SPOILERS: If you haven’t seen through season 7 of Doctor Who, do not continue reading.
Let me start this blog by saying that I completely disagree with any accusations that Steven Moffat is a purporter of sexism. When reading through many message boards and responses to the most recent announcement of the new Doctor (that a man was cast and not a woman), I was quite surprised by the amount of claims that Moffat is misogynistic and sexist and that his writing choices prove this claim.
First things first: does occasional vulnerability in a female character equate a complete lack of strength and control?
In my opinion, no. This is a narrative about a time-traveling-humanoid-alien that is constantly having to save the earth and the people therein (other planets too). This is the narrative and has been for 50 years. In order for his story to be told, he has got to save people in danger. Men, women, children, what-have-you; it’s The Doctor’s job to save them. His companions frequently find themselves in sticky situations, which comes part and parcel with the show. Moffat has continued this narrative but has also put The Doctor in situations where he needs a rescuer, i.e. ‘Blink’ wherein Sally Sparrow has to follow clues in order to rescue 10 and Martha, and more recently in “Let’s Kill Hitler” in which River Song saves The Doctor from the brink of death by giving him her regenerations.
Amy Pond, one of The Doctor’s many companions, was Moffat’s first companion for the eleventh incarnation of The Doctor. She starts off as a vulnerable (but quite strong) little girl with a crack in her wall. She transforms into a mouthy, fiery, scottish woman who doesn’t enable The Doctor in any way and frequently gives him her mind. She does get in damsel-in-distress type situations, but again, this is true to the narrative and she never takes these predicaments lying down. She is a fighter.
Amy is the first married companion and also the first to become a mother. This to me is a great step for women in Doctor Who. Amy’s story shows that a woman can be strong, be a mother, be a wife, but still essentially make her own decisions. In the end her story isn’t completely wrapped up in The Doctor (like Rose Tyler) but her ability to choose the life she wants.
Again, no. People are saying that because Moffat has the tendency to show these characteristics in the females he writes, that he somehow is sexist, yet he also has written men this way. Rory finds himself in many vulnerable situations, many times choosing Amy’s safety over his own. Rory’s decisions are viewed as chivalrous and honorable; whereas River Song’s choice to save The Doctor is viewed as weak, and her love for him is interpreted as some school-girl-crush, a lack-of-judgment-foggy-feelings-cloud.
Nancy (The Empty Child), Sally Sparrow (Blink), River Song (basically a female version of Indiana Jones), and Amy Pond are all great examples of female characters, all written by Moffat. Their strengths and weaknesses as characters aren’t signified by their femaleness anymore than male characters are by the fact that they are male.
My response to the 12th Doctor being male:
Get over it people. I know many people are just waiting for a female to be cast, but I honestly don’t think that will ever happen. WHY? Because the Doctor is man and has been for 50 years. Just like Sherlock is a man, Wonder Woman is a woman, Ms. Marple is a woman, Katniss Everdeen is a woman, and The Queen of England is a woman. The Doctor is a father figure and brother figure. He is a dude. He is distinctively male and I think changing that would put a wrench in the narrative. At this point, casting a woman would just be for the sake of casting a woman.
Moffat works closely with his wife in the writing of both Doctor Who and Sherlock, is a father, and is writing partners with Mark Gatiss (an openly gay man) on Sherlock and Doctor Who. Any accusations of him being a sexist or a homophobe (I’ve seen him accused of both on the interweb) seem moot at this point, at least to me anyway.