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01 September 2012 @ 10:38 pm
Character Loyalty  
Sometimes I think I watch TV differently than most of the world, and I'm not sure my way is healthy.

I'd sort of assumed that my next LJ post would be about my new home state, new job, new apartment, new personal and fiscal responsibility... you know, SOMETHING about graduating, moving hundreds of miles away, and beginning the first chapter of my adult life. But this is the Internet, so let's be real.

It's not exactly a mystery that two people can watch the same program on TV, and yet be watching two entirely different shows. The box might say "The Lord of the Rings", for example, but that didn't stop my mother from enjoying "A Scenic Tour of New Zealand: Medieval Edition", while, three feet away, my sister watched "Aragorn's Epic Journey, Now with 200% More Scruff" and I wondered why no one would give Faramir a hug. Everybody watches for something different: The backstory, the suspense, the humor, the scenery, the costumes...you get my point. It's one of these things, or several, but it's always limited and always personal.

I've always considered myself, with a drop of undue pride, a Character Person. The plot should be sensible, sure, but at the end of the day it's just a vehicle for character development. I grew up liking fantasy and sci fi because, to me, they pushed characters to their limits in a way that most genres don't. Familial tension and self-identity struggles, sure, now let's face this girl off with an evil overlord and we'll really see what she's made of! Heroes were born on the battlefield, and romances tempered by the breath of fire dragons were surely stronger than anything reality had to offer. (In retrospect, this perception is/was probably due more to child!me's inability to relate to quieter developments in realistic/non-fiction characters, but I'm getting off topic)

The problem is, I'm beginning to realize is that I'm not just a Character Person... I'm a That Character Person. No matter how much I lecture myself to the contrary, I tend to latch on to one or two characters to the exclusion of all others. That isn't to say that I never have an emotional response to other characters, but rather that the strongest emotions will almost always be somehow tied to my character(s) of choice. Other characters generally form two groups: 1) Those who enable or highlight my character's awesomeness, or, 2) those who get in the way.

Most of the time, this isn't an issue. Am I watching Fringe as the creators intended, or is it first and foremost The Olivia Dunham Show to me? Doesn't really matter, since Olivia has always been and, in some capacity, will always be the main character. Same thing with The Gwen Cooper Chronicles, Rick & Kate Plus Eight or so Mildly Amusing Sidekicks, or the Life and Times of Lady Mary.

For obvious reasons, it's a problem with Doctor Who.

And... Drumroll Please! It's awkward confession time:

I haven't managed to properly extend my character bonding abilities to anybody except Rose.

Cognitively, I recognize that Martha was strong and brilliant and nuanced and awesome, and Donna was an incredible friend and a wonderful, albeit tragic, character study. And the Doctor is, well... The Doctor. I have an enormous respect for those characters and most others, particularly in the RTD era-- they hold my interest when I watch them, I like thinking about them, they often make me laugh. They're not MY character, but they have enough merit to compel me in spite of my own psychology, at least for the minutes they're on my screen. I'm embarrassed to admit, though, that the best characterization in the world might not have saved them had they fallen into category 2, and Gotten In The Way.

Yes, that's right, I'm the Rose Fan that your mother warned you about, and I can't seem to rationalize myself out of that mindset. RTD's clear affection for Rose meant that this was never much of a problem for season 3 through the End of Time, but Moffat is a whole different story. Don't get me wrong, I think his writing is problematic for a whole host of reasons that have nothing to do with my bias: His characterization, particularly of female characters, is inconsistent and often rests on weak, sexist cliches, and he seems to value flash and witty one-liners more than substance. For two years, now, I've been able to point to these flaws and say "there, that's why I haven't enjoyed the show as much recently-- the characterization is too weak!" The real reason, though, (or at least,  highly prevalent reason) is that I've noted Moffat's seeming constant desire to one-up the show's history. Even when RTD was showrunner, Moffat's episodes tended to feature his own creations edging out the companions for the limelight (Reinette, Sally Sparrow, River Song), and little seems to have changed now that he holds the reigns. His plots must be BIGGER! And SCARIER! And SHINIER!... and I feel like I'm constantly on tenterhooks, wondering when that's going to extend to "his characters must have a deeper, more meaningful connection to the Doctor. Rose who?"

My feelings towards the new companion really forced me to face up to my less-than-flattering fears in this regard. (And before I continue, I should note that, at this point, I have NOT seen 7x01). There is absolutely no acceptable reason that I should feel anything towards Oswin besides cautious hope that she be thoroughly loveable and well-characterized. And yet my worry is only a little "what if Moffat screws up her characterization?", and way too much "what if she's smart and flirty and perfect and everyone loves her and the Doctor loves her and--"

-- and what if, no matter how hard I try, I just can't?

Current Location: Apartment
Current Mood: contemplativecontemplative
Current Music: Delta Goodrem - Electric Storm
giallarhorn: Olivia Specs!giallarhorn on September 2nd, 2012 04:52 am (UTC)
What is this silly word limit LJ it's only like 100 words more
That wasn't nearly potentially alienating or self disparaging as you had made it seem. I was expecting a lot worse, ngl.

IDK though talking about adult life and what's going on that is such a revolutionary thought but methinks you should but that's just myself and I

I think that a lot of times, stories and media are developed to be about a specific person, even when that person does impact other people around themselves and they too develop, and sometimes it may end up like ASoIaF, rarely. But I think it tends to be more of a case that a lot of people tend to pick favorites early on, and cheer on Character X.


I don't think that it is realistic for people should be expected to bond emotionally to every potentially awesome character that flits across the screen, particularly with Doctor Who, given the nature of show and companions. Being able to recognize their traits or the character as being awesome on an intellectual level is enough, I feel like. But I think it is normal for people to get really defensive when another character threatens the awesome moments of their favorite I am incredibly guilty of this as well, but I don't know if it's a bad thing, per se, as long as you keep it in mind and are able to separately recognize the good things of the character who fell into Category 2. I may not be the best commentator on this, since I've done it before, so.

Use Fringe as an example. Walter's story is tragic and heartrending, but Fringe is still very much the Olivia Dunham show to you and me and others. But to other people, it was more of the Peter Bishop Show, the Walter Bishop, the Bishop Family Drama Show, or the Gene Show. Either way, the show moved a little more into the Peter Bishop Show for a while, which wasn't true to how the show had originally structured and presented itself as the Olivia Dunham Show- even the adventures in Redverse were still very much the Altlivia Dunham Show.

So in a way, I think that it's partially fault of writing, not just that of the viewers. In the case of Fringe, it was shown very much in the first seasons that it was much more about Olivia's journey, as opposed to Peter's, so when they did a 360 to Peter, well, I didn't care nearly so much about Peter's plight as I probably should have. But DW is different because of the companion rotation, so.

One of the things that helps with Doctor Who is treating each Doctor as a separate entity that sort of inherits the TARDIS and the title and memories (usually). Moreso since Moffat came on board, since it seems much more a different show completely. Therein, having Eleven with Rose would not be the same as having Ten with her, and so forth.
giallarhorngiallarhorn on September 2nd, 2012 04:52 am (UTC)
Part 2 of something that was probably too long and nonsensical and rambly, whoops
IMHO, I don't think that Moffat will ever really go down the route of Better Than Rose Role, since it seems to me that River was meant to fulfill that role, and that more or less dropped the ball.

I guess it's a lot like the case of shipping, or something. Just because everyone seems to think X/Y are an OTP, you in of yourself shouldn't feel bad for not having X/Y as an OTP, because it just doesn't click the ship switch. And ships, in a way, are a lot like characters- you have to feel a level of emotional attachment to them. If you don't have that emotional attachment, then you shouldn't feel bad just because everyone else around does. Or like the more common example in RL where people are all fans of Person X and X is interested in Person Y, X has a lot of merits and people around Y and X keep telling how much they love X and etc and act as shippers- but Y isn't any obligation to act as everyone else is, nor reciprocate. Which might be a bit more of a stretch of an example, but the idea of equal reciprocity or feeling a way just because everyone else feels that way doesn't mean you should be expected to.

I don't think it should bother you in as so much that it doesn't actually hinder your capability to recognize the merits of a character, or to enjoy seeing the character on screen. You can enjoy a character, but you don't have to love a character. Probably moreso with Moffat's characters, because bonding with them is difficult.

I kept going and trying to make it make sense. Am I missing something?

Though, if your mother was around to warn you about Rose fans, I imagine the person in question might be a bit young.
WishingStar (a.k.a. magic_7_words): DW Jackmagic_7_words on September 2nd, 2012 10:45 am (UTC)
Re: Part 2 of something that was probably too long and nonsensical and rambly, whoops
I support these two comments, for two reasons. 1) I was going to suggest you try thinking of Eleven as a different character who inherited the TARDIS and the memories. That way nobody can possibly step on Rose's toes, because they've never even met Nine or Ten. Aw, heck--Rose got two regenerations all to herself! (Ten traveled with Martha and Donna, but he pined after Rose the whole dang time, didn't he?) River can't touch that. And keep in mind, too, that the Doctor's various relationships over regenerations have as much to do with his own personality/how he expresses affection--more openly across the board, in Eleven's case--as how deep that affection goes. Ten would never have married a companion because he'd've been all like "you will die soon wah," whereas Eleven's more like, heck, why not?

2) Also, Moffat's done the someone-special-to-the-Doctor's-future route. I don't think he'll do it again. Could see him bringing in someone from the Doctor's past, but then there'll be a built-in excuse for why s/he SEEMS to matter more (memories) without it being a question of the character's value.
giallarhorngiallarhorn on September 2nd, 2012 07:08 pm (UTC)
Re: Part 2 of something that was probably too long and nonsensical and rambly, whoops
It's more or less a lot like of what Ten said to Wilfred- with the regeneration, a new man goes sauntering off. But it may be harder to bond to the new companions now, mostly because Moffat doesn't really do character or emotion well.

(Eleven's also technically been married to multiple people, if we're assuming he went through with Monroe, and there's the issue of Idris)
WishingStar (a.k.a. magic_7_words)magic_7_words on September 2nd, 2012 11:39 pm (UTC)
Re: Part 2 of something that was probably too long and nonsensical and rambly, whoops
Oh, you're so right! I lied. Ten married Queen Elizabeth I.

There you go, sweet_anise: clearly the Doctor only marries people he's attracted to but doesn't actually know very well. Becoming a proper companion probably drops you smack into the "we're friends and it's a good thing we have going and I don't want to mess it up so we should just stay friends" category.
giallarhorngiallarhorn on September 3rd, 2012 05:41 pm (UTC)
Re: Part 2 of something that was probably too long and nonsensical and rambly, whoops
But wouldn't that make the whole Rose/Ten ship beached and completely out of the water?

Plus he married River (if you assume the timeline is in fact valid), who was a companion.
WishingStar (a.k.a. magic_7_words): Doctormagic_7_words on September 3rd, 2012 08:38 pm (UTC)
Re: Part 2 of something that was probably too long and nonsensical and rambly, whoops
Okay, I worded things a bit confusingly. My points are thus:

1) I would define a "proper companion" as someone who's invited into the TARDIS for multiple consecutive adventures. The key words there would be "invited" and "consecutive." River falls more into the "sort of a companion but not really" box, along with Wilfred, Adam, Astrid, Canton, Harriet Jones, etc. We'll call it the "allies" box. River is a recurring ally, not a companion.

2) "We're friends and I don't want to mess that up" doesn't indicate a lack of romantic interest. It indicates caring deeply enough that the idea of a change--any change whatsoever--in the status of the relationship is frightening. The Doctor is a total commitment-phobe; he's afraid of getting too close, and that means pushing away anyone who threatens to do so. If he marries you, chances are he's not feeling that need to push you away.
sweet_anise: DW Doomsday Rosesweet_anise on September 6th, 2012 03:50 am (UTC)
Re: Part 2 of something that was probably too long and nonsensical and rambly, whoops
I totally do try to think of Eleven as a different character. It makes sense, too-- heck, if I got an entirely new genetic makeup and then spent 200+ years wandering around history, I wouldn't expect to have the same level of attachment to the same people as I do now. Logically, nothing from the current narrative could possibly threaten what he had with Rose-- I mean, if a man falls in love and gets married at 25, is widowed at 30, and then remarries at 60, you wouldn't say that he didn't really love his first wife (and that would only be 30 years, and the same body!) Honestly, part of what bothers me about my DW-related thought processes is that I KNOW they're illogical... I just can't shake them!

Re: your second point... since when is Moffat remotely adverse to playing the same card over and over again?
sweet_anise: DW EoT Rosesweet_anise on September 6th, 2012 03:43 am (UTC)
Re: What is this silly word limit LJ it's only like 100 words more
I still intend to do a catch up-on-life post! Maybe. Some day.

Wait, when have I ever denied/ given you cause to doubt that I was a Rose fan?

I'm definitely trying to do the "separate entity" thing. Sometimes it works better than others.

I'm not saying it's unreasonable that I tend to bond so strongly to one or two characters... it's just that sometimes I feel like I'm being unfair, and/or missing out on enjoying something great.

(In general, I feel a lot better now that I've watched 7x1 and thoroughly enjoyed Oswin. Yay for not being as stubborn and jealous as I thought!)
giallarhorn: korra smilinggiallarhorn on September 8th, 2012 12:22 am (UTC)
Re: What is this silly word limit LJ it's only like 100 words more
Someday, somewhere over the rainbow in an alternate universe where there are in fact, no rainbows but flying blimps, you will make this post?

That was meant to be sarcastic, though it didn't seem to come through. Whoops.

I don't know if you should feel like you're missing out on something great. Like, just because 60 of 100 people are injecting morphine into themselves and having a great time, and 40 people aren't just because they don't want to/feel like/feel inclination to, probably means that they wouldn't enjoy if they did partake in it. Except they probably would, since morphine acts like that. But the example still stands. It's also a bit harder with Moffat's characters, I feel like, so there's that to take into account as well.

(JLC is truly charming :D)
sweet_anise: Fringe Olivia S1 Ponytailsweet_anise on September 9th, 2012 12:01 am (UTC)
Re: What is this silly word limit LJ it's only like 100 words more
Alt!Me is super on top of things. She had that post up by the end of her first week of work.
giallarhorn: Olivia Specs!giallarhorn on September 9th, 2012 09:11 pm (UTC)
Re: What is this silly word limit LJ it's only like 100 words more
I'd bet that she's also blonde, and goes by the name of Margret.
Queen of the Castlejessicaqueen on September 2nd, 2012 05:49 am (UTC)
Yeah, I think I'm fairly similar to you in this respect. Even when there's a true ensemble cast as opposed to just a main character/pairing and a bunch of secondary characters who are mainly there as support, I never really connect with more than one or two of the characters. I can like other characters well enough, don't get me wrong, but it's a more superficial enjoyment rather than an emotional sort of bond. And if they mess with my boy or my girl, my claws will come out.
sweet_anise: DW Eleven Rosesweet_anise on September 6th, 2012 04:04 am (UTC)
"Superficial enjoyment"-- that's a good phrase for it.
fogsbluefogsblue on September 2nd, 2012 07:49 am (UTC)
In some ways, I'm very much the same. Though I have noticed for me it depends on the show.

Character development is always something I want to see, no matter the show or the size of the ensemble. All the characters should develop.

Sometimes, I care about so many of them. For me that's something like Fringe, they're all my characters. I can't pick favourites, I can't hope for the good of one at the expense of all the rest. To me, they're a set.

However, other times I tend to favour a specific one or two characters and get frustrated if they are messed with. Such as Rose. She (and yes, Nine) are the reason I started watching DW and part of the reason I fell in love with the show. More than the Doctor, Rose was </i>mine</i>. So when she got messed with, I got annoyed (eg. GitF).

Moffat's habit of wanting to make sure his characters/villians/show (might as well be a new show, though have yet to watch S7) BIGGER AND BETTER and shinier, whith characters that make all the previous ones look like nothing, more blips in the history of the show drives me insane.

I went into S5 open to liking the new Doctor and companions. Even River. But no matter how much I've tried... I just can't.

So you're not alone.

(Erm, sorry bout the ramble.)
sweet_anise: DW EoT Rosesweet_anise on September 6th, 2012 03:54 am (UTC)
Don't be sorry! I'm always proud to prompt rambling.

I can't say I've ever enjoyed River, but I did like Amy more in early S5, before I realized she wasn't going to show any consistent development...
fogsbluefogsblue on September 6th, 2012 04:06 am (UTC)
Yeah, I failed miserably on the ever liking River. I told myself I'd give her a chance. I did. Still disliked her character.

Amy, I didn't mind her early on. Then, as you say... When I realised she was never going to develop I just got more and more frustrated. Now, I know the Ponds are leaving and I can't bring myself to care in the slightest...