The question you never thought we'd ask: did the famously queer-friendly show Torchwood turn homophobic in its most recent storyline? Fans are debating the issue furiously, in blog posts and a new podcast. Join the controversy below! With massive spoilers.
At first blush, you'd think it's a bit far-fetched: After all, Torchwood was created by Queer As Folk creator Russell T. Davies — and during its first season, the show featured every one of its regular characters having at least one same-sex encounter, if I remember correctly. But now, with the death of Captain Jack Harkness' boyfriend Ianto Jones during "Children Of Earth," accompanied by comments about queers by the mentally scarred character Clem, queer fans have lashed out.
Apparently it started on the blog of James Moran, the Torchwood writer who helped send Ianto to his eternal rest (unless one of Torchwood's five million resurrection loopholes kicks in, of course.) Moran was blogging about the show, and was unprepared for the hundreds of angry comments accusing him of homophobia. Here's one of the more polite comments:
That was incredibly, horribly dark and unpleasant (in a really, really bad way) - you very much lost me in tone and content. Thematically, the series harkened back to the 50's style of homophobia - where all the queer folks died (except for the one that can't die) and the straight people walk away completely unscathed.
But some of the comments were quite a bit nastier, apparently — although it looks like many of those have been deleted now. As Moran wrote last weekend:
I've received over a thousand messages from viewers talking about the show. The vast majority have been extremely positive. Even though many of them are upset, angry and shocked, they have managed to express that without making it personal. So to you, I'm extremely grateful. I'm glad you liked the show, and love that it made you respond so strongly. I can't reply to everyone, it'd take weeks, so please accept my thanks.
But the rest of the messages? Unacceptable. Some have been spewing insults and passive aggressive nonsense. Accusing me of deliberately trying to mislead, lie, and hurt people. Telling me I hate the fans, that I'm laughing at them, that I used them, that I'm slapping people in the face, that I've "killed" the show, that I'm a homophobe, that I want to turn the fanbase away and court new, "cooler" viewers, even that I'm hurting depressed people with dark storylines. Asking me to pass on vitriolic, hateful messages to people I love and respect.
As people have had a bit more time to consider the new series, more thoughful discussions have arisen. Nat, over on Dreamwidth, considers all the cliches of queer representation on television, like hurt/comfort and the "tragic gay man" who dies or turns evil (think Felix Gaeta), and then concludes:
Overall, I don't think Torchwood Children of Earth was homophobic, as it's written by an openly gay man and its lead actor is an openly gay man. I don't buy arguments that the story is evidence of RTD's self hatred. The previous series were refreshing in their general attitude that being queer is a normal every day part of human existence.
Unfortunately, and especially when viewed on its own, Children of Earth looks a lot like the same hereonormative, homophobic, biphobic and gratuitous tropes that appear in so many bad representations of queer people in popular culture.
Nat took part in a discussion in the Radio Free Skaro podcast on the issue along with two other queer fans, which is well worth listening to as well.