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Jack Graham

Jack Graham wrote about Doctor Who and Marxism, often at the same time. These days he co-hosts the I Don't Speak German podcast with Daniel Harper.Support Jack on Patreon.

43 Comments

  1. Megara Justice Machine
    October 23, 2015 @ 12:12 pm

    This is one of the critical reviews of something I already liked that make me like it even more.

    Reply

    • SpaceSquid
      October 23, 2015 @ 12:44 pm

      Whereas it’s taken an episode I didn’t like and done much to redeem it.

      (Also; I doubt we’ll see George R. R. Martin deciding to name his inevitable eighth book A Surfeit of Lampreys, but it does seem to be pretty likely that that’s the way Lord Manderley will finally meet the Seven.)

      (2 captcha attempts)

      Reply

  2. Ezakur
    October 23, 2015 @ 1:13 pm

    As my first language is spanish I always have trouble with the word “silly.” I haven’t found a word in spanish that can represent all of the nuance the word has in English. Since there’s been a rise in popularity (probably thanks to the internet) in “silly” media and “silly” jokes and tone and stories I find difficult to use it in spanish to convey that meaning. There’re translations of the word, sure, but “tonto” o “bobo” are too related to poor mental capabilities rather than acting like a clown or a goof… Any help with translating the word to spanish or other languages and still convey that particular meaning…

    Reply

    • Luca
      October 23, 2015 @ 4:32 pm

      That’s funny. In portuguese, bobo is a pretty spot on translation. Portuguese and Spanish aren’t as similar as most people think, I guess.
      The word I have trouble translating is gritty. I only think I understand what it means because of the context.

      Reply

  3. UrsulaL
    October 23, 2015 @ 6:09 pm

    Another bit of gender-bending: The Doctor names one of the surviving Viking men “Heidi”, and the Viking man accepts it.

    I was annoyed that all of the speaking roles, aside from Clara and Ashildr, were men. After selectively killing off the male warriors for their testosterone, the majority of surviving adults should have been women.

    In particular, when Clara, Ashildr and the Viking warriors were taken, the Doctor says he lost someone, meaning Clara. The man Ashildr greeted (her father?) said he lost someone too. But no one spoke up for any of the missing men. And no woman’s loss, with so many men gone, was recognized. Which gave the scene a hint of fridging flavor. Women are taken, and men angst. But no one misses the missing men, and no women are among those experiencing distress over their losses.

    I also would have liked to have seen some of Ashildr’s gender issues – while she says the girls rejected her as a boy, and the boys dismissed her as a girl, we see her having positive, affectionate interactions with the Viking men, and not interacting at all with the mysteriously absent Viking women.

    Reply

    • Anton B
      October 23, 2015 @ 7:18 pm

      I think the actual quote is
      “The girls all thought I was a boy and the boys all thought I was weird”

      A subtle difference from the direct boy/girl confusion I’ve seen a lot of commenters think they heard. Ashildr directly describes her gender bias as being female to male.

      I struggle to see how an absence of angst from the female villagers over the missing male warriors can be read as hinting at fridging. The point surely is that the villagers are used to losing warriors. Ashildr says as much when she describes making up stories when they go on raiding missions to keep them safe.

      I agree there is a weird lack of women’s voices in the story. I suspect in an eagerness to fit all the silliness in, including a rather anachronistic house husband ‘new dad’, the writers forgot to write any female characters,apart from Ashildr.

      Reply

      • Anton B
        October 23, 2015 @ 7:21 pm

        Oh, and the baby of course, who gets the best lines.

        Reply

        • Jane Campbell
          October 24, 2015 @ 12:32 am

          The baby’s lines, though, are really the Doctor’s lines.

          Reply

          • Anton B
            October 24, 2015 @ 5:51 am

            Indeed he does purport to translate the baby’s words and I suppose we are being asked to trust his male filter. That’s interesting. I think ‘translation’ may be a bit of a theme in this season. One person speaking for another and the interpretation and potential misreading of intent.

      • UrsulaL
        October 23, 2015 @ 7:35 pm

        The fridging comes because the (apparent) harm done to women was presented as being about the distress of men. Which goes to the systematic problem of things being done to women in stories being presented primarily for the effect on men.

        It’s the one scene, but it is an odd one, and the way in which it is presented erases both the harm to men and the distress of remaining women, creating the form of a fridging within the scene, even though that isn’t what happened in the larger story.

        Reply

        • ScarvesandCelery
          October 24, 2015 @ 5:10 am

          I suppose there’s an extent to which the “woman in refrigerator” trope haunts the story – The title and the conclusion are all about the potential, and ultimately reversed, fridging of Ashildr. As you say, the Doctor and Chuckles both angst over the potential harm done to Ashildr and Clara by the Mire. And of course, there are the references to Clara’s departure, which add to the hint that she could die at the end of the season. While this story doesn’t feature a fridging, the possiblity of the trope flits around the edges of the narrative.

          Reply

      • Jack Graham
        October 23, 2015 @ 8:08 pm

        The episode would have been even better if the villagers remaining after the warrior-harvest had mostly been women, that’s true.

        Reply

        • Sean Dillon
          October 23, 2015 @ 11:17 pm

          Most things would be better if they had the plot point “And then the men died, leaving the women to clean up the mess.”

          Reply

      • taiey
        October 24, 2015 @ 12:49 am

        No, it’s “The girls all thought I was a boy. The boys all said I was just a girl.”

        Reply

      • ScarvesandCelery
        October 24, 2015 @ 4:59 am

        It was “The Girls all thought I was a boy and the boys all thought I was just a girl”

        Reply

        • Anton B
          October 24, 2015 @ 5:59 am

          You’re absolutely right. I’m just going to say I mis-remembered that line in an interesting way. I think my point is still valid though.

          Reply

          • Anton B
            October 24, 2015 @ 6:13 am

            So the actual line is a standard bit of children’s adventure ‘tomboy’ characterisation no different from ‘George’ in Enyd Blyton’s Famous Five then. That’s rather disappointing. Still, the crux of the scene was to foreground Ashildr’s liminal otherness as a storyteller and point out that this didn’t alienate her (in her own eyes) from the village. She won’t abandon them. Given the focus on the Doctor’s reaction I think this is meant to resonate with us regarding his relationship with Gallifrey.

          • ScarvesandCelery
            October 24, 2015 @ 6:23 am

            Oh yeah, agreed with your point – the quote is basically an inversion of the line from the most recent Ms Marvel comic, where Zoe, the in-crowd girl from Kamala’s school says that “Guys hate me because I won’t date them, and the girls all hate me because there’s this strange idea we should be competing over the guys”. The line from “The Girl Who Waited” highlights the double standards socially constructed gender roles have on girls who don’t fit those roles. By contrast, the line from Ms Marvel highlights the double standard socially constructed gender roles have on girls who do fit into those roles.
            Also, Ashildr’s line comes from a speech about the fact that she is loved in spite of her status as a misfit. Meanwhile, Zoe’s line is about the fact that, while she seems to be popular, she feels just as out of place as Kamala.

      • Lambda
        October 24, 2015 @ 8:45 am

        I think there’s actually a small dilemma here which the episode can’t solve, and so is dealing with by doing the Doctor Who thing of proceeding over it so quickly you don’t notice. It wants to have the bad guys defeated by people who aren’t “natural fighters”. (Precise definition of that term might be interesting, but I think it’s coherent.) But take away all the men who are natural fighters, and you should still have a load of women who are natural fighters, and who would be the best ones to pick for the ten on ten fight. And it’s not clear how to get around this.

        You could instead of Vikings, pick one of those cultures where the women fought alongside the men, so they could all be taken away, (I don’t remember any specifically, but I’m pretty sure such cultures existed,) but then you’d lose the testosterone thing.

        Reply

        • Anton B
          October 24, 2015 @ 10:47 am

          ‘…one of those cultures where the women fought alongside the men,’

          You mean like…the Vikings?
          http://blog.britishmuseum.org/2014/04/19/viking-women-warriors-and-valkyries/

          Reply

          • Aylwin
            October 25, 2015 @ 3:30 am

            This honestly isn’t meant as snark, but I don’t think an article which concludes “there is absolutely no hard evidence that women trained or served as regular warriors in the Viking Age. Valkyries were an object of the imagination, creatures of fantasy rooted in the experience of male warriors. War was certainly a part of Viking life, but women warriors must be classed as Viking legend” really supports that argument.

          • Anton B
            October 27, 2015 @ 7:26 am

            No snark taken but we are discussing a story where Vikings wear horns on their helmets so how much of a stretch would women warriors have been?

    • EvilBug
      October 24, 2015 @ 1:11 am

      Are you really trying to spin the fact that nobody cares about dead men into misogyny here?

      Reply

      • Elizabeth Sandifer
        October 24, 2015 @ 1:23 am

        No, though I almost misread her as doing so as well.

        She’s pointing out the misogyny involved in the lack of women, and also pointing out that this means that in a story where all the male warriors die, being the object of mourning is still the exclusive function of women.

        Which is disappointing from the guy who brought us a Bechdel Test joke last season.

        Reply

        • EvilBug
          October 24, 2015 @ 1:27 am

          Viking warriors were redshirts, with all plotting awkwardness that comes from it, but only actual character in the local cast was female. Also a baby.

          Being mourned is not a function, but a privilege, although hardly female one. Just a function of an actual non-extra character.

          Reply

        • ScarvesandCelery
          October 24, 2015 @ 5:21 am

          I suppose that, given the way the episode was a critique of the toxic, bullying masculinity represented by Odin and the Mire, it makes a certain amount of thematic sense for the named villagers fighting the Mire to be men who are explicitly not masculine and are terrible at trying to take on Warrior culture.
          But I suspect that critique would have worked better if most of the villagers had been women, with the exception of, say, Heidi.

          Reply

          • Jack Graham
            October 24, 2015 @ 5:31 am

            You’d end up with a rather queasy situation where Vikings need to be taught how to fight by the Doctor because they happen to be women Vikings and he’s a man… but there’d be ways round that. They could complain about having been deprived of the knowledge and experience they need by the men who are no longer there, and demand the Doctor recompense them. “We don’t have what we need because men kept it from us. Much as we grieve for them. we’re also pissed off at them. You’re a man. You make it up for it. Tell what what we need to know. NOW. Or else.” Whereupon the Doctor could respond that just because he’s a man that doesn’t mean he knows how to fight. Whereupon Clara could call him out and say “Of course you know how to fight, don’t be disingenuous – teach them what they need to know.”

          • EvilBug
            October 24, 2015 @ 5:34 am

            Boy, how great it would be if the entire episode was was just broken record MENAREOPPRESSINGWOMENRAPERAPERAPE.

          • Jack Graham
            October 24, 2015 @ 6:54 am

            No, I don’t think that would be very good. No characters or drama. Just a phrase repeated over and over. No, that wouldn’t work. Nobody’d watch that.

        • UrsulaL
          October 24, 2015 @ 10:36 pm

          Also the misogyny of rendering the few women we do see entirely silent, even in matters of their own lives and deaths, and the misogyny of erasing their feelings about the death of what was approximately a quarter of the villagers from the narrative.

          Reply

  4. Jane Campbell
    October 24, 2015 @ 12:31 am

    With all the bits of the Doctor translating the baby’s cries to her mother, we never actually see the mother — instead we see the baby with the father.

    Was there any dramatic reason that Ashildr’s lone parent is her father and not her mother? Why there weren’t any women wanting to fight to save the village, like Ashildr?

    I think Moffat’s episode this year is the only one that’s actually close to being gender-balanced. Missy and Clara paired off, Doctor and Davros paired off, plus the UNIT scene with Kate and Jaye Griffiths, the Sisterhood of Karn, the Shadow Architect…

    Reply

    • Dustin
      October 24, 2015 @ 1:32 am

      There was also the irritating and offensive epithet “junior parent.”

      Reply

      • John
        October 24, 2015 @ 8:12 am

        Is it really offensive to imagine that a small baby probably thinks of its mother as the more important parent?

        Reply

        • UrsulaL
          October 24, 2015 @ 10:51 pm

          The problem is the Doctor, who is an authority figure within the story, choosing to translate the baby’s thoughts about the father as being about a lesser parent, as opposed to a different sort of parent.

          This isn’t an absent, distant father. It’s a good, loving father whom we see competently and caringly tending his child.

          Treating fathers as “junior parents” is problematic because it is used to excuse fathers from the work and responsibility of parenting, the vast majority of tasks they can do as well as mothers. It reinforces the stereotype that women should do the work of parenting, which in turn leads to extra work and stress for women.

          If the Doctor translates the baby’s thoughts of the mother as “mother” there is no reason not to translate the baby’s thoughts of the father as “father”, except to make a not-funny joke about how fathers are lesser parents.

          Or you might have “milky-cuddles-parent” and “not-milky-cuddles-parent” to show that both parents are involved, but one provides the milk.

          Reply

    • Anton B
      October 24, 2015 @ 6:31 am

      I too keep coming back to why the baby’s mother is absent. It has to have a narrative reason. It’s a stretch and by no account explicit in the writing but perhaps the lack of women in the village was a result of the ineptitude of their warriors. Have the women been pillaged? Carried off as breeding stock by other Vikings? Is this why the raiding party has gone out in the first place? To find replacement women? Of course this is potentially problematic as a theme and it’s no surprise that it wasn’t addressed within the remit of a family show.

      Reply

      • ScarvesandCelery
        October 24, 2015 @ 6:58 am

        I took the baby’s speech to mean that the mother was still alive – we do see women of the village in crowd shots – they’re just conspicuously silent.

        Reply

        • Anton B
          October 24, 2015 @ 7:09 am

          Which makes it worse. There’s no reason any of the ‘rag tag army’ the Doctor recruits couldn’t have been female. I’m also not sure that giving a male Viking a comedy female name ‘Heidi’ isn’t treading dangerously close to
          “His name is Susan and he wants you to respect his life choices” as transgender ‘jokes’ go.

          Reply

          • Jane Campbell
            October 24, 2015 @ 9:35 am

            Except Heidi isn’t making a choice, Heidi just has long braids. Heidi doesn’t blanche as being given this new name, either, if I recall; he doesn’t even seem to understand it. So the joke is (supposed to be) that the Doctor is at the point of picking out pop culture references to remember people.

            That said, given the timing of the joke (it’s the punchline of the sequence) I think it’s definitely meant to be a misgendering=funny sort of moment, too, which isn’t really funny at all, at all.

          • Anton B
            October 24, 2015 @ 10:53 am

            Exactly. We only have the Doctor’s word about Susan the horse too. Again interpretation. Perhaps ‘the Doctor lies’ should be amended to ‘the Doctor translates’

          • ScarvesandCelery
            October 24, 2015 @ 4:52 pm

            Oh, I agree that the women’s silence is a bad thing – it’s my one real problem with the episode. I said in the comments above that I’d rather some, if not most, of the rag-tag team of misfits had been women.

          • UrsulaL
            October 25, 2015 @ 4:24 am

            It’s worse. “Susan” at least made it clear that one should accept the identity choices of others, “Heidi” imposed and named for the sake of mocking.

    • MJ
      October 25, 2015 @ 10:20 pm

      Not that I wasn’t a little disappointed about the lack of gender balance, but I’d also wondered if that was intentional to add a sense of isolation to the women that were in the story. The villain of the week consumes testosterone across the universe (to die historic on the fury road?) and the village was men-heavy. This wasn’t a woman’s world, but a longing for it? An unseen baby girl crying for her mother. Earth mother, maybe? A baby girl trapped in a male-dominated hunter-gatherer society as early Vikings were. Hunter-gatherer societies that left behind more matriarchal and earth goddesses in favor of patriarchal, masculine and violent figures like Odin.

      Reply

      • Aylwin
        October 26, 2015 @ 5:30 am

        Scandinavia had been a basically agricultural society for millennia before the Viking Age. Far more time separated people of that time from their hunter-gathering ancestors than separates us from them.

        Also, the whole “prehistoric matriarchy” thing is basically wild speculation based on some female figurines of necessarily unknown social context and significance. If we had no written sources from classical Athens, but did still have the gigantic gold-encrusted statue of a warrior goddess occupying the huge supreme temple towering over the heart of the city, what would our plausible conjectures about Athenian sexual politics be like?

        None of which rules out Mathieson believing all that, of course. Just saying.

        Reply

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