Edited by The Ponderer and R. Wood
Welcome to the second edition of Lucy's Geek Palace!, a series written by a good pal of mine. I'm sure you can guess what he name is. The first edition was published on a sister site known as NERD5H1T.xyz that I recently nixed. You can find that article HERE. This, and future editions, will instead be posted here moving forward.
There's one specific thing that people really hold against Amy and it's how she acted in the Asylum of the Daleks episode. And just to preface, we're mainly going to analyze how fans reacted to this subplot, NOT the subplot itself from any narrative standpoint. We will be addressing some of the complaints about this but my focus here is the problematic nature of how people responded to this story beat in general.
Firstly I wasn't always very understanding of this subplot myself. I thought it was cheap melodrama and I wasn't a fan of Amy making relationship decisions without consulting her partner, basically removing any of Rory’s agency in the situation. I'm still not a fan of that. Any relationship is a partnership, and both of them are grown adults deserving of a say in something that affects them both.
That being said, I have a far better understanding than I used to of why Amy did this and how things got to this point.
One of the things I hear people complain about is how Amy should have just talked things out with Rory from the beginning. I agree with that but it gets less agreeable when people say that not doing so was somehow out of character for Amy. If you go back and watch the show you can see Amy consistently avoiding talking about her problems with Rory, but instead hiding them until she can speak about them with the Doctor- that’s an ongoing character trait. It was the whole reason behind her misunderstanding with her pregnancy in the season 6 opener. She doesn't tell Rory she was scared about the baby possibly having complications, or that she was even pregnant in the first place. Her first instinct was going to the Doctor.
She does it again when she's having trouble coming to terms with this alternate universe where she has parents now, in one of the MANY mini-episodes the show used to produce. She always consults the Doctor when she’s having personal concerns, rather than Rory. The Doctor even calls for Rory to deal with Amy TWICE and both times she still won't tell Rory anything and just waits until she can finally talk to the Doctor.
Ultimately this is a cute thread of bonding moments between the Doctor and Amy, but it displays a level of discomfort from Amy when it comes to consulting Rory with her own issues.
In Pond Life, we see Amy once again is pushing Rory away instead of talking about her problems, only to call upon the Doctor instead. This is just a normal thing for Amy to do and not out of character at all. In fact, Asylum presses extra hard on this button because it’s the episode where Amy finally outgrows this trait. Amy has always had a reliance on the Doctor and believed he could help her with anything. In the God complex, the Doctor sacrifices her faith in him and tries to make her realize he's just a person, not someone to idolize. This works to a point and helps Amy grow as a person, but she still has one more thing to overcome before she fully grows up and that's being open with Rory.
Amy throughout the series sees the Doctor as her best friend and Rory as her soulmate, but what Amy doesn't seem to realize is that Rory is actually both of those things. This is something she only comes to understand the events of after Asylum. After this episode, Amy and Rory don't seem to have any other big problems and live the rest of their lives out happily together.
Of course, fans even complain about that saying they will never come back to this again ignoring the next episode that takes place almost 2 years later and, by the time Power of three airs, 10 years have passed. Also, I thought fans didn't like this subplot so why would they want to go back to it again to begin with?
Another issue I have surrounding all of this is just how unsympathetic people really are towards Amy and that is perhaps the real reason I wanted to make this.
Amy was kidnapped and had her child taken from her, never to be raised properly. Sure, Amy gets to grow up with her daughter and that fact definitely helped her get over some of the trauma, but it's still not a complete fix. It's implied that after having settled for years, Amy and Rory tried to start a family again because, at some point in this timeframe, Amy finds out that her kidnappers did something to her so that she can't have kids again. Now she can't do the one thing she thinks will make her partner happy. Not only would this inevitably be a triggering reminder of her trauma, it also ties into what I think is the real root of Amy’s lack of communication with Rory- namely, this fear of not being good enough for her husband, and all that fear and insecurity is a natural recipe for her doing something stupid (but perhaps understandable).
But people were upset with Amy for not acting rationally.....
How much trauma does a woman have to go through for people to be sympathetic toward her and to be at least somewhat understanding of her more problematic actions? Yes, it's still wrong for her to make huge decisions in their relationship like this and especially for her to take such a cold approach to it all, but once again she's making these poor decisions from a place of trauma, insecurity, anxiety, and depression. And what's worse is I’ve even seen this trope used to far more obnoxious effect on other shows without getting criticism half as harsh as this.
Take Buffy the Vampire Slayer for example. The whole reason for Buffy and Angel breaking up is because Angel thinks Buffy will have a better life with someone else, a decision that he makes without taking her own thoughts on the matter into account. It’s a very similar situation to Amy but I never hear any criticism of this on a huge scale or hear people talk about how it ruined that episode.
Buffy literally tells him while he's trying to break up with her "Who are you to tell me what's right for me?" "Don't I get a say this?" Angel is never looked upon poorly by the fandom for this choice. Meanwhile, Amy’s treated like some terrible person for doing the same thing for much more understandable reasons.
The fandom’s reaction to Amy might not rub me so wrong if they weren’t, I think, overly sympathetic to Rory. I'm not devaluing Rory's trauma or trying to make it a competition for who’s suffered more, but it seems like Rory himself is eager to do just that. He goes so far as to say that he's always been the one that had more love in the relationship, which is just a really unhealthy way to look at your marriage. I guess Rory is just like the audience and conveniently forgot all the times she showed her love and dedication to him over the years and the many times she was willing to die for Rory. Rory showed his love and dedication towards Amy as well but his attitude here is really self-centered and it only exacerbates the rift between him and Amy.
Amy might be doing a terrible job at communicating, but Rory’s response is downright spiteful and I never see anyone in the fandom acknowledge that.
Rory really handled the situation even more poorly if you look at it in full. Now the time frame is a little vague because this is some heavy material, and I'm sure they didn't want to go into a lot of depth since this is an opening to a family show, but Rory never once thought the reason Amy might be acting out was because she found out she couldn't have kids? They didn't seem to have any big problems before this and only after his wife finds out she can't have children anymore, because of what her kidnappers did to her, does Amy start pushing him away.
He didn't connect that big red flag?
And from Amy's and Rory's conversation, he never even considered this until after Amy flat out tells him that's the reason why she dumped him. In his mind, Amy kicked Rory out because she just doesn't love him as much as he loves her. Rory knows Amy can't have kids. She starts acting out when she finds that out and pushes him away and doesn't think for one second that might just have something to do with Amy's new destructive behavior, instead making it about himself. I know some people will say, “well we don't know the details,” but I see no other way of this playing out because he flat out says he knows she can't have kids (in the Asylum). It was shown in Pondlife they were doing completely fine until the last part.
Clearly, this is when Amy and Rory found out the full extent of what happened to her.
Another complaint I see is people saying, “well, Amy seems fine before this episode.” You guys realize that one of the last times we saw her prior to this episode, she murdered the woman who took her child and gave her this trauma in the first place.
Yeah, she's really over it!
While I don't think all the hatred of this subplot is rooted in misogyny, although I do think it's a very large part of it, I do think it is people letting their more toxic hate towards the show blind them to what they are actually criticizing. This episode came out just around the time Doctor Who fans started to become really overcritical of everything, to the point that if the show wasn't producing total masterpieces they would nitpick and tear apart the story endlessly. Even if an episode still met those almost impossible standards they would still try and find something wrong with it.
Because we all know fans had such high standards before...
As said, this trope has been overused a lot and usually doesn't get anywhere as much hatred or used as a way to dismiss the entire episode as happens here. I do think there's some legit criticism towards this subplot. On paper, it works with everything that's already been established with these characters but in the larger scale of things, it becomes problematic. And if people have problems with this element of it then, I agree with them.
It’s when people wish to just dump on Amy's character that really bugs me.
The fact is, Amy’s actions in Asylum are often used to criticize her without fully acknowledging what happened to her, and I personally find that to be questionable at best and misogynistic at worst. There are absolutely certain societal biases that exist which hold women to a higher standard of accountability than their male counterparts. It doesn't matter what side of the political scale of how good of a person you think you are, no one is immune to these societal biases.
Obviously, some of these people are going to be more self-aware than these other people but all of us fall into these traps. We need to constantly reevaluate ourselves and sometimes ask hard questions. Most people won't, but at the very least I hope this will get through to some people.
The fact a female character can go through all of this and still be painted so unsympathetically is troublesome to me. I'm not saying people can't be critical of her actions (Amy still hurt her partner emotionally despite that being the opposite of her intentions) but people really need to understand this was still coming from a place of trauma, insecurity, anxiety, and depression. People act out all the time in real life and by no means does that make it ok but I think in some cases it might be helpful to take a step back and ask why they’re acting like that and if it's coming from a place of trauma or if something personal in their life is causing their spiral.
And while I'm not saying you should excuse everything someone does, some things are never ok no matter what the other person's circumstances were, it might be worth at least thinking about or looking into seeing if there should be some sympathy towards this person. Unless we start really asking why certain behaviors and actions that are done by female characters are so infuriating we're going to keep holding up these unfair societal biases towards them even if that was never our intention.