Inspired by the incredibly talented Robin Vaughn Williams’ comment on my previous post, pointing out the the Doctor Who companions are often shown as being very brave, resourceful and independent in comparison to their boyfriends. Rose and Amy both follow this model, with Mickey and Rory presenting, at first anyway, as clownish, cowardly but lovable dolts. Both these characters develop, Mickey finding his inner courage after meeting an incredibly driven version of himself from an alternate reality and Rory, well, he undergoes an undeniably permanent change at the end of the latest episode.
However, as RVW pointed out, seen next to the companions, they are, at their respective introductions, poor specimens indeed. Is this a technique by the writers to accentuate the strength, intelligence and courage of the lead female, just as her presence serves to accentuate the brilliance of the Doctor? Well. Perhaps that’s a part of it.
I’m not sure though, that it’s the companions that the boyfriends are there to be compared to. Let’s assume that there is a sexual charge between Companion and Doctor(arguably more the case with Rose and Amy than with Donna – who loved the Doctor totally platonically, or Martha – whose love was unrequited).
OK. So they are alone together in the Tardis in high-stress situation and both are somewhat interested in getting into each other’s pants. A complication is needed, both to prevent or delay the consummation of this sexual tension leading to frenzied ‘will they or won’t they?’ speculation and, crucially, to be a comical rival with the doctor for the lady’s affections. The Human Suitor must be everything the Doctor is not. Unadventurous, cowardly, predictable, but also attractive for his sheer human frailty, which of course is missing in the Doctor.
So has this become entirely a Doctor Who Blog? No, but at the moment it’s the current series that’s got me thinking about language and gender, so here we go.
In my previous post I talked about women being socialised to compete with one another for the attentions of men. Potential sexual partners are talked about in the possessive, (Stand By Your Man) but, to me the power dynamic is very much about survival. As I said, we live in a patriarchal society which encourages women to undermine one another for a better chance of a high place in the oppressor’s esteem.
(I am not saying that all men are oppressors. I am saying that we are conditioned to treat them as such and it takes mindfulness from men women and others not to fall into the oppressive male/female power dynamic that our culture propagates.)
So when there’s one bird and two blokes, why is it any different? Doesn’t that blow holes in my logic? I don't think so.
Look at the relationship between Mickey and the Doctor, and the relationship between Rory and the Doctor. It develops from defiance and mistrust to a sort of mentoring relationship. There’s rivalry, sure, but hatred? Bitching? Backstabbing? Any of the behaviour we associate with two women after the same man?
Because as men, blokes - “bros”, if you like – the Doctor and the Human Suitor are in the SAME TRIBE. Their success or failure in ‘getting the girl’ dictates their status in the pecking order, and once that’s sorted out, they can go back to a relatively peacable, even strenghtened, relationship with one another.
In Cold Blood, Rory, poignantly, says “ I trust the Doctor with my life” shortly before, well, you know. Is that something you can imagine a female character saying about another female character who has snogged her fiancé and is constantly tempting him into a world of adventure and danger with no real place for her in it? There’s no way. But Rory knows his place. He knows that Amy loves him but he also knows just who the Alpha Male is in this set up. Bros before Hos, dude.
Women competing for men are about survival, about cunning, about removing the competition. Look at Helena and Hermia in a Midsummer Night’s Dream, with the claws, quite literally, out for one another. Look at, well, the women in every soap opera going! There’s no sisterhood there. Men competing for women are, I think, more concerned with what their sexual conquest says about their status. The girl is a trophy, a prize. “Faint heart never won fair maiden” “She is woman and therefore to be won” “Was ever woman in this humour won?” It’s all throughout our culture.
A complication arises when you apply these cultural ‘rules’, which reflect a heterosexual model, to non hetero relationships. You know, the old gay dilemmas. Who pays for dinner/holds the door/wears the trousers/has the babies/does the cooking? With those comfortable, familiar rules stripped away is it any wonder so many same sex couples end up aping the gender roles they have grown up internalising? Wha I have noticed is that in the same sex relationship rivalries I’ve witnessed, the gloves are absolutely off. Once again that oppressed and defensive mindset comes into play and the bitching begins in earnest. However, when the battle is over, that ‘tribe’ thing kicks in. I can’t think of a single gay person in my social circle who does not have an incredibly firm friendship with at least one ex, no matter how messy the break-up was when it happened.
The same-sex love rival is at once hyper-aware of the pecking order and, like many oppressed groups, willing to fight dirty to survive.
Don’t believe me?
Captain. Jack. Harkness.