August 15th, 2013

doctor who

In the Loop

I watched a really funny, really depressing movie last night: In the Loop, a political satire set in the days immediately preceding the 2003 invasion of Iraq. It's funny because, well, it features funny people like David Rasche and Steve Coogan saying and doing funny things. It's depressing because it dramatizes -- comedizes? -- a rather depressing time in this nation's recent history, namely the way the George W. Bush administration lied and bullied its way into a war in the Middle East. It's bad enough knowing people working for and on behalf of the government fabricated intelligence reports and willfully ignored information that contradicted their preconceived notions; seeing it, even a fictionalized version of it, is worse.

It will surprise few people to learn that I watched the movie because it stars the 12th Doctor, Peter Capaldi. Some of the people who've complained about Capaldi's casting have cited the character he played in this and in The Thick of It, the TV series from which the movie was spun off, as evidence that Capaldi was an unsuitable choice to play the Doctor. That character, Malcolm Tucker, has something of a foul mouth, and some people have a problem imagining the person who said "Kiss my sweaty balls you fat fuck!" in In the Loop saying "Reverse the polarity of the neutron flow!" on Doctor Who.

I would call this a failure of imagination. It's also, I would think, a failure to take one's own experience into account. Peter Capaldi is not a stranger to Doctor Who; he played Caecilius in the 2008 episode "The Fires of Pompeii," which I suspect has been seen by almost everyone who cares enough about Doctor Who to talk about it online. I've seen it, more than once actually, and I don't recall Caecilius saying something like, "Allow me to pop a jaunty little bonnet on your purview and ram it up the shitter with a lubricated horse cock!" That suggests to me that maybe, just maybe, Peter Capaldi does not himself randomly interject creative profanities into whatever he says and that he can probably be trusted to speak the lines scripted for him.

Speaking of George W. Bush, I ran across an article on Yahoo! News yesterday headlined, "Harry Potter readers hated George W. Bush, new research suggests." Anthony Gierzynski, a political science professor at University of Vermont, surveyed 1,100 students nationwide and found that 83% of respondents who'd read the entire Harry Potter series viewed the Bush administration unfavorably, and also tended to be "more open to diversity; politically tolerant; less authoritarian; less likely to support the use of deadly force or torture; [and] more politically active." While the researcher hastens to qualify his findings by saying it's "impossible to prove that the Harry Potter phenomenon caused fans to view politics in ways that reflect the lessons of the books," I think it's interesting nonetheless. Gierzynski wrote up his findings in a new book called Harry Potter and the Millennials: Research Methods and the Politics of the Muggle Generation, and lucky for me the UW-Madison library owns a copy. Maybe I'll wander over to Memorial Library one of these days and take a look.