Why the Culture War Must END — Part 1: The Death of Nuance

Robert B. Marks
4 min readDec 12, 2023

NOTE: This was originally intended to be a single article. However, as the word count grew ever higher, it became clear that it would need to be divided up into bite-sized chunks. So, there are five parts, and you can read the others here:

Part 2: Psychological Harm

Part 3: The Normalization of Bullying and Abuse

Part 4: Exposing Western Culture to its Enemies

Part 5: Ending the Culture War

The Culture War has now reached a fever pitch, making a more nuanced discussion of anything pop culture related seem more impossible by the day. But for all of our sakes, it has to come to an end before the price we collectively pay becomes greater than we can bear.

And make no mistake, we are paying a collective price, inflicted on everybody as the far right and the far left turn each new television show, movie, and story into a battlefield. The harm that is being caused is neither theoretical nor neglible. And, to be clear, this is not a situation created by just one side or the other — both sides are feeding off each other in their never-ending war. So, let’s take a proper look at just how much harm this has done to us over the last ten years.

The Death of Nuance

In any politicized topic, an odd phenomenon occurs: any nuanced point gets co-opted by either side and re-framed to be part of the extreme, regardless of whether it supports that position. To see this in action, one only has to look at Russell T. Davies’ return to Doctor Who.

Russell T. Davies is a Doctor Who uber fan. After the show was put on permanent hiatus, he started lobbying the BBC to bring it back, with proposals to update it for a modern audience, incorporating the advances in televised storytelling to create longer, more meaningful plots. He spent years in discussions and negotiations before finally getting the go-ahead. It was under his watch that the show came back and became an international juggernaut. One of the goals for his return to the show was to make the entire archive of Doctor Who episodes available, and it is very likely that the only reason people can watch almost every surviving episode of Classic Doctor Who for free on Tubi, along with the animated reconstructions of full missing stories, is because he lobbied for the fans to get it.

He also falls into the progressive side of left-wing politics, to the point that several times his stewardship of Doctor Who was accused of having a “gay agenda.” But, what marked it most was his storytelling and clear love for the show. Notably, he also didn’t fall into the modern progressive tendency of raising minorities up by bringing others down — he did not vilify any group based on its ethnicity, skin colour, sex, or sexuality. Characters always had positive and negative traits, and were never cliches. The trio of 60th Anniversary specials were no exception to this. He is far from a perfect writer — like every writer, he makes mistakes and has the occasional bad take — but these always come in the service of trying to tell a good story. And, he loves the fans — during the pandemic, he was actively engaging with them and writing short stories to keep their spirits up during the lockdowns. After receiving a letter from a disabled fan in which she talked about how much she loved the TARDIS despite never being able to enter it due to her wheelchair, he made the TARDIS wheelchair accessible.

If there was a creator who would never attack the fan base, it is Russell T. Davies. But, you wouldn’t know that from the commentary in the culture war. Based on which side you were paying attention to, Davies had either betrayed the fans, bought into the “woke mind virus,” and is intent on destroying Doctor Who’s legacy, or his work was beset by legions of bigots. Neither, however, is true.

What was true was that his representation of a trans character and his decision to take Davros out of his chair had been met with severe criticism — but much of this was from trans people, who felt that the representation was not very good, and wheelchair users, who felt that the decision had removed their representation over a complaint they never had. Notably, Davies’ motivation for both of these was just to do better than he had in the past — the character of Rose was a properly developed one, and in the case of Davros he was concerned about handicapped people being depicted as villains — something he had done in the past. A widely decried scene involving the Doctor being chided about assuming pronouns was in the story to give a first clue that the Meep was not an innocent alien being hunted by genocidal monsters, but a megalomaniac dedicated to creating suffering and destruction.

And much of this controversy was arguably manufactured so that the culture war could have a battlefield. A relatively innocuous comment in The Radio Times that the new series veering into fantasy might upset those hardcore fans who only viewed the series as being hard SF (almost certainly a very small percentage of the whole) got turned by The Telegraph into an implication that Davies was declaring that he would upset all hardcore fans, and this in turn became a culture war talking point of Davies wanting to upset fans — and all of this was directed against a man who put a ramp on the TARDIS so that a fan in a wheelchair could imagine herself going inside.

This is not an isolated incident. The rhetoric has reached such a fever pitch that any effort to depict diversity on screen is seen by one side as an attempt at woke indoctrination, and any criticism of the depiction of diversity (no matter how valid) is seen by the other side as attempts by bigots to silence marginalized groups (even when the criticism comes from those same groups). This has made it impossible to have an intelligent, nuanced discussion of the stories we tell.

NEXT: Psychological Harm



Robert B. Marks

Robert B. Marks is a writer, editor, and researcher. His pop culture work has appeared in places like Comics Games Magazine.