Saturday, 23 March 2013

Ignore The Voice, play on the swings

What's the most exciting thing that ever happens ever?

Hah! Wrong! It's not "When the new issue of Doctor Who Magazine comes out," at all. That's second.

The most exciting thing that ever happens ever is when Doctor Who is back on TV, as it is next Saturday. Unless you are reading this in the future, in which case, it was on in the past, and you missed it. Also, are there robot butlers yet?

Anyway. The BBC have released a lovely 'prequel' for the story, and you can find it here. It's not really a prequel, of course, because it was released before the story. It's more a kind of prologue. But it is, nevertheless, lovely.

Nice, eh? Well written, charmingly played and full of promise for the new series.

Now, here's something less nice. You may want to get off here, as the happy enthusiasm of the first section gives way to the dark, opinionated material about social panic and the darker impulses of the human soul.

Still here? OK.

Much as I loved this Doctor Who 'prequel', this little piece of whimsy, there was a tiny part of my brain that was unhappy. Only a tiny part, but significant. A little Voice inside was worrying about The Doctor sitting on swings, in a playground, talking to a child. "Isn't that a bit... creepy?" said the Voice.

It's the same Voice that tells me to watch out whenever I smile at a child. Quite often in a queue, like at the supermarket, the person in front will have a tiny child thing slumped over their shoulder, staring around in idiot wonder at the world of commerce. If I catch its eye, I often pull a face, or smile - you know, because that's fun. And then the Voice says "Whoah there Rob! That's the kind of thing that those there paedos do!"

Oh no! It's right. What if the Daily Mail are watching? What if they think my face pulling is the first stage of a long and complex plan to win the child's confidence? Then I can steal it and... I don't know... eat it? Force it to watch Babylon 5, from the beginning?

They'll hound me to the ends of the earth. I must not smile at the child! maybe I should punch it? Show them how much I hate kids?

Maybe you get that Voice too. It wouldn't surprise me. I've just been on Gallfrey Base - an excellent if rather excitable Doctor Who fan site - where an awful lot of people are uncomfortable about the implications of this scene. Is it appropriate for The Doctor - an adult - to be playing on swings and talking to a child? This weirdly dressed, lonely eccentric, acting like a kid even though he's not?

They hear the Voice too.

Here's the thing. The Voice is real. But the Voice is an idiot.

The Voice is not natural. It is not your conscience. (Oh, unless you are a paedophile, in which case yes, don't go to the park and talk to kids. Go read a book. Not Lolita.)

But no, it's not natural. It's not even your Voice. It's the internalised attitudes of tabloid hysteria; stuff you've absorbed from years of living with the daily bile of The Sun, The Mail, The Express and all the idiot, panicky nonsense they spout. We've lived with these cretins for so long that we've started to think they matter.

The attitude theVoice has towards paedos is exactly this: There are monsters, who we can spot, whom we must destroy. We can tell them by what they look like, and by how they act from day to day. We can make educated guesses about them based on sexuality, marital status and social class. We are the champions of justice, and anyone who challenges the broad brushstrokes of our position is either a) a nonce or b) someone who thinks nonces are ace and, therefore, basically a nonce as well.

I don't need to tell you, gentle reader, intelligent and compassionate as you are, that this is not the case. A more subtle, nuanced attitude to this problem is undoubtedly better, and not at all nonce like. Not only is it more human, and more intelligent, it probably has the virtue of being more likely to actually deal with the issues at hand.

I'm not saying I know much about this. I don't. And I don't have kids, so you'd be within your rights to tell me I don't really understand how this hits at an emotional level. But I do know that there's something wrong with a culture which considers an adult talking to a child to be instrinically 'creepy', or defines adulthood as a state utterly lacking in the desire to act like a child.

The Doctor, sitting on a swing, takling to a little girl, is not being childish.  Rather, he is being more adult than most of us.  He is comfortable enough to know that adults can play on the swings without sacrificing their maturity. They can talk to children without having to fear the idiot opinions of others. They do not listen to The Voice.

I love Doctor Who.

And adult women.

And swings. I'd forgotten how much I like swings.