Part 5: Little Moffat’s Misses
My knowledge of Steven Moffat comes solely from Who, along with one episode of Coupling, which I found amusing in that “boy, are men and women different!” sort of way. His episodes in Who’s first four seasons were the big highlights, although I must admit I found “Blink” a bit overrated and “Silence in the Library/Forest of the Dead” a bit underrated by the fans.
Fans around the Internet have recently been coming out against Moffat as a sexist, though I think some of those arguments are a bit much. Yes, Sally Sparrow is a fairly passive, undeveloped character, but so is every other non-Doctor person in that episode, male or female. Nancy from “The Empty Child” and “The Doctor Dances” is a badass as far as young women in the 1940s go, and I completely do not get where the Internet’s hatred of River Song comes from. A middle-aged female Indiana Jones? Yes, please.
There are, however, two decent ways to make an argument that Steven Moffat’s episodes are sexist.
ARGUMENT 1: Some of Moffat’s episodes literally objectify women. “The Girl in the Fireplace” morphs Madame de Pompadour into a spaceship, “Silence in the Library” makes Donna into a statue, and “The Forest of the Dead” reveals that Cal is a computer. I’ve only seen the first episode of season five so far, so don’t spoil me, bro—but I got a strong feeling that the duck pond without ducks is actually part of Amy Pond, somehow, or that she’s part of it. Is this literal objectification misogynistic? I really don’t know. If you have any insights, please explain in the comments.
ARGUMENT 2: Happy endings for women in Moffat’s world seem to involve either motherhood, true heterosexual love, or both. “The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances” only gets its happy ending after Nancy admits she’s the empty child’s mother. The thwarted happy ending of “The Girl in the Fireplace” would have shown Reinette ending up with the Doctor, her one true love. “Blink” ends with Sally Sparrow paired off with Nightingale. River Song’s (somewhat creepy) happy ending involves her becoming a mother to some cyber-children in a Matrix-heaven. Hmm. I’d have thought her personal heaven would involve archaeology?
So is Moffat sexist? I’d say no, but it’s a close call. I’m going to withhold judgment until I see more from him. What do you think?
Four seasons down, and a new season’s begun, and I think I can finally answer the original question. Is Doctor Who sexist? No, I don’t think so. For a show supposedly for children, it sure has a lot to say about gender dynamics, romance, and sex, and in theory, some of these ideas appear misogynistic or overly reductive on the surface. For me, though, the execution saves it.
But, hey, this may just be an epically-long rationalization based on the fact that Who, with its focus on science and geekiness and silly pop culture references, is a better adolescent wish-fulfillment fantasy for me than Twilight is. In other words:
I realize I’m not well.
So, what do you think about gender issues in Doctor Who? Sound off in the comments section below! (But try not to spoil episodes that haven’t been aired in the U.S. yet. This means season 5 episodes 1-3 are fair game; anything past that’s off-limits. Cool? Cool.)