Queer Representation and Visibility in Doctor Who - Canton Everett Delaware III

Canton Everett Delaware III was a character introduced in the series six opener The Impossible Astronaut/Day of the Moon. We see him briefly, as an old man, in the present day. However for the majority of the episodes we see him as a young man in 1960’s America.

We learn early on that he was an FBI agent but was fired because he wanted to get married. It is not until the end of Day of the Moon that we are explicitly told that he wished to marry another man. He is recruited by President Nixon to investigate a series of mysterious phone calls and soon joins forces with The Doctor and Team TARDIS.

Canton is a great character in the sense that he doesn’t conform to the common stereotype of the effeminate gay man. Whilst it is always great to see queer men who don’t conform to this cliché, I am starting to sense a pattern in the portrayal of queer men in Doctor Who as badass, stoic types. Whilst I wouldn’t say this pattern quite falls into the realms of effemiphobia, I think it is time we see a queer man who embraces some more traditionally feminine pursuits.

There is, however, another very notable downside to this character. The only time Canton’s sexuality is explicitly acknowledged in the show is during his big "coming out" scene to Nixon.

It could be rationalised that, because of the widely held views regarding GSM folk during that time period, Canton would be somewhat reluctant to talk openly about his sexuality. However, given what we learn about his character, this doesn’t make any sense. To begin with Canton doesn’t bat an eyelid at the prospect of telling the president, the most powerful man in the world, about his relationship with another man. Rather, he relishes the opportunity to make Nixon squirm. So, why would he be reluctant to talk about it to, for example, Amy? Especially knowing that she is from the future.

This all leads me to conclude that the reason for only revealing Canton’s sexuality at the end of the program was to make a big deal out of it. On the face of it, there doesn’t seem to be anything particularly harmful about this. Sure, it’s hardly subtle but there’s nothing really wrong with it, right?

Well, if we compare this to the reveals of queer characters from RTD’s era there is a very clear difference. Whilst RTD’s queer characters really normalised non-normative sexualities, Moffat sensationalises Canton’s identity. This is harmful because, although it’s not outwardly hostile, it serves to other queer folk. What this means is the marginalised group, in this case GSM, is seen as separate. This, in turn, reinforces the attitude that members of the GSM community are not normal and it is this kind of attitude which is frequently used to justify oppressive behavior.

Overall Canton is a very enjoyable character to watch. I, along with many others, would love to see him make another appearance in the show (along with his other half). He is however fairly one-dimensional, we don’t get much insight into his private life, his family, his relationship. Whilst this is not problematic in and of itself, combined with the complete sensationalisation we see at the end of the second episode, it is yet another instance of Moffat’s, incredibly insensitive, exploitation of queer identities.

This is a pattern we continue to see throughout the rest of series six, as I will explore in my next few posts.

Queer Representation and Visibility in Doctor Who - Canton Everett Delaware III

Canton Everett Delaware III was a character introduced in the series six opener The Impossible Astronaut/Day of the Moon. We see him briefly, as an old man, in the present day. However for the majority of the episodes we see him as a young man in 1960’s America.

We learn early on that he was an FBI agent but was fired because he wanted to get married. It is not until the end of Day of the Moon that we are explicitly told that he wished to marry another man. He is recruited by President Nixon to investigate a series of mysterious phone calls and soon joins forces with The Doctor and Team TARDIS.

Canton is a great character in the sense that he doesn’t conform to the common stereotype of the effeminate gay man. Whilst it is always great to see queer men who don’t conform to this cliché, I am starting to sense a pattern in the portrayal of queer men in Doctor Who as badass, stoic types. Whilst I wouldn’t say this pattern quite falls into the realms of effemiphobia, I think it is time we see a queer man who embraces some more traditionally feminine pursuits.

There is, however, another very notable downside to this character. The only time Canton’s sexuality is explicitly acknowledged in the show is during his big "coming out" scene to Nixon.

It could be rationalised that, because of the widely held views regarding GSM folk during that time period, Canton would be somewhat reluctant to talk openly about his sexuality. However, given what we learn about his character, this doesn’t make any sense. To begin with Canton doesn’t bat an eyelid at the prospect of telling the president, the most powerful man in the world, about his relationship with another man. Rather, he relishes the opportunity to make Nixon squirm. So, why would he be reluctant to talk about it to, for example, Amy? Especially knowing that she is from the future.

This all leads me to conclude that the reason for only revealing Canton’s sexuality at the end of the program was to make a big deal out of it. On the face of it, there doesn’t seem to be anything particularly harmful about this. Sure, it’s hardly subtle but there’s nothing really wrong with it, right?

Well, if we compare this to the reveals of queer characters from RTD’s era there is a very clear difference. Whilst RTD’s queer characters really normalised non-normative sexualities, Moffat sensationalises Canton’s identity. This is harmful because, although it’s not outwardly hostile, it serves to other queer folk. What this means is the marginalised group, in this case GSM, is seen as separate. This, in turn, reinforces the attitude that members of the GSM community are not normal and it is this kind of attitude which is frequently used to justify oppressive behavior.

Overall Canton is a very enjoyable character to watch. I, along with many others, would love to see him make another appearance in the show (along with his other half). He is however fairly one-dimensional, we don’t get much insight into his private life, his family, his relationship. Whilst this is not problematic in and of itself, combined with the complete sensationalisation we see at the end of the second episode, it is yet another instance of Moffat’s, incredibly insensitive, exploitation of queer identities.

This is a pattern we continue to see throughout the rest of series six, as I will explore in my next few posts.

Posted on 30 May 2012
Tags: #Queer Representation and Visibility in Doctor Who  #Canton Everett Delaware III  #the impossible astronaut  #day of the moon  
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    According to Canton, his partner is black. But of course that means he never actually makes an onscreen appearance, due...
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    Speaking of representation, can these POC and/or GSM characters be in more than just an episode or two? I mean, think...
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