Essential Problems and Dialectical Solutions (‘Deep Breath’ 5)
Many people have already commented on the expansion of Clara’s character in ‘Deep Breath’. I think there’s something to this… in that Clara now appears to have a character, now that she’s been freed from her tedious and contentless mystery-arc. Those impatient with the right-on critique of Moffat will respond with all sorts of examples of brave, complex things she did in Series 7, and some of those examples will be right, but still… she really did look like a characterless blur across the screen, a sort of jumble of traits, a Rubik’s Cube with a face drawn on it. There’s no denying, she looked better in ‘Deep Breath’. It’s possible that, as with so much else that seems better about ‘Deep Breath’, I may just be perceiving an improvement because the episode is largely free from the dominating and infuriating presence of a certain actor who will not be missed at all by me. But then, such things do make a difference. One performance in an ‘actually existing’ production of a written text can change the meaning.
Clara’s monologue rebuke to Vastra is part of her apparent improvement… though I have to say (in my complainey way) that the monologue contains yet another example of Moffat fetishizing the powerful, with Clara saying that Marcus Aurelius was her only pin-up. Of all the philosophers she could have idolised, Moffat chooses the one who was also a Roman Emperor! I also noticed an implied contempt towards teenage girls who like boy bands, as if that makes them inherently trivial people. Clara gets to angrily reject the notion that she is unwilling to accept an older man, but the idea is expressed in terms that imply contempt for young women who who don’t reject young hot guys for old, establishment figures. To be painstakingly fair, I’m sure this is not what was intended. It’s one of those examples of a writer being unable to fully win no matter what he does. Which happens. Sometimes writers can’t win. Sometimes they’re damned if they do and damned if they don’t. It’s not about their flaws so much as the social context in which they write. That’s not an excuse, but it is a thing. The solution to this, as I’ve said before, is not to find better writers, or better ways of writing which square such circles away nicely and neatly so we can all watch in perfect comfort, but rather to change society so that massive imbalances of power don’t keep setting off these little textual mines. Sounds like I’m demanding a lot, doesn’t it? Well, I am. Deal with it. That’s just how I roll. Etcetera.
At first, the whole business with Clara’s difficulty accepting the new Doctor reminded of the nasty reaction towards ‘fangirls’ that was unleashed by the news of Capaldi’s casting, with all those memes about the shallow, hormonal girlies, supposedly devastated by the news that the new Doctor was someone old and wrinkly. Just another manifestation of the ‘fake geekgirl’, a chimeric invention of a closed shop full of males objecting to the scary presence of women in ‘their’ fandom. …