The Misconception of Amy Pond
5.01 “The Eleventh Hour”
Rory: How can he be real? He was never real! It was just a game. We were- we were kids. You made me dress up as him!
Right here, with this quote, I knew the characterization of Amy Pond was going to go seriously awry.
Kids love to play pretend, don’t they?
Moffat was a Who fan as a kid, right? I bet he played Doctor Who pretend. Yet somehow I don’t think he assigned the role of Doctor to others. I mean, the Doctor is the hero! You don’t assign that role to another kid! You fight for your right to be the Doctor! Maybe you take turns with who gets to be him. Maybe there’s three Doctors running around at the same time and it gets a big squiggly. But whatever you do, you don’t freely abdicate the hero role.
Unless you’re a girl.
Steven Moffat could not conceive of a little Amelia Pond who would look at the magical Doctor and his blue box and want to be him. He assumed she would want to be with him instead.
Actual little girls, however, are well-versed in this problem. I know I had a lot of contradictory feelings about Indiana Jones. (“He’s so dreamy!” “I want to be an archaeologist when I grow up!” “Mom, can I have a whip for my birthday?”) Most of the heroes- the characters it’s most fun to imagine being- are dudes. If you also happen to find some of those dudes attractive, you’re going to develop the “I want to be you/I want to be with you” duality. This is something that straight guys like Moffat have not needed to deal with, as characters for them were nicely divided into a binary of those they want to be (male heroes) and those they want to be with (the hot ladies male heroes get).
So when Moffat created Amelia he projected this binary on to her, but reversed it. She’s a girl! The Doctor is a dude! Obviously she wants to be with him! I’m not even sure he realizes it’s possible for Amelia to want to be the Doctor. Yes, if someone asked him directly if he thought little girls wanted to grow up to be the Doctor he’d probably agree, but the point is it didn’t occur to him when he was actually writing her character.
And so she becomes The Girl Who Waited, waited for the hero’s return, and not The Girl Who Dreamed, dreamed of being the hero.
Amelia Pond, drawing Doctor fanart in crayon- are you our on-screen fangirl cypher? Dreaming of what male creators think we want: romance! With an awkward, unnecessary love triangle! Uh, girls love that, right?
Enter the series 7 promo still.
I look at this and think- what fantasy does this appeal to? That’s no hero shot, not of Amy Pond.
The girl who waited, carried away.
It’s everything that’s been there from the beginning, that we’ve tried to put aside. The misconception of Amy Pond. As the love interest, the sidekick, and not the hero. In the hero’s arms and not the hero.
Where is the image of Amy Pond, hero? Why can’t that sell the show? Why a damsel in distress shot?
Ah, but we don’t want to confuse the little boys, the mini-Moffats, by making them want to be her, instead of just be with her. How weird that would be!
So Amy will stay as she is, in the Doctor’s arms, safe.
Well, that’s not very fair. Who’s to say that Amy HAS to want to be the hero? From the outset, Moffat always positioned Amy as a girl wanting escape - from the night the Doctor first visited her and she ran back inside for a suitcase to the night before her wedding when she ran away with him. For a while that manifested as wanting to be with the Doctor in a romantic sense, but then it was about the adventures she could have in his presence. The places he could take her because of what he is. Things a human just can’t do. If anything, I see that as making Amy MORE imaginative, not less. She sees what she could do beyond the world in which she lives. She dreams of where she could go. She finds ways to get there - in a TARDIS. With a bowtie-wearing time traveler.
Amy does lots of things over the course of the series that speak to the strength of her character, and also to the strength of women. She spends 36 years fighting off human-seeking robots by herself. She volunteers to spend 1,000 years inside the Pandorica so a plan to save the universe can come to fruition. She gives birth to a child that’s immediately taken away from her, and her greatest hope for that child is not that she’s beautiful or that she meets the man of her dreams who sweeps her off her feet - she hopes that she’s brave.
Sure, Amy is not the gun-wielding take-no-prisoners heroine we get from say, Firefly’s Zoe Washburne. If we’re looking to find that in Doctor Who, see her daughter, River Song (which would be a whole different can of worms as far as female character analysis). But the fact that she wants to be in the presence of the Doctor, and not actually BE the Doctor, doesn’t make her a one-dimensional character. Or any less of a woman.
So why does Amy Pond have to be the hero? And who says she wants to? The Doctor is constantly in charge of saving the universe, after all. It’s a lot of pressure. Guy has a lot on his plate. Instead, she does all she can to assist him in saving it. And that’s okay. And that’s enough.
Does this shot depict Amy Pond’s finest moment? Well, no. Instead, I’d argue that it depicts a simple truth - everyone needs saving once in a while. She may have started as a little girl sitting home with a suitcase waiting for the hero-Doctor to come back and take her away. But now Amy Pond’s the woman who saves the Doctor time and time again. And she’s a BAMF.