Whovian Feminism

The Feminist's Guide to Doctor Who

This blog aims to answer one simple question: Is Doctor Who a feminist television show? Focusing predominately on New Who, I will examine the women of Doctor Who, their stories, the fandom, and the potential for a Female Doctor.
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Recently, someone sent me a submission pointing out that the Nerdist review of “Nightmare in Silver” by Kyle Anderson had this to say about Clara:

Hands down, Clara is my favorite companion of the new series, maybe even of all. I think I like her the most because she’s not a caricature in any way. She doesn’t have traits that get molded into a character. She’s sort of a blank slate, which makes her seem more realistic. I hope she sticks around for a good long while.

I’ve checked the source and, yep, it’s not ironic or sarcastic in any way. The anonymous submitter went on to comment:

Blank Slate? I find it interesting that the very reason most women I know don’t like Clara, is exactly what this male reviewer finds so appealing.

I have to say that I agree that many women find Clara’s lack of characterization irritating. In fact, here’s a review written by Susana Polo, a female reviewer at The Mary Sue:

In the case of Clara, Doctor Who wants to create an impenetrable mystery at the center of its plot, but it also wants to not have to actually address that mystery in any way during the season, even though half the season features her as a companion. This has created a number of side effects, all of which are, well, bad writing.

For example, the show clearly wants the audience to become obsessed with Clara because she is a mystery, but has almost entirely failed so far to give us any other character traits to hold onto for her. So she’s a bit bossy (except for how, because it makes plots easier, she does everything the Doctor tells her), she’s got a dead mom and some near-dead traveling ambitions, and she likes kids. This leaves us hanging on her mystery as the most unique thing about her, and because the show refuses to address it, it means that she doesn’t actually have enough character traits to be singular among companions […] 

Clara’s far too generic than any companion or indeed any female character (who are so often genericized when appearing alongside male characters intended to be charismatic scene hogs) deserves, and the Doctor is made to look unfit for companionship.  But most importantly, the central relationship of the show, between the Doctor and his current companion, can’t actually reach the honest emotional link that’s so necessary for an audience to care what happens to it, because it’s based on a grossly unequal sharing of information between the two parties.

Now, is this a male-female preferences thing? I don’t think so. I don’t currently have the audience or resources to do a full census of the Whovian population’s views on Clara, but the men I know haven’t been exactly thrilled with Clara either.

However, I think the women tend to be more vocal about it because we feel the loss of a relatable female companion more keenly than the men. Audiences can identify with any character in a show, but we do tend to look for someone like us to identify with. Someone we can imagine going through the same struggles as we have, and someone to look up to when they overcome those struggles. So while I’ll always want to be the Doctor, the reckless adventurer travelling all over time and space, I’ll always identify most strongly with Donna, the woman who hid deep insecurities under a avalanche of sass and who didn’t just fall into travelling with the Doctor, but sought him out in order to broaden her perspective and escape the overwhelming negativity she faced in her life.

I identified with Rose’s passion for justice and adventure. I identified with Martha’s practicality and her struggle to create a healthy relationship with someone she cared for deeply. I even identified with Amy’s desperation to cling onto a childhood hero, even as that ideal was slowly chipped away.

But with Clara…I feel almost nothing, except a deep sense of unease about how the Doctor treats her. Being a “blank slate” doesn’t make her more realistic, it just makes her empty. And I find myself truly missing having a companion I can identify with.

  1. chloeissmiling reblogged this from roseisnobody and added:
    why i hate clara
  2. roseisnobody reblogged this from whovianfeminism
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  8. morgyblack reblogged this from whovianfeminism and added:
    THIS Thanks for putting in words what I’ve been trying for months to explain to my whovian boyfriend! I agree...
  9. miriamthewalrus reblogged this from whovianfeminism
  10. sherlocks-freebitch reblogged this from whovianfeminism and added:
    This is exactly my problem with Clara. She was great in Asylum of the Daleks, but since then, she just seems like a plot...
  11. mynameismeely reblogged this from whovianfeminism and added:
    I agree on many levels with this. I’m equalist rather than a feminist but the point remains the same to me, Clara is a...
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