A Valediction Forbidding Moffat
In response and elaboration to this post which critiqued Moffat and his handling of Doctor Who - for all of you who disagree with it, and continue to idolise Moffat, here is a much more general overview of why you really shouldn’t, with illustrative evidence from Doctor Who and Sherlock.
Under Moffat’s watch the Doctor has morphed from an alien who loves humans and feels their pain and experiences love and desire and empathy to a stunted, child-like and extremely bloody irritating space-goon who flaps about like an injured moth when other people’s emotions are making him uncomfortable. And makes sexist jokes about how women are scary. And wants his married companions to sleep in bunk beds. And can save human lives but does not seem to understand human feelings. Who would travel with this man? He might be zany and charming and have nice boots, but he is fundamentally cold and unrelatable.
Journey to the Center of the Tardis
Long time followers know that I enjoy Doctor Who, and I make a habit of reviewing all the new episodes as they come out. (So I’ve looked at: Hide, Cold War, The Rings of Akhaten, The Bells of St. John, Invasion of the Snowmen, The Doctor In General, Asylum of the Daleks, a general comparison of Davies vs Moffat era Who, and many many others)
This review took me a while to get up because it took me so damn long to process how much I really fucking did not like this episode. Like, there are so many fundamental problems with this episode that it took some time to sort through it all.
To start with something positive: The strength of this episode is the strength of this season so far; the nostalgia. This episode did a great job of calling back on previous Doctors, companions, and eras. Amy’s Tardis, River’s crib, Seven’s Umbrella, Donna’s magnifying glass. It was a fun game of “spot the reference.”
But beyond that, this episode is a mess. The plot is so weak, contrived, and full of holes that I was honestly glad when it was done. Like, why did lowering the shields make the Tardis easier to steer? Why bring the dudes on this search mission if the Doctor didn’t want them to split up? Why does the core kill them so fast? Why does the core turn them into ash zombies and not just, like, kill them? Why go to the center? Why is there no time vortex light there? What is the fucking RESET BUTTON? What does it reset? How does time reset but also like, fix all the problems with the brothers? WHY? HOW? -flips a table-
The conveyance in this episode is pitiful. I spent every scene going “but, why? but why? OH! I RECOGNIZE THAT PROP! But why?”
And under all that, we have the problem with feminism. The episode opens with a “yeah you can’t drive cuz you’re a girl” joke, which is pathetic. The entire story hinges on Clara being a damsel in distress, and Clara has honestly never been less interesting.
The biggest problem with this episode though is also the problem of this story arc so far: Clara’s agency and lack of knowledge. The Doctor FINALLY FINALLY told Clara how he “knows” her from before, shortly before the magic plot hole reset button undid everything. What was even the point, other than to remind us that the Doctor is terrifying and withholding important safety information from Clara?
And then the Doctor has the gaul to ask Clara “do you feel safe?” How in the hell is Clara supposed to be able to answer that question honestly when the Doctor has systematically denied her any knowledge about her situation? Clara had died THREE (does her ash zombie death count?) times with the Doctor so far and she doesn’t know about any of it? How DARE the Doctor ask her whether she feels safe when he keeps that from her? Lying through omission, folks. Lying through omission and the systematic denial of our heroine vital information about her safety.
God, if anyone is using these reviews as a “watch or skip” guide: Skip this episode. The only redeeming quality of this episode is the nostalgia easter eggs. This episode isn’t the WORST Moffat Who episode (Asylum of the Daleks still takes that honor), but it’s up there.
sometimes I wonder if moffat realises that the people who watch doctor who are human beings who are hurt by his sexism, racism, heterosexism, and general bigotry
Sorry, but I couldn’t resist to reblog.
Sexism? Racism? Bigotry? HETEROSEXISM (lol, I see that Tumblr fighters invented new -ism)? Lol, where? Stop blaming him for things that don’t exist or exist only in your heads, okay? I see posts blaming all DW writers (even Classic ones) for these “issues” and it’s just getting ridiculous. You can hate me, but in my opinion these things are only excuses to blame a writer for things that some people can’t accept.
Moffat is not sexist. Moffat is not racist. Moffat is not heterosexist. Moffat is not a bigot. Moffat is just a bad writer sometimes and only fandom is looking for all -isms in his run.
Thank you very much.
I’m now waiting for your hatemail :P
right okay so either you are speaking from a position of privilege or you have internalised all kinds of isms hooray! probably a combination of the two.
don’t apologise when you are clearly not sorry.
let’s see he’s a misogynistic asswipe who reduces the women in his shows (not just dw but also in sherlock - irene adler is a prime example there) to plot devices and damsels in distress, and is openly disparaging about women.
his racism is evident first of all in his overwhelmingly white cast (which has been an issue since the reboot and likely since the start of the show but has gotten worse in moffat’s run in comparison to rtd’s) not to mention his placement of poc as antagonists - or in melody’s case, going from a cute little innocent white girl to a rebellious and violent black teenager.
heterosexism is a thing. google next time.
moffat consistently writes “queer” characters into heterosexual little boxes and then claims to be running a progressive show. he actually said that “there is a huge lack of respect for anything male” which underlines his lack of understanding of the world and his own male privilege (as well as his white and cis and straight privilege). there’s a whole lot more where that came from.
oppression actually does exist. it is something that affects billions of people in a variety of ways ranging from being bullied at school to being denied jobs and health care to being raped and murdered.
grow up and educate yourself. nobody needs or wants your inane and ignorant opinions.
3 percent of the decision-making in media comes from women. That means 97 percent of how women are portrayed is decided on by men.
Independent Lens, PBS
“Wonder Women! The Untold Story of American Superheroines” (via ihopeyoucontinue4ever)
It also means that 97 percent of how men are portrayed in media are decided on by men. Something to remind MRAs and their ilk of when they complain about the stereotype of men as inept slobs, bad fathers, etc in media and advertising.
Men have the power. So when we men are shat on by the powers that be you don’t get to try and blame women for that.
For all the women I have loved who were dragged through the mud
I’ve read a lot of great essays about how fandom is female-majority and creates a female gaze and a safe space for women and etc. But spend five minutes in fandom and you’ll have an unsettling question.
Why does a female-majority, feminist culture hate female characters so much?
It’s not a question of if it happens. You know it does. You can go into any fandom and see it. Some fandoms are worse than others, but it’s always there. Scroll down the Tumblr tag for any show, movie, book, comic, whatever, and you’ll see nothing but love for the men, and a lot of unjustified hate for the women, maybe with a few defenders here and there insisting on their love for the women in the face of all that hate.
To be clear, we’re not talking about female villains. Male villains get just as much hate. It’s fine if you hate Bellatrix Lestrange or Dolores Umbridge, you’re supposed to. (I personally stan for Bella, but I realize that wasn’t the authorial intent.) This is about people hating Hermione, Ginny and Luna, but loving Harry, Ron and Neville. This is about how ambiguous male antiheroes, like Snape, Zuko, or pretty much any male vampire protagonist can get away with walking that fine line between good and evil and not only remain sympathetic, but be even more beloved for how ~tortured~ he is, but when a female character is morally gray that bitch has to die.
So you can’t tell me it’s okay that you hate Sansa because you also hate Joffrey and he’s a dude. They’re not comparable. It isn’t even comparable if you pick a female antihero. Let’s do this apples to apples, here.
We all know that fandom does this. We all know that it’s fucked up and symptomatic of internalized sexism. What’s really fucking weird about it, though, is that the women doing this hating often aren’t ignorant. These are feminists. These are women who can go on meta-analyses of the writing. Some will hide behind pseudo-feminist reasons for their hate—oh, it’s the writing, we just aren’t given strong female characters! (I saw this used for the women of AtLA: Katara, Toph, Azula, et al. This was about when I just backed away slowly because I know a lost cause when I see it.) I’ve seen women who denied being sexist, but couldn’t name a single female character they liked. And it’s always that the female characters aren’t good enough, even when they obviously have a double standard, and they’re measuring women on an impossible scale full of contradictions and no-win binds, while the men are just embraced and loved pretty much for existing.
The reaction nearly every time one of these women is called out is not to say, “Huh, you may have a point, I should examine the way I judge and process women’s actions more closely,” but an insistence of their feminism, followed by a more detailed description of why that particular woman is terrible and she hates her, as if the whole point were not that fandom is already oversaturated with that kind of hate, and as if the person doing the calling out were not already 110% done with that bullshit.
Particularly telling is that male-dominated corners of fandom do not have this problem. They fetishize, they objectify, they ignore. They don’t hate like this.
We know it happens. What I want to know is WHY.
Theories follow below the cut.
Moffat’s “feisty” female characters all seem to speak in the same quickfire, gimmicky manner which grates ever so slightly to my ears. Whatever faults one might have attributed to Russell T. Davies’s series openers, he always sketched out convincing characters incredibly well. Even minor figures could take on a dense weight of realism. By contrast, many of Moffat’s characters carry an air of stylized unreality, something which I’d say has been true of Amy Pond in the past, and seems true yet again of the major new character here, thanks partly to things like the “chinboy” and “beaky” shtick.
The Problem of Bromance
WARNING: Since I’m tagging this as ‘bromance’ and I don’t myself like tagging hate (though I don’t really see this as hate?) most of this is going under the cut, and the good/neutral things I have to say about the issue are above it.
Bromance is a portmanteau of the colloquial term ‘bro’ and ‘romance’ and is commonly used to denote a particularly strong friendship between two males.
Ignoring context, there really isn’t anything wrong with the meaning of the word itself. Anyone regardless of gender identity should feel safe to express emotion or attachment to anyone else without fear of retribution for failing to conform to rigid gender roles. But language doesn’t exist in a vacuum – it is informed by the social constructs of the culture it derives from and its use can enforce cultural norms (like, oh, heteronormativity) in a positive feedback loop between language and culture.
Because of the Times
It’s like this…
You’re fourteen and you’re reading Larry Niven’s “The Protector” because it’s your father’s favorite book and you like your father and you think he has good taste and the creature on the cover of the book looks interesting and you want to know what it’s about. And in it the female character does something better than the male character - because she’s been doing it her whole life and he’s only just learned - and he gets mad that she’s better at it than him. And you don’t understand why he would be mad about that, because, logically, she’d be better at it than him. She’s done it more. And he’s got a picture of a woman painted on the inside of his spacesuit, like a pinup girl, and it bothers you.
But you’re fourteen and you don’t know how to put this into words.
And then you’re fifteen and you’re reading “Orphans of the Sky” because it’s by a famous sci-fi author and it’s about a lost generation ship and how cool is that?!? but the women on the ship aren’t given a name until they’re married and you spend more time wondering what people call those women up until their marriage than you do focusing on the rest of the story. Even though this tidbit of information has nothing to do with the plot line of the story and is only brought up once in passing.
But it’s a random thing to get worked up about in an otherwise all right book.
Then you’re sixteen and you read “Dune” because your brother gave it to you for Christmas and it’s one of those books you have to read to earn your geek card. You spend an entire afternoon arguing over who is the main character - Paul or Jessica. And the more you contend Jessica, the more he says Paul, and you can’t make him see how the real hero is her. And you love Chani cause she’s tough and good with a knife, but at the end of the day, her killing Paul’s challengers is just a way to degrade them because those weenies lost to a girl.
Then you’re seventeen and you don’t want to read “Stranger in a Strange Land” after the first seventy pages because something about it just leaves a bad taste in your mouth. All of this talk of water-brothers. You can’t even pin it down.
And then you’re eighteen and you’ve given up on classic sci-fi, but that doesn’t stop your brother or your father from trying to get you to read more.
Even when you bring them the books and bring them the passages and show them how the authors didn’t treat women like people.
Your brother says, “Well, that was because of the time it was written in.”
You get all worked up because these men couldn’t imagine a world in which women were equal, in which women were empowered and intelligent and literate and capable.
You tell him - this, this is science fiction. This is all about imagining the world that could be and they couldn’t stand back long enough and dare to imagine how, not only technology would grow in time, but society would grow.
But he blows you off because he can’t understand how it feels to be fourteen, fifteen, sixteen, seventeen and desperately wanting to like the books your father likes, because your father has good taste, and being unable to, because most of those books tell you that you’re not a full person in ways that are too subtle to put into words. It’s all cognitive dissonance: a little like a song played a bit out of tempo - enough that you recognize it’s off, but not enough to pin down what exactly is wrong.
And then one day you’re twenty-two and studying sociology and some kind teacher finally gives you the words to explain all those little feelings that built and penned around inside of you for years.
It’s like the world clicking into place.
And that’s something your brother never had to struggle with.