Thursday, October 30, 2014

Wizards vs Aliens - the (coming out) story so far

First let's take a closer look at what happened when Benny came out in series 2 episode: All Out War!

When Tom mentions that he'll need phone Katie to cancel his date with her on Saturday, this leads to more talk of dating. Tom mentions that Benny's never had a date and suggests he should ask out Tamsin Kuthu from Year 10. Benny responds by alluding to Newton's 3rd law of motion -

Benny: I'm the equal and opposite of you. In every way. Do you get it?

Benny: Equal and opposite, Tom. I'll go on a date, one day. Just not with her. Not with a girl. [In Poland the words "Not with a girl" were censored out in the dubbing]

Tom twigs what Benny has been trying to say, and takes the news very well. He seems pleased for Benny, but asks why he'd never mentioned it before.

Benny: It's the sort of thing you say at the end of the world.

Tom: No, it's not Benny .... You can say that sort of thing any day of the week!

Tom says he's now got a good reason to save the world - it's so that Benny can go on his first date.

The interesting thing here is that although Tom insists it's OK to talk about "that sort of thing any day of the week," neither Tom nor Benny actually use the word "gay" in their conversation. It's as if BBC Children's, in reality, still have issues about that particular word. Children, all too frequently, hear "gay" used in a pejorative context. But the opportunity to use "gay" in a positive way was, unfortunately, missed.

Towards the end of that episode Tom drinks magic from the "Salute" and, in doing so, attains great powers to change almost anything. He offers to change Benny, but the offer is turned down -

Benny: I'm happy as I am. I'm going to stay exactly like this.

It would be nice to think Wizards vs Aliens was always intended as part of a long-term diversity strategy on BBC children's TV. So far, though, it is the only CBBC drama in recent times to portray a gay teenager. And it's not yet clear whether Benny, despite the worthy equality message, will actually be treated as Tom's equal in series 3. Will CBBC viewers ever see Benny kissing a boyfriend in a scene which challenges this sort of heteronormativity?

At the start series 3 Tom & Benny return to school after the summer break which Benny has spent visiting the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The first series 3 episode, The Secret of Room 12, gives little cause for optimism on the inclusion front. But, of course, we could be in for a surprise.

Tom's dad: Maybe Benny can put you back on the straight and narrow, now he's back from America.

Quinn (right) greets Benny on his return from MIT in the United States

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