I have a confession: I don’t like Steven Moffat. Yes, he is involved with Doctor Who. Yes, he gave us BBC Sherlock. Much like Joss Whedon, I enjoy his work. But I really don’t like him. And recent events have cemented my dislike of him for good. One of the reasons I dislike him? His treatment of women. Especially, his treatment of queer women.
If you are not aware, one of the episodes of his version of Sherlock Holmes featured Irene Adler. This Irene is a dominatrix who is very forward in her confidence. She also admits to being a lesbian – one who is in love with Sherlock.
Now, this had been applauded by some people for being progressive. It shows that attraction is complicated and people don’t always adhere to labels and blah blah blah. However, this is a usually a problem because it falls into the “lesbian with exception trope.”
Lesbians, if they are ever mentioned in popular media, are rarely ever allowed to be with other women. They are often put into straight relationships because of that fantasy. You know, the one where the man gets to convince a woman that she isn’t really into other women, she just needed a good dose of penis? And therefore, that ensures that men are always owed women, even if they are not attracted to them. Or the fantasy that a woman can finally be forced into a straight relationship, her parents can put this embarrassing “lesbian” business behind them? So no, it isn’t all that progressive.
Ok – so Irene Adler is one character. You might be wondering: How could I possibly base my dislike on one character?
Well, now there is also River Song. If you’re not familiar with Doctor Who, River Song is a woman with mysterious origins who is in a semi-relationship with the doctor. And recently, Moffat randomly mentioned on twitter that River Song was bisexual.
We had never seen anything in the show to confirm this. There was one scene where she kisses Cleopatra, but she seems mostly to be devoted to, and in love with, The Doctor. Okay, not a problem.
Except for Moffat, who then gets quite angry/surprised that no one knew River Song was bisexual. All the clues are there, he says. Obviously, no one was paying any attention.
So, let me get this straight. You wrote a female character. She is apparently bisexual and had all these great scenes where she was in fulfilling relationships with women…oh wait, no you didn’t. You, the creator (or writer in this case), were privy to some important information that you didn’t share with the class. Moffat, you have written male characters who were clearly gay/bisexual/pansexual/omnisexual (see Jack Harkness), but when it comes to your female characters, their sexuality or attraction usually revolves around the men in their lives.
So, maybe you should work on that. You know, actually writing healthy, fulfilling, women/women relationships. Or if that is too difficult for you, maybe get someone who can.