Welcome to the Playpen, our space for ferrety banter and whimsical snippets of things that aren't quite long enough for articles (although they might be) but that caught your eye anyway.

at 18:16 on 17-12-2013, Sonia Mitchell
Equally, though, aren't action figures just as overpriced as dolls are?

Absolutely. I was just thinking about the bit in the article that said parent were watching Tower Prep too. When you're eight years old it's imperative that mum thinks your programmes - and therefore your toys - are a waste of time and money ;-)
at 18:09 on 17-12-2013, Dan H
Equally, though, aren't action figures just as overpriced as dolls are?

I think that was sort of Sonia's point. Dolls/Action Figures are both expensive enough that they tend to be bought *for* children, meaning that even if girls *wanted* superhero toys, they'd be unlikely to get them, because people (particularly people who don't know the child very well) go into gender-essentialism overdrive when buying toys for children.

I'd add that nowhere in that article did I see any evidence that the executives were saying that girls were *detrimental*, just that they wanted to appeal to boys and currently weren't. Obviously we're only seeing one side of the conversation here, but it sounds like the conversation went something like:

"We're axing your show."
"But viewing figures are up!"
"But it's all girls, and girls don't buy our stuff."

Although as Sonia points out, there's an extent to which being popular with girls *really will* put boys off of watching something.
at 17:26 on 17-12-2013, Arthur B
If your mum doesn't tell you off for wasting your money on 'that crap', whatever 'that crap' may be, then you've probably bought something too sensible.

Equally, though, aren't action figures just as overpriced as dolls are? Or is there some sort of mad gender-based markup if your action figure has less articulation points, more pink, and wears a dress? Either way I'd have thought action figures fell into the "toys bought for children" camp.
at 16:33 on 17-12-2013, Sonia Mitchell
It's because we're got girl-germs :-p

Flippancy aside, there's no distinction made between toys bought *by* children and toys bought *for* children. Given the price-point of most dolls, I imagine most of this range is the latter - and I'm sure that many relatives *are* more reluctant to buy girls superhero toys. If a portion of your audience is going to receive a junior makeup set (and fuck, I received a lot of those) regardless of whether they pester for your toys, then not counting them as successes in your viewing stats makes sense.

But like Arthur, I'm struggling with the leap to the assumption that female viewers are not neutral but detrimental.

I guess there's always the risk that so many girls start to like a programme that boys start to see it as something girly, putting us back to the girl-germs situation. And in the playground there is a certain uncoolness that comes with things your mother likes. If your mum doesn't tell you off for wasting your money on 'that crap', whatever 'that crap' may be, then you've probably bought something too sensible.
at 15:05 on 17-12-2013, Arthur B
If you are competing in a small marketplace, surrendering your position to compete for a share of a larger, more competitive marketplace is likely to be suicidal.

That's what I find weird about the whole thing - it might be that Dini is misreporting what happened, but the whole "We've got too many girls, we need more boys" thing seems to set up a false dilemma. Surely, if you actually believe that the problem is you aren't selling enough action figures marketed at boys and therefore you need to get more boys watching the show, the number of girls watching the show is irrelevant to the problem you believe you have? It's not like every show is given a rationed number of views, and every girl watching the show is stealing a view which would have otherwise gone to a boy. The idea that you can't appeal more to boys without deliberately driving away girls is offensive in itself, but the idea that the mere presence of women and families is somehow an obstacle to reaching the required number of boys through some sort of boy-repelling sympathetic magic is downright weird.
at 14:00 on 17-12-2013, Dan H
Outrageous, but when you think about it an inevitable consequence of two things that have been true for decades: the fact that cartoons exist primarily to sell toys, and the fact that advertising in general (and toy advertising in particular) is extremely gendered.

It's a depressing article in general, but Dini and Smith don't exactly come across as bastions of enlightenment either. Their response to the execs (the people whose *job* it is to know how to monetize TV shows) is "well sell them tee-shirts or umbrellas or something instead", which strikes me as not only being mildly sexist (it seems to carry the assumption that girls are basically interested in fashion accessories) but also as being grounded in the rather arrogant assumption that they know how to do the marketing executives' jobs better than they do.

I'd argue, for example, that the figures quoted in the article - that dolls aimed at girls make approximately twice as much money as action figures aimed at boys - actually support the executives' position, not Dini's. If you are competing in a small marketplace, surrendering your position to compete for a share of a larger, more competitive marketplace is likely to be suicidal.
at 07:36 on 17-12-2013, Arthur B
Whilst this news story rather hinges on the executives in question telling Paul Dini the truth about why they killed Young Justice, and Paul Dini accurately remembering what he was told (in other words, it's hearsay), this is still outrageous.
at 13:20 on 16-12-2013, Andy G
Great! That M&M place is spectacularly weird.
at 09:13 on 15-12-2013, Adrienne
Possibly of interest: a marvelously-written essay I just found about Marxism and M&Ms.
at 09:12 on 15-12-2013, Adrienne
Thanks, Bryn!
at 18:02 on 14-12-2013, Robinson L
@Andy: I see your point about the ending to
"The Doctor Dances"
being narratively earned, as opposed to that of the special, in the sense that the plot bears out the conclusion and it doesn't come as a Deus Ex Machina. On the other hand, I would say that the ending was emotionally earned, in that
the special (as a culmination of the new series up to this point), has the viewer wanting the happy outcome, yet doubting where it will occur. I was putting this in contrast to those endings which revolve around the question of whether the Doctor will survive/manage to save the Earth/the universe, which generally lack the same punch because no matter how hard Moffat tries, there's never a smidgeon of doubt that the answer will be a resounding "Yes." Perhaps "The Doctor Dances" was a bad example to illustrate the point, though.

I don't think that the time war backstory can be blamed for Moffat's bad habits

I didn't say it was to blame for Moffat's bad habits: I said I thought it worked as an enabling factor for some of them (which he shares with Davies). The Doctor's
status as the only living Time Lord, and his role in causing the deaths of all the others, has been a major source of angst and melodrama on the show. Not the only one, but a big one. Now that's gone, maybe the writers will have an easier time either shifting to a lighter tone or focusing on drama rather than Serious Drama - probably not, but it could happen. Also, they're going to have a harder time setting up the Doctor as a demi-god figure to whom no one and nothing in the universe can really compare when there's now a couple billion more people with exactly the same powers and depth of knowledge as him running around somewhere out there.

That said, I'll agree with you the ending could have been handled better - I'm just saying that to my mind, the (hopeful) benefits outweigh the less-than-stellar execution.
at 14:48 on 14-12-2013, Bryn
Adrienne: here's one I came across today.
at 05:47 on 14-12-2013, Adrienne
Arthur B: got any rundowns that aren't on video? Because I'm interested -- I seem to have missed this kerfuffle so far -- but I can't deal with video.
at 21:42 on 13-12-2013, Arthur B
Another Kickstarter project, another heap of men crying about women getting into the videogame clubhouse. Video Game Therapist gives the best rundown of the "don't let girls touch my Mega Man ripoffs" controversy.
at 17:05 on 13-12-2013, Andy G
Ha, true. But what annoyed me especially was the false consolation it offered to something actually tragic: not sure whether this was because of the *form* of the consolation (fictionally representing the tragic thing as not actually having happened - bit like Atonement) or its *content* (Van Gogh's profound despair would be alleviated if only he had realised he would be a bona fide Celebrity and Tourist Attraction in the future). [not spoiler-tagging this since it was about three years ago btw!]
at 13:21 on 13-12-2013, Arthur B
Re: the Curtis/van Gogh episode: yeah, that did leave me thinking
"Wait a minute, isn't it profoundly counterproductive to take someone you know to be severely depressed and show them proof that they will be widely loved and respected after they are dead?"
at 12:54 on 13-12-2013, Andy G
Well, I did also really enjoying it, so perhaps our reactions aren't that different. I also agree that it is good that
like the Daleks, the Time Lords have now been firmly written back into canon - extraordinary narrative measures (i.e. timey-wimey bullshit) are no longer required to bring them back. But I don't think that the time war backstory can be blamed for Moffat's bad habits: RTD wrapped it up in a way that provided sufficient resolution yet also potentially allowed the Time Lords to be brought back in a way that didn't entirely reverse the gravity of what the Doctor had done before.

I also disagree with the analogy to "The Doctor Dances" (one of the best episodes of New Who): there, the happy ending was narratively earned and not just a feel-good cheap shot. It reminded me more of the ending to the Richard Curtis episode, when Van Gogh was taken to the future to show him how popular his art became, which was a facile gesture and one of the worst moments of New Who.
at 20:02 on 12-12-2013, Robinson L
Just got around to seeing the Doctor Who 50th anniversary special with my younger sister Aqua yesterday, and we both loved it so much there were points we were literally clutching each other with joy.

I don't know what Moffat was thinking when he rolled back so much of what Davies had established ... and honestly, I don't much care, as I am just so completely on board with this change of direction.

First, because it gave the Doctor an accomplishment that feels real and palpable. In most of this big, blow-out ending specials, he's saving either the Earth, the universe, or (more lately) himself - and each case, big deal, he does all three every other week; and if he even once failed at any of them, there'd be no more show, so when he succeeds, it doesn't feel like that big of deal. On the other hand,
over the past eight years, he's consistently failed to save or reunite with even one Time Lord; so when in this story, he managed to save all of them
, well, that was something substantial (rather like the "Everybody Lives" ending to "The Empty Child"/"The Doctor Dances," actually).

Additionally, I see the whole
Last of the Time Lords
schtick as having enabled many of Davies' and Moffats' shared bad habits, namely, 1) angst, and relatedly 2) melodrama, and furthermore 3) deification of the Doctor. Not that I think any of these three will necessarily go away or even become more manageable now
the Time Lords are back and the Doctor is off the hook for wiping them out and no longer unique in the universe
, but I think it's a step in the right direction.

Plus, I feel like there are so many interesting stories the new show could tell involving
the Time Lords and Gallifrey, whereas so far, it's only been able to tell stories about them in the context of their death in the Time War

So, regardless of what Moffat thought he was doing, I think there are several good reasons to handle things the way that he did which don't necessarily involve spiting Davies.

All that aside, I was really impressed by the tone Moffat struck: he appears to have made the choice that this was going to be a fun adventure with multiple Doctors and even though the premise of the episode is a pretty grim one (and that aspect is handled respectfully, as best I can see), he only injected some barely detectable traces of his patented melodrama. It's an impressive accomplishment, and all the more so, I would say, considering it's coming from Moffat of all people.
at 21:19 on 11-12-2013, Melanie
Oh. I kind of wondered, because they're made of muscle, and... *vague gesture*
at 17:37 on 11-12-2013, Michal
It tasted very organ-y. Certainly not a great delicacy, but it was more than edible.
at 07:30 on 11-12-2013, Melanie
Speaking as someone who ate a moose heart on his birthday

...Not to derail or anything, but how was it?
at 06:10 on 11-12-2013, Michal
As far as I can tell, you don't heat the Christmas Tinner at all, and just slice off compacted hockey pucks of preservative-pregnant nutritional product from the cylinder over the course of a day.

Speaking as someone who ate a moose heart on his birthday, the Christmas Tinner looks absolutely revolting.
at 00:30 on 11-12-2013, Alasdair Czyrnyj
So, because I don't understand the value of money, I bought Bioshock Infinite a few weeks ago, and I've been having a playthrough of the whole series this week.

Don't know about anyone else, but I find it interesting how Bioshock 2 and Infinite seem to mirror one another. The major story arc of both games is about a father (the player) trying to recover his daughter from a malevolent "surrogate" parent. Both games also seem very uncomfortable in their relationship to the original Bioshock, and both spend a lot of their time wrestling with the fact that they're sequels to a self-contained game. B2 literally makes this anxiety its subtext: every character in the game is either a self-interested looter trying to salvage something from the ruins of Rapture or a squatter trying to start up their own utopian project with Rapture's technology, neither of whom give a damn about Ryan's objectivism. By contrast, BI seems to be trying to turn the original game into a myth, a timeless story that is repeated in countless times and places. (And to be less charitable, there are parts in both games when you can see one story draft clunk up against another.)

After all that's done, it'll be time to play You Are Empty, the Bioshock series' weird older Russian half-brother, which has its own spin on things.