Tools, Not Weapons

Here’s a quote from Chris Chibnall, showrunner on the 11th season of Doctor Who:

“Casting a new actor…brings in new opportunities to think about where the show is, think about where the world is, think about where you might want the stories to go,” said Chibnall. “I hope we’ve got a fresh set of stories that are engaged with, and resonate with, the world we live in now.”

Which, somehow, in the hands of the internet rage machine became a screed about how the new TV philosophy is that customers don’t deserve entertainment, they deserve to be shouted at and ‘enlightened’. There’s an actual quote from someone saying that, but they don’t need or deserve the attention and I like you people so I’m not linking to it. Besides, it all boils down to something we’ve heard somewhere before…

“people in this country have had enough of experts”

There it is. Well known rabid escaped children’s TV show puppet Michael Gove explaining that people don’t actually need to know THINGS and listen to OTHERS anymore. And yeah, I linked to that one. Sorry, there’ll be something nice to take the edge at the bottom of this piece.

Here’s why this view angers and terrifies me. Because it turns stories, the most powerful tools in human history, into weapons. Stories teach us how to live in the world and how to make the world better for those who follow us and for ourselves. They are a memetic exoskeleton that has wrapped around humanity as long as we’ve been humanity. Stories teach us how to be us. They teach us the concept of Us. For me that was Rupert the Bear, Paddington, Doctor Who, Star Trek. Groups of brilliant people helping each other and everyone else out. Some of them were funny. Some of them had glasses. All of them were cool, all of them were people I looked up to and all of them, without exception, handed me a map explaining how to get to who I needed to be and that map was stories.

The story the pundit is pushing teaches Us how to hate Them. They’re wrong, You aren’t. But You are alone and They are everywhere. It’s a bad story, badly executed but it’s one you see constantly and every time you see it, every time this is called out for the venal, inward-facing self-serving Luddite hypocritical dog shit it is, someone will always cry foul and say everyone has a right to an opinion.

They do. But to quote Tony Wilson, patron saint of Manchester, this opinion is just fucking wrong. Not to mention inconceivably dangerous. Because stories are far more often tools than they are weapons and I would always much rather build something new than try and knock down what someone else has built.

Doctor Who returns to the screen today. And you can bet your ass I’ll be talking about it again here soon.

And as promised, something to make you smile in the exact way Michael Gove never ever has.



This piece originally appeared as part of my weekly newsletter, The Full Lid. If you liked it, and want a weekly down of pop culture enthusiasm, occasional ketchup recipes and me enjoying things, then check out the archive and sign up here.


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