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Women in Doctor Who

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Amuro
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« on: January 12, 2011, 01:03:39 pm »

Was looking into the points about Moffet and women and came across the article.

http://io9.com/5022250/why-steven-moffat-isnt-all-that

Its very thoughtful and raises a lot of valid points. But still, I think the overall argument is unjustified. I think you can find a lot of the problems mentioned in many sources if you look hard enough. I'm not going to argue that entertainment isn't often dominated by men, or that these type of common character traits are ok, but i don't think Moffat in particular is guilty of this. I think a similar approach to RTD's female characters would raise just as many alarm bells.

Also, as a companion piece, this article looks at the same themes, but with closer focus on the RTD era.

http://www.overthinkingit.com/2010/05/03/is-doctor-who-bad-for-women/

All really interesting points and I'd love to hear some other peoples thoughts!
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« Reply #1 on: January 12, 2011, 02:25:51 pm »

Personally, there have been times in the original series where it was not only helpful to women but downright brave. As a writer and a longtime fan of scifi, I'm pretty sensitive to the issue of women in science fiction both in literature and shows. I know at least in America science fiction is frequently dumbed down and at best catered to the 18-25 year old males, so when I see shows like Fringe with a main female character who does NOT have to flaunt her sexuality, is highly intelligent, and isn't an ice queen nor a b!tch, it's unusual and refreshing. Babylon 5 remains another show which did a very good job not only at gender but the LGBT representation.

I think in wondering about the Doctor's companions it overlooks the fact that there have been male companions and there has been a married couple in the TARDIS before: Barbara and Ian. So to complain this is some female escapist fantasy is ignoring an awful lot of canon.

I DO think that the new series has a far, far more Peter Pan feeling to it than the previous with RTD, less scifi and more fantasy elements.
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« Reply #2 on: January 12, 2011, 02:27:15 pm »

On this note, if they make River Song solely important due to her being the Doctor's wife, it would do her character a huge disservice. They've been gradually giving her legs and having her as an independent force, almost to the point where I wonder if they're working up towards her having her own show.
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« Reply #3 on: January 12, 2011, 03:01:36 pm »

I have never had a problem with sexism in the reboot, the classic series treated woman far worse imo as they were often just a bit of eye candy for the (mostly) male viewers.  The comments in the io9 piece come from about 7+ years ago; he was drunk and angry about certain people/issues, and has since apologised profusely for them.  I remember there was a long topic about it on Gallifrey One (the old GB) in which he retracted all of it, unfortunately the site no longer exists or I would link Sad

In fact I think he said far worse in the 90's (which again he has retracted).  He has been a fan of the show all his life, it's like a fan on this forum saying something negative being brought up in 10 years time if they are ever lucky enough to work for the show.  He has said a lot more positive things before the reboot, during RTD's tenure and even now, but for some reason the same interviews are raised when people want to discredit him Sad

I'm not saying that they are a saints by any means, but at the same I think everyone is allowed their opinion as a fan of the show, no view is right or wrong at the end of the day Tongue
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« Reply #4 on: January 12, 2011, 03:06:19 pm »

I would dearly love to see the retractions because as far as I knew, they were recent interviews.

Agreed on the sexism in the classic series, although there were examples I think where they got braver on that and had a stronger female char than what was typical. That may be why I love chars like Sarah Jane and Ace, actually....

What I'd love to see is a return to treating LGBT as normally as het. That appears to have left along with RTD. If it's anything I'd like to see instilled in the next generation it's that same sex partners are okay and no different than anything else in the world.
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Amuro
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« Reply #5 on: January 12, 2011, 04:09:08 pm »

Is it possible that the character of Rory and Amy is a deliberate response to his own embarrassment about his previous comments? He said women were needy and men didn't want to get married. In Rory and Amy we find the complete reversal of this scenario (especially in Amy's Choice, admittedly not written by Moffet). In fact, you could even say this has gone too far and damaged Amy's popularity as I know a few people who dislike her because of her lack of concern/commitment to Rory and her frequent criticisms of the Doctor (which, although echoing Donna somewhat, were miles away from Martha and Rose).

The problem with this is that it still doesn't create a well rounded character and means that popular ideas of feminine identity have still played a part in the characterisation (this time, being defined by trying to combat these ideas.) Even when Amy does get married - and by that point I don't see it as 'settling' but a choice based on love - Moffet adds in her propositions to the Doctor to show that she isn't just going to be a quiet, subservient wife.

Hopefully he will once again learn from peoples criticisms and make Amy more well-rounded in the next series. Interviews he has given suggest she has changed following the events in the last series, and Karen has alluded to this too.

I personally think River is a very mysterious, adventurous, strong and potentially dangerous female character. These descriptions are usually exclusively reserved for male characters (look at Bill in True Blood, Vampy boy in Twilight, Roland in the Dark Tower, Arny in Terminator 2, Han Solo...countless other examples). Yes, she is often reliant on the doctor in some situations - but he is the boffin! In combat situations (and often technical) she can hold her own; especially against stone daleks! The main problem with her character is that we already know how her story ends, and it is in a very unsatisfactory way, especially given what we know now. How I wish she would have survived (properly) the Library!

Finally, criticising Moffet for pairing off his female characters isn't really fair I think. I have no problem with Sally having a boyfriend - how does this undermine her character? Yes, her friend is sent back in time and is happily married, but this is important for the story as it underlines how the Angels "kill you kindly" as she has still had a full life. No, having a family isn't the only way to show a full life, but it is - in storytelling terms - a satisfying way to do so given small confines time wise and a large audience. For example, Martha being engaged is one of the key ways they communicate she is 'over' the doctor. Sure, her great career and strength should be enough to do that - but having her engaged underlines this. Also, pairing her with Mickey is quite simply fan service. The main thing that rubs me the wrong way about this problem is with Rose. Her story was based on her love for adventure, but in the end it made out that she loved the doctor, but would prefare if he could just settle down with her and have a family. For her love/passion to be vindicated, she needs the man to share to be able to devote himself to here? Doesn't sit right with her series one character to me.
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« Reply #6 on: January 12, 2011, 04:26:55 pm »

Actually, you hit the nail on the head with your descriptions, and highlighting them makes it even more obvious: not a single one of these women are thought to be happy unless they were married off. It's a continued problem in this culture that marriage is always seen as the "end game" and what supposedly everyone does, and that's not necessarily the case.

I have often hoped for more excellent television where women live full, happy lives without the need for the audience to see them get hitched as proof of their happiness.
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« Reply #7 on: January 13, 2011, 11:27:08 pm »

My main reaction reading that first article was to wonder whether she'd watched the same stories and characters I had.  For instance, there's no way the Doctor was considering settling down with Reinette until he actually got stuck there, and his reaction when he had a choice was to ask her to come with him.  And River as being without any character?  Huh?

Actually, Blink was the only story cited where a female character "settled down" with a man, and I felt that worked very well.  With her friend, that was a bit less convincing, but there was actually no suggestion it happened quickly, just that she eventually married him.  Anyway, what else would she have done, back in the 20s.

With the classic series, it has to be seen in the context of its time, and while some things come over as a bit sexist by 2011 standards, it also challenged the sexism of its time quite a bit.  Even in the 60s, it was portraying powerful women in a way that wasn't found very often on TV, and most of the female companions had their moments - like Vicki bullying the boys into starting their revolution in The Space Museum (I love that scene).
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« Reply #8 on: January 14, 2011, 09:18:19 am »

I must admit, I haven't seen the Girl in the Fireplace for a while so assumed the article was right, even if it seemed very odd and not to match up with my memories. You're right, it really mis-represents the Doctor's character in that episode. Also, I think the episode was part of a wider trend of showing that the 10th doctor was more emotional and, perhaps, even sexual than other Doctors.
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« Reply #9 on: January 14, 2011, 04:20:58 pm »

I must admit, I haven't seen the Girl in the Fireplace for a while so assumed the article was right, even if it seemed very odd and not to match up with my memories. You're right, it really mis-represents the Doctor's character in that episode. Also, I think the episode was part of a wider trend of showing that the 10th doctor was more emotional and, perhaps, even sexual than other Doctors.

It's why I skip right over that episode. Don't get me wrong; it's a great story, very well written...it's just not Doctor Who. It feels like original fiction with the Doctor shoehorned in.
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« Reply #10 on: January 16, 2011, 04:04:15 pm »

What I don't understand in some of these arguments is why being married is seen as such a weakness? It seems that some of the writers will just never win. If they write a character as wanting to settle down or as slightly subserviant then they are being sexist, but in reality some women just want to settle down. Just as some want to be subserviant, some want to be single, some want to sleep with different people every night, some want to be lawyers, some want to be hookers and some want to grow into old spinsters. Being single and independent does not equate to being strong or less subserviant. Rose, as an example, started out as a selfish teenager who wanted a bit of adventure. She fell in love with a man and her priorities changed. That happens in real life. A lot. Martha on the other hand had a love at first site story but because of it grew stronger and more independent and yet still settled into married life while at the same time retaining her want for adventure and battle. She was just as brilliant a person before being married and wasn't hindered because of it. It's not an either/or situation. Being married/paired up doesnt have to be seen as a way to fulfil a character but instead could be what happens because a character is otherwise fulfilled and content enough to be ready to settle down.

Amy Pond seems to get a lot of stick for marrying Rory and throwing herself at the Doctor. She doesn't marry Rory to better herself or complete herself. She does it because she loves him. Its not the most conventional love, but she has no obligation to him and is very much strong enough to tell him if she didnt want to. That isnt a weakness of either the character or the writers. The writers are criticized for making her unlikeable, shouty, emotionally up and down, impulsive etc with people saying how bad the writing of her character is, but some people are all of those things and just aren't that likeable. It may not be a characterisation that everyone loves, but it is a real characterisation nonetheless.

As for River I think most of the stick aimed at her makes no sense at all. People judge the character and say she isnt realistic or they hate that she knows too much etc, but that's like watching the ending of a movie and saying you hate it without having watched all the plots and stories that lead to the conclusion. Nobody at all in fandom knows who she is or why she is the way she is, the events of her arc that lead to the 3 stories we have seen her in or what her relationship to the Doctor is, but yet without knowing all that so many people are doing the 'I hate River' speech and threatening not to tune in to the show because of it. If we knew her complete story like we do of Rose or Donna or other characters then I could see, understand and even agree with peoples arguments about her but at the moment we know nothing and it still seems to get people throwing their toys out of the pram instead of just waiting to see how it plays out. River's could be the best story any of us have ever seen, but the impatience of people not liking the conlusion of her story without even knowing the origins of it and fully understand who she is and why she is that way has lead to a lot of bashing of the character. Its the equivolent of only watching the last scene of Last Of The Time Lords and saying Martha is a selfish **** who abandoned the Doctor because she couldnt get her own way. A valid argument if that is all you are willing to see, but completely off course when you look at the bigger picture. The same goes for River, it's just that it is over a longer period of time. We really don't know what kind of woman she is, only the type of woman she chooses to put herself across as as the Doctor, and we, learn her backstory
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« Reply #11 on: January 16, 2011, 04:27:06 pm »

I agree completely with everything you have said RiverSong, fantastic post Wink
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« Reply #12 on: January 16, 2011, 05:30:31 pm »

River Song, I also think you have hit the nail on the head
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« Reply #13 on: January 16, 2011, 05:34:22 pm »

Adding my agreement with what RS said  Smiley
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« Reply #14 on: January 16, 2011, 06:36:29 pm »

Bravo River Song!  I agree Smiley
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« Reply #15 on: January 16, 2011, 10:14:59 pm »

In psychology, taking a dislike to a persons character without actually knowing it is usually put down to feeling threatened by the person in question. Not sure how that would translate here, but thought I would throw it in
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« Reply #16 on: January 16, 2011, 10:44:24 pm »

Glad so many people agree with what I was saying. It's just something that has niggled me since reading this thread. There seems to be something of an imbalance of fair judgement towards some characters and writers
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« Reply #17 on: January 17, 2011, 12:48:51 am »

My only disagreement with what River Song said is that I can't see any reason for disliking River anyway.  I find her fascinating.

The whole marriage issue is an over-reaction for marriage having been used so much in the past to represent women toeing the line.  The people who make these criticism can't seem to see it as anything else either.
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« Reply #18 on: January 17, 2011, 04:59:53 pm »

My only disagreement with what River Song said is that I can't see any reason for disliking River anyway.  I find her fascinating.

Me either personally. I think she is awesome, but some people just take a disliking to others sometimes without good reason.
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« Reply #19 on: January 25, 2011, 02:04:46 pm »

I would go on with the reasons why I dislike River and don't see her as a viable character, but that belongs in the thread established for that.

In any event, Rose started out as a strong character in her own right in S1. From there on end, not so much. I think RTD tried too hard with the romance plotline there and it fell flat for her character.

I have pretty good reasons for feeling the way I do as a whole, and I'm not liking where this thread is heading in terms of its overall tone. We're going to have to remember that not every fan feels the same way about characters and writers, and that isn't a reflection on them, it's merely a different in opinion and perspective.
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