Tag Archive for Body Image

You and I both know, Rose, that the Doctor is worth the linkspams.

From Think Progress, a handy list of methods for male feminist allies to combat sexism in video game culture. It’s actually pretty useful, and most of the methods would transfer well to science fiction fan culture.

At Kotaku, Katie Williams documents her experience at E3, where game promoters acted as though she couldn’t possibly know how to play shooters because she’s a woman.

A thought-provoking post at Geekalitarian talks about body size, race, and cosplay.

Ever wanted to build your own TARDIS bookshelf? Of course you have!

A bright blue bookshelf with TARDIS panels and windows on the sides and a light on the top.

From STFU Moffat, a distressing quote from Steven Moffat on who can be a companion:

‘It’s just a question of who credibly is going to agree to go in the TARDIS? Who’s going to do it? Is it going to be a mother of 15 children? No. Is it going to be someone in their 60s? No. Is there going to be a particular age range? I mean… who’s going to have a crush on the Doctor? You know, come on! It’s more than a format. It’s evolved from good, dramatic reasons.’

At Medical Daily, psychologists have “discovered” how people identify closely with (or “subconsciously become”) their favorite characters in fiction. Fans worldwide roll their eyes that it took them so long to notice.

Over at Think Progress, Alyssa argues that we need to stop equating gender expression with sexuality, using the newly-released Brave as an example.

If you have a suggestion for our linkspam, please email it to: courtney (at) doctorher (dot) com.

A Bit Too Fairytale

 

“I like Amy Pond.  She’s very funny.”

Yes, seven-year old daughter, she is quite funny and so is her boy Rory.  Funny is important when you are seven.  Funny gets your audience’s attention and gets them on your side—at least, this is what I teach my Drama students.  There are many things about Amy Pond that I have enjoyed over the last two series.  I think her love story with Rory is truly beautiful and moving.  I love the way themes of waiting are explored throughout her character arc.  “The Girl Who Waited” episode utterly broke my heart.  My daughters love her.  But is Amy Pond worthy of their adoration?  Is she a Feminist Fan Girl Icon?

A Feminist Fan Girl Icon must embody a positive body image.  Amy Pond possesses a physically imposing physique.  She is not a frail little flower; she is a gigantic, ginger glamazon with extra glam.  I read an interview with Karen Gillan when she was first cast in which she claimed Amy would be the sexiest Whopanion audiences had ever seen.  Who can doubt Miss Gillan’s intentions?  Long red talons, long, long red hair, long, long, long red legs (when she’s wearing red tights which I am not sure she ever does).

Sexuality filters through the wardrobe and make-up selections for Amy Pond into her chosen profession.  It was a clever trick in The Eleventh Hour episode: present the audience with a Whopanion police officer—a sexy police officer.  Oh wait, no…not a sexy police officer—a Cosplay Kissogram.  I confess that I giggled.

And flirty—oh my yes!  From her first adult meeting with the Doctor, Amy asserts her erotic interest in him.  She does not want a meaningful relationship like Rose, she does not want to worship at his genius shrine like Martha—she wants to watch him strip, shove him up against the Tardis and make time stop.  Who can forget the “Invasion of the Hot Italians” history essay which you just know includes every spear-related innuendo possible.  She even flirts with Vincent Van Gogh!  Then there is Rory: the lovely boy wrapped around her little finger who wins her heart after a couple thousand year’s persistence (bless).

Amy is a hottie fully aware of her sexuality and its power, which makes her controversial feminist territory.

Feminists have been historically divided on issues of sexuality, but something we all seem to agree upon is choice and control.  Part of the feminist mission must be ownership of our bodies in every respect: legally, spiritually, intellectually, reproductively and sexually.  When you compare Amy Pond to Rose, Martha, Donna, Sarah Jane or even the oh so fit and skimpily-clad Leela she is one of the few  Whopanions to declare herself visually and textually as an erotic being (unless you count River Song as a companion, but I think she’s in a different category).  Amy Pond comes across as a woman in charge of her own sexuality.  She decides who, when and how, she takes initiative and seems blissfully ignorant of the patriarchal rules concerning sexual engagement.

That’s all on the Sex-Positive Feminist Good List.  On the negative side Amy only follows through on her wedding to Rory under the influence of the Pandorica’s Universal Re-set.  For me, this is akin to sex under the influence of drugs.  It makes the act suspect whether or not both parties would have agreed freely to it under normal circumstances.  Similarly, every aspect of Amy’s pregnancy falls under the control of external forces.  Amy Pond might present herself as a modern woman who takes the reins, makes the rules and calls her husband Mr Pond, but she is neither her own Fate Master nor her Soul Captain.

So what impact does all this have on the under-tens?

The question of what do my daughters get out of this is a tricky one when it comes to Amy Pond and the body image she presents.  Sexual imagery bombardment begins from birth with pink babygros.  This rapidly escalates into a brand of gender indoctrination which seldom treads down a liberal route when it comes to the visual media.  The creators of children’s programming do not want our daughter’s exposed to things like sex, birth control, homosexuality but they have no problem drenching them in patriarchal standards of womanhood.  Even my beloved Velma slims down to chase Shaggy as a boyfriend in the most recent incarnation of Scooby Doo.  So very wrong!  Disney Princesses, Barbie and Winx Club (to name some of my daughters’ viewing choices) present impossibly beautiful female characters whose stories invariably end with a boy and a veil.

Just like Amy Pond.

Aside from being more aggressive and taller, is she any better than Snow White or Cinderella?  Does the fact that she presents herself as a spunky (pun intended) sex-positive Whopanion have any real bearing on how she will come across to my daughters?  Probably not.  Amy Pond is seldom valued for her intelligence, she does not save the day and I have no clue what she believes in except for Rory.  She had such potential but Amelia Pond goes nowhere as a character that a hundred bird duetting Princesses have not gone before.

She truly is a bit too fairytale.

I find this frustrating as a viewer and a mother.  I hoped so much for Ms Pond.  I had such high hopes for the man who brought us Sally Sparrow, a Whopanion far more worthy of my daughters.  But Steven Moffat has let me down and I am at a loss to understand why.  Is he attempting to present a Fairytale arc for Amelia Pond?  If so, can someone please give him a copy of Tangled?  Fairytale Princesses can save the day, be smart, duet with the animal of their choice, experience romance and even get a trendy new haircut at the end.

Fairytales can mean whatever we want them to.  Isn’t that the whole point of speculative programs like Doctor Who?  I want a Fairy Princess Companion my daughters can admire for more than her humour.

Is Rose Tyler “fantastic” for our daughters?

 

The excitement in our household was palpable in the Spring of 2005 when Doctor Who returned to the BBC. My husband a life-long fan, me a fresh convert and our impressionable two-year old daughter—who we said had to watch it with us or go to bed. You always remember your first Doctor.  In the case of my daughter Christopher Eccleston came and went too quickly. Her Doctor will always be David Tennant, though she has embraced Matt Smith’s Time Lord incarnation. Rose Tyler will always be her first companion. And so I choose to place Rose first under my Feminist Fan Girl Icon Microscope because, like my daughter, Rose was my first companion.

Investigating the impact of Dr Who on the developing feminist consciousness of my daughters requires me to do some rather difficult things. I must first step outside of myself and re-connect with little Kate. I have to look at these female characters from a juvenile view point in order to truly assess the cultural communication taking place. I also need to place Dr Who in the context of other forces muscling in on this conversation, attempting to shape the characters of our children. All this I shall attempt whilst sticking to my previously established success criteria.

Does Rose embody a positive body image? I believe she does. She is not unreasonably skinny nor is she unattainably glamorous (excessive mascara notwithstanding). When I compare her with characters from the Disney Channel shows my daughters watch, Rose seems positively radical in her disregard for fashionable footwear and hair extensions. She does not appear interested in cultural standards of beauty, a fact emphasised on Rose’s first trip in the Tardis. At The End of the World, she meets Cassandra: “The Last Human”. “You’re not human,” says Rose to Cassandra. “You’ve had it all nipped and tucked and flattened till there’s nothing left. Anything human got chucked in the bin. You’re just skin, Cassandra. Lipstick and skin.” (The End of the World 2005) What a marvellously eloquent and witty comment, worthy of science fiction’s long tradition of exploring the extremes of human society in order to shine a laser beam on our foibles and follies. Even when enjoying the attentions of Captain Jack, The Doctor and Mickey, Rose never gives the impression her desirability is rooted in her body or in her ability to accessorise.

Does Rose use her intelligence and is she valued for it? First impression reports a negative on this issue. Rose is not a medic in training nor an accomplished reporter or a brilliant scientist. In the very first episode (Rose 2005) she loses her low status retail job and confesses to having no academic qualifications. However, her keen observation and deduction skills capture The Doctor’s attention right away.

Rose Tyler: Very clever, nice trick. Who were they then, students? Is this a student thing or what?
The Doctor: Why would they be students?
Rose Tyler: I dunno.
The Doctor: Well you said it, why students?
Rose Tyler: Cos… to get that many people dressed up and being silly… they gotta be students.
The Doctor: That makes sense. Well done!

Class plays an important role in determining the value of Rose’s intelligence. Marxist Feminist theory would say Rose has a high level of intelligence based on her relatively far out position in the concentric socio-political hierarchy since she is a working class woman of little education. She also possesses a great deal of emotional intelligence. Perhaps Nu Who has a theme of valuing alternative intelligence in its female characters, creating a dramatic balance to the Doctor’s supernaturally logical mind? While this is not the post for examining in detail the relationship between the Whopanions and the concept of Multiple Intelligence, it would be an intriguing topic to explore at some point.

But all this gets rather lost on the under-ten crowd.

To my daughters, Rose exemplifies a kind of homespun common sense intelligence throughout her travels with The Doctor, as does Donna’s character in Season Four. But is Rose truly valued for it? The honest answer is probably: Sometimes Sort Of. Obviously Rose is no Hermione Granger (the Feminist Fan Girl epitome of being valued for your intelligence), but she receives far more respect for her brain power than Lisa Simpson or Katniss Everdene. The Doctor himself vacillates between praising the alternative intellects of the women around him, while also making it clear that no one can possibly possess more wisdom and intelligence than the last timelord.

Does Rose sometimes “save the day”?  The answer to this is an unequivocal: Hell Yeah! From her first episode to her last, Rose’s stubborn courage saves the day over and over again—and she does not give up easily. She swings heroically on a rope, absorbs the heart of the Tardis, abandons her family to help save the world, convinces The Doctor to spare the life of a dying Dalek, infiltrates a Cyberman factory and risks everything to break through dimensions in order to save The Doctor and The World. She makes my childhood hero Princess Leia look like a bit of a wimp in comparison.

Does Rose show spunky independence? Again, the answer has to be: Yes. All Whopanions show a certain level of spunky independence. If they simply did as they were told, the program’s narrative would lose a great deal of its dramatic conflict.  Rose is no exception.  When did she ever just “stay in the car”?

Does Rose strive to stay true to her beliefs? In the beginning, Rose does not really appear to have any beliefs. She comes across as a Little Girl Lost—dissatisfied with her career prospects, disaffected with her education, disinterested in her relationships. One thing she does appear to believe at the start is the dignity of working class women. She converses freely with maintenance worker Raffalo in The End of the World. In The Unquiet Dead 2005 she even attempts an East End London Chav’s version of Consciousness Raising with Victorian servant girl Gwyneth. However, as Rose was likely absent the day her College Life Skills course addressed the topic of Respect, she handles Gwyneth in a way that clearly shows an ironic lack of appreciation for the servant girl’s own intelligence.

Gwyneth: Don’t I get a say, miss?
Rose Tyler: Well, yeah… look… you don’t understand what’s going on.
Gwyneth: You would say that, miss, because that’s very clear inside your head, that you think I’m stupid.
Rose Tyler: That’s not fair!
Gwyneth: It’s true, though. Things might be very different where you’re from, but here and now I know my own mind.

These early attachments to working class women have more to do with Rose’s need to connect with familiar circumstances and people in the mad world she has thrown herself into than with promoting social equality. What Rose truly believes in is The Doctor. The same can be said of most Whopanions. Does she stay true to this belief? Every single time.

In the end, Rose Tyler passes my Feminist Fan Girl Icon test. She may not be an adult fan’s idea of a feminist character but, where our daughters are concerned, she presents a positive image. It was not until later in life that I associated the changes in Princess Leia’s character with the cultural backlash against second wave feminism. As a little girl, I thought she was incredibly brave and powerful. Adult Me has cultivated serious righteous indignation at the desexualisation of Velma, but kid me loved the fact that a smart girl always solved the mystery. So it is with Rose. Flawed though she may be, I believe she is a feminist force for good among the under tens.

Doctor Who quotations courtesy of Doctor Who Reference Guide.