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Saturday, 11 February 2017

Editorial: Steven Moffat Hates Women, Part 4: The Thrilling Conclusion.

Editorial: Steven Moffat Hates Women,
Part 4: The Thrilling Conclusion.

We've spent several weeks now exploring Moffat's many, many gender-related problems, and there's a good reason for that: As the showrunner of two of the BBC's biggest shows, Moffat has an undue amount of influence over how television is written, both in the UK and worldwide, as writers and producers emulate his style in the hopes of finding the same success he did. While not watching his shows is always an option, that does little to stop him setting the tone of future television shows.

So, at the end of our unnecessarily in-depth exploration of Steven Moffat's issues with women, what have we learned?

Well, we've learned that while Moffat's men are allowed to be fully fleshed out people -- a genius detective, an old nomad wandering the universe, a world-weary doctor, a nurse, a former soldier turned teacher, and so on, and so forth -- his women all fit a limited and reductive series of archetypes, where the emphasis of their characters is always on how they fit into the life of the male protagonist, how they uplift him or try to tear him down. Moffat's female characters aren't characters so much as they are devices to be utilised by his male characters, and they all reflect a particular view of women, and a particular view of how Moffat relates to them.

(Actually, I suppose we all knew that already.)

We've learned that Moffat rarely views his female characters as people, with their own lives and agendas, but rather prolonged pieces of performance art, with the end goal being to entertain or make an impression on men. Beyond just the idea that women only exist in how they uplift or pull down men, Moffat presents us with the idea that women are aware of and committed to a singular purpose of impressing themselves on men: That women's lives -- and especially their sexuality -- exist only when men are watching, and exist only for men to watch. It's a repugnant and honestly kind of bizarre attitude, but not one that's all that uncommon among men -- but rarely do we see it presented so brazenly on our televisions.

(But then, I suppose we all knew that already, too.)

Lastly, we learned that Moffat's attitude towards women is not limited to his treatment of them in fiction, and that he reacts angrily -- even irrationally -- when confronted with criticism of his work. At this point, Moffat's remarks about how women are out hunting for husbands have been shared around the internet so much that I doubt anybody was unaware of them, but his mournful comments about how men are so very oppressed in modern British society perhaps haven't been. It's those last comments that provide an interesting viewpoint to how and why Moffat relates to stories and to gender politics within them: On some level, he seems to see his stories as wish-fulfillment for an downtrodden underclass of white, middle-class men (you may imagine sarcasm quotes around all of that at your leisure), in which the social mores and politics of the 1950s are married with modern sensibilities, and the world revolves around them (as, the implication goes, it should).

In many ways, it's baffling that Moffat could garner as much prestige as he has within the BBC, an organisation that at least attempts to frame itself as a modern, egalitarian broadcaster (with varying amounts of success). But then, what Moffat lacks as a writer (and he is lacking as a writer, even leaving his gender politics aside), he makes up for with a capacity for dazzle. Moffat has a peculiar talent for picking out talented cinematographers, writing scenes that have dramatic impact even if they don't make much sense and rapidly lose their sheen upon being re-evaluated, and picking out actors who -- if not necessarily good -- are adept at a certain declaratory style.

Like many writers who are lacking, Moffat conceals his flaws behind a heavy layer of style and pomp, bamboozling audiences with a tidal wave of razzle-dazzle -- and it's his talent for this that has allowed him to thrive for so long.

Besides that, though, during Moffat's most recent ascension, on the back of Russell T. Davies' Doctor Who continuation, his flaws were often concealed by the fact that he was writing only one or two episodes a series, and under the control of a showrunner who could rein in his worst tendencies. As showrunner for both Doctor Who and Sherlock, though, the issues that plagued Coupling have taken centre-stage. 

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