Saturday, August 8, 2015

Stereotyped Strong Female Characters with Moffat

images Copy Write BBC
I am a big fan of Doctor Who and Sherlock. Both of which are shows that involve Steven Moffat. I find that Moffat is talented in coming up with brilliant ideas however the execution and writing of them do not turn out as well as they could. I am in some ways a fan of him because of that brilliance, but that does not mean I don't have some big issues with some of his writing. In particular his writing of women and so called "strong female characters."

I have chosen the compare four of his most well known strong female characters: Amy Pond, River Song, Irene Adler, and Clara Oswald. Please know that while I am strongly criticizing these characters I have a very strong love for several of them. Particularly Amy Pond(read my post) and River Song. One can enjoy and like something and still be critical. 

 Let us start with the one major flaw that unites all of these women. Their characters plot lines all are dependent on male characters. Amy's story is wrapped up in the Doctor from childhood, River was basically born for the Doctor to kill him/marry him. Irene exists to challenge Sherlock Holmes and cause him problems. Irene has no backstory about who she is and where she is from she is solely there for Sherlock Holmes. Clara, oh Clara, you are as the Doctor puts is "his impossible girl" that is all that your character exists for to be impossible to the Doctor, and as Clara says was "born to save the Doctor." All of these strong female characters are not actually strong. If they were strong they would have much more independent stories/lives from the male characters. Their existence in the story would not be to aid the story of the main male character. Rather they would have their own stories and background separate from that of the male characters and their stories would exist not for the male characters but rather as a co-story with them. I think it is significant that Sherlock and the seasons 5-7 of Doctor Who do not do well on the Bechdal test. (Moffat has done much better in season 8) His so called strong Female characters would fall apart if we were to remove the male characters. 

Not only are these characters unable to stand on their own with out the male characters, they also may as well be the same character. River and Irene are both intellectual women who are shown to be able to be on the same level as the intelligent male counter part. They are both geniuses. Strong female characters do not need to be geniuses in order to be strong characters. IQ does not make a strong character. All four women can be considered to have higher than average intelligence, but most especially River and Irene. 

All four of these women are quick witted and all make quips. They all think fast on their feet. They all love the danger and thrive it. You could blend Irene and River together and have a character that would not be inconsistent in anyway. The same could be done with Amy and Clara.These traits that they all share as characters are good traits, but the fact that all of Moffat's major female characters share these traits is a little disturbing. It is like he has the same base for a female character and just adds a little something different to each but at their core they are all the same. They are not individuals.

Moffat seems to have this stereo typed strong female character in his head. His idea of a strong female character is a women who has a high IQ, can keep up with the male characters, loves danger, thinks fast, can make quips, and have witty dialogue. That is not what makes a strong female character. Strong female characters are women who are all unique have strengths and weaknesses. They have an independent story. Strong female characters are like normal women. They don't need to be larger than life(though certainly those larger than life characters are enjoyable). They don't need to stand out in a crowd. They just have to be themselves. Women are diverse in so many ways and the strong women of today are not all the same. Strong female characters in media should be just as diverse. 

Moffat does not know how to create strong female characters. He only knows how to create archetypes of characters that are based on stereotypes/what he thinks these archetypes should be. His so called strong female characters lack the verity in characteristics and basically no character independence thereby making them not true strong female characters. Strong female characters are well developed characters, unique personalities, unique characteristics, are very much like women you meet in real life, and have no story line dependence on the male characters.

1 comment:

  1. I love this post! Every point you made is very true and cuts to the core of what's going on. I used to like Moffat for his writing, but I find his writing to have a lot of faults and he certainly has many problems with writing female characters (and they are certainly not strong female characters although I do love Amy quite a lot).