Previously, I posted a video from Feminist Frequency describing the Mystical Pregnancy Trope. In Part 1 of this post, I described the instance in Doctor Who where the Mystical Pregnancy Trope worked well. In Part 2, I analyze where it went horribly, terribly wrong: Amy Pond’s Schrodinger pregnancy and kidnapping in Series 6 of Doctor Who.
This use of the Mystical Pregnancy Trope very neatly checks off everything on the list of what makes the trope so terrible: lack of consent, lack of recovery, loss of identity, and the use of torture porn as entertainment.
Like Amy’s first mystical pregnancy, this pregnancy is entirely natural in origin. However, it is not a dream, and more disturbingly, it is not entirely clear that it was consensual. It is important not to assume that every woman wants to become pregnant immediately after marriage, and given Amy’s young age (21!) it’s not unreasonable to suspect that she may have wanted to wait awhile before having kids. Remember in “The Impossible Astronaut” that when Amy tells the Doctor that she suspects she’s pregnant; her expression is panicked, not excited. She later explains that she was concerned that travelling in the TARDIS would harm her unborn child, but it’s not a stretch to imagine that she was not entirely ready to have a child. Regardless, the Silence deliberately create a condition in which Amy is not aware of —and therefore is unable to consent to — her pregnancy. This situation is compounded by the Doctor, who conducts numerous scans on Amy without her consent, and refuses to tell her that anything might be wrong.
In addition, Amy’s character lacked a true recovery from her experience, in part because the show never acknowledges how truly traumatic the experience must have been for her. Two episodes later, Amy is back travelling with the Doctor as if nothing happened. The first glimpse we see that this experience traumatized her at all is in the premiere episode of “Asylum of the Daleks,” in which we learn that Amy and Rory are in the middle of a divorce. For a moment I held out hope that this might finally be the moment where the show acknowledges the trauma this experience must have caused Amy, but nope. Instead, we learn about another trauma Amy experienced (forced sterilization?!), and instead of presenting it in the context of Amy being terribly traumatized and needing help, it is presented in the context of Amy being at fault for doubting Rory’s love for her — again. Instead of acknowledging and addressing the new challenges the characters face, and allowing them to grow and change as a result, they are still fighting old battles from two series ago.
The worst part is that the stage was set for there to be acknowledgement of the trauma that Amy experienced. The lead up to the climactic twist revealing River Song as Amy and Rory’s daughter had River telling the Rory that the Doctor would fall further than he ever has before, a tall order given that the Doctor has literally committed genocide multiple times. This was the Doctor’s ultimate failure of a companion. Amy was kidnapped, violated, and had her child kidnapped, an experience so traumatic as to eclipse every other sin the Doctor has committed — and yet two episodes later he’s forgiven and everybody’s acting as if everything’s back to normal. As a result, Amy’s character growth is stunted.
Compounding this problem is the fact that Amy almost entirely loses her individual identity, and from this point on is almost always known as River Song’s mother. Now, don’t get me wrong, when a woman becomes a mother, it certainly becomes a large part of her identity, but even in episodes where River Song wasn’t even remotely involved (*cough* A Town Called Mercy *cough*) there were frequent, almost inexplicable references to Amy as a mother, as if that was the sum of her new identity. Given the fact that River Song was introduced two years before Amy Pond, one can’t help but think of the disturbing possibility that the character of Amy only ever existed in order to provide the origin story for River Song, who serves as the ultimate Messiah/Satan character for most of series six and seven. The lack of character development only reinforces that perception.
Now, before I describe how Amy’s mystical pregnancy constitutes torture porn, I want you to watch the following scene, which takes place after Amy wakes up in Demon’s Run having just discovered she’s pregnant and in active labor.
Think about what you just saw: Amy, lying in nothing but a white hospital gown, trapped in an iron-lung-contraption, with a robotic eye looking up her gown. She looks down and sees that her body has completely changed, and she is now nine months pregnant. Imagine what she must be feeling right now. Even before the Doctor destroyed her Flesh doppleganger, she could feel her labor pains. Her body is about to go through one of the most painful experiences a human body can endure. She has just discovered she’s been kidnapped, held hostage for months, is pregnant, and is going into labor all in the span of a few minutes, and now she’s in terrible pain. The scene ends with a close-up on her face, as she gives a heart-rending, terrified, and tortured scream.
What you just watched is torture porn. It may be milder than is shown on other television shows that use the mystical pregnancy trope, but it is torture porn nonetheless. You have just watched a woman violated and in intense pain, and it has been presented to you as entertainment. To be clear, you are not supposed to like this scene. You are supposed to feel disturbed and uncomfortable. But because this scene serves no other purpose than to titillate the viewer in much the same way that a horror movie does, it is presented as entertainment. This creates a narrative that distorts pregnancy into torture porn to exploit women’s terror for dramatic tension.
We cannot simply excuse this and pretend that this exists in a vacuum. Doctor Who forms a part of the public consciousness and contributes to the public narrative. Persephone Magazine has a fantastic piece about how the use of the Mystical Pregnancy Trope feeds into a public consciousness of pregnancy that almost entirely ignores the existence of the mother, which in turn inspires dangerous legislation that allows for arrests and forced interventions on pregnant women. Women are not defined by their ability to become pregnant, but neither are we unaffected by it. We do not lose our identities, and we should not lose our autonomy.
I am all for discussing challenging topics, and even for creating disturbing scenes to address those topics, but what I see presented here feels exploitative. How does this challenge our perceptions of pregnancy? How does this make us critically assess our world? Doctor Who has the remarkable ability to turn the mirror back onto our world, reflecting the beauty and horror all around us, yet here the use of the Mystical Pregnancy Trope does nothing but feed into a narrative that harms women and exploit our deepest fears.