Yesterday I started a blog post entitled “In Defense of Amy Pond”. Partly because I have been re-watching the show seasons five through seven of the show and I forgot how much I enjoyed Amy and the Doctor and Rory in the TARDIS, but also because there seems to be a never ending stream of hatred aimed at the current Doctor Who show runner, Steven Moffat. A lot of it isn’t over anything that happens in the plot—there’s issue with what’s implied, too.
This second thing I wanted to say was kind of hard to come up with a bolded point for, but, in short, Amy has sexual agency. Bam. Short, sweet and to the point: Amy also has Sexual Agency. I’ve used the term agency on this blog before, but for those who don’t remember it’s defined as:
Agency, in its simplest form, is the ability to act in a way that accomplishes your goals. To have agency in an area of your life is to have the capacity to act in a way that can produce the results you want.
Sexual Agency is seen as:
- The ability to define yourself sexually – whether that means along the heterosexuality/homosexuality spectrum, along the spectrum that runs from asexual to highly interested in sex, or both.
- The ability to choose whether or not you want to experience sexual activity – both in general and with a specific person at a specific time in a specific way.
- The ability to choose how you want to engage in sexual activity – including whether you want to practice safer sex
- The ability to stop engaging in a sexual act that is no longer wanted or to refuse an act that was never desired
There are a lot of talk that she’s too sexy for the show…she’s not really all that sexy. Not for American TV and especially not for British television. If we had a problem with someone being too sexy we’d have said something back when Jack was kissing the Doctor and trying to sleep with anything else that moved and pulling guns out of what seems to be his asshole. We would have had an issue with the idea that the Doctor bedded an important figure in British history (the Queen) and left her high and dry without any way to get hold of him (this is something implied by Ten and rectified by the Fiftieth anniversary special when we see what actually happened with him and the Queen—a retcon that made Ten seem not as full of himself).
The question of a character being too sexy only arises when said character is female. Men being sexual is completely alright, but if a female character is there needs to be someone there to gauge how far is too far. You can claim a lot of cultural mores for this, but in the end they all boil down to a sexist attitude towards a woman’s body and choices. And the character not really caring to stick to those ideals goes back to her having agency.
One of the things I like about Amy is that she’s got a traditionally girlie side and that’s never treated as if it’s a bad thing in the show. But she’s obviously brainy, going as far as to create her own Sonic Screwdriver in season six’s “The Girl Who Waited” and has skills outside of just being a pretty face like so many people have claimed in protest of the character, like how she says in “Power of Three” that she’s a columnist for the paper and in the very next episode she is seen to have done what seems to be some book publishing.
There’s another point I would like to tack on here that isn’t exactly about this, but it has to do with this. It’s about the Bechdel Test. As someone who supports women’s rights, I think this is one of those things shoots feminist in the foot when they bring it up. I saw this same test used recently to prove that Doctor Who was sexist and the test wasn’t even applied evenly to all subjects. The idea comes from a comic strip and basically it’s just a measure of how much interaction a woman has with another woman in any story or script. They have to speak to each other about something other than a boy and no boy can be involved in the conversation. It seems like a pretty easily done thing, but a lot of things don’t pass it just on the merit of only having one woman in the whole movie or because the women are just used as set pieces. However, just because the a female character only speaks to males doesn’t somehow weaken her characterization. Recently the movie “Pacific Rim” proved this when people who had been using the Bechdel test as some kind of measure realized the movie couldn’t pass it, but that there was nothing wrong with it.
The test is easily bullshit and doesn’t take a lot of factors in the narrative into account. By assuming that a female character has to have “meaningful” discussions with only other women it seems to promote another kind of sexism. Also, the test doesn’t have an out for movies and books where there are no female characters because there can’t be. The other issue with this is the idea that two women having a discussion about a male somehow invalidates them being there. But it doesn’t seem to matter if that male is their father, son, brother or someone else. It’s clear what the test was trying to do, but it fails and it also sometimes lets things that are sexist as Hell pass.
Rose Tyler, the character we see boasted about as the favorite companion of so many people is a pretty awful person. She spends an episode where people are being brutally murdered trying to get the Queen of England to say a funny phrase. She is jealous, clingy, and even manages to leap through space time with total disregard for the safety of things just to be with the Doctor. There’s a lot that I could say bad about the character, but the fact that she passes this test doesn’t somehow validate her or make her a less sexist or horrible companion. Also, the test leaves out season seven episodes and seems to have unfair metrics for measuring things as there are episodes that should have passed with Amy Pond, but didn’t because they were held to a more strict standard. You don’t like the Moffat era, fine. But don’t try to justify your dislike with pseudoscience bullshit. And especially don’t try to use the aforementioned blog as evidence when you rush home every Sunday to watch Game Of Thrones, a show that can be seen as easily sexist and where characters who had more agency have actually had it taken.
You can’t have it both ways. Amy can’t be a sexist depiction of a female because she does what she wants and acts in a sexual manner if you’re still going to try and defend something like Game of Thrones, which I have seen some people do. Are you really upset that Doctor Who is sexist or are you looking for reasons to not like something? We see so many shows where someone who engages in their desires has to be “taken down a peg”. It seems to happen more if the character is female. Amy is allowed to be sexual without it biting her in the ass. She’s not punished for acting on her desires by the plot or other characters. That’s a very rare thing in television today.