#YesToFemaleDoctor

Internets! I just found the most amazing website ever!

Doctor Her is a website dedicated to fan posts about Doctor Who from a feminist perspective that is also concerned with not alienating (dis)abled, trans*, genderqueer, GLBQ people, and people of color. They paraphrase bell hooks in their About page! They use the term “kyriarchy!” I can’t handle this!

I stumbled across a totally awesome post Courtney Stoker wrote called “NuWho, poverty, and class: Or, the poor women are totally screwed.” In it, she examines the lives and fates of Rose, Martha, and Donna, arguing primarily that Donna and Rose get totally shafted because of their lower class status. If you’re interested in insightful anti-oppressive commentary on Doctor Who, visit this website. Now. Well, finish this post first. But then go.

And now to explain the title of this post, I also found out today that SFX Magazine started #yestofemaledoctor and #notofemaledoctor.

These two basically sum up my position:

https://twitter.com/erinpuff/statuses/184043723674488833

I would also add that I’m sick of lazy science fiction that is only willing to challenge norms like “Time travel’s not possible!” and “Aliens aren’t real!”, but never heteronormative assumptions about gender and sex. (I also just realized that Courtney Stoker, author of the aforementioned article, also is responsible for that first tweet. Is she just the coolest person ever?)

If you have a Twitter account, please tell the world, Yes to a Female Doctor! (I’m not going to be mad if you say no, but I will wonder why you read this blog.) Even if this is never, ever going to make the producers of the show let the Doctor regenerate into a woman, the world needs to know you support challenging heterosexist norms that place men at the center of the universe! (That’s right, the whole universe!)

-Joanna

P.S. If I seem a little excitable today, it might be the cold meds talking.

Why, Moffat, Why?

Now that Doctor Who-related buzz is all over the ‘nets, I figured I’d give my take on it all.

Early last week, it was announced that, beginning with the next Christmas special, Jenna-Louise Coleman will be playing the new companion.

It’s probably unfair to say right now that I’m a little disappointed. It’s impossible to tell what kind of character she will play, especially since Doctor Who keeps itself under very tight wraps. She herself seems like a perfectly nice person and everything. I just can’t help thinking the choice is a little too safe. She’s inoffensively pretty, the kind of companion we’ve seen a thousand times. I wanted a man, or someone older, or a squishy alien, or someone who isn’t white. Something different.

There are rumors that she might be an alien and/or a lesbian. If she is an alien, I sincerely doubt that Steven Moffat would allow them to put alien makeup on her pretty face, so she’d just be an alien that looks human. If she’s a lesbian, I’m sure it will be handled completely wrong, with Coleman playing a performative, hot lesbian instead of a real-life lesbian. Besides, alien-lesbian sounds a lot more like Russell T. Davies’ area of expertise, not Moffat’s.

While I’m on the subject of aliens: Why aren’t there more of them in the teaser trailer? Why does it make it look like it’s the sequel to Cowboys & Aliens?

For those of you who haven’t seen it:

 

I’m tired of Doctor Who being all about trendy alt history. I like alternative history, don’t get me wrong. But I think the show has done it to death, and I want hard sci fi back. I want aliens in spaceships, not in the Old West, and as much as I love Daleks, I wish we’d see less of them, too. It always feels like they realized they forgot aliens, so they throw in some Daleks.

To make me even more apprehensive about the new season, Moffat has said that, “Who she’s playing, how the Doctor meets her, and even where he finds her are all part of one of the biggest mysteries the Time Lord ever encounters. Even by the Doctor’s standards, this isn’t your usual boy meets girl.” Someone make this pain end. What I get from this is that the story will be pointlessly convoluted instead of good, and she’s going to fall in love with the Doctor. (Or, because it’s not the “usual boy meets girl,” the Doctor falls in love with the companion, and she doesn’t fall in love with him. Inversion! Genius!)

I’m especially missing Donna’s not-fawning-over-the-Doctor ways right now. And more than anything, I’m missing Russell T. Davies. You can say a lot of things about how Doctor Who, even Russell T.-era Who, problematizes female characters. But Russell T. didn’t have woman problems the way Steven Moffat does. For some extra reading, an excellent article about Steven Moffat’s woman problem can be found here at Starburst Magazine’s website.

We can argue til we’re blue in the face about Moffat’s woman problem in the context of Doctor Who, but the fact is that if a man casts an actress because he likes her legs, he’s probably sexist. I don’t really look forward to watching the new season, but I do look forward to deconstructing it.

-Joanna

More Thoughts on The Doctor’s Companions

Recently, I’ve been re-watching the new Doctor Who chronologically. In a previous post, I expressed my disdain for Amy Pond’s non-character, and hinted at my nostalgia for the way the show used to be. This post is basically an appendage to that, with some thoughts on the companions individually and the show generally.

Unlike Amy Pond, Rose Tyler is many things, but, as The Doctor tells Satan in “The Satan Pit,” she is not a victim. Victimization has been and remains today an important facet in understanding pseudo-empowered female characters. If the character, in an attempt to save herself and others, formulates her own ideas and successfully carries them out, she is probably not a victim. In “The Satan Pit,” Rose thinks she and the Doctor might be separated forever (not an uncommon occurrence in the show). She is in the middle of a life-or-death crisis on a ship impossibly orbiting black hole, and neither she nor the crew know exactly what evil is among them. So what does she do? She doesn’t let the crew or herself wallow in self-pity, instead forcing all of them to think their way out of the situation, using the bits of information given to her by the crew to solve the puzzle. She doesn’t simply sit there and cry, wishing the Doctor were there to save them, and cursing him for not being there. She pulls herself up by her bootstraps, as the saying goes, and helps to save the universe.

Now, after reading this testament to Rose’s capability and smarts, you might be under the impression that I really like and admire Rose. That’s not exactly the case. Before Amy Pond, I really didn’t like Rose. Basically hated her. I found her personality grating and her sorta-kinda relationship with the Doctor pretty annoying. I also disliked her possessiveness of the Doctor; she tends to act like she is entitled to be with the Doctor. (Boy, was I to learn what a person could be like when they’re really possessive of the Doctor!) This time around, I was able to understand a few things about Rose. For one, she’s only nineteen/twenty. Of course she falls in love with the Doctor and thinks being with him is more important than being with her family. I also never realized how capable and clever Rose is allowed to be. While she may be just an ordinary chav working in a shop, she does have a brain and tends not to panic. When Rose does wander off, it’s usually to try to figure out something for herself. She clearly follows in the show’s tradition of using your brains, not your brawn, in order to get out of sticky situations/save the universe.

And that, dear reader, is how I grew to appreciate Rose. The Doctor’s next companion, Martha Jones, was a much easier character to love. Martha, a med student, is extremely intelligent, which impresses the Doctor when they first meet. Her intelligence and capability remain an important part of her character, even after she chooses to leave the Doctor. Less intelligent, but no less lovable, is Donna Noble. As I expressed in the previous post, Donna is funny, deeply empathetic, and twice as sassy as Amy Pond could ever be. All three of these women prove to be useful counterparts to the Doctor, and never allow themselves to be damsels in distress.

The show is sometimes accused of being sexist. I would perhaps call it heteronormative instead. It’s a mainstream, family-oriented British TV show; what about that says radical? I don’t think it promotes misogyny, but it obviously doesn’t do much to challenge gender norms. In my ideal world, Doctor Who would have even stronger female characters, a more equal villain-to-gender ratio, break down the barriers of race, gender identity and sexuality. But that’s my ideal; what’s real is much easier for most people to digest. And what’s real isn’t bad, but could be so much better.

-Joanna

Why Series 6 Should Have Been Amy Pond’s Last

As far as the new Doctor Who goes, two seasons is basically the standard turnaround time for a companion. Rose got two seasons, Martha lasted only one, and Donna stuck around for another one. Amy Pond will be on her third, with rumors of deaths to come, possibly truncating her stay.

Now, I’m sort of lukewarm towards the way the show has been going the past season or so anyway. There have been complaints that the show is getting a little too sexy and a little too scary, complaints that I don’t think are wholly unwarranted. The sex appeal, in particular, has been amped up thanks to River and the Doctor’s flirtations and, to some degree, the 11th Doctor’s personality. I’m not exactly criticizing the show for turning up the sexy dial, though I do wish sometimes that they’d spend more time with cool aliens and less time making innuendos.

Another cause for moral distress among some is Amy Pond herself, the enthusiastic acolyte of the tights trend. To set the record straight: I don’t care if a female character is attractive. I don’t care if she often wears mini-skirts and tights to show off her legs. I just want a little more to my female characters than long legs and pretty hair. In the beginning, there was, perhaps, hope. While she smacked a little too much of the stock “feisty, smart, hot” woman, it seemed at least that the writers were still trying to create a character. (Despite the fact that we first meet adult Amy in a kiss-o-gram uniform.) Then, somewhere along the long road from “The Eleventh Hour” to “The Girl Who Waited*,” the writers stopped.

Part of the problem is Rory. Rory’s fun, sure. He’s a great tin-dog who, surprise surprise, shows he does eventually have a brain. Lovely. However, in focusing so much on making Rory the goofy underdog, it seems they forgot to develop Amy, too. Amy spends most of her time getting lost/kidnapped/locked up, ignoring Rory and then crying over his death, and hugging the Doctor. Contrast her to Donna who, despite not exactly being everyone’s favorite companion, was funny and compassionate. (The episode where the 10th Doctor and Donna help to free the Ood comes to mind in particular.) Donna is a “round” character who changes and evolves, but Amy Pond does neither of these things.

The differences between Donna and Amy are more superficial, too. Amy Pond is meant to be hot. Donna is meant to be funny and compassionate, and, more importantly, not hot. In the world of mainstream television, those three things can’t coexist. If you’re hot, you’re hot and that’s all. Even if you’re strong or smart, your hotness supersedes everything else about you.  If you’re compassionate and funny and female, you are not only not hot, but no one likes you. This is also why, I think, Donna is least liked among the companions. She was not chosen for her eye candy abilities.

Part of the problem in continuing Amy for three seasons is writers easily run out of things to do with stock characters. (And I do maintain that Amy is a stock character.) That, I think, is why it’s gotten this bad. It’s also because the writers get comfortable with the character, or non-character, they’ve written. So unless the writers were to make a conscious effort to evolve Amy’s character, which I don’t see happening soon, her character will remain static.

That’s why I think series six should have been her last. It’s time for some fresh companions, for something new. I’m tired of the same old Doctor-Amy-Rory dynamic, and the Doctor-Amy-Rory-River dynamic, too. Some of my favorite episodes of the past two years have been ones with new characters (“The Lodger” and “The Doctor’s Wife” most especially, the latter for many reasons other than the absence of Amy and Rory). I want a fresh start. I want the 11th Doctor without Amy and Rory. I want more aliens and monsters and less crying over Rory’s 1000th death. I hope that series 7 will bring us just that.

* I know everyone else just loved “The Girl Who Waited.” But, really guys, who pushes the red button? If there’s a green button and a red button, why would you ever push the red button?

-Joanna M.