A few thoughts on Steven Moffat and criticism

Doctor Who showrunner Steven Moffat deleted his twitter over the weekend. According to Moffat's wife, Moffat left twitter because it took up too much time, and he wanted to have more free time to spend with his family. Seems a pretty reasonable explanation, considering how social media can become a fatal time suck even for those of us who aren't famous and followed by thousands of fans. But a lot of people are crying foul, saying that Moffat left twitter due to abuse he has received from people who are unhappy with his writing on the show.

This blog has criticized Moffat's work on Doctor Who repeatedly, and has been called out occasionally in comments for its "bitter feminist hate." You won't find those comments, however, because I have a strict no-trolls, no-attacks policy (hence why comments from new commentators are moderated first). Comments that criticize or disagree with my posts go through (my Sansa Stark post in particular inspired a lot of disagreement), but there's a line, and anything that crosses it does not see the light of day.

And I hope that I've treated any subject I've written about with the same respect. I criticize a lot of things, but I hope that I criticize the work, not the person who created it. Doctor Who, in its current form, is very problematic, and has had many sexist moments. But we live in a society full of internalized misogyny and racism and other problematic things, and I believe that even the most careful of us cannot always avoid having gut reactions, at the very least, that are problematic, because we've been taught these things by society almost from birth. As YA author Justine Larbalestier recently discussed in her blog, writers can make a conscious, concerted effort to avoid these issues and still miss things that later get labeled as racist or sexist or transphobic. Our society, and our social consciousness, is deeply problematic, and this seeps into our work, regardless of who we are.

What does this mean in the Moffat case? Firstly, it means that no-one should be personally attacking Steven Moffat. Bombarding someone with hate because you don't like their writing is not OK. Death threats are never acceptable. I must admit that, after reading and watching interviews and comments made by Moffat, I find him a very distasteful character. And that's OK. We don't have to like everybody. But we don't have a right to attack people that we don't like, or to shove our distaste in their face.

However, our problematic society also means that criticism is important. Writers need to be aware of these issues and make an effort to avoid them -- an effort that, I believe, Steven Moffat has not made. Any criticism of Moffat's work, or of anyone's work, is not "hate" and should not be suppressed or ignored. I only write criticism of shows or series that I love, or at least used to love. Why would I waste my time watching a show week after week when I find it completely without merit? But even great shows can have issues, and that is what the criticism in this blog is about. Celebrating the shows and books that manage to get it right, while looking at the problems in otherwise enjoyable or worthwhile stories. I believe both perspectives are important. And all criticism should not be silenced just because the writer might have their feelings hurt.

So if Moffat left twitter to spend more time with his family, then good on him. If he left because he'd been receiving cruel, invective messages from users, then that's disgusting, and he has every right to say enough is enough. But if he left because his work is facing criticism, then that's worrying on his part. A person can't be in charge of on of Britain's most popular shows, watched by everyone from five year olds to grandmas, and expect that he won't be criticised. Especially for the many problematic elements on his work.