Fun With Dan and Jane (A Casual Chat About Steven Moffat)
I was supposed to write an essay for you guys this week, hypothetically on de-normalizing the nuclear family, but I sort of fell into the RNC k-hole for a couple of days and found myself much less productive while staring into the gaping maw of that Nuremberg Rally/reality show blend as put on by some third-rate high school AV Club. That’s the official version I’m presenting to the public, at least.
Anyway, Shana was out of town this week so I didn’t get the chance to record anything with her, but when Jane co-hosted a couple of weeks back on The Time Monster, she and I had a couple of hours of chatting casually after the end of the official recording. Because I have a Nixon-like paranoia about keeping all my interpersonal conversations on public record, I had a tape, and with her permission (and some edits) I’ve decided to share that with you this week.
Please note, neither of us prepared ahead of time to discuss these topics and so we both feel this doesn’t quite get at the core of some issues, but I think Jane’s going to come back on sometime soon and set Shana and myself straight on this whole Moffat issue. Until then, enjoy the chat while I go back to not-so-silently observing the rise of open fascism in America.
July 23, 2016 @ 3:03 pm
Fascinating discussion, and a good listen.
Re. the discussion towards the end about the Twelfth Doctor’s comments on Clara’s appearance – I’m both okay with their use in the text, and glad that they were eased out for series nine. I think the intention is clearly to portray the twelfth Doctor in the same way as Tom Baker’s “you’re a beautiful woman, probably” – “Your hips are built like a man’s” is clearly an example of the Doctor trying to compliment Clara, and failing massively – like he’s trying to invoke 21st Century British beauty standards, and getting them completely wrong. The joke is “the Doctor really doesn’t get it”, not “Clara’s getting her ego punctured, about time”.
Personally I think a useful comparison is the following scene from “The Doctor’s daughter”, which I find far more troubling:
“DONNA: Let me distract this one. I have picked up a few womanly wiles over the years.
DOCTOR: Let’s save your wiles for later. In case of emergency”
The dialogue doesn’t quite do it justice, but the scene really does play Donna’s suggestion she “seduce the guard” as laughable, and basically sides with the Doctor, who is actively mocking her. I feel like the stories in series eight are aware that the Doctor’s comments about Clara’s appearance are not okay. I also think Steven Moffat’s plot for Donna in “Forest of the Dead” is the only series four episode that treats a romantic storyline for her as something to be played straight, instead for laughs, or as a cause to mock her sexuality.
Back to the original topic, I suppose the difference between the fourth Doctor’s comments the Twelfth Doctor’s, are that in the fourth Doctor’s case, his cluelessness is played as benevolent and charming, whereas with the Twelfth Doctor, they’re looking at the unfortunate affect being blind to the beauty standards your friend is subjected to can have. As a result, the latter feels more uncomfortable, even if the text is not being actively misogynistic.
That said, I’m glad they dropped the thread of the Doctor actively commenting on the appearance of Clara every other episode in Series Nine. I don’t think it’s unique to female characters either – Moffat frequently makes jokes about Matt Smith’s chin, or Arthur Darvill’s nose (“You two could fence”) or Capaldi’s eyebrows (“These are attack eyebrows”) – yet it does feel different – the constant negativity has a pile up affect, even if the individual lines themselves can all be reasonably defended.
That said, I don’t think this has anything to do with Missy – she was only in the first two episodes of series nine, and her banter with Clara never really involved discussion of Clara’s physical appearance. I find it far more likely that Moffat saw criticism of that aspect of series eight, and made a concerted effort to not include it in series nine. He is capable of self awareness, and I don’t think it’s a tic he can’t grow out of, as Daniel puts it.
August 9, 2016 @ 5:42 pm
Couldn’t Last Christmas also serve as the reason the comments stopped? Series 8 was very much about Twelve and Clara figuring out their new dynamic, and not quite getting it right up through the end. Last Christmas is the reconciliation, where they finally stop lying to themselves and to each other, re-embracing their friendship in an honest way. And it is in Last Christmas that we learn that Twelve always sees Clara as beautiful, no matter her appearance.
So the comments in Series 8 could be Twelve being prickly out of discomfort with sentimentality wrt Clara, and the lack of them in Series 9 being the result of his gotten over that. (After all, we see a similar arc with his final acceptance of River)