1: The idea that Stephen Moffat is sexist;
Okay, so this keeps turning up everytime I google Stephen Moffat’s name, so I’ll deal with my frustration with it. A quote keeps swinging about:
“There’s this issue you’re not allowed to discuss: that women are needy. Men can go for longer, more happily, without women. That’s the truth. We don’t, as little boys, play at being married – we try to avoid it for as long as possible. Meanwhile women are out there hunting for husbands.”
“The world is vastly counted in favour of men at every level – except if you live in a civilised country and you’re sort of educated and middle-class, because then you’re almost certainly junior in your relationship and in a state of permanent, crippled apology. Your preferences are routinely mocked. There’s a huge, unfortunate lack of respect for anything male.”
This appears to be the central thesis to any blog post which perceives Moffat as sexist. Moffat refutes this statement, by saying the quote was taken out of context in an interview with a newspaper called The Scotsman, and that he was actually speaking about the point of view of Patrick from Coupling. Having seen Coupling, this quote seems to be spot on for Patrick’s voice. Some blogs proceed to take Coupling as a whole as evidence of sexism, some don’t mention Coupling at all.
This usually sets the lens the blog perceives the Moffat episodes in the Davies era and the Moffat through. And, of course, this usually ends with a bat being taken to Amy Pond’s and River Song’s characters.
1) As previous blogs made clear, I myself have had serious reservations about elements of Amy’s and River’s characters, having gone back and forth on their roles and deliberating what they mean, representations of gender being part of those deliberations.
2) As previous blogs have made clear I still have issues with some of the finer points of River Song – but, also, given that her story, quite literally, is not over, I can wait to see what happens and where the character is taken.
3) As the last Who blog made clear, Amy is one of my favourite sci fi protagonists of all time. So I have given this some little thought.
The arguments of accusation fall into a few patterns:
1) Prior companions were depicted as more capable than Amy.
2) Amy’s sexuality is an inditement on female sexuality (the details are diverse on the particulars in each individual blog, owing to personal taste).
3) Amy’s interactions with the Doctor and Rory are similarly a criticism of women.
So, I’m not linking to any of these blogs. I’m not starting any fights, I’m not looking to be told I’m in the right, and I’m not angry at anyone. I really just want to say my piece without being anymore bitter-sounding than this blog is starting to come off already.
1) The argument goes that Amy, compared to Time Vortex Rose, Walk-the-Earth Martha and Doctor-Donna, got the lame ending of remembering the Doctor back into being after he’d saved the universe.
I disagree. Firstly, because, by that register, they were all ‘weak’: Rose gets someone to pull open a hatch and blanks out until kissed better, (or gets rescued, and shut in another universe, if you want to use that one) Martha told a story as she had been told to, and Donna got to be the Doctor for ten minutes. And this is the bit where I cut down the former companions to make mine seem taller. Except, no. Those are all highly simplified versions of what they do, and neglect one fact: This is Doctor Who.
This is the show where the smart, strange, wonderful way around a problem is key, and where blowing up the enemy in the millions in a flashy, celebratory manner is seen as a tragedy and where an episode where everbody lives – even the villains – is seen as a rousing success. By the above register, the Doctor kisses someone, pulls a lever, goes from Gollum to Tinkerbell, gets a hand from himself, gives the universe gene therapy and wears a Doctor suit.
Secondly; Yes Amy remembers the Doctor. That is the happy ending. Her achievement? She remembers back into existence several people she has never met, including her own parents. That is Amy’s triumph. And the others had those too. Whether it was Rose fighting for her dead Dad one season or finding his alternate-universe equivalent, or Martha’s struggle reuniting her parents and opening her heart to a nice young doctor, or Donna gaining her mother’s respect and her own respect too, they all had something that made us say: their lives, while losing much, have gained much also during their time with the Doctor.
It gave them lives outside the blue box, and made their leaving it seem a lot less like the alternate cut of Scott Pilgrim where Ramona goes off on her own to a midnight-backed door and more like the actual cut where she and Scott go off into a door backed by sunrise.
Amy was only special because of the crack in the wall? Fine – then Rose was only special because of the Time Vortex. Amy’s only job was to remember the Doctor? Fine – then Martha’s only job was to tell other people about him. Amy was only special because some aliens had a plan to kill the Doctor? Fine – then Donna was only special because an alien had a plan to destroy the Daleks.
This is Doctor Who – the show about a nameless two-hearted alien who single-handedly flies a timeship designed for six pilots and stuck as a 1960s police box. The Doctor, who will kill but sees as a gross failure to have to do so, who won’t carry a gun and, for all intents and purposes, has a magic wand and all-purpose badge. The good ship TARDIS flies on context, and all things must put in this context. If anything, arguing this only makes me realise what a marvellous follow-through there has between actors, between show runners, between writers on the ethic of this show: Killing means we’ve failed.
Besides – Amy actually got to keep her ‘remembering’ for the second season finale.
2) So: Amy’s sexuality as inditement. As stated above, the exactitudes of these arguments cover a spectrum of Amy as nymphomaniac cheater to Amy as being rebuked into a stereotypical marriage role. So I’ll just state the case as I see it.
Sexuality-wise, Amy is distinct. They all were. Rose was our first – and the first to fall in love with the Doctor. Martha was the first to fall in love with the Doctor and get over it. Donna was the first, for which I instantly loved her forever for, to skip loving the Doctor entirely and fell in love the vast universe he was offering, apart from him, and became his friend. Amy was therefore the first to fall in love with the Doctor, get over it, and then become his friend.
And it was a sexual desire in its time. The kiss Rose-Nine shippers had waited to see was a life-saving, life-ending medical procedure, and Rose-Ten shippers, for all the tension on screen, got to see little ugly-bumping. Amy? From watching the Doctor undress to kissing him after the Angels two-parter, and being very, very clear about wanting to go further was pretty shocking by comparison.
And make no mistake; at the time I hated it. Oh yes. I was a Rory-Williams fanboy through and through and I utterly dispised the idea that he was going to go down the tubes like Mickey Smith – the inadequate boyfriend playing a minor role in the first episode, getting shelved, getting undermined in later episodes, then getting a nice, impressive moment before going to an alternate universe, allowed to be a success, so long as it was offscreen.
Hell yes I wanted Rory to last, and I wanted him in the TARDIS, a male companion who wasn’t punished by being left behind, or shelved, or ditched by the TARDIS to get his own spin off. I will always support the main companion being female, and not just out of some fanservice need, but because the show has always been about this one guy being the most marvellously intelligent being in the universe.
However, I wanted a male Companion because, quite frankly, I find it very hard to put myself in the role of a wonderous alien. I have, do, and always will put myself in the role of the female Companion, but I also really wanted to see a guy be … good enough to fly with the Doctor for a prolonged period.
And … I got what I wanted. Everything I wanted. I worried during Vampires in Venice, while finding yet more to love in the Rory character, and the Amy character, and the Doctor character. There were still questions, but there was a hope of answers. And then Amy’s Choice answered a helluva a lot of them.
And then the Silurian two-parter broke our hearts – but it wasn’t Mickey in another universe. Rory’s loss was a tragedy, his return was going to happen. And though there were parallels – they both returned at the end of the first part of the two-parter finale, with a weapons upgrade and a badass backstory. And then the comparison ended. Rory was here to stay.
I had a jab of frustration at the snogging in the shrubbery … and then all that was over. And Amy’s story made a lot more sense given what, on some level, she knew happened to her parents. And she made mistakes. She was a flawed human being – like the others were, with Rose ditching her boyfriend and derailing time for her dad and ditching her family for the Doctor, or Martha getting hopelessly hung up on the Doctor or getting her family drawn into a year of hell. Yes, these are also all the preludes to the greatest triumphs of the characters that I mentioned above. Were they greater triumphs for the growth? Yes.
So yes, Amy was flawed. And she grew past those flaws. She wasn’t forced to by other persons, she was prompted by events throwing her relationship with the Doctor and with Rory.
Also, yes Amy was married and pregnant on the TARDIS. I disagree that this means she was being forced into gender roles. Instead, I think that Amy wasn’t shuffled off stage left when she made another step in her life.
So I would disagree with inditement idea. Related to this is …
3) So, the sexism argument puts forward the idea that, in her relationshps, Rory is the whipped husband and the Doctor is the morally pure superior to Amy.
First off, I think we should address the differences between this and previous seasons in terms of physicality. Yes, the Davies era Doctors never had to deal with that degree of physicality – and the one kiss was courtesy of Madame du Pompadour, via Moffat. And, given that Davies, in Torchwood, seems to be more than fine with the onscreen physical act of love, it can’t be that.
I don’t think, as has been put forward by some, that Davies thought physical romance was inappropriate for Dr Who’s timeslot and audience. Has this season been inappropriate – Some kissing, a nod to where babies come from, seems in keeping.
Instead, I think that the writers simply couldn’t have a hook up with a Companion, and if we even saw the slightest relenting in that rule, the assumption would be that there were Companion-Doctor sexy-shenanigans going on between every episode. My feelings on that rule are a blog for another day.
My idea right now is that, as I have stated before, Eleven has been by far the most alien of Doctors – the only time so separated from sexy-shenanigans that any physical attempt to change, rather than the tension of ‘I love you Rose Tyler’, instead was alien, impossible, and mildly hilarious. He was at such a remove, had such a grandfatherly air to Amelia -when he wasn’t being a kid- that it wasn’t even on the cards.
As for Rory, it was the first time we got to meet the Companion’s post-Doctor relationship; rather than as a Doctor clone, or an offscreen broken-off engagement, or a man glimpsed through a cafe window, Rory was here with us, was one of us. Having his journey with the Doctor start after hers actually gave him time and space to have his own reactions, form his own opinions, rather than his and Amy’s being lumped together by joining together.
And it was actually nice to see that, once Rory understood why Amy travelled with the Doctor, that apart from the whole jealousy thing, he was guy comfortable with his fiancee taking the lead, just so long as they were partners on that path. And then that steadfastness was turned up to eleven with a near 2000 year wait (one made off the back of a mistake of his own -killing Amy- and one which he too grew from) and we saw how the girl who waited and the boy who waited were made for each other.
I like Rory, becoming more his fanboy with every appearance, because he says what I hope would say, from suggesting they leave when things clearly turn evil, to just working from a place of empathy. Nobody has to be anybody else’s damsel, or anyone else’s bitch.
I’ve gone on, at length, about how I think the Doctor can be more alien because of two Companions, and how I appreciate the change of pace. I like Moffat’s style and ethic and so on. I do not think that his take on Doctor Who is sexist.
Could he be sexist himself? Totally could. What he creates could have no bearing on who he is or what he thinks. It would be odd that he apparently had such a giant lapse and no break outs in any other coverage anywhere else. But not impossible. That I can accept. I can enjoy the works of Chaplin or Presley and be horrified by the ages of their wives separately.
And as for River Song, the jury really is still out on her, and her story really isn’t over. I hope Amy isn’t over entirely, and I’d love her to be back next season, but I also can see that this a natural place to end her story as a regular companion. By contrast, River Song still has a great big arc to finish yet, in whatever capacity she re-appears in, and how that finishes is going to be the test of the character. But Doctor Who isn’t sexist and Amelia Jessica Pond isn’t a sexist character.
2: If not, then what?
Why would such a piece be edited to imply sexism? It could be entirely accurate. Or it could be part of a phenomeneon regarding any media coverage of literature – an injection of drama. I have been so frustrated to see stories about Terry Pratchett ‘hating’ Harry Potter, or hating Doctor Who, and so on. Briefly after the media had decided that Harry Potter gotten children to read books again (whereas, in fact, it had changed how children’s books were marketed, but anyway) it seemed to have been decided that, lacking any C-list celebrities of the book world to go on Big Brother or have a public meltdown, interviews would be topped with headlines of someone hating something.
This type of over-exaggeration happens to perfectly innocent tv and film celebrities too – Catherine Tate saying she was shy to look David Schwimmer in the eye while doing a play together became her not be able to look him in the face with HATE, while the article on Sienna Miller being disgusted at having to kiss Charlie Cox in Stardust came from the one day the reporter was on set and seeing a scene where the disgust was part of the scene.
I just hate when it happens to writers because they have such a limited forum to rebut in – and with most doing most interviews in text rather than video format, what they say is very malleable. And then comes a Stephen King / Stephenie Meyer hoo-haa every once in a while, which is way too big for me even to touch but makes everyone look bad. And while I could quip about some interviewers writing more fiction than the writers they’re interviewing, its just … sad that they need to do this.
3: Finally, I’m pretty much in love with the Inspector Spacetime meme and totally intend to watch Community now, for realsies.
Yes I’m aware that IS came from 30 seconds of video, and only recurs as a Halloween costume later, but I like what it says about the writers that a magnificent, incisive and well-produced parody of Doctor Who would be done for a thirty second joke, and I like what it says about the fans that they’d devise a whole universe called the Inspectrum, mirroring the minutiae of Who-lore, down a punny-name alternate version of every companion and the actors who played them down to present day … then straightfacedly imply the Tenth Inspector’s Rory Williams, oddly reminiscent of Donna Noble, was played by the same actor as the Eleventh Doctor’s RW, who wasn’t happy how the character turned out and went to play it again on the IS knockoff on the BBC.
They seem to be my kind of people. As does Abed for that matter, from what I hear about him.
EDIT: And they did a Downton Abbey parody!