Friday, November 4, 2011


Firstly, this post contains major spoilers for Torchwood, particularly Children of Earth (but not Miracle Day).  It also contains very minor spoilers about Joss Whedon's works and Doctor Who.  The rest of the post is after the breal.

Note:  If you are going to give spoilers in any comments you make, please do so with an easy to see spoiler tag at the beginning of your comment.  Also, if you are reading using "View Post" as opposed to "View Blog" their will not be a jump break, so beware (stupid Blogger).


Since I don't typically work until nights, I have been rewatching both Doctor Who and Torchwood.  And while Doctor Who is a wonderful show with rich, vibrant characters; I was just utterly struck by how compelling and real the characters in Torchwood were the second time through.  Liam once put it this way to me: "I started watching Torchwood because of being told about gay sex on a desk in the second season and then I started to love the series."

Torchwood is remarkable in it's view of sexuality.  I talked about gender and sexuality in Caprica, and Torchwood deals with it differently, but just as well (or better).  A large number of tv shows in recent years have take to including a token gay character/couple (both men and women), but they do so in the fashion of adding a token minority character to the show (black, disabled, gay, female (and yes often women are in fact a minority in tv and movies)).  It's almost like it's a fad.  I watch a lot of tv shows and a good deal of them have created a gay character in recent years.

Torchwood, however, starts out in the first episode with three of the characters discussing whether their boss, the main protagonist, Captain Jack Harkness (played by John Barrowman who is both a great actor and super attractive </fangirl>), is gay.  And as the story progresses we discover that Jack does in fact like men, but he likes women, and nonbinary gendered aliens, and gendered aliens.  Jack is the first character that I have ever seen in television or movies that is pansexual (though he is never explicity called that).  The second character I've seen in media that is pansexual?  Also on Torchwood: Captain John Hart (played by James Marsters who was Spike in Buffy).  Jokes are made about John even being attracted to a poodle.

Torchwood is the first show that doesn't inherently play into the gender binary and I love it for it.  That isn't of course to say that heterosexual people don't exist.  There are male-female, male-male, and female-female pairings in it over the season, and all of those pairings are seen in the bed together at least once.  The amount of naked (with nothing explicit shown) bodies in Torchwood is also fairly impressive.  And, in addition to the pairings mentioned above, there is also mention of male-alien (male, female, and non-binary) pairings.

Torchwood presents the world in an equal fashion, but doesn't make fanfare about doing so.  Women, black people, Asian people, they are all put in positions of power and it's just considered completely normal.  This is also something I must praise Doctor Who for as well, but how Doctor Who deals with companions bothers me to a fairly great extent: i.e. The major companions are exclusively female, young, and attractive.  Yes we have had Rory in recent years, but Amy was the Doctor's companion first and thus "more important".

Now, what struck me  about Torchwood enough that I posted about it was not its view of sexuality (though that is fantastic), but instead Jack Harckness and Ianto Jones.  The characters became so real and their was something about their relationship that was so compelling.  Ianto started as a (to use a popular fandom term) "tea boy".  He was nothing more than an office assistant who helped the members who actually did things: Jack, Gwen, Owen, and Tosh.  And then only a few episodes in, Ianto's girlfriend is killed by the Torchwood team and his life is threatened by Jack (who he's already been shown to have sexual tension with).

Ianto and Jack's relationship grows and, I will admit that the second time through watching, the times when they were on camera together was what I looked forward to.  They talk about using a stopwatch for sex and the aforementioned sex on a desk takes place, and those moments are fun, but they weren't all I cared about.  Tosh and Owen died at the end of the second season, and while their deaths were tragic, I was glad that Ianto had survived.  There wasn't ever any doubt of whether Jack would live or not, considering he had been made utterly and completely immortal (blown up, cover in concrete, buried for a thousand years, etc).

But then.  Then you get to Children of Earth.  I started what is essentially the five hour movie last night at 12:30, which I knew was a bad idea since I wouldn't stop.  And it truly was one of the best parts of tv that I have ever seen.  Every single character is so human, so fallible, and yet redeemable all the same.  Characters that I can't even remember the names of stick in my mind as they question their entire world and how they could possibly justify giving millions of children to the 456.

And Jack and Ianto.  Oh Jack and Ianto.  Finally, formally together.  You seem them explore what it means to be a couple and the utter baggage associated with that word.  You see Jack hold back from the relationship because he knows eventually Ianto will die and he never will.  You see Ianto struggle with the things that Jack isn't telling him and it's just heartrending, and such a good, good representation of a relationship that doesn't fall into the typical traps.  They will never get married, Jack has a daughter in grandson who you meet (and that's just one of his prior relationships), there's no gushing, or overly romantic declarations.  It's just these two men, who love each other completely.

And then, Ianto dies.  Now, I'm used to characters dying, even main characters.  I'm used to relationships not working out.  Joss Whedon's characters (almost?) never end a relationship happily.  And I generally sit stoically through, wishing that it wasn't happening but knowing that's the way the writers wrote it.  But Ianto. It wasn't senseless, you see Jack's reaction to the aftermath even in Miracle Day and it's an important reaction.  But why did they kill him?  It just is heart breaking.  I don't cry at movies and tv shows, but I sobbed both times I watched Ianto die in Jack's arms.  I watched Ianto apologize for dying.  I watched Ianto sob in Jack's arms because Jack will forget him in a thousand year's time and Jack promise that he never will.  I watch Ianto tell Jack he loves him for the first time and Jack be completely able to say it back because love was something he never expected to find.  And I know that he loves Ianto, even though he can't say it.  It's all just so human and so tragic and you don't have to say the words to know that they were in love.

This is the importance of art to me.  To show people the way of the world and to utterly immerse them in it.  This is why I work in the arts.  For moments like these.

No comments:

Post a Comment