Forgive me a moment while I indulge my geeky side. 🙂
Looking at the most popular movies and books aimed at girls today, I’m noticing an incredibly disturbing trend. Works such as Fifty Shades of Grey promote dangerous ideas: that women are objects to be owned and used. That girls need a man to validate their existence and give substance to their lives. These ideas are easy to recognize in certain stories, but more difficult to locate in others. If you look carefully enough, you see the same thoughts in Twilight: girls are nothing without men to give them value.
Even more dangerous, I think, is the message that “true love conquers all.” It’s a cute saying, and carefully applied, a true one. But this phrase has been extended to include the idea that if a girl loves a boy, even if he abuses her, uses her, or disrespects her, her love will eventually fix everything. In Twilight, Edward tells Bella in no uncertain terms that he is wired to want to kill her. He is dangerous to her. He tries to warn her away, but she refuses to listen. When he says he thirsts for her blood, she says she doesn’t care. At one point in the first film, Bella sums up the situation this way:
“About three things I was absolutely positive. First, Edward was a vampire. Second, there was a part of him, and I didn’t know how dominant that part might be, that thirsted for my blood. And third, I was unconditionally and irrevocably in love with him.”
It’s horrible that we live in a society that is so accepting of this concept. That we can watch a story like this and not even hear the alarm bells sounding when words like these are spoken. We praise and love a story that essentially teaches young girls to stick by their men no matter how badly those men treat them. And Twilight is not the only story that provides that lesson.
In season three of the new Doctor Who series, the Doctor adopts a new traveling companion: Martha Jones. Martha is shown to be intelligent (she’s a medical student), driven, and strong. Throughout the season, she regularly saves the Doctor from various perils. He learns to trust her completely. But during her time with the Doctor, Martha falls in love with him. Her feelings toward him are obvious. Unfortunately for her, he is still mourning the loss of his own love, and doesn’t return her affections. Over time, his trust in her puts greater and greater pressure on her as a person. He places her in difficult situations to keep himself safe. He sends her on long, dangerous journeys alone. In a way, their relationship becomes unbalanced and dysfunctional: he leans on her more than he’s leaned on anyone before, and she follows his instructions blindly out of love. In the process, her family, her future, and her life are all put in jeopardy.
But Martha is no Bella. After saving the Doctor (and the world) at the end of season three, she tells the Doctor she won’t be traveling with him anymore. Here’s what she says:
“Because the thing is, it’s like my friend Vicky. She lived with this bloke, student housing, there were five of them all packed in, and this bloke was called Sean. And she loved him. She did. She completely adored him. Spent all day long talking about him. But he never looked at her twice. I mean, he liked her, but that was it. And she wasted years pining after him. Years of her life. Because while he was around, she never looked at anyone else. And I told her, I always said to her, time and time again, I said, get out. So this is me, getting out.”
That is why Martha is my favorite Doctor Who companion. Because in a world bent on teaching our girls that they are victims, that they are objects, that their value lies in their loyalty alone, Martha Jones said no. She saw her relationship with the Doctor for what it was. And she got out.