The Hand That Rocks the TARDIS

Don’t get me wrong; I greatly enjoyed the special, and I think Steven Moffat is the wasp’s elbows. But Moffat’s gender politics do continue to bug me. Ranking especially high on my feminist gripe-o-meter this past season were the “Mrs. Williams” comment in The God Complex, and the revelation that the seemingly independent River Song’s entire identity, including her choice of profession, is determined by her focus on the man she loves.

The Widow

I’m sure some will see tonight’s episode as preaching female superiority. But if they do, they’re missing the point. The repeated message of tonight’s show was that women’s strength comes from motherhood. That line is one of the oldest arrows in patriarchy’s quiver.

In a long literary tradition, a female character is most likely to be allowed to express strength and resolve if her doing so is somehow connected to her “natural” role as familial nurturer. Think of examples from Greek tragedy: Antigone and Electra, whose heroism is triggered by their feeling for a slain relative, or even Medea, whose fairly extreme deviation from a nurturing role results from the disruption of her marriage. (Actually one can fit Lysistrata in there too.)

For the sake of the spoiler-averse, I won’t go into details about plot, but the Christmas special fit into this pattern all too well.

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5 Responses to The Hand That Rocks the TARDIS

  1. Anon73 December 26, 2011 at 3:17 pm #

    Well, so much for pretending Greek theater had some strong independent female characters. Although I suppose even if Medea was such a play it would just be the exception that proves the rule.

  2. zhinxy December 27, 2011 at 3:20 pm #

    Well… Euripides, particularly in the Trojan Women, was actually doing some very radical, subversive gender stuff, I’d say. But yeah.

  3. zhinxy December 27, 2011 at 3:27 pm #

    I agree. Well, that was short. I also thought the birth/labor aspects were overdone, in particular. It bothers me because I really LIKE Moffat’s female characters, and he keeps doing this.

    I will say, however, that a certain Ripley-esque moment did help the bad-ass-mommary go down way better.

    As for Mrs. Williams being an annoying bit, and River’s profession being Doctor centered, I agree… And add another thing…

    While I thought the wedding scene was well done, it basically consisted of Doctor telling her to wrap something around her hand because she is to do as she’s told, then, basically, saying “Hey, Parents, hand over your property” – She added a “kiss the bride” at the end, but at no point in the whole ceremony did her consent seem to be required, or even asked for.

    (Though, I suppose you could argue that it’s not a gender matter, but because in Time Lord terms River might be a MINOR… Huh… No, that doesn’t help. )

  4. zhinxy December 27, 2011 at 3:48 pm #

    On the other hand, River’s “all consuming, worth sacrificing your life/lives for, more important than the universe” obsession/devotion as reason for every life choice, IS actually something she shares with her FATHER.

    And in that sense the Amy – Rory relationship strongly parallels the river and doctor one with the genders reversed. (River doesn’t wait around to be noticed, and on the surface is more like her mother, but in terms of her nature and relation to her partner, she’s her father’s daughter).

    It’s interesting, seen in that light, but how it all plays out in the context of the show and with Moffat’s gender issues thrown in gets very… dubious.


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