2MTL 457: About Noel Clarke

From the April 29, 2021, Guardian (UK): ‘Sexual predator’: actor Noel Clarke accused of groping, harassment and bullying by 20 women

You can enjoy Mickey Smith the character in Doctor Who Series 1-4. But don’t defend Noel Clarke the actor.

In an article for the UK Guardian on April 29, 2021, journalists Sirin Kale and Lucy Osborne painstakingly gathered and reported 20 allegations from women of being abused by actor, producer, and one-time Doctor Who recurring cast member Noel Clarke.

The women stepped forward following the announcement that he would receive an award for Outstanding British Contribution to Cinema that month from the British Academy of Film and Television Arts. In breaking their silence, Kale and Osborne write, the women “allege Clarke is a serial abuser of women, using his power in the industry to prey on and harass female colleagues, and sometimes bully those who fall out of favour.” Following the article’s publication, BAFTA suspended the award and Clarke’s membership.

Any Doctor Who fans who want to venture an opinion about Noel Clarke should read this article first. I’ve linked it on social and it’s in the show notes. The article is damning. You have 20 women, either anonymously for their protection or on the record, sharing their stories of being groped, harassed, and humiliated. A reputable news organization simply does not go there without dotting every I and crossing every T, not when they’d be the likely target of a libel suit.

I once shared a stage with Clarke, interviewing him at Long Island Who. I would never have picked up on him being predatory. But that’s how patriarchy works, hiding in plain sight. Since then, longstanding stories of other Doctor Who actors’ behavior on set have surfaced. Some of them, I didn’t want to believe. I’d read an account of an actress colleague giving one of them a pass for being a lad, or something like that, and maybe I’d tell myself that they all thought that it was in harmless fun, and when that actor returned in a guest role, I’d put the uncomfortable thought away.

Easy for me to do, of course. Women, BIPoC people, queer people, they know better than me. They routinely do the work of distinguishing the art from the artist, and judging what to keep and what to throw away, because they don’t have the privilege of living in a world where the worst thing that happens to them when a popular actor is revealed as a predator is that their enjoyment of a TV show is reduced.

My favorite pop culture properties, Doctor Who, Star Wars, Star Trek, all have an expressly idealistic point of view. They’re humanistic, pro-freedom. They’re about being freaking kind. And in the last couple of years, there have been far too many examples, within these fandoms and even within these franchises, of people who supposedly identify with these ideals failing to walk the walk.

I don’t always live up to those ideals myself, but I’m trying to do it today. You can enjoy Mickey Smith the character in Doctor Who Series 1-4. But don’t defend Noel Clarke the actor. And especially, don’t focus on how his actions affect Doctor Who the franchise, or Doctor Who the fandom. That’s centering your own feelings. There are 20 women—at least—who deserve greater consideration. And we have fandom cultures, and convention spaces, and writers’ rooms, and soundstages, where predatory behavior, patriarchy, racism, and anti-queer bias continue to reign. I’m going to try to put better focus on challenging those wrongs—and less on my own comfort.

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