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?”
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.