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The objectification of Amy Pond

By Madeleine Nesbitt

Ah, yes, the Doctor. He’s a time-travelling alien (Time Lord, to be precise) who has been hanging around on the BBC since the 1960s. Doctor Who returned to television in 2005, and the 21st century version of the show continues the unfortunate tradition of the Doctor’s companion being female, subordinate, and often a love interest, though almost never a serious one. There have been some awesome companions throughout the years, including Time Lady Romana, who was going to take the Doctor’s place (but didn’t, alas). All of the companions have their moments, but most of them fit the subordinate-female bill.  Amy Pond, the Doctor’s latest companion, is no different–except that Amy has probably sparked more debate about whether or not she fits into Doctor Who’s history of sexist portrayals of women than any other female companion. Bloggers from Tiger Beatdown, Feminist Fiction, Tansyrr.com, Fraggmented, and many other websites talk about Amy’s marriage, Amy’s love of sex and Amy being, as Lindsay Miller puts it in a blog for Tiger Beatdown, a “uterus in a box.”

There are plenty of problems with the portrayal of Amy Pond. Regrettably, I can’t go on for several pages about how the Doctor ditches Amy for twelve years, then comes back and acts like she should still be just as innocent and child-like as she when she was actually a child.  It is also sad that I can’t describe to you how much Amy plays the role of damsel in distress, or how often she’s blamed for problems not of her making.  Not to mention how much she is sold to viewers because she is more “beautiful” than other companions. But I digress; there are other important topics to discuss.

Steven Moffat, the current writer for Doctor Who, calls Amy a ‘fierce’ girl. Amy speaks her mind, looks good, and is bold, but, when Doctor Who plotlines are examined, Amy is only superficially fierce. Amy wants adventure and enjoys it, but she is portrayed as needing the Doctor to find it for her and to save her from any difficulties. She seems to need the Doctor to awaken her ‘fierce’ qualities, reinforcing the idea that a woman must depend on a man to bring out the interesting parts of her character. Amy is, in reality, a damsel-in-distress rather than a ‘fierce’ heroine.

If Amy was ‘fierce’ to any extent, that fierceness ceased to exist after Amy is reduced to a womb in season six. In episode one, Amy insists that she is pregnant with Rory’s child, but by the end of that episode, she claims she made a mistake. Here’s what happened: the real Amy was swapped out for an Amy clone. While the real Amy is stuffed in an alien pod for nine months by some villains who want to use her child for their own evil purposes, the Doctor, suspicious of Amy’s supposed “mistake” in her pregnancy test, does pregnancy scans of the fake Amy without permission.

This is disturbingly invasive, but the show justifies the Doctor’s actions, even though they aren’t okay at all, because he finds out that fake Amy is a clone and, from this information, figures out how to save the real Amy. Fake Amy has adventures with the Doctor while real Amy is stuck on a spaceship, incubating, in the service of future plotlines. Amy’s ability to produce a child is now her only important quality, and her child, in some ways, takes her place, becoming the Doctor’s focus for a time.  Her daughter, River Song, becomes the Doctor’s love interest and, later, wife.  River Song is an adult (she can time travel) when the romance occurs, which makes this situation slightly less messed-up (only slightly).  Basically, by the sixth season (the second season with Amy and Rory), Amy is present only to create the Doctor’s love interest.

Alas, Amy becoming a womb is a fairly logical plotline for a sexist space sitcom-drama; however, Amy’s marriage is something of an anomaly in sci-fi. Rhiannon of Feminist Fiction addresses Amy as “The Girl Who Was Married” in one of her articles, and she makes a good point. Amy becomes more of a possession of her husband, Rory, after she is married, and is made an object of trade between the men. Every time the Doctor wants to hug her, her addresses Rory:

The Doctor: “Permission?”
Rory: “Granted.”

This scene is repeated so often that the Doctor no longer specifies what the permission is for. While these scenes are often played as jokes, as an exchange between the men, the control is real. In one episode, the Doctor goes to hug Amy, and Rory shakes his head and pulls her away.  He is exercising control over her, control that used to be a joke. Using a joke to pass off sexism is a classic– if a woman reacts, she’s oversensitive, a girl who can’t take a joke. Boys and girls are watching these ‘jokes’ play out, and laughing at them, and thinking they are okay, but shared laughter doesn’t always mean shared opinions. Boys my age are learning that they can make these ‘jokes,’ and that they are perfectly fine. Girls my age are going to learn that it’s okay for people to objectify them, as a ‘joke.’

What people need to see is that Amy is her own person. She is perfectly capable of answering a question and controlling her body, so why not ask her if she wants a hug? Rory and the Doctor need to give it up. If you absolutely need to be in control of Amy’s body, take the T.A.R.D.I.S. back to the seventeenth century, where you’ll fit right in. Enjoy not having indoor plumbing.

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13 Responses to “The objectification of Amy Pond”

  1. uyhgkhuyh says:

    dude, you are taking amy’s role way out of context, the only reason you picked up on it is because she’s pretty. The doctor does not treat amy as a lesser being. he treats her like a child, he’s protective of her. which makes sense because compared to him she is a child. and he doesn’t ask for her permission not out of his lack of respect but because he knows amy well enough to know that she doesn’t care about things like that, and thst the only person it would bother is Rory. hence he asks rory, not her. and amy is not the only female in the show. what about river song? she is the epitomy of feminine strength she is just as clever and more deadly than any man in that show could ever be. How could you possibly accuse them of being sexist when they made character like her?

  2. John doe says:

    Madeleine Nesbitt I am not sure how to explain this, but if a man is asking another man if he can hug that man’s wife, its not “Regardless if your wife minds, will you allow me to hug her?” what it is is “are you alright with me hugging your wife, my friend?” The doctor already knows Amy will hug him because she is his friend, by asking Rory he is acknowledging Rory as he husband. By acknowledging Rory as Amy’s husband, Rory isn’t going to get as jealous of the doctor(which he has every right to be, having lived in the Doctor’s ‘shadow’). Rory pulling his wife away from the Doctor is actually a stereotypical response of a male, Protect my loved ones from threats. The Doctor is a huge threat to people, which has been explained a few times in the series, by Rory and others.

    Is it a joke, partly. Is it a natural reaction, yes. Is it a good stimulus for children to become independent and courteous adults? dunno. What I do know is Amy is a fairly good companion, who pretty much got friend zoned by the Doctor, and has a more confusing background and plot line than any other character in the series.

  3. Jonathan says:

    I think the points made about the previous companions in the modern series are way off. Time and again, it’s shown how lost the Doctor is without his companions. They are subordinate to him by virtue of the fact that they don’t know how to fly the TARDIS and don’t have his extensive knowledge about the universe and history. However, in terms of personality and action, none of them have been the submissive type.

    When you look at Rose, Martha, and Donna at the end of the 10th Doctor’s run, they’d all grown quite a bit. Rose and Donna were both accomplished soldiers, and Donna was the Doctor’s equal in every way, especially once she was turned into a Time Lord. Some could argue that this is just another way of showing that women need a man to reach their potential, but I don’t think so. The Doctor’s role in their growth is simply to remove them from a society that is often oppressive towards women, and introduce them to situations where they are required to stretch themselves. It’s not him bringing out anything in them. In fact, more often than not, it’s the other way around, where they bring out the best in him.

    As for Amy, you do make some good points. I think in some ways they did take a step backwards from what they did with the companions of the 10th Doctor. But overall, I don’t think her failings are spotlighted any more than the Doctor’s, and probably even less than Rory’s. The three of them are a team, each with their own strengths and their own weaknesses. I like that.

    In fact, I like that even better than Rose and Martha, the uber-soldiers, or Donna the Time Lord. They’re just regular people. At the end of the day, they don’t need the Doctor (or his clone) to fulfill their lives. They aren’t seeking some surrogate Doctor to complete them, they’re not seeking thrills to try and capture their experiences with him, and they aren’t reverted back to shallow and selfish twits when their memories of him are wiped away (which I really really hated what they did to Donna). They’re happy with what they have. They go on to have normal jobs and live normal lives and be happy with each other, and what’s wrong with that?

  4. Josiah Cox says:

    There is plenty here that i don’t agree with, but you have an interesting take.

    First off I want to say that when the doctor addressed Rory it was out of respect to him, as He and Amy had a past. Amy has tried to jump the doctor’s bones on several occasions, and seriously, how is Rory, just another mug, supposed to compete with The Doctor. Amy wasn’t an object, emotions were just in play because the characters here have them.

    Even though I have a thing for Karen Gillan, I’m sure there are a lot of Who fans who don’t. Some people are still hung up on Billie Piper, or whatever companion they met they was most beautiful or interesting to them.

    Frankly, the show is just bigger now, more people know about it and different ways of showing things to fans have serficed and more people are sharing their thoughts on the show. As much as we liked “the Ponds” sooner then later all we will be talking about is Oswin, how beautiful she is, how she interacts with the doctor and other males, but it will always be the same for some people.

    There is nothing wrong with this show, and playing along with it is part of the fun and illusion. Corny jokes and English tradition play a huge part in how this show works. If you find that to be wrong, maybe it isn’t the show for you. Rory is more objectified then anyone as he is almost a prop half of the time, getting killed off just to come back like nothing happened, while Amy moves on with her life, completely forgetting about him at one point.

    I usually see where a feminist is coming from, but you’re creating a problem with something that just isn’t there. But if you truly take issue, good luck with your movement, The Doctor is bigger then this, and it doesn’t need to change, and if it does change, it will be in a different time for a grander reason.

    Anyways, maybe I’m just missing something, maybe you are.
    Have a good one.

  5. Robin says:

    You make some valid points, certainly, but come on…the whole world is a damsel in distress to the doctor. Who do you think saved us from the Mayan end of the world in December?

  6. Jennifer says:

    As to the Doctor needing Rory’s permission to hug Amy, I think the point of that dialog was the ongoing discomfort of Rory towards Amy’s relationship with the Doctor, and hence why the Doctor “asked” permission. Also Amy though married IS still a child. The whole “damsel in distress” think and how she’s not really fierce? She’s a kid. She’s not as self possessed as Donna, but give it 20-30 years she might have gotten there. I also love how we don’t even address season seven in this line of thinking and the events that do take place, such as how Amy dies and other complexities in the character. I think people see things like they want to see them and the putting the Amy Pond character under the microscope in no different. As to calling her only reason for being is to be a “Womb” leaves out so much of the relationship and other events during her tenure as companion, it’s really sad. As to “He just leaves her for 12 years and comes back like everything is okay” leaves out that he did not mean for that to happen, or that yes, he actually DID go back and tell the younger Amy she would need to wait for his younger self because things glitched in his getting back to her. I’m more surprised that this is the concern, other than the issue of an adult male taking a small child from her home to go “Traveling.” Again to each their own as to opinions regarding Amy and the whole of the show… however I think that certain details that have been left out or ignored by the author are important to the over all consideration of plot, character, and the series in general.

  7. John says:

    Not every woman on TV has to be strong. I particularly enjoyed the Amy Pond story because of the flaws in the main characters and the dodgy, slightly abusive relationship between Amy and the doctor (which is not glossed over, the fact that the doctor feels he needs her and manipulates her so she needs him was quite plain). A simpler situation would have been boring.

  8. Jackie says:

    This is exactly what i’ve been talking about! Ever since Dr. Who used the mystical pregnancy trope, they took so much away from Amy’s character! Also this article makes a great point about the Hug “joke”. I’ve been feeling more and more uncomfortable with the portrayals of women in this show. Thank you for giving this problem a voice.

  9. Carrie Harris says:

    She is deprecated as a very strong beautiful woman. The show did a great job of showing a woman can be a woman with all the love and compassion a woman is born with, the strength of a thousand tigers with intellect of a nuclear physicist and still have wit and humor.

  10. Alice says:

    @Carrie sure, but is this something that needs proving? After all, women are people, it’s not exactly revolutionary to say that a woman can be strong, beautiful, funny and smart.

  11. Alice says:

    @John I agree that not all characters need to be “strong” (however you define that) but I think there’s a broader problem with DW’s treatment of women overall. I think that the plot can still be interesting without abuse to spice things up. If Moffat is such a great writer surely he can come up with something less oppressive.

  12. Alice says:

    @uyhgkhuyh “The doctor does not treat amy as a lesser being. he treats her like a child, he’s protective of her. which makes sense because compared to him she is a child.”
    Did you read what you just wrote? She is an adult. He should treat her like an adult. She’s his /companion/, not a kid he’s babysitting.

  13. [...] hardly the only one finding these stereotypical points of view a [...]

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