is shown dismissive of Martha's concern for a very real threat to her well-being, and they trot out two Brits of African descent to prove their "lie" that slavery was not concern.) And in Human Nature where the script calls for Martha to "rise above IT" rather than have the Doctor confront the racism and prejudice in his "peers" and lady love. And with Noel's season, not only is Mickey skittish, simply every POC you meet has some glaring flaw.
tempestsarekind: martha + ten + TARDIStempestsarekind on May 9th, 2010 09:39 pm (UTC)
What I meant by "colorblind casting" is that the role isn't written *as* a role for a PoC, but one gets cast anyway. Technically, that is colorblind casting; the problem is that it doesn't usually get applied across the board, possibly because of subconscious bias. And that when it does get applied--as was the case with Freema--you wind up with all these bizarre and unintentional subtexts, and then they "fix" them with a brush-off line like "oh, Elizabethan England's not all that different from your time" or inserting a few bits of dialogue about racism, instead of actually reworking the storylines.
Neaneadods on May 10th, 2010 12:09 am (UTC)
RTD proves he's aware of it in The Writer's Tale (or so I hear; didn't he write something about not being able to kill Mickey because of this?)

I don't know; I haven't read Tale. Yet. I have a feeling I'm going to have to at some point.

somehow that awareness never seems to affect the casting decisions.

And that is really the heart of the problem right there!
tempestsarekind: ten is a bookwormtempestsarekind on May 10th, 2010 12:11 am (UTC)
I haven't read it either, actually--but I seem to remember someone posting about this at some point. Take it with a lot of salt, though. I'd like to read it, I think, if only because there's so little out there about TV writers.

Constant Readerskirmish_of_wit on May 9th, 2010 03:05 am (UTC)
I KNOOWWWW.

I have to say, though, that I am kind of starting to fall a little bit in love with Eleven. Clearly he is some sort of flying superhuman for getting off that spire without dying.
viomisehuntviomisehunt on May 9th, 2010 05:55 pm (UTC)
Oh, I'm completely taken with Eleven now. Matt was very much his own actor in this bit. Yes some of the line seem very Ten- lije until you look at the old show, and the Lines are very much what the Doctor would say. The Doctor worship of the Companions is a bit new, but then again they had faith in him.
tempestsarekind: eleven and amytempestsarekind on May 9th, 2010 08:11 pm (UTC)
A really geeky flying superhuman! I rather enjoyed the silly faces he was making--because really, if you're climbing up a spire in the driving rain, you are probably not going to look good while doing it.

That's one of the things that annoyed me about this episode--I really, really loved Eleven in it. I thought Matt Smith was excellent in the 'throne room' scene with Helen McCrory: I loved that sense of utter, lounging ease he got across, and the flirtation, and the genuine understanding. He felt old to me, in that scene. And I wish I could flail about that without being frustrated by the casting fail.
viomisehuntviomisehunt on May 25th, 2010 07:23 pm (UTC)
Saw Episode this weekend....
Have to say, I'm not convinced that this was the typical type of race-fail, black character death we DO see in the Angel's episode: Nameless, face almost always filmed in shadow, black character wanders down hall and gets his neck snapped. He doesn't get much of "Voice of the Dead" either. Vampires in Venice was color blind casting in a better moment.
Guido and Isabella were very typical Hammer Era Vampire film characters, and atypical POC, since Black, Brown, Olive complexioned people were NEVER in the Hammer movies as victims, unless the film featured some gosh awful, racist to the hilt, depiction of "voodoo" or Roma lore about werewolves. The Peter Cushing/Christopher Lee Vampires tales would open with a hapless, winsome, buxom blonde virgin enticed into the Count's castle by the Count or his brides. Humble, hardworking Father, brother, fiance struggle with currupt or cowardly local officials in an attempt to rescue the poor young woman from perversion they all know is at the Castle, but no one talks about. We realize, as the Father or fiance pours his heart out to Peter Cushing's Van Helsing, (In this case Guildo to the Doctor) the daughter is now a Bride of the Undead. We saw Chris or the his Bride bar their teeth in the opening sequence! The poor woman, no matter how fair of skin and golden of hair is lost, unless her name is Mina Harker or she's Van Helsing's daughter. Her fate: Hissing at her Father's cross, trying to seduce her fiance in the wrong way, buried, then staked by a loved one and off with her head. At least Isabella is spared her loving father placing a stake through her heart to "free" her.



Edited at 2010-05-25 07:24 pm (UTC)
tempestsarekind: your strange behavior puzzles marthatempestsarekind on May 25th, 2010 10:54 pm (UTC)
Re: Saw Episode this weekend....
At least Isabella is spared her loving father placing a stake through her heart to "free" her.

Now there's an implication I hadn't considered! Yikes! Small mercies.

More seriously, though, thank you for this: I wasn't situating the episode within the tradition of vampire stories that it was clearly drawing on, and from that perspective, I think I see a bit more clearly that it had to end up the way it did.

And I didn't think it was "typical" race-fail, even at the time; it was more overarching frustration that the people of color always get cast in the "expendable" roles than anything to do with the episode itself. In a perfect world, I would have been pleased with both Guido and Isabella; I think they're brave and resourceful supporting characters (even if--as I think you mentioned in your post?--it would be nice to know exactly how Guido wound up in Venice or why he chose to stay. Eleven hints at a possibility, with the bit about changing religions, but there's a lot more there).