Friday, May 6, 2011

Doctor Who and its Discontents: Part I - Moffat, Misogyny and the Problem with Pond

Doctor Who fans, by and large, are a tenacious bunch. As the tales of the wilderness years - of long nights spend huddled round the flame of Big Finish - suggest, there is something about the dedication that this show inspires which goes way way beyond whether it happens (or not) to be any good (or not) at any particular time, or whether, even, the Doctor is presently in possession of a televisual incarnation at all. Quite why Doctor Who rocks so hard is a topic of eternal and, necessarily, open-ended debate; favourite theories include the versatility of the format, the child-like effervescence, the unmistakable aroma of camp mixed with the uncanny, and of course, general, all round, timey-wimey goodness. But, in the end, it probably boils down to the one simple thing most Whovians can agree on (and that's not much): this guy is the greatest superhero ever conceived by human-kind, and there is a place tucked inside each of our souls - filled with the longing for wonder, and adventure, and cosmic justice - where we all need to believe he is real.

Being not only tenacious, but fastidious, by nature, the response of most Whovians to being disturbed or disappointed by what the Doctor has gone and done this week is to engage in explosions of analysis. And here we find ourselves. For I, among many of the faithful, am not at all happy with what is going on in the Whoniverse right now. This is, we should note, a far from unanimous opinion. There are many - principally those who spent much of the RTD-era wailing though gritted-teeth about the latest credulity-stretching deus ex-machina - who are endlessly enchanted by Steven Moffat's Chinese puzzle-box approach to plot development. Also, Moffat can do monsters. That I'll give him. But Who is more than the scaries, and evidence is accumulating - from declining ratings* to the National Television Awards flunk** - that all is not well in the land of rebooted New Who.

There are three main axes to grind, all of which have legs (axes, with legs!), and all of which, I think, are intertwined (wow, that's one mixed metaphor). First problem - in terms of thematic coherence, and the dramatic/emotional arcs, Series 5 was a total mess. I won't dwell on this now, although I will come back to it later, but, in the meantime, there is an epically good analysis of it here. Secondly...okay, I'm just gonna come out and say it...whoever this dude is, he isn't the Doctor. Given that Whovians like nothing better than to a spend bank-holiday weekend compiling Doctor-top-tens (or elevens), it's clearly a bit controversial to say Eleven's an imposter. But dishing out 'my Doctor' awards is a whole different deal from what we have here. While some used to take the odd pot-shot at Ten, particularly as he slid slowly towards his tantrumtastic denouement, no-one suggested he wasn't the real deal. What we have with Eleven is, I think, unprecedented - a bunch of us (including the ones who've just turned off) finding it inordinately difficult to buy the basic premise that this less-than-dexterous bozo flapping his arms in a Fez is really the same man. And it's not, I might add, entirely the Fez's fault. And finally, arriving at what I want to try and think through here, is the way that all this characterization and story arc inadequacy is related to Moffat's increasingly evident problems with the writing of women, and the fact that, rather than being produced by the triumvirate of 1) a gay-man,  2) a woman, and 3) a straight-man who pretty much defines metrosexual elegance, it now seems that my favourite TV-show is being scripted by the editorial team of Loaded.

One doesn't need to go that far to establish that Moffat's writing exhibits a basic dislinclination to grant half the human race with the status of full subjectivity. It is not the sexualization of Amelia Pond, per se, that is the problem here. As we know, RTD sexualized Doctor Who in spades, from the creation of the polyamorous Jack Harkness to the casting of his once-errant Casanova as his lead. But it is the nature and form of Moffat-era sexualization which typifies the wider problem. Feminism doesn't ask that women be divested of their sexuality (remember that bra-burning thing that never happened?), and frankly, I couldn't really give a monkeys for the moral-panic about the length of Amy's skirt. But what feminism does demand, and this is the crucial point, is that women be accorded - as men are as a matter of course - the status of complex sexual subjects. I have sometimes thought that feminism comes down to no more than the basic request that women be allowed to be fully rounded human beings - with all their emotionality and rationality, their power and vulnerability - while, at the same time, being granted the right to feel sexual desire and sexual pleasure, and not have that sexuality used as a stick to beat them with, or as a means of erasing their humanity. Call me crazy, but this doesn't seem like a whole lot to ask. But alas, to some, to many, to the Moffat's of this world, it is.

So, let's look at the evidence. First off, there's the business of the skirt. As I said, I don't really care about it being short, but I do care very much when men leering up it becomes a plot device. Evidently, many Moffat-devotees will, at this juncture, troop out the tired, old, raggedy 'it was just a joke' routine, turning swiftly to one of the myriad female-silencing techniques just handily lying around in the popular imagination. In this case the one about women in general, and feminists in particular, being somehow congenitally incapable of grasping the basic mechanisms of humour. This argument is so stupid it doesn't deserve a response, but if any of you are still labouring under the misapprehension that the notion of 'joke' and the notion of 'politically significant' are somehow mutually exclusive, I suggest you subject yourself to a 24 hour JonStewartathon and get back to me later.

Anyway, what Moffat is doing with this little piece of not-so innocent seaside smut is neatly channeling the rage that arises, necessarily, when a masculinity which defines itself as invulnerable experiences a need or desire for something which is outside its control (and that, we might add chaps, is pretty much anything and everything, but particularly, unfortunately, women). It is the nature of a masculine ego that defines itself this way to perceive the 'object' of its desire as a threat to its inviolability - or ability to attend to basic mechanical tasks - and for desire, therefore, to be always intertwined with the fear of being annihilated or consumed. Such a clear and present danger (as Amy in her mini), must, it can readily be appreciated, be put - by force - back into its place. Either by instituting more or less explicit systems of control (chastity belts, veils, circumcisions, access to reproductive health care, domestic abuse etc, etc), and/or by violently erasing the personhood of whoever is - either through thoughtlessness or guile - 'provoking' or 'manipulating' that desire (see my piece on Facebook here). For a short period in the middle of Comic Relief - and let us contrast this with, say, the emotional subtlety and space given to Rose's first encounter with Ten - Amy Pond was set before the gaze of the British public as the person who happens to be attached to a set of genitals capable of threatening the very structure of space and time. As was noted by a friend of mine, in the light of this little interlude, it may not be too far fetched to observe that Series 5's only discernible story-arc consisted of a sequence of increasingly ominous cracks, cracks which were, we soon learnt, capable of swallowing a grown man whole (and thereby entirely erasing him from existence).





(Ahem)

And, it is around about this place - the place where Moffat starts channeling his archaic-anxiety about being eaten alive by women with their hair full of snakes and teeth (Prisoner Zero anyone?) - that we should probably turn to his fondness for painting us all as a bunch of needy, nagging, shrews. Exhibit A in this, of course, are the quotes taken from the 2004 interview with Scotland on Sunday - helpfully entitled 'Time Lad scores with Sex and Daleks' for those of us who were still on the fence - which have been doing the internet rounds the last few days. They're pretty choice, so I'm gonna give you the full monty:

  • "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."

What is interesting (if that's the right word) about all of this is is the way in which Moffat's whole 'gaping chasm, thy name is woman'-phobia is blatantly rendered in the accusation of neediness. Firstly, this, of course, flies right in the face of the facts, it being pretty well established by now that men in stable relationships are much better off by a whole load of indicators than their unmarried counterparts (see here for example). To wit, men don't just get married because they are ensnared by evil harpies with a princess-in-white fixation. In fact, we might even imagine - here I go with my flights of female fancy! - that men get married (just as women do, in theory if not always in practice) because their well-being in the world is improved by being in mutually supportive relationships. That is, the evidence suggests, Steven Moffat, that men need women. It is here, I think, that we encounter one of the most evident axis of distinction between the rendering of the dynamics between Ten and his companions, and Eleven and Amy. Ten was all about the need. No, let's rephrase that, he wasn't all about the need...he was all about a lot of things - and this, and the fact that Eleven is all about fuck-all, is something we will unpack when we get to the next section. But, at least in part (albeit a not always entirely upfront part) Ten was a great big bag of vulnerability...now with added superpowers! (And boys...just in case watching David Tennant do his shtick week after week didn't make it blindingly obvious to you...vulnerability + superpowers = sexy).

Anyhow...There are two principal ways that these vectors of Moffat's denial (of masculine need) and projection (of masculine need into the abyss of feminine 'neediness') play out with the Doctor and Amy. Firstly, Amy Pond is a drip (how long I've waited to write that!), and secondly, when she's not being a drip, she's mostly some crazed-sexual-stalker-cum-snarky-fishwife. So first, on the drippiness. There is a fair bit of analysis already out there on the interwebs (here and here) about Moffat's drawing of flat, listless women who seem to want nothing more than to get trapped inside some-type of (literal or figurative) computer-generated fascimilie of domesticated bliss (although, that said, there is also a bizarro alt-universe in which one girl is, I suspect, protesting too much about how incredibly nuanced and fully-realized are Moffat's women). I'm not about to go into a blow-by-blow dissection of every time Amy is a bit crap (not least because that would involve rewatching all of Series 5, and frankly loves, I ain't got the stomach for it), but I think the point can be made by focusing on the axiomatic moment in the evolution of every Doctor-companion relationship, the bit where, are the end of their first encounter, she proves her worth by saving his ass:
  • So, first up, of course, we have Rose, casting aside her shame at not passing her A-Levels and putting her gymnastic training into full effect, tahdah, swinging on a rope near a vial of anti-plastic.
  • Then Donna, telling him when to stop, an act which we later learn, definitively, saves him from literally drowning in his grief over Rose.
  • And lastly, Martha, bringing an almost desanguinated, and pretty much entirely dead Doctor back to life in classic medical style...I give you, the kiss of life.
Each of these moments show us an act, a positive and entirely self-directed gesture of sure and certain competence undertaken by the companion-to-be when the Doctor is in various states of incapacity. By contrast, what does Amy Pond do to win him over - other than being a far more cool, collected and charming child than she ever is as an adult? Nothing. Literally, nothing. At the end of 'The Eleventh Hour', when our heroes corner Prisoner Zero, Amy Pond collapses on the floor, and while she lies prone and unconscious, the Doctor deploys the tried and trusted Gallifreyan mind-probe to direct her memories (it's not the first time either that Moffat has indulged in this particular bit of kink...I mean, those women, they're just so damn mysterious, how on earth are you supposed to get anywhere without slipping right inside their heads?). Similarly, at the end of 'The Big Bang', Amy's ability to recall the Doctor's existence, and hence, recall him to existence, is the direct result of the image of the TARDIS implanted in her memory by the Doctor as she lies fast asleep.

The passivity of Amy Pond is the necessary corollary of a Doctor - or a Doctor's writer - with something of an invulnerability complex. The four-series arc Russell T Davies sketched for his two 'lonely-god' Doctors largely pivoted on the power of relation, on its capacity to heal and lay low. The brooding trauma of Ecclestone's Ninth Doctor was - through Rose's influence - tempered in the playfulness of Tennant's Ten, a man who initially wore his wounds more lightly, but who, after losing two companions in one blow, came spectacularly undone. The resonance of these relationships relied significantly on drawing the Doctor as a character who, as Donna pointedly tells him in 'The Runaway Bride', 'needs someone sometimes.' By contrast, Moffat seems profoundly disinclined to imbue Eleven with any of the vulnerability required to make his connection to his companion really count, either in practical or emotional terms. As a result, Amy frequently ends up as little more than window dressing, relegated to the traditional - pre-Sarah Jane Smith - position of the magician's assistant, a woman whose devotion to a man who doesn't need or want her derives - as Moffat apparently believes all women's desires do - from nothing more substantial than a childhood fantasy. Being enchanted by a man eating fish-fingers and custard does not a meaningful relationship make, and, consequently, when Moffat tries, as at the end of 'The Big Bang', to engage our emotions in response to an imperiled Doctor-Amy relation, it comes off as entirely hollow.  He has never given us a single reason to care. Indeed, we can surmise that Moffat has never really been comfortable with writing the emotional entanglement of the show's core relationship at all. From the beginning of the first series he has consistently introduced a third character between the Doctor and his companion.*** Within the guiding dramatic arc provided by RTD such fractures in the central dynamic were merely temporary, but, now given free reign, Moffat has decided to more-or-less permanently install an increasingly unpleasant menage-a-trois right at the heart of the show.

What this nasty little three-way**** allows Moffat to dramatize, of course, is the fecklessness of women-folk. Many of the instances in which Amy is not sulking (or lying) around like a wet-week - the moments when Moffat imbues her with activity - turn on her lunging inappropriately at the Doctor, or, as in the last two-parter, a fairly distasteful exhibition of her implied lack of marital fidelity. Notwithstanding whether this is the model of relationships we should be serving up to kids at tea-time (I don't want to come over all Daily Mail here), this is a risible representation of Amy as a woman who is both intent on bagging her gullible, love-lorn plastic centurion of a husband (and then repeatedly pussy-whipping him), while her uncontrollable sexual desire simultaneously drives her to betray him with the Doctor. She is, in short, a concatenation of the worst that the cultural imaginary has to throw at women; a deceitful, manipulative nympho who is probably intent on eating both her husband and the Lord of Time for supper. Of course, when confronted with the all-consuming chasm of irrational feminine neediness, Moffat's Doctor behaves like all men properly should, and pitches between hapless bemusment and outright horror. In 'Flesh and Stone,' when Amy tries to jump him the night before her wedding, we find him pushed against the TARDIS door with his arms flapping anxiously like a pre-pubescent boy who has just been assaulted by the babysitter (all fairly unbecoming for someone who has supposedly been around for the best part of a millennia really). Notably, this Benny Hill-esque presentation of the helpless man pursued by a crazed woman in a rather short-skirt stands in stark contrast to the emotional engagement, and frank tenderness, of many of the Doctor's previous encounters with the lips of his companion.*****




Of course, many Doctor Who devotees were never very happy living in RTD's loved-up version of the Whoniverse, and the Rose-Doctor romance alone provoked endless threads of disdain. It is not that Who must necessarily serve up schmaltz-in-space, or that Moffat can't take it upon himself to tell the tale otherwise. But it presently appears - despite protestations that Moffat's misogyny can somehow be neatly distinguished from his storytelling - that the showrunner's cartoon-cutout (and frankly unattractive) take on gender relations is severely impairing his ability to deliver what Who most needs. And that is a pair of fully rounded and basically sympathetic characters who have at least a passably plausible connection with it each other, and are able, moreover, to convey the ethical integrity (now slicked o'er with new improved sleaze!) which has always been central to the very soul of the show.

----------------------
* There are a number of ways to spin this:
i) The last (non-Christmas) episode of the Tenth Doctor  - 'The Waters of Mars' - had 10.3 M viewers, and the last episode of Series 4 - 'Journey's End' - had 10.57 M. By contrast, the Series 5 finale - 'The Big Bang' closed on 6.7 M
ii) According to Broadcast, Series 6 started with 6.51 M, the lowest ever Season opener for New Who. Between the first and the second episode of the two-parter it lost a further 1 million viewers.

** From 2005 to 2010 Doctor Who won 'Most Popular Drama' every year, and its lead actor/actress won 'Most Popular Actor/Actress' or 'Outstanding Drama Performance.' In 2011, Moffat's show won nothing. Notably, what was being handed out was a gong for drama, not 'Most Convoluted Sci-Fi Plot with Best Scary Monsters,' which Moffat would clearly have bagged easily. That is, what I'm interested in is the way Moffat's show is failing, not as genre piece, but at its dramatic core...and the extent to which this fundamental lack of drama cannot be compensated for by any amount of increasingly contorted plotting.

*** Jack Harkness in 'The Empty Child'/'The Doctor Dances'; Madame de Pompadour in 'The Girl in the Fireplace'; River Song in 'Silence in the Library'/'Forest of the Dead'

**** To be clear, I have no a priori  prudish moral objection to people having sex with more than one person at the same time...not all three-ways are nasty...but that requires a really staggering quantity of emotional intelligence and lack of possessiveness on all sides...and frankly, I think it almost never happens. Regardless, the main point here is that the menage-a-trois that Moffat has constructed at the centre of Doctor Who involves:

i) One man playing the cuckolded sap
ii) One man playing 'I'm the master of the universe and therefore you want me but y'know I'm the master of the universe and therefore I don't really need you,'
iii) One woman playing a heinous caricature of the duplicitous insatiable bitch.

Ergo, it's not pretty or healthy. It makes all the characters look like arseholes and/or idiots. It totally undermines our ability to identity with and care about them and their relationships. And perhaps most significantly, it pretty much extinguishes whatever is left of our ability to relate to the Doctor and the companion as a force of cosmic justice. And I have a strong suspicion that when that happens, the show loses something absolutely essential.

***** There were basically three classes of kiss in RTD's Who:
i) The life-saving, or 'getting-us-out-of-a-pickle' kiss e.g. Nine/Rose on the Gamestation; Ten/Martha in 'Smith and Jones' - twice; Ten/Donna in 'The Unicorn and the Wasp.'
ii) The 'because-I-really-want-to-kiss-you' kiss e.g. Ten/Astrid in 'Voyage of the Damned' (second time); Ten(duplicate)/Rose in 'Journey's End'; Nine/Rose on the Gamestation.
iii) The 'she-just-grabbed-me-and-snogged-me-senseless' kiss e.g. Ten/Cassandra in 'New Earth'; Ten/Pompadour in 'The Girl in the Fireplace'; Ten/Astrid in 'Voyage of the Damned' (first time). This is clearly the one with the most family resemblance to Eleven's encounters with both Amy and River. However, Ten, while sometimes slightly stunned, never seemed remotely displeased by what had happened, in fact, on all occasions, quite the contrary.

--------------------

With thanks to the manifold insights of my friends and fellow Whovians - Nick Taylor and Daria Rogers.

89 comments:

  1. This is really good. I take it from the "Part I" that there's more to come.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Cheers Simon...yes, there will be more, I'm not sure exactly how many...it probably depends on quite how grumpy Moffat makes me...the next will be on unpacking issue in the characterization of the Doctor (or lack thereof), and then I suspect at some point I'm going to go into a full throttle rant about cosmic justice, and why the type of ethical force that is represented by the Doctor cannot be disentangled from his character...and hence, why the failures of characterization strike at the very centre of the show...(there's me coming over all Care Ethics again)...Anyway, we will see...grumble grumble backlash backlash 'calm down dear' grumble!! grumble!!...

    ReplyDelete
  3. Great insights!
    I've been trying to put my finger on why I'm not as fond of Doctor Who as I used to be, and you've said it perfectly.
    It's hard to connect emotionally with the Doctor anymore - he doesn't feel like the same person. (Eccleston and Tennant, while they were obviously very different actors, still felt like the same man).
    Under RTD I usually cried or got chills down my spine almost every episode! That rarely happens now.

    ReplyDelete
  4. I've seen a lot of silly criticisms of Doctor Who over the years, but this has got to among to the silliest.

    Okay; for whatever reason, you don't seem fond of the show anymore. Fair enough, each to their own. But this bizarre collection of feminist-psychology nonsense doesn't really form any sort of coherent argument. You're just ranting all over the place trying to impose weird 'rules' for the show that only exist inside your head (3 classes of kiss? are you insane?).

    I don't have time to refute all of your argument, so i'll just point out a few examples where your arguments fall down:

    1) Your argument about the introduction to the companions and Amy doing nothing to save the day.

    Have you forgotten about 'The Beast Below' and 'Victory Of The Daleks' (the 2nd and 3rd episodes of Season 5)? Both of which involve Amy saving the day when the Doctor fails. No, she isn't the one to save the day in the first episode, but remember this was the debut of a whole new era of Who, so it's understandable that Moffat would want to have the new doctor save the day first, and then let the companion come into their own in the following episode.

    2) The 11th Doctor not 'needing' his companions.

    It's interesting you bring up this point. Because to be honest this particular theme in Doctor Who (of he 'lonely doctor') didn't really come in until Series 3, after Rose left. And yes, Tennant played that brilliantly. But that wasn't always a characterisation of The Doctor, was it? Matt Smith's Doctor may not be as sentimental as Tennant's, but he certainly has more of an emotional relationship with is companions than most other doctors. Moffat likes to paint these things in a much more subtle way than RTD, but that doesn't meant they aren't there if you look a little closely. The 'old and kind and lonely' parts from 'Beast Below. The taunts of the Dream Lord in 'Amy's Choice.

    3) The Doctor's Kisses
    Watch the Day Of The Moon. He kisses River, and seems to enjoy it considerably. The reason he doesn't enjoy kissing Amy is the exact same reason he wouldn't enjoy kissing Martha or Donna (convulted RTD kiss-exchange mumbo jumbo withstanding), because he doesn't fancy them.



    Overall it is a different chapter in the show now though, and Moffat does have a different style, a style which isn't to everyone's tastes. If you don't like it, well that's a shame, but a great deal of people still do. Yes, it may have missed out at the National Television awards, but on the other hand Matt Smith has just been nominated for a BAFTA. Yes, it's initial broadcast figures were only 6.5 million, but when they took overnights into consideration they turned out to be 8.8 million (that's higher than either series 2 or 3), and that's not even taking into account iPlayer plays, which is surely where alot of people watch it nowadays anyway?

    ReplyDelete
  5. Personally, I'm as fond of Doctor Who as I ever was

    Matt Smith got a BAFTA nmination for his role as the Doctor, something which neither Ecclestone nor Tennant never did. Nothing another actor did for that matter.

    The Eleventh hour had 10.08m viewers from official BARB figures. The Impossible Astronaut had 8.86m. Initial viewing figures do not take into account HD, and Catchup services such as Sky+ (iPlayer is not included). The difference between the figures for The Imposible Astronaut show that 2 million people went out and watched the show within a narrow window after initial broadcast where the figures are counted from

    ReplyDelete
  6. It is possible to create an unsympathetic character, such as Amy Pond, without it being a comment on the entire female gender, you know. I could understand you critiquing the lack of depth of her character but to extrapolate that to a misogynistic agenda on Moffat's part seems to me to be somewhat unjustified.

    Furthermore, if you weren't so keen to patronisingly explain to "boys" what you consider to be "sexy" (the whole vulnerability/superpowers thing) and then imply that it was a view universally shared by the rest of your gender, then perhaps I might be able to take your rambling, pseudo-intellectual criticism of Doctor Who's gender politics ever so slightly more seriously. As it is, I'm afraid I'm going to file this under both "hypocrisy" and "nonsense".

    P.S. You might want to check the ratings S6 is achieving when time-shifting is taken into account before you attempt to use them as a stick to beat Moffat with. We're having some very pleasant weather at the moment, as you may have noticed.

    ReplyDelete
  7. I am grateful to have it pointed out to me that my thoughts are "silly" "bizarre" "incoherent" "insane" "ranting" "rambling" "pseudo-intellectual" and probably "hypocritical" "feminist psyschology nonsense." I am duly shamed that I have allowed my hysterical over-imaginative fancy to momentarily spill into the public sphere and will now be quiet. Or did you not get the bit about female silencing techniques just lying around in the popular imagination?

    ReplyDelete
  8. We're not saying you need to be quiet. Just that your arguments don't make sense. If you have explanations for the problems we've pointed out, please let us hear them.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Actually, jayseajay, your response about female silencing techniques itself looks like a silencing technique to me.

    ReplyDelete
  10. So, are your comments are beyond criticism then, Jay? Is any disagreement with you a "female silencing technique"? Should you, in fact, be free to level accusations of misogyny without any comeback?

    ReplyDelete
  11. Thank you for this analysis.

    It explains very well why I have stopped watching the show, and my irritation with the Amy character. And yes, I am a woman and I find women in this new series shallow and stereotypical.

    I have tried, but cannot care for any of the characters. All their relationships are weak and do not involve me one little bit. I would like to blame the poor acting and the hamminess but I think you are right, the rot is at the core of the writing, and Moffat is to blame for writing something which has little conscience, moral or social, which is emotionally very primitive, and which never engages with our humanity.

    ReplyDelete
  12. I would agree with you that Moffat's Who is far from perfect. But I disagree with your analysis of Amy Pond, and feel compelled to explain why.
    I felt the last series painted quite an intriguing picture that was an interesting mix of realism and sci-fi. She is a young woman with cold feet on the eve of her wedding - terrified that committing herself to marriage will close the book for her. She fears the becoming the stereotypical domesticated woman, getting married isn't all she wants from life. So when the doctor turns up, he represents something else – a new and exciting adventure, the idea that there are other things out there that are available to her. Like many young woman, she is worried that – although she loves Rory - she hasn’t had a chance to see what else is out there, what other options there might be. The fantastical element - adventures through space and time - is a blatant metaphor for all the undiscovered possibilities out there in the world, and Amy is just worried that she could miss out.
    So she spends a lot of time evaluating her options, and in the end she realises that she does loves Rory and wants to commit to a life with him - but also that this doesn't mean that her life can't change in other ways. She can be a wife and she can explore the world around her – she can devote her life to a man, but she is still her own woman. As a 23 year-old female I can relate to this depiction of love in a way I could never relate to the Rose-Ten ‘love is pure’ idea. In reality love isn't clear cut, it isn’t immune to doubt and uncertainty, and it isn’t infallible.

    So then - her move on the doctor. Personally, I loved that moment. I think it said a lot about Amy's confidence (and that includes sexual awareness), but also a bit about her confusion at meeting the hero of her childhood – only, now she is a grown woman. But basically, I think the point here is that she fancies the doctor – at least partly because he represents something new and exciting – and makes a move on him. Yes, this is morally reprehensible as she is about to be married – but no one (man, woman or Time Lord) is perfect.

    It was also a key moment for the new Doctor. His discomfort with the situation showed that, although he may seem like a jovial twenty-year-old man, he is in fact not human, and is also pretty old. While RTD strove to humanise the Doctor, Moffat makes it clear that he is an alien – and his relationship with Amy is more like a protective father than a peer. Although ‘father’ is perhaps not quite the right term. Also, I think Amy and the Doctor’s relationship is believable simply because they seem to enjoy each other’s company – you know, like friends do.

    In contrast I think he did enjoy his kiss with River, just he was a bit taken aback by it. All in all, I find his awkwardness on both occasions to be quite an endearing character trait – a more subtle vulnerability than Tennant’s Doctor. But still sexy, incidentally.

    You describe Amy Pond as ‘a heinous caricature of the duplicitous insatiable bitch.’ I think you’ll find that’s your opinion of her. And that’s the problem with a lot of feminism – people insisting that this or that isn’t an acceptable representation of Woman. As far as I can see, the only thing she’s done that was morally wrong was to try it on with another man – and the fact that she is now constantly reassuring Rory that she loves him suggests she knows she made a mistake. So if she’s a ‘duplicitous insatiable bitch’ for being confused, scared of the future and making a mistake - then so am I, and probably so are most women.

    Finally, all that rubbish about the crack representing the female sexual organ is laughable. A completely unsubstantiated argument, based on – well absolutely nothing.

    But yes, Amy has become a bit wet now. So have all of them really. I don’t think this is an assault on women, more a case of poor characterisation.

    This is, of course, all just my opinion, and I’d be intrigued to know what you think in response to it.

    ReplyDelete
  13. Hmm, where you saw "a fairly distasteful exhibition of her implied lack of marital fidelity", I saw condemnation of eager male jealousy that reads infidelity where none exists.

    Also, whilst I'm not suggesting you have no points here, this could certainly do with some serious editing and condensing; entire paragraphs here say very little at all and/or seem to bend out of context moments to fit the answer you've already decided upon. The fact that you lead with your dislike of the Matt Smith's Doctor (with the impeccably argued "he isn't the Doctor"...) is, I think, most telling of your discontent. This reads as an argument that started from a conclusion (you don't like it) and worked backwards looking for better and less subjective reasons.

    It hardly needs saying but your response to McKenzie's criticism was also remarkably silly. No-one's silencing you: some criticism was raised, it was fairly reasonable criticism that, if you disagree with, you can respond to. To act as if any criticism is an attempt to silence you looks pretty petty...

    ReplyDelete
  14. Not the same man? I think he's remarkably like the second Doctor. And there's no rule that says he has to be like any of the previous doctors anyway. Doctors 2, 3, and 4 certainly weren't like any of their predecessors.

    I don't like Amy's short skirt because it makes her seem as little more than eye candy, when she clearly has the qualities of a perfectly competent companion. She's intelligent, thoughtful and pretty mean with a cutlass.

    As for domestic bliss, that's Rory's fantasy. Amy wants adventures with the Doctor. Most companions wanted that, except Teagan, and perhaps Peri.

    As for Amy's relationship with Rory.. that's just how they roll. It works for them as far as I can see.

    I can only imagine that you want Amy and all Whoniverse women to conform to your moral principles. I mean "eating both her husband and the Lord of Time for supper."? Wow.

    Amy is who she is, and she isn't a bad person, despite the language you use to describe her relationships with men. She's merely a person.

    ReplyDelete
  15. I have to say that I read this article with interest. It disappoints me that you disregard some people's attempts to raise justifiable criticism of you arguments like so: "I am duly shamed that I have allowed my hysterical over-imaginative fancy to momentarily spill into the public sphere and will now be quiet. Or did you not get the bit about female silencing techniques just lying around in the popular imagination?" Seriously, please don't be petty and answer them constructively, otherwise you undermine your arguments and come across as exactly that which you are denying. As for the "Menfolk! This is what we women find sexy!" – thought we were wanting to avoid generalisation. I for one actually like hazel eyes and a knack for science, but there ye go...

    And why can so many women fail to accept negative traits in female characters? We're all human. I actually find it flattering when female characters (unlike Rose) do have their faults. Shows them as well-rounded human beings as opposed to flat-line stereotypes.

    Moffat has done in well in this. Instead of falling into a trap of creating a female "saviour" for Who, he instead has perfectly normal women (faults and all, Goddam!) with whom the Doctor spends time because he (as has been said) simply enjoys their company. This is so refreshing in comparison to the RTD stretch where the women always seemed overly-sentimentalised and were vital to the Doctor due to his neediness. *with woo-man because I can't live without her* I find that a bit eurgh, myself.

    I feel the accusations you throw at Amy Pond (and indeed Moffat) are quite unfair. I completely disagree with your judgement that Moffat has Amy down as "a deceitful, manipulative nympho." Feel that's quite a convoluted assessment. Although you do adopt an interesting standpoint, and I will certainly consider my own thoughts on gender in Who at a more reasonable hour, I feel your argument flips wildly between over-analysis and missing the subtleties of characterisations that make Who what it is.

    ReplyDelete
  16. While I think that Moffat's comments in that (fairly old) interview do come off as idiotic, I have never felt his supposed misogyny filtering into his writing.

    Personally, I love Amy Pond (and I am a woman and a feminist), for the reasons put perfectly by Melidere above: I can relate to her. I also love Matt Smith's Eleven, and as great as Tennant was in the role, I find Smith's take on the character more complex and subtle.

    What makes Moffat's writing quite different from RTD's is the fact that Moffat seems far more interested in creating complex plots that come with many surprise twists, whereas RTD placed more emphasis on the emotional side of the characters and their relationships. And this brings me to what you said about Amy in the opening two-parter of S6:

    "...as in the last two-parter, a fairly distasteful exhibition of her implied lack of marital fidelity. Notwithstanding whether this is the model of relationships we should be serving up to kids at tea-time (I don't want to come over all Daily Mail here), this is a risible representation of Amy as a woman who is both intent on bagging her gullible, love-lorn plastic centurion of a husband (and then repeatedly pussy-whipping him), while her uncontrollable sexual desire simultaneously drives her to betray him with the Doctor."

    I think the conclusion that Amy cheated on Rory with the Doctor is not only implausible for multiple reasons, but also extremely premature, as we haven't seen how the story arc spanning the whole season will play out. I felt the episodes were meant to show us Rory's insecurity and jealousy, probably because that will become important later on in the season. I doubt that we as an audience were meant to believe that Amy has been unfaithful; rather, we were shown that Rory might be insecure enough to think she has.

    Whether it's a good idea to use such a soapish plot device to create narrative tension in a family programme is open to debate, but I can't see any of this playing out as a conventional love triangle. That would be too simple, too obvious and completely out of place, and I have more faith in this show than that.

    Hence, the conclusion that Amy is represented as "a deceitful, manipulative nympho" is also more than a little premature (not to mention strangely misogynistic in itself), as we haven't seen where her narrative arc is going. The thing about storytelling is that when you take individual scenes out of context, they can be extremely misleading, and it's characteristic of Moffat's writing to drop red herrings and turn expectations around.

    It seems to me that you prefer RTD's writing style in general, which is fine, of course. It just might be useful to be aware of the differences before you jump into conclusions.

    ReplyDelete
  17. A small point, you credit RTD with creating Jack Harkness, I'm sure that he was actually written by Steven Moffat. And what about River Song consistently being shown as more together and stronger than the Doctor, quite often saving him either from danger or from himself?

    ReplyDelete
  18. This is long...so in several stages...apologies..

    Dear All...

    Firstly...the comments policy. I was going to write this at the end of the piece, but I didn't want to be presumptuous, although I had a fairly strong suspicion that a certain range of tropes would manifest themselves if and when there were responses. I am not adverse to criticism, or to engaging in debate about what I recognize are legitimate differences in opinion re: for example, issues of characterization. What I was suggesting with my comments, however, is that I am fairly suspicious of those whose articulation of their arguments is mixed up with various rhetorical formulations which conform to the general type 'woman you are being hysterical'... (and this accusation has a long long history and lots of different variants, many of which were amply on display). The reason why I am suspicious of this, and why I call it a silencing technique, is that it immediately brings into play an entire cultural edifice which has been historically deployed in order to invalidate, and delegitimize, the voices of women, particularly when they provide accounts of their experience, or perceptions, which depart from, threaten, or challenge, the dominant discourse. It effectively functions to shore up the dominant discourse by implying that divergent perspectives do not have to be taken seriously because they are a product of a number of character traits traditionally associated with the female, such as irrationalism, over-imagination, over-sensitivity etc.

    This then leads us to the interesting question about whether there actually is an equivalence between the deployment of these techniques and my response to them, which is effectively, a gesture of refusing to respond, or calling somebody on, their attempt to delegitimize my voice, not by argument, but by rhetoric. This is tricky, and brings us close to a number of issues we bump up against all the time in the public sphere. Does a commitment to tolerance mean that we should tolerate intolerance? Is it appropriate in a society which believes in free-speech to have legislation against hate-speech? Is it sometimes necessary to suspend democracy in order to protect democracy? In a certain sense there is an equivalence here - effectively you tell me to be quiet, and then I tell you to be quiet. But when I tell you to be quiet, I am not asking for you to not express your arguments, I am asking for you to not express those arguments in a manner which deploys an entire system of power to delegitimize my voice. This issue is not entirely unrelated to what I generally consider to be the false equivalence between the objectification of men and women...the import of gestures or rhetoric is very significantly affected by the way in which they intersect with existing structures, and while it is never nice to objectify anyone, the objectification of men does not, to be blunt, play a role in the perpetuation of tried and trusted systems of oppression in a way which is equivalent to the objectification of women.

    ReplyDelete
  19. I guess it comes down to two things:

    1) Do we think that the deployment of delegitimizing rhetoric is equivalent to the refusal of that delegtimization? Or, to be more bare bones about it, is it oppressive to refuse or reject someone's attempt to be oppressive? I guess the answer to this is yes and no, and this, is not unrelated itself to the paradoxes of violence/power/law and justice which play out themselves in the Whoniverse - or used to at least. Is the violence that the Doctor deploys against his enemies equivalent to theirs? In some sense yes - it is still violence, and as such, is always ambiguous and shot through with tension, and palpable anxiety on his part. However, in other respects, no, because we recognize a distinction between power deployed to protect, or resist, and power deployed for the purpose of domination or maintaining an existing structure. I'm not suggesting I'm the Doctor, before any of you get exercised. I guess what I have always found fascinating about Who is the fact that this element of his character dramatizes something which all of us struggle with, how each of us is to deploy our own capacity to make a difference in the world, to what ends we use what power we have, whether we can make a meaningful distinction between power used for good or ill, and the personal struggles and sacrifices that the use of power entails.

    ii)The second thing that disinclines me to respond with openness to comments which deploy the rhetoric of hysteria, is that it strongly suggests that what is bothering you about what I have said is not really what may or may not be articulated in the arguments which you choose to present. If you defend the charge of misogyny with classically misogynist rhetoric, it suggests to me that what is bothering you about what I have said is that it presents a challenge to misogyny. Which is does, and I would expect that to meet with a certain kind of resistance, which it did. What I refer to a 'female silencing techniques' are incredibly powerful, and they function to discipline by both, as I have suggested, undermining the legitimacy of the perspective being articulated, and also, by the more or less explicit threat of more or less explicit violence. Woman have traditionally internalized these, and have responded by retreating from speech due to shame and/or fear. What I was expressing in my comment was a refusal of this internalization, and the suggestion that when criticism comes wrapped in this form, it is not principally motivated by the particularities of the argument given, but rather, by a knee-jerk defensiveness of the paradigm under critique. And it is interesting to note, that while my refusal of this rhetoric elicited a certain hostility, it pretty much disappeared from the thread thereafter.

    ReplyDelete
  20. That said, I do, as I mentioned, think that there are seriously interesting questions opened up here about what we understand as constitutive of 'flat' vs. 'three-dimensional' characterization. I'm actually more than happy to accept that there are, of course, places where Amy does do stuff. What I was intending to exemplify, if not conclusively demonstrate, in my examples of her passivity, is the sense shared by some that she doesn't exist as a fully rounded character...I was reaching for a way of pointing towards that, but I agree, it doesn't quite do the job...which is useful, and it leads me to consider, therefore, what it is that I, and others who respond to her as I do, are looking for in a character. In the end I think it has a lot to do with understanding what a person's interests and concerns are, what they care about and why, and being able to identify with those concerns. There are a bunch of issues with Amy in this respect. The fact that she doesn't come to us embedded within a matrix of relations that dramatize her personal investments. That she doesn't have a reasonably well developed psychological history which also enables us to understand what is at stake for her in terms of her future development. In a certain sense the Doctor-companion relationship is always about the opening of possibility beyond the mundane, and the journey this presents for the companion. Melidere - and thanks for you considered comments - I am interested that you experience Amy as expressive of the excitement and promise of this experience, because, it is something I really find lacking in her. Yes she nominally wants to escape her potentially humdrum existence, but I very rarely get from her - or from the Doctor - a sense of the wonder, or enchantment of the adventure...and I think this lack of 'childlike effervescence' effects the whole tone of the show, and, also, significantly, the sense that the Doctor and his companion are really enjoying themselves, and each other, in what they are doing. In addition to this we have the question of how much her character develops in response to what she is being shown, because while Who always functions with a paradigm of 'being-whisked-away-by-the-magical-man' what RTD usually did with this, was use it as a device by which the companion realizes, not how awesome the Doctor is, but how awesome she/he(in Mickey's case) is...that is it becomes a vehicle for the opening and development of the companion's potential and sense of possibility. There is something important in the this journey about what one must face, risk, and sacrifice in order to reach one's potential. With Amy, I have a sense neither of her potential or the development of her potential, nor of what she is confronting in her own being as she moves (or does not move) through this.

    ReplyDelete
  21. With respect to the issues of negative presentation of women and whether it is misogynist to consider presentations of sexual aggression misogynist etc...Firstly, I don't want an idealized portrayal of women, and idealization is a problematic for women as denigration...there is a difference however, between a rounded presentation of a sympathetic woman who has recognizable faults we can identify with (or not)...and what happens when those faults are attached to a woman who is functioning more as a cipher than a character. This brings us back to the issue of characterization, and I guess, if Amy is working for you as a character, then her negative traits are part of a three-dimensional whole. Because this isn't how she presents herself to me, what I see is a constellation of fairly stereotypical gender markers, and the one I am most concerned with is the presentation of her sexual aggression/sexuality as somehow inappropriate, uncontrolled, or threatening. This is because I think there is a meaningful distinction between presenting female sexuality positively and as a threat, due to the fact that, as I explain, perceiving it is a threat is both related to disciplining that sexuality, and is also indicative of an underlying structure of preoccupation with invulnerability.

    It is interesting to me that the issue of invulnerabilty/and its correlative projection of female sexuality as threatening or consuming, is the aspect of the piece which has drawn almost no direct response, because that is the absolute core of what I was trying to draw out. I agree that the things about the cracks is possibly pushing at the edges of credulity, but, I put it there, firstly, because it basically amuses me, and secondly, I do think we have a tendency to sometimes dismiss as far-fetched things which are functioning at a symbolic level. It is impossible really to give anything like a definite determination here...symbols work for some people and not for others, and more often than not they work in ways we are not conscious of. Do we have a cultural tradition which associates certain aspects of the feminine with images of the monstrous, the consuming, the devouring? Yes we do. Is that what is going on with Moffat's cracks? Well, maybe, maybe not. I was making a general point about a certain axis of his presentation of female sexuality, and the cracks provided an illustration. Is it unequivocal evidence? No. Is it a bit silly? Yes. Is it something we can easily dismiss as laughable? I'm not so sure.

    ReplyDelete
  22. So lastly, the ratings thing...this, I have to say, was by far the most prevalent criticism...which I think is really interesting in itself, particularly as an almost complete sidestep of the main axis of critique in favour of fact waving. To be honest, I don't really care about this. I conceived this piece as a way of trying to get at some of the issues I, and many of the people I talk to about this stuff, were having with Who. It seemed to me from personal experience that several of the more casual viewers of the show have been turned off by something, and I put the viewing figures in as an indication of that. I'm more that aware that there are also a significant body of die-hard fans who are delighted by what Moffat is doing, and I think I recognized that both at the start and finish of the piece. As we know, stats can be used pretty selectively to demonstrate a wide number of points...I don't think my argument stands or falls on the use of statistics, it's an articulation of what some of us are having a problem with, and some of us clearly are not.

    Oh, and a final final piece of sass which I've been trying really hard to resist all the way through this but I guess I'm just not quite big enough...

    "You're just ranting all over the place trying to impose weird 'rules' for the show that only exist inside your head (3 classes of kiss? are you insane?)."

    It's called classification...it's a fairly basic and routine cognitive procedure that is in no way related to hysteria.

    Thank you all for your responses...This is long, so, I need to get back to my life now...but for those of you still enjoying the show, go well with it, and for those of you who are not...there will be further installments of "laughable feminist nonsense" on their way. Cheers...

    ReplyDelete
  23. jayseajay, are you saying that when a man describes an argument as silly it's a silencing technique just because the argument responded to came from a woman and a man responded?

    If you look around the Internet there's lots of comments like "that's silly" or "that's rubbish" in discussions, whether it's a man responding to a woman, woman responding to a man, woman responding to a woman etc.

    I read your posts here as oversensitive, over analyzed, and saying as much about you as the other posters. And to be honest, your parting shot is the kind of lame silencing technique I've seen before - making your parting shot then putting your hand of your ears and saying "Nyah, nyah, I'm not listening".

    ReplyDelete
  24. Jayseajay, I've been enjoying reading your blogs for a few weeks now and I think what you are implying about the current incarnation of Doctor Who is valid, and congruent with a more general sense of backlash. I think that as the feminine returns in the wider context to reclaim her position as alongside the masculine, there are some quarters which find this very threatening and try to shout her down. Invariably they use the tools of a masculine-derived language. I think that one of your strengths is the way you very ably and clearly explain this. I think one of your weaknesses is when you opt for sarcasm. I don't think you have to engage with people whose response is that of unselfconscious patriarchy. But I worry that the fine line within sarcasm of wit and acid is lost in the fairly bland format of the typed screen. I really like the way you give yourself time and space to go deep with some of these points, but I would also reading pieces that are more condensed.

    On the subject of Who, these are my thoughts:

    The problem with the Doctor and Amy is that they don't seem to enjoy spending time with each other. I haven't had this sense of TARDIS traveller disconnect since Peri and Six decided to slag each other off amid such catastrophes as Attack of the Cybermen, Timelash and Mark of the Rani.

    Moffat's excessively complicated plotting has come at the expense of characterization. I can look back and admire what he did with the Doctor from Big Bang talking to Amy in Flesh and Stone as conceptually clever, but unfortunately it doesn't alter the fact that I have squat all feeling for either of them. Likewise the question of Rory in this series. He may well have some deep emotional roller-coaster journey ahead of him, but he's a plastic centurion - as we were reminded when Eleven asked him in Day of the Moon.

    The sense that New Who is going through it's own version of the Colin Baker years can be seen in one small detail. When Moffat took over he wrote in DWM that this was going to be series 1 and series 31 and also series Fnarg, as if to try and stamp his own mark on the show, and possibly get away from the fact he was following on directly from RTD's reboot. Needless to say, Fnarg didn't catch on and it became series 5. After the highlight of Tennant's era, a bit like the Classic series after Tom Baker, the show had only one place it could go.

    Moffat wrote some great stuff when RTD was at the helm. Now in charge of summoning emotional resonance himself, he is failing. I've been a fan for over 30 years. I could easily sit down and watch City of Death for the upteenth time as I could Human Nature. The current incarnation of the show is the first time I have not wanted to rewatch any of it. The era from Peter Davison onwards is widely acknowledged as the time is stopped being a popular show and became a specialized interest enjoyed by only a tribe of determined fans. Plus ca change ... ?

    Keep up the good work JCJ and more please!

    ReplyDelete
  25. You're all bloody idiots.
    Amy represents a modern woman. You obviously want to go back to hairy arm pits and think a hairy lip reveals your feminist self.
    What a waste of my time.

    ReplyDelete
  26. Out of interest girls; do you find the main problem with the show now to be Moffat, Smith's Doctor, or Amy?

    Like if you could swap any of the above for RTD, Tennant or Rose , which would you be most keen to swap, and which least?

    ReplyDelete
  27. I absoutely LOVED this piece - what a joy to read! Have had so many issues with this incarnation of Who, I show I used to adore (I especially loved Ten and Donna, but I loved Ten and everyone really) that it was fantastic to see some of those issues articulated so beautifully.. I will write more later when I have the time (lucky you!) but I just wanted to thank you for such an insightful, interesting and occasionally hilarious piece (regardless of Moffat's conscious intention or not, I think your 'cracks' comments are absolutely classic.. can't wait to share that one).

    So.. thank you - a great read!

    ReplyDelete
  28. Sally Sparrow, Mdme du Pompadour, Nancy from the Empty Child & River Song don't seem to fit your thesis.

    Must try harder.

    ReplyDelete
  29. I don't necessarily have problem with Matt smith- I LOVED him in the SJA episode "the death of the doctor", but I cannot stand the Amy Pond character. She annoys the crap out of me; for many of the reasons you have put forward. Although I am intrigued about how the River Song character fits into your theories about Moffat and women, considering he introduced her to the Doctor's universe. And I love her. I want to be her. But Amy Pond is insipid and just comes across as a fantasy for nerdy teenage boys. I have long thought that it is Karen Gillan's inability to act, but I am starting to think it has more to do with thhe character. I actually like Rory, and Arthur Darvil is brilliant in his readings of the doctor who audio books, so maybe it does all come back to the writing of these episodes. What I don't understand is how I loved Moffat's episodes so much during the RTD year, and yet I find these new series so try hard, and dark in a way that I don't think DW need be. I am an Aussie, grew up with DW, but watching it in the USA where it Is shown at 9pm (with an annoying intro each week..."my name is Amy Pond and when I was young I had an imaginary friend etc" which makes me SCREAM!) and it seems to me almost as if Moffat is trying to remarker it as an adult scifi show, which just seems wrong. Part of the charm is that it is accessible for all; that the whole family can watch it and enjoy it. I am waiting to see where it all goes...I am left feeling slightly disappointed every week.

    ReplyDelete
  30. Wow, what an article! I've waited ages for a well thought out and subtly argued analysis of gender roles and relationships in Doctor Who.

    Unfortunately, this really isn't it.

    ReplyDelete
  31. Not sure I agree with ALL of the points made in the blog, but it's certainly a very entertaining read!

    I watched some Who as a child and as an adult loved RTD's reboot. But the series since Moffat took over has left me cold. This is not entirely down to the presentation of female characters, of course - but yes, his attitude to women (being very obviously based on their physical attributes) set alarm bells ringing for me.

    I do wonder a little what effect this is having on young female viewers. Rose, Martha and Donna, it seems to me, offered some good qualities to aspire to. The adult Amy? Not so much.

    Finally, just to make the point that the women characters Anonymous listed earlier were created under RTD's stewardship, which may possibly explain their more "fully rounded-ness". That said, I find de Pompadour and River Song unbearable!

    ReplyDelete
  32. "Finally, just to make the point that the women characters Anonymous listed earlier were created under RTD's stewardship" - by Moffat.

    ReplyDelete
  33. I've never read such a sustained piece of nonsense as this post. Dressing up prejudices in the obfuscations of Theory really don't give them any more validity. And with regards to the comments, no one is trying to 'silence' you, as you put. It just seems to me that you can't take criticism very well. And you can't expect to lay pretty serious accusations of misogyny at Moffatt without expecting some blowback.

    ReplyDelete
  34. "Finally, just to make the point that the women characters Anonymous listed earlier were created under RTD's stewardship" - by Moffat."- not necessarily; RTD had quite a big influence on the overall arch of the series and is, for example, the creator of Jack Harkness, NOT Moffat. So while Moffat may have written the episodes featuring the characters they might not necessarily be fully HIS characters.

    ReplyDelete
  35. Captain Jack was piloted in Moffat's episode, but was indeed created by RTD.

    However, all the woman named in the post in questions; Sally Sparrow, Nancy, Rennette and River Song, were undoubtedly created by Moffat, as (with the exception of River who is obviously Moffat's character anyway) they were all created for a single episode, so there would be no reason for the head writer to have made them.

    ReplyDelete
  36. also RTD has stated that while, on many an occasion, he did re-write other writers scripts to make them more to his liking, Moffat was the one writer who's work he never messed with.

    ReplyDelete
  37. My goodness. As a woman, this piece makes me ashamed to call myself a feminist. It's convoluted and your arguments don't make sense. Amy Pond is a strong, female character and if she had been invented by a woman I'm sure you would love her for being sexy, intelligent and strong. She hasn't done anything morally reprehensible (apart from try it on with The Doctor whilst in a relationship with Rory) and although she may not be a fully rounded character, she's a damn sight better than some of the flat caricatures RTD produced during his tenure.

    It's obvious to me that you preferred RTD's imagining of Doctor Who, and his writing style, and that's fine - but why not say so instead of coming up with a half-baked, pseudo feminist argument.

    Regarding Stephen Moffat's supposed misogyny - watch Coupling, then get back to me.

    ReplyDelete
  38. Menting at it's most mental.

    Very well done.

    ReplyDelete
  39. Bitches be trippin.

    ReplyDelete
  40. Ambiguity...thanks! Btw...great name, something to live by methinks...

    ReplyDelete
  41. [In the interests of full disclosure, I refuse to call myself a feminist until modern feminism recognises the seriousness and frequency of female-perpetrated abuse and fully admits that women can be arseholes of their own volition, just as much as men. I'm not already onside, basically.]

    I thought this post was very interesting. Moffat's writing has a definite coldness about it, something that doesn't quite fit together. The ingredients are there, but it's missing something to bring it together, something he's never got. I've come to the conclusion that it's probably compassion. True compassion. All the women he writes are messed-up inside, but with a layer of "sass" over the top, masquerading as personality.

    Personally, I wouldn't describe this as misogyny, because the men usually come off just as badly. The dynamics in Coupling seem to exemplify Moffat's attitudes to adult relationships; all women are unpredictable and seriously neurotic, but men put up with them because men are all useless, immature, insecure and need to be told what to do.

    Ok, ok, maybe Coupling scarred me for life and now anything written by the same man starts to look like it, but even Blink, which I loved, has that relationship between Sally and her eventual boyfriend (she's making a big fuss and people think she's weird, he's basically a big kid). It kind of drives me up the wall now I've noticed. I don't share the opinion of this blogger regarding a potential feminist explanation, I don't share her disapproval of the Eleventh Doctor, who I think is great, I just think Moffat is stuck in one relationship trope and unable to get out of it. For some of us whose experience contradicts his preconceptions, those of us who are used to strong, principled, down-to-earth people of both sexes, it can be a frustrating viewing experience.

    ReplyDelete
  42. "Regarding Stephen Moffat's supposed misogyny - watch Coupling, then get back to me."- Coupling, while arguably equally unfavorable towards men, isn't excluded from discussions about Moffat when it comes to gender. It might not be quite misogyny, but it certainly shows that he writes things with a certain bias towards certain gender roles as well as a good splash of heteronormativity. It's not so much that women suffer; men suffer as well and I think in his writing style characterization as a whole suffers.

    ReplyDelete
  43. Calm down dear

    ReplyDelete
  44. Jan, this is a really interesting response, thank you.

    I agree with you, women can be arseholes, all people can be arseholes, for a wide variety of reasons...and I guess I don't think that feminism is or should be resistant to recognizing that. For me, feminism is not about women being saints, or victims (madonnas or whores)...it's simply about allowing us to be people, and also, allowing men to be people, and neither of us having to have our ways of being in the world confined by rigidly defined roles.

    What is important to me, in all the work I do, is the extent to which the construction-of-masculinity-as-invulnerability plays out, for both women and men. I really recognize what you say about Moffat and his whole 'male-in-permanent-state-of-bumbling-crippled-apology'...or the insecurity of masculinity as you note...I guess it would seem that this would be contradictory to my argument about invulnerability, but I actually see them as corollaries. That is, one of the concerns about defining masculinity as invulnerability is that it leads to a permanent state of insecurity, because invulnerability is impossible...and therefore, to not allow men their vulnerability is, effectively, to set them up always to fail, to have an identity which is necessarily beset with anxiety and which therefore, tends to promote either a type of helplessness or a need to demonstrate their powerfulness over other things. Thus Moffat's tropes of gender vacillate between the invulnerable male and the crippled/idiotic/insecure male...while the female is either passive/flat or consuming/seducing/hysterical. This isn't very pretty for anyone, because it denies their humanity all round.

    If this isn't something that you recognize among the strong, well-grounded people in your life, then that's wonderful. Not all gender dynamics are in the thrall of this trope, and thank the stars for that. I guess for you it isn't useful to see this in terms of feminism, and you view it rather as one man's particular take on gender, while for me it represents part of a larger pattern, which crops up all over the place. To me, the issue of compassion is actually related to this, because compassion takes courage, and openness...things which are rather curtailed by taking on identities which promote insecurity, or fear, or the need to defend a position which ultimately, because it is illusory, cannot be defended.

    Anyway, thanks!

    ReplyDelete
  45. Ladies, how about this; can you give us some example of a few relationships in Doctor Who that you consider to be good well-written relationships?

    ReplyDelete
  46. Thanks for the nice response, jaeseajay :). I think you're right that the feminist/societal take doesn't work for me, for whatever reason, but I certainly find your perspective interesting as an alternative way of framing the problems I've picked up on instinctively.

    Incidentally, my issue with the female-perpetrated abuse thing just comes from bitter experience of feminist groups dismissing it just as much as very sexist "it can't be that bad if a woman did it" people, albeit for different reasons. I'm in a huff basically! Also I wish feminism could be called something different, like genderequalityism or something. But I'm wandering from the point.

    What you say about invulnerability and insecurity reminds me a lot of Narcissistic Personality Disorder (clinical psych is kind of my field). Malignant narcissists cling onto the belief that they are centre of the universe and better than everyone else, and yet as this belief is constantly challenged by all available evidence they exist in a constant state of insecurity. It is supposedly more common in women than in men, but perhaps the inevitable ruthless competition that springs from it is considered more normal in men and therefore less likely to be pathologised. I guess that's a whole other topic.

    I'm totally with you on the subject of compassion, too. Empathy takes psychological strength, as the person feeling it must be unafraid of the possibility of being overwhelmed by the other person's fear or anger or grief. What saddens me about people being too insecure to utilise their empathic capabilities is that they miss out on being overwhelmed by the good stuff too; joy, warmth, even sexual desire. A compassionate approach to sex is seriously hot. I guess this inability to feel is the consequence for anyone forced into any restrictive gender role, as emotional freedom is always curtailed by the worry of what emotions and what forms of emotional expression are deemed acceptable.

    We're obviously coming from slightly different places, maybe even just different life experiences, but I get what you're saying. Very interesting, thanks.

    ReplyDelete
  47. @second-last Anonymous (9:23 PM) - very well put.

    ReplyDelete
  48. Jan,

    Again thanks...it's really nice to feel that there is a possibility of communicating across perspectives...rather than either flat-out rejection or acceptance...I'm a big fan of the in-betweeny-ness of things.

    A couple of things:

    i) I am very interested in what you say about narcissism...particularly because the philosophical feminism which formed the bedrock of my early training was written by a French feminist philosopher/psychoanalyst called Luce Irigaray, and her major text 'Speculum of the other woman' consists in analyzing significant male thinkers (Plato, Descartes, Freud etc) and uncovering the moments of narcissism in their thinking. For her, what this is about is principally the moments when the relations with others which are necessary to the construction of the self are covered over or concealed in order to allow the masculine-ego to position itself as what, in philosophy, we refer to as self-identical, but here, I am calling invulnerable. That is, the construction of self as invulnerable relies on concealing relation, and this is a type of narcissism, in that it denies the reality of the other, and moreover, it represents a form of appropriation of the others contribution to one's own being.

    I think there is something to what you say about pathologization. Not that I am suggesting that the construction of a certain type of masculinity is equivalent in scale to NPD, but that it does involve a type of low grade habituated narcissism, one which, we might note, does also sometimes spill out into the type of rage/violence that we associate with NPD.

    What is interesting to me here, is something I am thinking about a lot recently, regarding the way in which women and men are raised differently with regard to expectations about having their needs met. This is of course not universal, but I am beginning to strongly suspect that from birth into adulthood the world is bent around men and their needs in a way which effectively, to a degree, conceals itself to them, because it has always been there. (I am thinking here for e.g. about basic stuff like the fact we know that male babies are fed more, or that the female child articulating her needs/asking for attention is called a 'princess' or a 'madam' while the male child...?) There is something here about the way in which women are not taught to identify and articulate their needs, and are somehow instead taught to expect that the meeting of their needs will coincide with (or be realized through) the meeting of the needs of others. (I don't want to suggest, either, to the contrary, that I think there is necessary conflict between needs...the zerosum-game is, I think, partially the consequence of a view which denies relation).

    ReplyDelete
  49. Anyway, what is also involved in this, and I think again this returns us to Moffat, is that the perpetuation of this bending of the world around men's needs is perpetuated both by men (by more or less explicit threats) but also by woman, and particularly through a form of rather unhelpful infantilization of men (either through the claim that he can't be left to do it himself because he is essentially useless, or because he will otherwise throw some type of tantrum). This whole thing is tricky, because I recognize that often by the time women and men are in adult relationships this has already been set. Men rely more or less reflexively on women to do a whole load of stuff for them - both practically, and in many instances actually, also in terms of processing and containing their emotions for them, because we do not have a culture which facilitates their learning to do this for themselves. To a large extent, this reliance is denied through the construction of masculinity as invulnerability, in a way which creates a problem both for the possibility of men taking responsibility for themselves and their feelings, and which leads to various distortions/occlusions of the role of women. That is, apparently paradoxically - as with many things - it is the denial of relation and dependence, and the prevention of men assuming responsibility for their needs, and feelings, and vulnerabilities, which actually promotes a type of excessive, but also unacknowledged, dependence.

    At the same time - partially as compensation for not being able to directly act to have their own needs met - woman derive a certain sense of power from men's excessive dependency, which plays out in an infantilizing-loop, and which does have the potential to become abusive. Woman do bear a responsibility for this, mostly, I think, in the way in which they raise their sons. Because, ultimately, masculinity-as-invulnerability conceals men's dependencies and vulnerabilities and hence prevents them from assuming responsibility for them, and for getting their needs met in an honest and ethical way. And while there is a whole culture out there to enforce this shit (and let's not forget that male homosociality is a big part of it, because to be frank, the need to perform invulnerability is more or less mandated in a situation in which to do otherwise opens you to the violence of other men)...there is power in what women teach their male children, about the assuming of responsibility for their needs and their feelings...which requires first of all, the acceptance of the vulnerability of having needs and feelings.

    ReplyDelete
  50. Ooffff...sorry...long!

    ii)Yes, I think it does have a lot to do with life experience. Which is not to say that I don't think my account is true, but I think it is more true in some regions of the universe than others. Like I said, if this isn't stuff you bump into in moving around the world, then that's amazing, but unfortunately, for many of the women I know, that isn't the case. I'm not sure is this is to do with profession or not...this is probably a terrible generalization, but I suspect that maybe both the women and men in psychology might be a bit more sorted about this stuff than in philosophy...Over here, we're still trying to get some of our peeps to recognize that the way in which we talk about truth - or our demands for certain types of truth - might have a lot to do with our needs for security and the problems and paradoxes of that (many are convinced that truth is all about triangles and nothing at all to do with feelings). This is where feminism is really important to me, because in philosophy, it is largely feminism that has really been able to introduce the psychological dimension, and been able to begin sketching out the way in which so many of the things which go on in public-life which presents themselves as neutral (homeland security, the hegemony of scientific method, the dominance of the universality of law/algorithm over the particularity of justice/individual judgements) are related to the construction of the ego as invulnerable, and the gender dimensions of that.

    So...I have to go to France now, and that requires putting things in a suitcase. This has been great...sorry for length, am thinking a lot of stuff out loud with my fingers right now...and for helping with that...Cheers!

    ReplyDelete
  51. A few quick thoughts on this:

    I think you have a fair point about the short skirt/Comic Relief. Though as you noted it was intended to be jokey, I felt it was a bit uncomfortable and laddish.

    Beyond that I have some sympathy with what you are saying but I also think you are too selective in your analysis, here are a few reasons why:

    The thing about Amy not saving the Doctor in The Eleventh Hour simply ignores the rather nice way she intervened in the Beast Below and subsequently.

    Moffat has written some of the nicest, most grown-up interactions between the Doctor and a woman, including River Song, Sally Sparrow and Madame de Pompadour. Personally I find those three relationships/moments far more appealing than the rather adolescent Rose romance. So even if you can identify that he has moments of misogyny, for me his writing for Doctor Who overcomes this.

    On it "not being the real doctor." When I was a kid I had that problem with Tom Baker for the first year, and with Peter Davison, I find it tends to go away. Strangely in this case I found Matt Smith convincing from the off, because he restored a sense of other-worldliness closer to Two or Four. But I think we perhaps need to acknowledge that this is a matter of personal taste rather than anything more objective.

    Menage a trois: I think you are just misreading this. When Amy threw herself at the Doctor it established that 1) he isn't interested (I see it a bit like seeing someone you knew as a kid grow up to be a pretty girl, but you still see the kid) 2) even she was only interested in a momentary way. I felt Moffat threw that in to dispense with all the tedious will they/won't they romance of the Ten/Rose arc. Now she is in love with Rory but still feels a kind of hero worship for the Doctor, which seems fair enough. What we saw in this last episode was simply Rory's insecurity and jealousy, not any evidence of infidelity in deed or thought, pussywhipping, or whatever else you're reading into it.

    On Amy being unsympathetic at times, I agree. But I hate the kind of writing that RTD indulged in where it was simply assumed that everyone thought Rose/Donna/Martha was wonderful, the Doctor told them they were wonderful, and we were supposed to accept their general wonderfulness. As a woman, I'd much rather see some more complex female characters and behaviours, even if I am not always expected to find those characters entirely likeable or trustworthy.

    So overall, I accept there are a few moments that feel a bit misogynistic here and there, but I think it's wrong to characterise Moffat's writing as being misogynistic as a whole. Personally I think it might have been for the best if the whole Rose/Ten romance hadn't happened and Moffat didn't inherit the complex expectations of Doctor/companion relationship that created. Amy Pond seems to me to be partly his attempt to move on from and counter those expectations, and therefore this is still partly the aftermath of some of the faults of previous series.

    But for all that I am loving this series and feel it's a bit unfortunate if you can't put the analysis to one side and simply have fun watching it.

    Thanks for the interesting read though.

    Thalia

    ReplyDelete
  52. Thalia,

    Blatently supposed to be packing, so also briefly, thank you for interesting comments...(I don't want to belabour this, but it is not lost on me, that after all the shoutyness and hysteria accusations, some 40-odd comments in we get to a place where it seems that a few (mostly it seems) women can have a balanced conversation...there is something here to me about the space made for women and their way of interacting the the public sphere..)

    Anyhow, yes, I agree with you, my analysis of Amy is selective, and in one of the long sets of comments above (the first one) I think this through a bit...I still think she's a bit wet, but I do accept that the device I use as an example doesn't nail it. As for RTD's females, I think they had faults...Rose was pretty vanilla (although she had great strength, and emotional intelligence), Martha got dumped with a nasty mooning-over-the Doctor storyline, and was a bit hard and brittle...Donna was a bit snarky (though mostly hers was a funny sass rather than Amy's strop) and in her earlier, and last form, superficial and insecure...but boy, did she go on an emotional journey..and as I said above, that's what I'm really lacking from Amy.

    On the Doctor not being the Doctor, yes its partly a matter of taste (as so often), but taste doesn't just come out of thin air...as we know, there are reasons why people are more divided on Marmite than on strawberries...I guess I am interested in what this Doctor has or doesn't have that seem to make him less palatable to some, and perhaps equally more beloved by others. This is something I want to try and think through in the next part of this.

    On this, and the issue of not being able to put the analysis aside, this is something many people have raised...i.e. 'you just don't like it and then you've made up a bunch of reasons to justify your feelings.' I have to say, and this is something central to thinking as a feminist, I think that is what always happens. We have intuitions and feelings about stuff, and then we try to articulate what those feelings and intuitions are about. This is part of a general critique of rationality...I basically think that mostly rationalization is an after-the-fact kind of business. So, yes, I agree with you, I would really love to be able to put his aside and get on with enjoying a TV show which has meant a great deal to me...it's a serious loss, and I feel it. But unfortunately, I'm just not enjoying it...and so, given my devotion to it, I am left with trying to work out why.

    Okay, pack pack packing. Cheers!

    ReplyDelete
  53. OK, have fun wherever you are going and will be interested to see Part Two in due course.

    Thalia

    ReplyDelete
  54. @jaeseajay - I'll leave you alone now! Have a good time.

    @Thalia

    Great comment. Rose irritated me, or rather the romance irritated me. I think the Doctor's treatment of Rose, Martha and Donna said more about his character than theirs. He always had the sense of his own superiority, then they'd make an observation and suddenly it's "OH you are BRILLIANT", which did get a little grating, but I guess it's just the character. I felt that those 3 companions were starting from slightly different places: Rose already had plenty of self-esteem, she just felt a bit stuck and going nowhere; Martha wasn't lacking either, but her feeling of having to sort everyone out the whole time and being unappreciated for it made her vulnerable; Donna really didn't think much of herself at all, but had retained her principles and compassion.

    The relationship between River and the Doctor one I don't really like. It is confusing as I like both the characters and the actors perfectly well, but their relationship seems characterised by the same pattern as usual: she's sassy, keeping cheekily reminding the Doctor that she knows things he doesn't, but she's fundamentally vulnerable because he's seen her die and knows when it's going to be etc etc.

    On the subject of Rory and Amy, I wish he'd give back a little sometimes. Insulting banter is very usual in couples, but in all those I know who do it, it goes both ways, rather than one doing the slagging off and the other huffing and puffing and objecting but being ignored. It's good to see Amy stacking some affection against the rest of her actions towards him, at least. I admit Rory is insecure, but in fairness, Amy's behaviour is unpredictable and hardly transparent. To not be a little insecure under those circumstances would require I think an unhealthy level of blind self-belief.

    TBC

    ReplyDelete
  55. Anyway, as it is all subjective, I guess people want different things from the characters, and the companions are a big potential sticking point as they are supposed to be the figure of identification for the audience. Maybe not everyone uses them that way. I can't identify with the Eleventh Doctor much because he's so mysterious and eccentric, but that's fine, he's an alien, he's supposed to be. Ten often felt like just some bloke, which was nice for a change, but I'm glad they didn't go in that direction again.

    My problem with Amy is that I can't identify with her for 2 reasons.

    The first is that her principles don't guide her. In fact I'm not sure she's got any, really. It wouldn't be so important, but she's constantly experiencing new places, new creatures, new times, and how can one makes sense of such things without putting oneself in other people's place sometimes. She does the right thing sometimes, but it almost seems accidental, as if it's what she's been trained to think is right rather than having really thought about it. BUT, having said all that, I'm obsessed with ethics, and had empathy as a form of understanding drummed into me by my Dad from a very early age, so I may have an exceptional problem with someone who doesn't get these things.

    Secondly, and more importantly, I don't understand why she behaves or thinks in any given way at any given time. Cliched, I know, but "what are her motivations?" I don't know where she's coming from. I know her childhood experiences have made her feel alienated and misunderstood, but validation for such feelings is a massive force for change in anyone's life. She's been proved completely right about everything, so where is all this insecurity and moodiness coming from?

    I reckon that if there's a big clever character arc going on here, I'll probably get a lot more enjoyment out of series 5 and 6 if I wait till the end then watch the whole lot over. Going through it at normal pace feels like a slog.

    [Rory doesn't quite work as a point of identification for me either, just because if someone treated me the way Amy treats him I'd tell them to fuck off :D]

    ReplyDelete
  56. Jan...

    You really don't have to leave me alone, (I'm all packed now, there's just the small matter of cleaning the house...ho hum)...your comments are a total joy...

    As for Amy, yes spot-on on both counts.

    I think the ethics issue is true both for Amy, and for the Doctor and the show more generally. As someone said to me over at Gallifrey Base, it seems that Moffat doesn't really care for the issue of good versus evil, which "is probably more unusual for a Doctor Who writer than being scared of women." Maybe I'm also unusually obsessed with ethics...I teach it for a living (or what passes for one)...but there seems to be a general lack of moral force in the show, and while I ain't much into black and white, Who used to do a good job of dramatizing the importance of compassion, of resisting exploitation (okay, so the Ood sphere was heavy handed but hey, it's a kid's show too)...and the paradoxes of force and violence..etc...In addition to the lack of principles in the characters, there is also, as someone noted, an over abstraction of the threats, into things which, to me at least, look a whole lot like a bunch of primal anxieties...frankly, I miss the evil capitalist-nazis in their various guises...

    Also, on motivation, it might be a cliche, but a lot of cliches and cliches because they are true.

    And as for Rory. Quite.

    Cheers, Jane

    ReplyDelete
  57. Jan,

    Interesting thoughts - a couple of quick ones in response.

    I'm not sure that Amy does treat Rory that badly. She maybe takes him for granted a bit, but she has stuck by him, brought him back to life, married him and most of the time they seem to be having fun together. The worst thing she did was to make a pass at the doctor that one time, but firstly I saw that as a plot device to signal that we aren't going to have an Amy/Eleven romance of the Rose/Ten variety, and anyway they have moved on from that moment as a couple and their relationship is stronger now if anything.

    Obviously it is a bit strange for Rory that they are there with the Doctor, her childhood imaginary friend/idol, but I don't perceive her behaviour towards him as especially bad. My take on her is just that she is young and impetuous, and more over-excited by the adventures than Rory, who is only really there because he wants to be with her. so in general, I don't really share the negative view of her.

    Secondly, it's true that we were always expected to empathise with the companions in the RTD era, but this hasn't always been the case throughout the series as a whole. And I'm not sure it is necessary for us to identify with a companion for them to work. We can still share Amy's fear in the children's home or in the forest of angels, even if we don't always find her sympathetic. I think that allowing the companions to be complex or ambiguous characters allows for more complicated narrative options even if it makes it a slightly "harder watch".

    Thalia

    ReplyDelete
  58. @Jane Ahhh, thanks ;)

    I'm actually very interested in what you say about the show in general. It's not something I'd especially noticed as I'd been too busy peering at the characters, but I'll keep a look out for it from now on. It occurs to me that Moffat does like playing up the "something under the bed" bogeyman-type fears and villains, which does work sometimes, and probably works always for kids. However, as an adult, I know there's probably nothing under the bed, and that the pattern on the sheet isn't actually in the shape of Satan (look, I was very young, ok!), and for villains to really scare me they have to reflect a genuine real-life fear. Like the old example of vampires as metaphor for psychopaths; you trust them, then they kill you just because they feel like it; that's scary. The closest to this I can think of from Moffat's run is the Angels in the S5 two-parter. The moment of realising all the statues are angels, though I guessed it well in advance, was a decent walked-into-a-trap-due-to-our-own-arrogance scare, and the monster-talking-dispassionately-in-a-human-voice thing was creepy enough, again reminiscent of psychopathy, though in other ways I thought those episodes were a bit of a mess.

    But The Silence I thought really suffered from being apparently scary "because they just are". I know that woman got killed in the toilets, but programming the whole human population to exterminate/drive away the species without figuring out what they were up to? How do we know they *made* people forget them upon turning away? Maybe they couldn't help it :D. Or maybe I missed something, that's certainly possible, heh. I'm not saying they could easily have been benign, but surely they're a bit more complicated than "Evil. Must be killed." If you're gonna do that you need to be sure it's right.

    Anyway, something to look out for.

    ^
    hopfully less full of goddamn typos than my previous effort

    ReplyDelete
  59. I really enjoyed your analysis. Unfortunately, rather than evolving as one of the most important subjects of the past century (which it is), feminism has been subject to a massive backlash in which even the term "feminist" has become a dirty word. It is refreshing to hear an unapologetic feminist treatise on *any* subject, and especially important when it focuses of on science fiction which many still believe is the "last bastion of masculine escapism". (Forgive the lack of an attribution for that quote... yes, I paraphrased it, but I have read versions of that statement over and over and I challenge any reader to argue that this is a widely held, though completely erroneous, belief.) I was not aware of those statements of Moffat's, and I am shocked that he said them. I think your your analysis of his characterizations in light of those statements is spot on. While I have my own take on this incarnation of Who, I don't feel a necessity to tear down yours.

    To "Brokenbones" that wrote, '...This reads as an argument that started from a conclusion (you don't like it) and worked backwards looking for better and less subjective reasons.' I have to point out that summarizing a thesis in the first paragraphs and then expanding on it throughout the article is the classic form that is taught at every level of education. The use of that form does not indicate that the author's thought process started from pre-conceived notions rather than evidence. I don't think silencing techniques are *limited* to men vs. women but they are deployed rather willy-nilly in online discourse. [cont.]

    ReplyDelete
  60. "Anonymous", after calling everyone "bloody idiots", states, "Amy represents a modern woman." I would ignore this comment, but it does concisely state the other side of the coin regarding Amelia Pond that I would like to address, since no one else has. Amy is not a fully-realized women/human being, but there is a reason given for that within the context of the show. Thanks to The Silence (which has now been established as having existed all along) Amy is missing a good chunk of her memories, and a lot of the memories that she does have are suspect. Plus, just as Rory can remember 2,000 years as a plastic Roman the didn't happen, Amy has a lifetime of memories in which she, unaccountably, had no parents (and was subject to forced therapy by four different psychotherapists because she refused to consent to the reality of those around her). As Dr. 11 says, "your life makes no sense." In a way, the introduction of Amy could be seen as derivative, or a continuation, of what RTD did with Donna and her grandfather. Both of those characters became companions of The Doctor, at least in part, because The Doctor recognized that there were too many coincidences attached to them. The Doctor and the TARDIS are both in love with things that don't make sense. Whereas on other shows, such as "Quantum Leap" and "Journeyman", there comes a point at which it is made clear to the audience that there is a "higher power" guiding these trips through time and space, while on Doctor Who we never get such a pat explanation of why every single time the TARDIS lands, it lands in the middle of a conflict or mystery. However, there have been comments by The Doctor to the effect that the TARDIS is attracted to such events, and of course he himself always needs to get to the bottom of things.

    So back to Amy. Her incompleteness both attracts and repels The Doctor. I can't imagine any incarnation of the Doctor letting her go until he was satisfied that he had solved her mystery. It has been revealed in interviews with Moffat and Gillian that 1) Series 5 and Series 6 should be viewed as a whole and 2) that in Series 6 we will see more of how Amy's experiences have really deeply influenced and injured her. There may be hope that Amy will be able to put the pieces of her character back together again (and yes, I'm a hopeless optimist). [cont.]

    ReplyDelete
  61. That final point that I would like to address is whether 11 is the "same man" that has been at the helm of the TARDIS for all these years. Matt Smith is almost ridiculously young. Although it has not been stated, it does appear that the more The Doctor regenerates, the younger the body appears (this, along with her seeming acceptance of his death in this incarnation, makes little sense when River Song speaks of "her" doctor as being older... older, in fact, than the doctor we saw dying... I really hope Moffat has a plan to explain that!). Along with his new young body, 11 has shuffled off much of the gravitas of his previous incarnations and embraced a youthful joie de vivre that 10 was less and less capable of after so many tragedies in such a short time. 10 was a very tragic figure, right down to his last, pleading words, "I don't want to go." 10 was painfully aware that he was about to lose a lot, so having an 11 who is missing some (or a lot) of what we know about the The Doctor does make some sense. 11 is painfully immature. I love the photo comparison above of 3 Doctors' kisses. This doctor pouts when he suspects his friends are lying to him (in "Astonaut") in a way that I can't image 9 or 10 doing (compare the 9th doctor being irked by Rose's implication that he can't dance). He denies his own past to a degree which makes me question whether he has psychologically blocked out the past 9 (?...wasn't he 900 at the beginning of Series 1 2005 and 909 at the end of Tennent's run?) years, or at least the emotional components of those memories. Fear of women and sexism are both signs of immaturity. It is very hard to tell how much of all this is Moffat, Smith, or a planned revelation of The Doctor's own psychology and possibly an attempt to address how this man/alien can possibly retain such a youthful and hopeful enthusiasm for life* after so much pain and heartbreak.

    *I wrote this fully aware that The Doctor blithely puts his life at risk at almost every opportunity and that in many cases he would seem to the casual viewer as downright suicidal. Yet even in his darkest moments, we know that at his core, The Doctor is an optimist - even when all sense indicates that he shouldn't be. It says a lot about me that I wrote that, and that I will look forward to every episode of this series with as much optimism and enthusiasm as I have every other.

    ReplyDelete
  62. @Thalia

    I think you make some good points. I think our difference here is probably a very personal/subjective one.

    In stream-of-consciousness order:

    I didn't see much at all of pre-2005 Who, barring the films, which I gather don't really count, so I don't have the context for unsympathetic companions. I hadn't thought about it, but maybe I caught part of one of their stints and found the programme inaccessible because of it. It may just be something I and a few other people can't deal with so well.

    It is very early on in S6 still, and as I say, Amy's character may make more sense in retrospect, I'm certainly not determined to detest her forever. In fact I don't detest her at all, I just find her baffling, with a tendency to be disrespectful; the kind of person I'd avoid in real life. I thought she was rather lovely in Vincent and the Doctor, but obviously that doesn't count for the purposes of this discussion, being non-Moffat.

    Strangely, I didn't have too much of a problem with her pass at the Doctor. It was more the way it was done. It lacked any genuineness or emotional honesty on her part. If she was just after exciting sex, harsh on Rory and unethical, but valid in itself. But if that's what she wanted, surely she would have been quicker to take no for an answer. She appeared to be assuming that he'd want her, despite his having known her as a child when he was already an adult, which could understandably be offputting. But this assumption also came off kind of as bravado, suggesting vulnerability underneath and thus not a solely sexual interest. I think that, although perhaps not terribly interesting for the kids watching, this could actually have been explored very nicely. Perhaps she *needs* to believe he'd want her. Perhaps in the absence of her father she's needed someone to define masculinity and happened to subconsciously choose him, so being rejected by him is like being rejected by men on some kind of meta-level. Perhaps she's also attracted to Rory because he is the opposite to the Doctor in many ways and therefore safe and unlikely to reject her in the same way. (Or perhaps this psychotherapist needs to get out more!) Maybe we're supposed to read something along those lines into the whole thing, but for me there was just no true emotional depth, something that could have been corrected in just a couple of lines by a more compassionate writer than Moffat.

    Sorry if that's garbled, I'm low on energy today.

    ReplyDelete
  63. I would like to reiterate that I wholly appreciated the original post and found it relevant, insightful, and important. It is unfortunate that my response did not particularly address the issues of feminism, sexism, and misogyny that were at the core of the original post. Thank you for bearing with me as I pondered some aspects of the show that I have noticed and forgive me for going "off-topic". I don't live with any Whovians at present, so I have a lot of pent-up thoughts to express. I am honored to have expressed them in this corner of cyberspace. Thank you!

    p.s. Please excuse my typos/misspellings. I'm a bit short on time and I wanted to reply before this post goes stale. I particularly regret, "as Rory can remember 2,000 years as a plastic Roman the didn't happen." It should have been "that", rather than "the".

    ReplyDelete
  64. Right, I'm going to have another go at that last bit.

    What I mean about the making-the-pass scene, is that, being unethical on Amy's part as Rory seems to be assuming exclusivity and therefore he would almost certainly be hurt, she must have had a reason for doing it. We're all human, with human failings, and I would be interested in a nonjudgemental way in what drove her to do that. It could have been left out, it could have been explored fully enough without taking any extra time, but I felt it was just underdone, superficial and weird.

    I'm prepared to revisit and reconsider when I've seen the rest of S6 :) I reserve full Moffat-rage until then.

    Apologies for the shit grammar.

    ReplyDelete
  65. I like, and agree with, an awful lot of this.

    Please please write part two, though, as I'm not sure you can get much more misogynistic than (the implication of a forced) pregnancy being used as an excuse to do nasty things to a person with a womb, especially having that person give birth (a particularly painful experience for a lot of women) far far away from anyone she knows and loves...

    ReplyDelete
  66. Hello! Hope France has gone well for you and am an American Girl who found Who just as Dashing Tennant was dying...maybe the last two epps. But - I had a relationship blog and read and post on a lot of them as well. The masculine vs femine energy dialogue is being well traversed here in the States - even to on popular blogger telling women to let their inner boy handle things while their inner girl sinks into her "feeeeelings." (google Rori Raye for more...) And it makes me want to puke! Plus I dislike dividing my psyche for any reason, and I find "naming" my energy into disparate parts appaling and perhaps harmful to my mental health.

    So with no comparisson to be not as good as or as epic as nor as compasionate and morally compassed as...

    I think they are both just immature and being portrayed much as school adolescents are. Rori seems to be the only one ready and willing to grow up. The Dr. has a few flashes of amazingly right on moments where he is "other-worldly," like when he tells that Lizardess not that look, I AM the last of my species and I know what that look would look like. It's cold and deep. But much of the time he's like James T. Kirk without a Spock component. (lol) and he does seem to enjoy Amy, or at least want to protect her and not just have a clinical interest in her as the center of all things.

    But the tardis going through the tunnel, the picture of the crack - female genetalia?! O.M.Gosh....it IS, or it really really looks like it. WOW.

    Sometimes a symbol is just a symbol, sometimes a tunnel is just a...tunnel?

    Love it, and your way with words. Picked it up on my Facebook page as part of my notes on what Femininity (with power and individuality) really is...and my blog is on vacation, but if you want to write relationship male/female commentary, would love to have you.

    And the shout outs as shut downs? I experience that constantly on the feminine blogs when I don't use "feeling messages," or disagree with the tools to manipulate - no "Make a Man Fall in Love." It's an Internet phenomenom, not so much a sexist one. But your point is well made - all of them, actually!

    Warm regards,
    Jlina

    ReplyDelete
  67. Apologies...school aged adolescents, second Rori is Rory, and all mispellings are to be ignored!

    ReplyDelete
  68. I really haven't been satisfied by Doctor Who since the end of Series 4, and was quite gutted when Elisabeth Sladen passed away - for the obvious reasons but also the selfish fan ones; as I really felt she was holding up the Doctor Who franchise while we "get through" this Moffat time period.

    I guess I have been holding in a lot of fan disgruntlement because tonight I've been trolling the internet trying to figure out if I might be the only one who isn't entirely happy with Moffat's take on the Whoniverse. It almost seems that everywhere you look there is nothing but praise for the man - I'm just utterly befuddled by it.

    I have found SO much I agree with in your blog post! I'm far too lazy these days to try to articulate all the things that bother me about the series, but you seem to have put your finger on a lot of it.

    It seems you're getting some flack for your take on the show so I wanted to show some support! I can't wait to read part 2.

    ReplyDelete
  69. Dear Global Magpie...thanks! Yeah, there was a lot of flack, but it wasn't something I wasn't anticipating, so I was prepared for the 'calm down dear' style onslaught. That said, support is always appreciated, so I do thank you...and fear not, you are not alone...in the little bit of the whovian-verse in which I exist, there has been a fair amount of disgruntlement, only recently and unfortunately temporarily allayed by the wonder of the Doctor's Wife...see how much better it is when we give our hero a connection to his history and relationships? - although, that said, the fact that the only relationship with emotional resonance this series has mustered is the one the Doctor has with his ship itself speaks volumes...Nonetheless, Gaiman for showrunner we say! (Oh, if only...but, as if)

    ReplyDelete
  70. Jayseajay, The Doctor's Wife was just so refreshing and magical. It FELT Like Doctor Who again. I had this realization after watching it that it was the first episode of the new group of players where I didn't dislike Matt Smith in the Doctor's shoes, or the character of Amy Pond. That just of sealed the deal for me that it's Moffat's writing rather than a bias against Smith or Gillan.

    You are so right on about it being very telling about the only emotionally resonant relationship being with the TARDIS. As many times as this or that character is dying or in crisis, I haven't actually felt much of anything from Moffat's "relationships." For heaven's sake I cried when it seemed Data's cat had died and yet Moffat can't squeeze a tear out of me when Rory is on his deathbed for the umpteenth time? Something is definitely not striking the right chords with me.

    As I say, I am really looking forward to your next entry about this :))) I'd better stop gushing about Doctor Who and get ready for work!

    ReplyDelete
  71. "That just of sealed the deal for me that it's Moffat's writing rather than a bias against Smith or Gillan" [The Global Magpie]

    Me too. The first episode like that for me was Vincent and The Doctor. I know it wasn't to everyones taste, but it just made me think "Hey, I really like these characters when they're not written by Steven Moffat". I only bother with the episodes he's written now because they're so crucial to the story. I wish desperately that I could put my finger on what produces the feeling of coldness I get from his writing.

    The only extra "evidence" I can find is that fans of Moffat (real fans as opposed to people who just quite like him) seem to be extremely nasty to any critics, accusing them of being stupid or hysterical, more so than I've seen with anyone else in fact, so perhaps cold writing attracts cold people. Not suggesting that everyone who likes him is an arsehole, of course, just a minority, but that minority seems exceptionally vicious.

    ReplyDelete
  72. Good morning Jan, nice to see you again!

    I guess I'm gonna go into one of my feminist things eventually...but I am really interested in what you say about the coldness of it...I think what many of us are struggling with - and here I am thinking of my closest friends, and you and for example Magpie above, and also my mother...who was never, ever a Whovian, and is more or less indifferent to sci-fi as a genre, but watched almost all of the RTD era...because it was good drama...and what she cares about is good, strong, emotional storytelling...Basically, the problem now, as my friend Nick would say to me, is that it is almost entirely lacking in heart...

    There are a couple of things to say about this. I think its pretty interesting for one that on the 'Music and Monsters' thingy which is in the Series 2 boxset, Murray Gold, when talking about the way in which he tries to write music to express the inner life of characters, noted that when Doctor Who came back, it was, actually, very unEnglish in a certain sense (while of course still being very quirky and characteristically English in another)..and that sense is to do with it's raw emotionality, its non-stiff-upperlipness if you will. And what of course is interesting about this, is that RTD isn't English, and neither is Julie Gardener, or David Tennant...which would all work beautifully as a theory, except that Moffat is also Scottish...Nonetheless, I do think there is something in the way in which the program falls along the much contested touchy-feely vs. stiff- upper-lip continuum (or the lyrical Celtic vs. buttoned-down English continuum even...yes, its a total stereotype, but it's not total hogwash either)..and that this is not entirely unrelated to your observation about the nastyness of Moffat's most diehard fans...

    There is something about stiffupperlipness, about a certain type of emotional repression to be blunt about it, which produces, as a corollary, a certain type of violence...(i.e. all the unprocessed stuff that is being carried around is directed outwards)...this is not random, the English are both simultaneously (not unlike the Japanese incidentally, who have a similarly adapted culture) the most polite and the most brutal and violent of people...if I wanted to be historical about this, I would say that the manufacture of this type of emotional modality, which is not exclusively restricted to by any means, but is axiomatically, the way of being of the upper middle class male (i.e. of the ruling elite above all else)...and was actually, mor eor less deliberately produced by the public school boarding system (where traditionally 7 year old boys are taken away from their mothers and then subjected to a ritualised process of humiliation which leads, ultimately, by the time of their late teens, to them proving themselves sufficiently capable of domination to subject the new boys to the whole process) largely for the purpose of producing men capable of forging and administering a global empire...with all the violence that entails.

    ReplyDelete
  73. I'm not saying that this way of being is only that of the upper class male, it has, pretty much, disseminated itself fairly widely in British culture by this point...but this axis of contention between the emotional and the repressive is a very crucial one...and is, for example, key to understanding the story of the conflict between Diana and the Royal family, and the reaction of the general population to her death...it was, in a sense, a popular expression of the desire to move Englishness away from repression and towards expressiveness...which is why I always resisted the tendency of many to deride the whole thing as sentimental and mawkish...it may have been in a certain sense, but she was a symbol, and what she was a symbol of, was both literally and figuratively, touching people...

    I think what I was trying to get at in the piece, is the way in which the coldness of Moffat's writing, is related to this inability to engage and connect with this reality of what it is for beings to really touch each other - either in time or in space - and the extent to which I think that this denial of relation, and dependence, and vulnerability, is profoundly connected with the construction of a certain type of masculinity. I don't in any way think this is a necessary feature of the being of men, but I do think it's produced over and over again in many many ways, but possibly more than anything, by raising men on the model of the disembodied, rational, controlled, autonomous, non-relational subject. When men succeed in incarnating this ideal, they are either heroically invulnerable, or cold, violent and ruthless, and when they fail, as they must, they experience themselves as failures according to the ideal...and become Moffat's pathetic helpless weak male...that is, there is no model of healthy emotionally expressive strength here...

    Anyway, I guess I could go on ad nauseum about this, but I guess you get the idea...there is a weird intersection of national, class and gender identity at work here...and so, while above I talked about this in terms of gender, its not only gender, although, as I have suggested, the upper middle class English identity, is paradigmatically, also the identity of a male...ultimately, in some sense, the identity of the King...of he whose purpose is to rule. And the thing that this person can't be - and this is a lot of what the King's Speech is about for instance - is weak, emotional, overcome by their own feelings, dependent, lacking in confidence, or needy...and someone who is like that all the time, is just really emotionally uncompelling to watch on a screen....

    I'll stop...sorry again! For some reason your points really set off my rambles...

    ReplyDelete
  74. There is, I guess just one more thing I want to say about this, and this reminds me of what I want to say about the Doctor's character in the next section....(so thanks for making my brain tick that way again!). The fact that Moffat cannot write him as having an emotional being which is both strong and relational...i.e. the fact that Moffat on some level conceives strength as invulnerability and relationality as weakness...is seriously screwing with the Doctor as a force of a kind of justice, but a justice which functions primarily through compassion, rather than any type of application of universal laws. For me, what Doctor Who is, and it is not only this, but I think it has to be this to a degree for it to be the show I love so deeply, is a story about a guy who flies around the universe and protects little people from getting brutally dominated by big people...and the reason why he does this, is because he cares about them, because he feels for them, and he just happens to be a being who is powerful enough to do something about it...But without the compassion, the power is meaningless, at least, as far as him being the hero who I recognize as the Doctor...So I guess I want to argue that compassion is essential to the being of the Doctor, and that compassion is, fundamentally, an issue of being open to relation, it is, literally, com-passion, co-feeling.

    Ok, really stopping now.

    ReplyDelete
  75. Hi! *waves*

    That's all very interesting. I enjoy your rambles! I think emotional repression is at the heart of a lot, probably most, of problems in society, and it's interesting to see it linked to Moffat's writing. It does produce a lot of nastiness in people who are reassured by repression, presumably as it protects them from themselves, including their guilt in many cases. If someone threatens the repression they have to be taken down. I see this in my family :D. The only really true example I can think of of the repression in Who at the moment, off the top of my head, is the fact that Amy seems incapable of expressing, probably admitting, what she feels at any given time. If anyone else has spotted anything I'd like to hear about it.

    RTD's writing had its flaws alright, but one thing RTD has never been afraid to be is humanist in his approach. A good example is his ITV drama from about 10 years ago, "Bob and Rose", in which a gay man falls in love with a woman. He got a lot of flak at the time from people saying "Ridiculous! That would never happen in real life", when in fact it was based on someone he knew. Although he writes a lot of the same "everyman" characters, I feel he acknowledges the diversity of people's characters. He seems to genuinely like people, and not have too many ideas about what they *should* be like.

    ReplyDelete
  76. *thunderous applause*

    Honestly, I just ...

    *THUNDEROUS APPLAUSE*

    Between this and the OverthinkingIt article you linked to, I feel like the ENTIRE WORLD makes sense to me again. I have been agonizing for weeks over my preference for the Davies era over Moffat's (and I can't bring myself to WATCH Moffat's; I knew, when I saw the second part of "The End of Time," that I had watched the last episode of the show that I ever needed to watch, because the ending was the ending I needed) -- but I couldn't figure out the reasons for that preference.

    I do now. That was an amazing, AMAZING write-up. I absolutely cannot wait to hear more from you!

    ReplyDelete
  77. Thank you so much for writing this post--it expressed so many of my issues with Moffat's era, and why I continue to rewatch RTD's over and over. I really hope you write part 2 and more.

    ReplyDelete
  78. Glorious, eloquent, and more spot-on than I even knew something could be, about this. You articulated the discomfort I've felt with the Moffet-only Who trajectory in a way that gives me language I did not previously have about it. Thanks so much. Please keep it going.

    ReplyDelete
  79. Only got to read this post today and I wish I read this earlier. I've had issues with RTD's writing before (mostly about his obsession with Rose, whom to this day I still think was his self-insert in some way, though he's also a proponent of Suddenly Weddings Everywhere when it comes to Martha & Donna, which also didn't make me very happy) and I initially liked "Girl in the Fireplace" & "The Empty Child"/"The Doctor Dances", so I was hoping for something better with Moffat. But close to the end of RTD's tenure, I started to worry and my fears were sadly not unfounded.

    I feel BAD at how misused these characters have become. I actually like Smith and Gillian, but Moff's fecal dribbling has made everything toothless. Amy Pond is worse than a typical Mary Sue -- she's not even a character, just a plot MacGuffin. The only thing that matters is her vagina pops out Moff's chosen OTP in River Song and that enrages me. But don't despair, because Amy can settle for Rory, who is Moff's self-insert (ordinary guy who waits and waits, gets to save the day several times AND gets the hot redhead in the end anyway? Of course Moff encourages the Rory is the new Chuck Norris meme! That's HIS wish fulfillment!).

    I actually got frellingly triggered by Amy's pregnancy. Turned into a damn broodmare just for the sake of plot. And she's supposed to be happy that her kid will likely hook up with Eleven?! That's bloody creepy and insulting!

    ReplyDelete
  80. I haven't been following Dr. Who closely in the latest season. It's always been a show I dipped in and out of. But your characterization of 10 and his companions is completely foreign to me. I've seen all of that. Donna's fantastic. One of the best companions there is. But I was in a room full of cheering people when Rose and her insipid, simpering uselessness was banished to another universe. We only felt sorry for her family for having to put up with more of her whinging. And her deification under RTD would be the crowning definition of Mary Sue if Gwen didn't exist in the same universe. And while Martha's a perfectly good character in and of herself, her weird, undeveloped, sourceless crush on the doctor made you gag. Ten himself was cute for a bit, but thank God he's gone. I haven't seen enough of eleven for an in-depth discussion of the feminist, and I'm willing to believe a lot of his side characters are flat. There are certainly male authors in the world who can't write women. But I'd take Amy over a dozen Roses. She does things. She's effective. She calls the doctor out, the very act that Donna's credited for, only she does it all the goddamned time. But because it's the eleventh doctor, who actually has dimensions and flaws instead of raising his eyebrows and solving every problem there's ever been, no one seems to notice. I don't want to speak on their larger contexts, but I haven't rolled my eyes yet at Eleven and Amy, and I wanted Rose written out by her second episode.

    I am, incidentally, a cisgendered female who tends to be awfully sensitive to issues of privilege and writing. And I'm referring to the characters, not the wider context, which I realize is limiting. But if you want some icky, underrealized, badly written female characters, try Rose and Gwen and bring it right to RTD's doorstep.

    ReplyDelete
  81. Thank you for this analysis. I'd stopped watching Doctor Who three episodes into Moffat's second season, and I'm not the only person I know who's done this. I will say those like me are all women (and all writers, come to think of it) who stated their reasons why they stopped watching (poor character development, Moffat's tell-don't-show style, the characters--except Rory, mostly--leaving them cold), and when one of them also brought up the sexism in Moffat's writing, I looked for and found your post. It's been thought-provoking.

    FWIW, I don't think RTD did everything well during his era, but I like that his characters (the companions, and you could even argue some of their relatives) always grew up/changed--with the poor exception of Donna, who had all her development taken away in the end. In Moffat's era, the character you get to watch being changed the most by knowing the Doctor is Rory. Amy (and even River Song) come in 'perfect' or at least done in character growth--spunky, strong, taking no shit--it's not bad in itself, but there's almost nowhere to move from there, in the character's development and/or the audience's emotional involvement. (Moffat also has a habit of telling viewers the OMGawesomeness of his female characters right from the start. See all the first intros of River Song, Amy Pond, and even Madame dePompador.)

    Reading the comment above mine, I'd found it odd that someone who's only dipped in and out of the show has such an antipathy for the characters of RTD's era and love for Moffat's. Then I typed out my comment, and think I answered my own question. If you don't watch the complete seasons, you miss RTD's character arcs and Moffat's character arcs--the latter because Moffat hasn't written any.

    I do think Moffat's neuroses and attitudes about the sexes are coming through his writing (I was starting to get a Coupling vibe in his Doctor Who); while I think they're just unquestioned instead of deliberate (and this is not a defence of him), it has become annoying watching the things (companion fixations and romances with the Doctor, mainly) that fans (mostly men) complained in RTD's era getting a free pass in Moffat's; Moff's Law (different person) is suddenly broken all over the place when Moffat's genius is questioned. THAT's where I get annoyed.

    I also get how Eleventh Doctor hasn't really felt like the Doctor, 'cause I felt that way from the get-go. You had Ten at his absolute lowest point before his (final) regeneration, and all of a sudden, right after, you've got this... silly twit with zero (wait for it!) gravitas and almost no trace of all his previous emotional burdens. (No more icky girly vulnerable stuff, hooray? Is that why guys seem to love it more now?) The change was so sudden and so drastic (compare it to Nine's evolution to Ten) as to make me go WTF, not to mention it seems such terrible form to piss all over RTD's era, which had done a LOT to bring Doctor Who back and make it accessible to an unprecedented variety of people. This Doctor switcheroo only makes sense if I think about Moffat's Curse of Fatal Death, but that was comedic, and this just seemed like bad handling of a popular character.

    ReplyDelete
  82. I said much the same thing on my Tumblr, only dissecting as well the fact that I as a queer woman no longer feel safe in the Moffat-verse, whereas I DID feel safe in the Rusty-verse.

    And you should have seen the straightsplaining by the Moffat dingleberry fans. The straight white women telling me how wrong, how SO VERY WRONG I was to feel the way I did and do...it was disgusting. I can't say I hate Amy as much as those of us who share the same general opinion on Moffat's writing tend to do, but I think the Amy in my head hasn't been the Amy on screen for a long while. And neither has the River in my head. Coz shoot, I still love her. I refuse to let Moffat's crap writing take her away.

    ReplyDelete
  83. Hi Anonymous. You've sparked my interest there. Is there anything specific that's causing you to feel less safe, as a queer woman? While I have queer ideas regarding sex and gender, I am cisfemale and attracted to men, which I feel places me mainly in the hetero experience, if you see what I mean, so I'm interested in any other perspectives.

    ReplyDelete
  84. Interesting read. I disagree with a lot of your individual points about Amy and female symbolism (and vehemently disagree with your assessment of Tennant's needy-and-hyperpowerful characterization as 'sexy,' for numerous reasons), but I am glad to see someone categorizing Amy as a bit of a wet rag. I do think she's set up right off the bat as something of a Barbie doll (she is a kiss-o-gram! you can put her in many outfits, they are all cheap), and I very much agree that her younger counterpart is a cannier, more complex, and more interesting character. As for Matt Smith's Doctor, he reads to me more like who the Doctor is than anything Tennant did in his last season. If Smith's series have flagged, it isn't because his Doctor is a bad idea or because he's giving a bad performance; it's because Moffat has run out of new lines to give him or directions to point him in that won't catastrophically derail the characters and the tone of the show. Every plot will lead to the END OF TIME and THE WORST APOCALYPSE and COLLIDING UNIVERSES, and it will get less interesting and more convoluted every time.

    ReplyDelete
  85. I'm sorry, but I think, at least in one important way, you're missing the point. Just as Donna said, the Doctor needs someone sometimes, and what we're seeing now (at least since "Amy's Choice") is a Doctor who is *falling apart*. That's what I'm liking -- it's a return to the clown with something very dark lurking right underneath that caused me to fall in love with the Sylvester McCoy episodes. (And I'm really hoping they retouch the idea that Merlin was an alt-reality Doctor!)

    Also, I must say I like Amy, because she's willing to call bull on the Doctor. Granted, this wouldn't be the first time I've been blind to anything less than awesome in something I like -- I have a nasty habit of seeing works of fiction for what they could be, rather than what they are.

    ReplyDelete
  86. I am delighted by both the quality of your writing and your analysis and frankly, given your professional credentials as an academic, horrified by the tone of some of the comments you have received. I sincerely hope this won't stop you from writing further pieces on the subject. I would dearly like to know what you made of the pregnancy plot of S6 and the character of River Song, who thinks nothing of taking down a dozen aliens single-handed but can't even choose a university course without telling her admissions tutor that she's doing it to find a man.

    Would you mind if I cited you in my LJ? Or have you had enough?

    (PS Yay, philosophy! My son is reading Cont Phil at Essex and has just bagged the Ellis Packenham prize for his first year results. So the vocabulary's familiar to me).

    ReplyDelete
  87. @sensiblecat

    Thanks for your comments, no please, cite away...I haven't really been keeping up with the comments of late, but I really don't mind more...the useful critiques are useful, and the vitriol just reminds me why I do what I do, and makes me more determined than ever to speak. The lull in posting has been because I've been moving house, and writing for The Guardian. But hopefully, normal service will be resumed soonly. Cheers, Jane (yay philosophy!)

    ReplyDelete
  88. i loved it, 'hit the nail on the head' for me!

    for me the only one that feels 3d is Rory, the rest (Dr, Amy and River too)feel like their missig some pages to their character or they are poorly underdeveloped mess :D

    I ve watch up to god complex hoping it will get better, that i would enjoy it again but i've realised i'm flogging a dead horse. So now i shall leave it to be buried.

    P.S

    i would love to know your thoughts on River?

    ReplyDelete
  89. Seriously? River Song's story, a complicated plot?
    How old are you?
    Here in France, many fans like me have been baffled by the incredible weakness of the scriptwriting for the two last seasons (except for the children who turns away for other reasons such as their difficulty to apprehend a villain as the "silence").
    In season 5 everything seems to start from scratch as if Nine and Ten had never existed: out strong companions, out funny moments who didn't need to relied on someone skirt and sexiness...
    A shame when we know that some things could have turn very good: poor Roman Rory could have been great with a backbone, Amy could have a sad background since she only had her aunt ...
    One or two more seasons like that and the show will loose one of his biggest non-british fan: me.
    Ps: I'm not saying that all RTD episodes were perfect (far from this) but they were fun to watch nonetheless.
    Ps-Ps: Sorry for possible mistakes

    ReplyDelete