“And I thought, ‘well she’s really good. It’s just a shame she’s so wee and dumpy… when she was about to come through to the auditions I nipped out for a minute and I saw Karen walking on the corridor towards me and I realized she was 5’11, slim and gorgeous and I thought ‘Oh, oh that’ll probably work.’”
- Steven Moffat on the casting of Karen Gillan as Amy Pond (from Doctor Who Confidential)
The above, admittedly damning quote summarizes a lot of the issues fans have found regarding the sexualization of Amy Pond, the Doctor’s faithful companion since the beginning of series five of Doctor Who. Moffat, who recently deleted his Twitter account allegedly due to harassment, is often accused of misogynistic behaviour, especially when it comes to writing female characters such as Amy, River Song, and Irene Adler from BBC’s Sherlock… but is the accusation warranted?
Amelia Pond is first introduced to us as a child in “The Eleventh Hour,” but soon we find she’s all grown up, dressing in short skirts and working as a kissogram in a very deliberate sexualization of her character that culminates in her attempted seduction of the Doctor on the eve of her wedding later on in the series. Amy is often described as “feisty” – a sassy redhead, confident and always ready with a snappy remark. As time goes on, she also picks up the ability to handle a gun – both of these things requisites of a “strong” female character (if Moffat’s River Song template is anything to go by). I could say a lot of things about how high-heels-and-guns don’t automatically equal “strong female character,” but that’s not where the real problems with Amy come in. There’s nothing inherently wrong or sexist about a female character who can handle weaponry or is comfortable with her own sexuality. The problems are with her stories.
There is no denying that Moffat likes to recycle storylines. From Reinette (“The Girl in the Fireplace”) to River to Amy, his female characters on Who have done a lot of waiting. All three were first introduced to the Doctor as children, and all three fell in love: Reinette and River with the man himself, and Amy with the adventures and escape he promised. Their lives revolved around the Doctor, and though we don’t yet know how Amy’s story is going to end, she’s already spent most of her formative years dealing with the repercussions of their first meeting when she was a little girl. Since so much of her life is about the Doctor, we really don’t know what she would be like without him.
Even that is not a problem, really–it’s an interesting case study of how the Doctor can affect those he interacts with (or might be interesting if we hadn’t seen it already with Reinette and River). No, the potential problem, and one of the most valid reasons for outcry against the way Amy Pond has been written, is that all of her major plot points have been about one of two, traditionally feminine things: marriage and babies.
From questioning her decision to marry Rory at the age of 21, to her wedding being the key factor in bringing the Doctor back into existence at the end of the series, Amy’s marriag played a big part in series five. Her pregnancy and the revelation that River Song was in fact her long-lost daughter took up series six (though she’s been strangely unaffected by this devastating turn of events ever since). And so far in series seven, we’ve had the threat of divorce because she no longer felt good enough for Rory due to the fact that she could no longer conceive.
But what about her? What else is Amy into? How is her relationship with the parents she remembered back into existence? How did she become a model, and is it something she really enjoys doing? Twelve years have passed for her since we met nineteen-year-old Amy Pond in “The Eleventh Hour,” and honestly, outside of the fact that she loves Rory, she loves the Doctor and that she’s “feisty,” I still don’t know the first thing about her.