What I love about this idea is the generosity of it. I think there’s so often a real paucity of generosity towards writers/creators in fandom, and really, isn’t it ok for him to want to be the Doctor? To tell the story about the Doctor rather than making it about the companion who is usually a woman? I can’t see why, on a basic level, it isn’t ok for a man to tell a man’s story. I mean, I get that there is no shortage of such narratives, and that there are shortages of others, but for me, the blame for that doesn’t lie with the writer of such a story, it lies with the people who commission and fund stories, and with the audience that consumes stories and what it demands and rewards with its custom.
I think people forget, too, that a narrative is an exercise in a certain kind of economy, and that in order to tell one story, one cannot tell every story. Most narratives work by constellating characters and plot around a protagonist, and there can’t be lose threads and extra details — the other characters and the things that happen in the story are there further that agenda. If, for Moffat, the story is fundamentally about the Doctor, then it is appropriate that the other characters in the story serve narrative purposes that support that agenda, and as I said, there are lots of ways of looking at the story as presented and not all of them amount to unforgivable misogyny.
Every fan has a way they want it to be, and so many just aren’t willing to accept the fact that just because the story goes a certain way in their heads (or SHOULD go a certain way) doesn’t mean that’s the only way it can go in anyone’s head, or in the writer’s head, and still be of value. Our ideas and feelings about who the characters are and what they mean aren’t the only ways to think about them. I think it’s perfectly all right that Moffat has a different vision, and that he has a different desire to be fulfilled when writing his story, and it’s also perfectly all right that some people preferred a different approach. What I don’t always understand is why that has to lead to categorical accusations of personal evil and all the personal reviling. Moffat is clearly a very talented and intelligent person, who works side by side with a host of other intelligent and talented people, and I think he deserves a little generosity from his audience on the question. Or, at least the right to a learning curve rather than a summary, black and white dismissal.
And, tangentally, about Sherlock — I think it’s true that he is an iconic, narrative-driving masculine figure, but it’s important to note, in Moffat and Gatiss’s version, how sexualised and subjected to our (and John’s!) objectification he is with his too-tight shirts and the way the camera worships his prettiness. If I had the time to write a book, here, it wouldn’t be difficult to enumerate the ways in which Sherlock subverts that narrative and enters into a dialogue with it rather than presenting it straightforwardly, and I suspect it will go even further in that direction in the future. And, similarly to the Doctor’s heroism, Sherlock isn’t an uncomplicated, straighforward hero of the typical stamp, as much as he might like to see himself as a dragonslayer with a damsel to save. I mean, firstly, his damsel isn’t a damsel at all, but another complicated masculinity.
I know there are those of us who are rightfully sick to death about stories for boys, and I am, too, sometimes, but personally, I shop elsewhere for my feminine representation. Every work of art doesn’t have to be all things to all people, and I still find the stories men tell about themselves to be interesting and relevant to the aims of feminism.
elizabethminkel, thank you for starting this terribly interesting discussion!