The Misconception of Amy Pond
5.01 “The Eleventh Hour”
Rory: How can he be real? He was never real! It was just a game. We were- we were kids. You made me dress up as him!
Right here, with this quote, I knew the characterization of Amy Pond was going to go seriously awry.
Kids love to play pretend, don’t they?
Moffat was a Who fan as a kid, right? I bet he played Doctor Who pretend. Yet somehow I don’t think he assigned the role of Doctor to others. I mean, the Doctor is the hero! You don’t assign that role to another kid! You fight for your right to be the Doctor! Maybe you take turns with who gets to be him. Maybe there’s three Doctors running around at the same time and it gets a big squiggly. But whatever you do, you don’t freely abdicate the hero role.
Unless you’re a girl.
Steven Moffat could not conceive of a little Amelia Pond who would look at the magical Doctor and his blue box and want to be him. He assumed she would want to be with him instead.
Actual little girls, however, are well-versed in this problem. I know I had a lot of contradictory feelings about Indiana Jones. (“He’s so dreamy!” “I want to be an archaeologist when I grow up!” “Mom, can I have a whip for my birthday?”) Most of the heroes- the characters it’s most fun to imagine being- are dudes. If you also happen to find some of those dudes attractive, you’re going to develop the “I want to be you/I want to be with you” duality. This is something that straight guys like Moffat have not needed to deal with, as characters for them were nicely divided into a binary of those they want to be (male heroes) and those they want to be with (the hot ladies male heroes get).
So when Moffat created Amelia he projected this binary on to her, but reversed it. She’s a girl! The Doctor is a dude! Obviously she wants to be with him! I’m not even sure he realizes it’s possible for Amelia to want to be the Doctor. Yes, if someone asked him directly if he thought little girls wanted to grow up to be the Doctor he’d probably agree, but the point is it didn’t occur to him when he was actually writing her character.
And so she becomes The Girl Who Waited, waited for the hero’s return, and not The Girl Who Dreamed, dreamed of being the hero.
Amelia Pond, drawing Doctor fanart in crayon- are you our on-screen fangirl cypher? Dreaming of what male creators think we want: romance! With an awkward, unnecessary love triangle! Uh, girls love that, right?
Enter the series 7 promo still.
I look at this and think- what fantasy does this appeal to? That’s no hero shot, not of Amy Pond.
The girl who waited, carried away.
It’s everything that’s been there from the beginning, that we’ve tried to put aside. The misconception of Amy Pond. As the love interest, the sidekick, and not the hero. In the hero’s arms and not the hero.
Where is the image of Amy Pond, hero? Why can’t that sell the show? Why a damsel in distress shot?
Ah, but we don’t want to confuse the little boys, the mini-Moffats, by making them want to be her, instead of just be with her. How weird that would be!
So Amy will stay as she is, in the Doctor’s arms, safe.
This commentary is fascinating to me, because I never pretended to be “the hero”.
When I was a child, no matter what world I entered, how elaborate a (borrowed)fiction I spun, I was never taking on the role of the hero. I never took on anyone else’s roles. I was always, always, for as long as I can remember, just myself.
And oh no, there was no “just” about it. Long ago I gave myself permission to be the Mary-Sue in my private daydreams, and so I was always an accomplished being in my own right. Sometimes as powerful as the heroes, sometimes more. I was Voldemort’s daughter1 who’d been stuck in a time warp and was the same age as Harry’s gang, but with all the knowledge of a seventh year. I was a formidable pirate captain in my own right, crossing swords with The Sinful Sausage2 (and falling in love with Brace-and-Bit). I was the Mysterious Girl Next Door to Fowl Manor, with a type of magic Artemis couldn’t conceive and even Holly knew not. I was the Herald who rode a black companion3 or the Tayledras bonded to a cat rather than bird, or the girl who was Chosen by a Companion who crossed realms of reality to be with me.
In every fanfic I imagined4, I was very clearly the most important, and most powerful, and most interesting person in the story. I wasn’t the hero as presented in the original media —although I was generally quite friendly with them, and in the cases of my (many) fictional crushes, they were completely and totally in love with me— I was just a side character to their story…
…so that I could instead focus on my own. And my story was better5, every time. Yes, Ron Weasley was my darling love interest6, but he wasn’t going to save *me*. What am I, some damsel? It was ME swooping in to save him, because I was the best and the brightest and Harry Potter (my half-brother, look, don’t even ask) was nowhere near as capable at defeating Voldemort as I.
So, the long-winded point I am trying to make here is that yeah, Amy made Rory pretend to be the Doctor, rather than being him herself. And…what happened then? I’ve seen very little of the last few seasons of Doctor Who, but what I do know of Amy and Rory, I find it a touch unlikely that she would have stood there and batted her eyelashes in their games of pretend, while Rory swooped in and saved the day. He might have been the one assigned the role of pilot with the blue box, but I’ll bet you anything that *she* was the one adventuring to all these new planets and times and defeating strange aliens and monsters. She was the one holding the homemade sonic screwdriver, or ray gun, or whatever Amy Pond would expect her raggedy man to use. She was the one who was Important and In Charge and Powerful, and poor Rory was forced into being her hapless sidekick, nothing more than the facilitation of HER adventures and HER story.
Now, I say all this, but I still think the above commentary is incredibly important and very plausibly right, and I have not been given any reason to trust Steven Moffet not to be misogynistic. And I say all this, and I looked at that promo photo and the first words out of my mouth were “what the fuck is wrong with you?” followed closely by “and what does a girl have to do to get out of being made into a fucking damsel?”.
I say all this and am incredibly bothered by what happens to the companions —all pretty, all female, all white (except for Martha), all hopelessly in love with The Doctor (except for Donna, and hey, it’s my favourite), all vessels for the same horrible story where the companion is a swooning damsel who needs to be saved by His Heroic Excellency.
But I don’t agree that, just because Amy chooses not to be the Doctor, she’s choosing not to be The Hero.
Maybe she’s just choosing a story where she can shine without having to be someone else.
1: Yes, really.
2: 10 points to the house of whoever can identify what this is from.
3: This was part of a Harry Potter/Valdemar crossover fanfic that I actually started writing down when I was in sixth or seventh grade. Somewhere in Chicago, there is a composition book with twenty or forty pages of just atrocious derivative drivel in it. I’m really quite pleased with myself for it, even though anyone reading it should never ever happen not ever.
4: Actually, it occurs to me that I can recall a Mulan daydream in which I was Mulan, but it involved me running away from the emperor when he starts listing my faults, and it was one of those horrible daydreams where the whole point is that everything terrible ever happens to the main character (me) and she is rejected by everyone and so goes off and takes on an assumed name and becomes Better Than Everyone Else, and then they learn about it and are Very Sorry They Treated Her So Bad and I really had a lot of those. This probably says something horrible about me.
5: okay, “better” is a misnomer, but I did rather enjoy it more.
6: Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality ruined my life by pointing out how useless he really is, but that’s okay, because the movies did it long before, and so did the last few books. Never fell out of love with Remus though.