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This is an awesome post. Don't really have much to add except yes, this:
his may seem obvious, but criticizing Moffat and his team for making the choice to sexualize a female character is not the same as criticizing the female character for acting in an overtly sexual manner. The former is a critique of institutional sexism, whether one agrees with it or not; the latter is enforcing sexist standards of female behavior.
Because it should be obvious but - as someone who was standing on the sidelines and only barely saw some of the conversation about this point - I felt it was getting lost. And I think there's even a quote somewhere about how Moffat was concerned, casting Amy, with fuckability in a way he wasn't when Matt Smith was cast as Eleven.

Edited at 2010-07-02 04:27 pm (UTC)

Hey thanks! And thanks for reading.

I too felt that point was getting lost, and was a bit mystified by it; it seems an odd one to lose. Although I gather that there is some heavy baggage in Who fandom around female characters, and I find this often moves conversations in directions that seem bizarre to me as a newcomer.

That tidbit on Moffat's casting choices makes me sigh, but doesn't surprise me. As you can tell from this piece, I really love Amy as a character, but I don't entirely trust the man in charge of her development.

Terrific review! Thank you so much for sharing this. I particularly this point:

It’s dangerous to criticize Amy’s sexuality in a way that argues women shouldn’t be overtly sexual, but it’s also valid to criticize characterizations like hers because of what they represent—to wit, that women must be overtly sexual and sexually attractive to deserve our gaze in media.

Well said.

Thank you so much for reading it!

That's a really key point for me, one I think we can't afford to forget--we all lose when we let these traps dictate our conversation.

(here via giandujakiss)
i don't really have anything to add right now, i just wanted to say that i really love this post. wonderful!

Thank you so much! Praise is very much appreciated.

(here via giandujakiss)
This is fantastic meta--thank you for taking it on.

One thing I have noticed about this season is how many middle-aged women there are. In the US tv I'm used to seeing, all women are either early/mid 20s (with a few elderly women and the occasional woman in her 30s cast to play a mother). Whereas in Doctor Who, half the episodes have a woman of that "awkward" in-between stage between what we consider fuckable and what we consider grandmotherly. The actress who plays Liz10 is in her 40s, but has clandestine adventures and wears cool motorcycle boots. The actress who plays Roseanna in Vampires of Venice is in her 40s, and though she's a mother she's also presented as being very attractive indeed. Nasreen in the Hungry Earth two-parter is in her late 40s, but seeks adventure and finds love--two things no woman over the age of 25 is allowed to do in US television.

And then, of course, there's River Song. Morally ambiguous, eminently competent, unapologetic about her personality, her past, her actions. When we first see her she's dolled up and gorgeous in a vampish sort of way (despite being in her late 40s!)--and as soon as she's accomplished what she wanted with that appearance, she discards it. (Those incredible high heeled shoes, which are designed to proclaim to all the world that the wearer has wealth and no need or ability to walk, are immediately hung up on the TARDIS the instant she doesn't need them as signals any longer.) Through the rest of her episodes, she is either clearly presenting a facade through her dress and makeup (as in her attempt to get a Time Vortex Manipulator in The Pandorica Opens) or is dressed eminently practically.

Although Amy is one of the two main characters, I was pleased to see so many other female characters--and none of them are presented in the same overtly sexual way as Amy. Not even the other young women, as in The Lodger, where the woman wears hoodies and jeans. To me, this signals that Amy's clothing really is at least partly meant as characterization. In another show (I'm looking at you, Supernatural!), a woman with cleavage and tight jeans is the default--on Doctor Who, it's a purposefully made exception to the rule.

Thank you! Or you're welcome. Either way, appreciated!

Yes, the positive representations of middle-aged women--even positive representations of their sexuality--are really noteworthy and I think great. Calapine has a good piece about it (http://calapine.livejournal.com/607954.html). I am especially fond of Liz Ten and Nasreen and still hoping they come back.

And River...well, River is currently my favorite DW character ever. Ever. I like her so much it's embarrassing.

I really like your points about her and the others' outfits, btw. The show really does a lot of characterization through clothing and calling attention to the same (think how often Amy's short skirt for Rio is commented in the Silurian two-parter, or the Doctor makes a reference to bow ties--or fezzes, for that matter).

I definitely agree that Amy's clothes are presented as part of her characterization and personality; that's part of what's so interesting about her for me. It's rare that we get to see a show explore the personality of an overtly sexual woman in depth, rather than just presenting highly sexualized young women as the default for womanhood. (I hadn't even thought about comparisons to other shows like you mention--it's an excellent point.)

You're not the first one to bring this up, but I have to admit I really have problems with the equation of "kissogram" and "stripper" - they are not the same by a long shot, and I don't necessarily follow the idea that the writers sneakily wanted to establish Amy as working in the sex industry. Kissogram works pretty well if you consider the rest of her presentation - it is at the same time titillating and innocent, since nothing happens but a kiss.

One of the major tools of sexism is that the system accords younger women a certain type of sexual power—which fanservice exemplifies—limits them to that role, and then takes it away from them as they age.

What do you make in this context of River Song? Alex Kingston is 47 and the character doesn't strike me as younger, yet she is heavily sexualized. I'd say the same goes to a degree for Liz Ten, who certainly has an action heroine sex appeal with her guns and her costume. (I'm not saying you're wrong, I truly want to know how you integrate these characters in that paradigm. Do they subvert it, or do they add to it in different ways?)

Ha, my braincrush on you continues apace.

This is fantastic; thank you so much for putting this all together and sharing it. It's not easy to find meta that tackles this issue in a balanced way, to criticize the gender choices on the show wrt societal context, rather than tearing down the character herself. As obvious as that DOES seem, as you say. And you've tied it to her characterization in a way that makes sense to me. I agree her clothing carries a LOT of symbols in the show, even unrelated to sex - her red hooded top in the angel two-parter as she moves through the forest is very striking imagery (notably paired with a short skirt, haha - symbolism for Amelia and Amy in one handy outfit).

One of the major tools of sexism is that the system accords younger women a certain type of sexual power—which fanservice exemplifies—limits them to that role, and then takes it away from them as they age.

This is a MOUTHFUL, thank you for pointing it out so clearly. Like the previous commenter I have consistently been impressed by the older females on the show. River especially might be an example of an older female character who hasn't been stripped of sexual power. But as you say, it's not an ensemble show so Amy gets the most focus in terms of the show's overall treatment of women and it's important to unpack that in terms of fan response and characterization.

Edited at 2010-07-02 06:46 pm (UTC)

I enjoyed reading this - great food for thought.

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Hey, thanks for adding! People who come back with things to add long after something is posted warm the cockles of my heart!

Yeah, I realize that the equivalence is iffy and really can be dangerous, and for the record I personally am not in favor of collapsing the many levels of the sex work industry, because this leads to Bad Things (not least phone sex workers claiming they know what's best for women who work the streets).

But I had a similar reaction--I was confused by the kiss-o-gram title and when I went online discovered many people had instantly interpreted it as stripper. So I think it's a case of the writers knowing just how far they could go and relying on their audience to fill in the subtext. Not like they don't do that with other things...

You should know that I originally tried to write this in a way that wouldn't spoil people because I was specifically thinking of you. Alas, I couldn't pull it off--various spoilers were too important to Amy's character. Sorry to tempt you away from your promise!

So glad you appreciate that point; it seems to have resonated with many people.

I think you will love Amy, especially since you understand this flaw and the behavior it prompts; a lot of fans seemed honestly confused by it. I actually think there's a case to be made for the parallels between Amy and Arthur from Merlin, and the fact that large sections of fandom have celebrated the latter and castigated the former is a sad commentary on the importance of gender to fan reactions.

Very interesting, and convincing. Noted and logged.

This may seem obvious, but criticizing Moffat and his team for making the choice to sexualize a female character is not the same as criticizing the female character for acting in an overtly sexual manner. The former is a critique of institutional sexism, whether one agrees with it or not; the latter is enforcing sexist standards of female behavior. All of us interested in Amy and the representation of female characters should bear this in mind.

Great point, and well put.

I very much like this, and find I'm in agreement with most of it - I say "most" because I actually haven't gotten to the last three episodes yet, so I can't speak to her wardrobe change, though I'll take your word for it for now.

Hey, belated thanks! Would love to know what you think once you've seen the last few episodes.

And an even more belated reply, because I only got around to watching the last episode a few days ago!

Moving on from episode 8, what really struck me as present in clothing choice for Amy was the combination of sexuality and childishness. (I think childish is the word I want.) Going back to her giant billowy nightgown / nightshirt - which is absolutely something a child would wear - in the second episode, moving forward to her ever-present scarf which seemed less of a necessity and more of an affectation that a child would put on. Her fingerless gloves, and her often quizzical looks aimed at The Doctor, her long hair and her very long coat that she could hide in - a lot of her outer clothing held a childish whimsy that her miniskirts and tight tops did not. (Though I did notice that she rarely showed cleavage. Amy was much more likely to show leg than chest).

I think the costumers wanted us to remember Amy's origin story as a buildup to 512 and the finale, where we actually go back to see Amy as a child, as well as her room and all the childlike/childhood memories her room and her mind contained. To me, Amy was a strong mix of child and sexualized adult, which seemed about right for someone in her situation.

Oooh, this was very interesting and a pleasure to read. (Also, I recced it on my lj; I hope you don't mind.)

I'm very curious about your thoughts on River Song, especially since you've said that she's your favorite character. Do you find that her pretty/sexy clothes feel more like they come from her own agency or that they're just tools that she uses and discards as needed?

I was just discussing Amy Pond's short skirts with a friend today and found this link on tvtropes. Thanks, hopefully my re-watch of season 5 will go better this time :) Not that my problems with it were just Amy, but maybe looking at Amy will help me get through some of the stuff I didn't like. And noticing all the older women. That I shall very much enjoy.

Great article. Just one minor point that may have led to an error in your reasoning: In the UK, it is possible to have psychological treatment, especially for children, on the NHS. The quality of treatment is highly random based on where you live, and it's not easy to get a consultation, but it is possible.

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