In Defense Of Martha Jones

Martha

As a dedicated Whovian, I’ve given certain topics a lot (probably too much) of contemplation. I’ve recently rewatched series 3, and it made me think about why Martha Jones is such a disliked/discounted/underrated companion.

My mission statement: Martha Jones is a great companion, at least in my opinion. Martha was the only RTD era companion to defeat the Big Bad without supernatural alterations to her physiology, like Rose’s absorbing the power of the Time Vortex or Donna becoming imbued with Time Lord-y-ness (?). She’s also the first (and only, if you don’t count Mickey) companion of color on Doctor Who ever. She’s quick witted, brave, kind, and everything you could want from a companion.

So why is Martha Jones one of Doctor Who‘s least popular companions?

It depends a lot on point of view, but, if you ask me, the solution lies in two words: Rose Tyler.

Rose was most people’s first companion, and much like the way one never forgets their first Doctor, you never forget your first companion. Not too mention, much of the way we view the companion depends on how the Doctor himself views them. As we all know, the Doctor worshipped the ground Rose walked on. He loved her. Yes, I do believe he was in love with her. So, most of us couldn’t help but fall in love with Rose as well. And her exit from the show (the first one, I mean) was heartwrenching to say the least. I’m a diehard Doctor/Master shipper, but if you don’t get at least a little glassy eyed watching “Doomsday”, you must be made of stone.

Then came Martha. *Jan Brady voice* Martha, Martha, Martha!

I always say, it’s hard to be the first replacement. I imagine it must’ve been a challenge for Patrick Troughton to take over from William Hartnell back in the day. Bill Murray definitely struggled when replacing Chevy Chase in the cast of SNL in the ’70s. Rose had been around for two seasons, and was beloved by much of the fandom. So Freema Agyeman had a large gap to fill (despite Billie Piper’s actual physical diminutiveness). The fact that Russell T. Davies wrote her as having a crush on the Doctor didn’t help. Most people felt loyal to the idea of the Doctor and Rose together romantically, and didn’t like the idea of someone coming between that.

And then there was the Doctor himself. The way he dismissed Martha’s usefulness as his partner affected the way the viewer saw her. The Doctor would bring Rose up at every turn, as if Martha just wasn’t enough. Even the Master himself makes a remark about the Doctor’s other companions (i.e., Rose) being of a higher caliber, being able to take on the power of the Time Vortex. I mean, really??? As if Martha didn’t have enough opinions against her being good enough! Was that remark absolutely necessary?!

As a matter of fact…it was.

That’s what so important about Martha’s character arc, in my opinion. The fact that there was this stigma to her character, of being second best, and her disproving that. (One could even say it’s symbolic of society’s oppression of black people, but I don’t feel I’m qualified to discuss civil rights.) The Doctor, eventually, begins to see Martha’s worth. I think he officially realizes he’s treated her badly at the end of “The Family Of Blood”, after witnessing how she fares on her own, in an unfriendly, racist setting, and having to take care of him to boot. But too little, too late. Because all they have after that is “Blink” and then the Master trilogy. But even then, Martha overcomes the obstacles set in her path like a pro, beating the Master at his own game. When she’s departing the TARDIS, she flips the Master’s words on their head. “I spent a lot of thinking I was second best. But you know what? I am good.” Not even “as good as Rose”. Just “good”. She doesn’t need to prove that she’s up to par with her predecessor (a white woman). Martha is great, all on her own. This is a character who has grown in her time with the Doctor, and that is the mark of a high caliber companion.

Will Martha Jones ever be recognized as the great character she is? Probably not. But I ask you, go back and watch series 3. Try to forget all you know and love about Rose Tyler for a second. Really watch Martha. You’ll see a lot more in her than you originally did, I bet.

To Martha Jones, the Woman Who Walked The Earth. A star. ~TRL

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Willow Rosenberg and Bisexual Erasure

This has been a topic that’s come up over and over again in discussion, but it was this video that inspired me, a bisexual woman, to give my own input on the matter.

Buffy was a ground breaking show for its time period. I absolutely love Joss Whedon, regardless of how he likes to emotionally abuse me by killing characters I dearly love. Buffy ran from ’97 to ’03, a time before explicitly queer characters, and more than that, same-sex relationships, were deemed acceptable to show on basic cable. Nowadays, it’s a bit more tolerated, though we do have some kinks to yet work out, but in Buffy‘s time, attitudes toward queerness weren’t the most positive.

The secondary female lead of the series, Willow Rosenberg, played by the amazingly talented Allison Hannigan, is a character that starts off exclusively liking men, namely Oz and Xander (Willow even admits to having had a crush on Giles at one point). Then, after Willow and Oz break up due to Seth Green wanting to leave the show, Willow enters a relationship with another witch from her Wicca group at UC Sunnydale, Tara. Their relationship wasn’t explicitly announced as romantic at first, until Willow finally says out loud that Tara is her girlfriend. But even before that, Wil and Tara have moments of tenderness, like Tara claiming that she is “yours [Willow’s]”. Faith is the first character to pick up on their relationship, as Willow has trouble coming out to her friends at first, and states, in mild surprise, “Willow’s not driving stick anymore”. But, I’m off track here.

The main debate about Willow is, is she a lesbian, or bisexual?

Willow herself claims that she’s gay. A lot of people get pissed about that terminology and complain that Willow isn’t a lesbian, but bisexual, because she has been attracted to men in the past. But many lesbians have had romantic or sexual encounters with men in the past before they discover their true nature. Cynthia Nixon, star of Sex and the City, for example, had been married to a man for years and had had three children with him before realizing she was a lesbian. To be human is to change with time.

Also the term “gay”, while the literal definition is homosexual, has become an umbrella term for anyone who isn’t straight-this includes homosexuals, bisexuals, pansexuals, asexuals…etc. Maybe bisexuality just wasn’t as much of a recognized identity back then for Whedon to decide to label her as such. I’m not saying that being bi wasn’t a thing back then; Roman emperors Nero and Calculus were historically bisexual, for God’s sake. Maybe Whedon thought that the idea was just too confusing for an audience of the late 20th century to handle. Human nature tends to want to categorize things neatly. Many people have issues with the concept of being attracted to both genders, and tend to believe that bisexuals are either homosexual and won’t come completely out of the closet, or actually straight, but using the label for attention.

But I tend to go by what an individual labels themself as. For example, my last relationship was with a non-binary person. I consider myself open to anyone of any gender – male, female, non-binary, transgender, or none of the above. Some people have tried to tell me that I should call myself pansexual instead of bisexual, but the fact is, the decision of what to deem myself is up to me and me alone. I choose to consider myself bisexual, simply because I feel most relatable to that word.

But Willow Rosenberg is a fictional character, therefore, she belongs to anyone who enjoys Buffy the Vampire Slayer. So how you interpret her sexuality is up to you, the viewer. Is she homosexual? Is she bisexual? It depends a lot on your personal definition of those words. It’s one of Buffy‘s most important reoccurring themes: choice. You make the choice to assume your destiny, to leave a loved one for their own well being, to sacrifice your own happiness, or sometimes even your own life, for the greater good. You didn’t expect that element to actually affect you as an audience member, did you. ~TRL

The Supernatural Drinking Game

It’s very simple. Take a shot for:

  • someone getting murdered in the pre-title card scene
  • blood splats
  • the value of family being mentioned
  • homoerotic subtext
  • flashback scenes with inconsistent actors playing young Sam or Dean
  • Dean getting splashed in the face with water
  • angels beings dicks
  • Destiel
  • daddy issues
  • Sam or Dean dying
  • Dean’s single man tear
  • Crowley calling Dean a pet name
  • FLANNEL
  • a major or supporting female character dying
  • Castiel not getting a pop culture reference
  • cheap motels with weird room dividers
  • pie
  • beer
  • burgers
  • Dean saying “dude”
  • Sam saying “so get this”
  • aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaand “Carryon Wayward Son”

Try not to get alcohol poisoning. Good luck.

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High School Musical Was Revolutionary

HSM

Yesterday was the tenth anniversary of the first airing of that popular phenomenon from our childhoods, High School Musical. It was such a landmark that the Disney Channel had a special re-airing and got together 5 of the 6 stars of the movie (Zefron was too busy filming something else, but he did input a video message) together for a reunion. I’m posting a YouTube link here so you can watch a clip from it.

Looking back on this iconic movie from my past, it makes me realize that HSM wasn’t as vapid or shallow as people make it out to be. Think about it. I mean, really. Three of the six main character were POCs, and the main romantic couple were multiracial. Ryan Evans was practically an established queer character (check out the bloopers for HSM3 here), and even the background characters have depth and intricacies, like an overweight girl who hip hop dances, or a male basketball player who isn’t afraid to pursue traditionally feminine hobbies, like baking.

But most of all, the movies are just relatable. HSM3 is all about transitioning from childhood to adult life, deciding where to go after high school, which is something absolutely everyone has struggled with. The whole theme of the first film is about challenging social expectations and breaking free of cliques (something the acclaimed Mean Girls touched on, but never really followed through on). One could even argue that the second film is commentary on the meaning of socio-economic status and how it affects people’s stations in life.

And they’re heartwarming. Don’t tell me you can’t watch Troy and Gabriella sing “Breakin’ Free” without squeeing just a little. You must be made of stone. And the acting is good, especially by Disney standards. Ashley Tisdale has fun being a mean girl. And the songs are so catchy (my personal favorite is “Everyday” from the sequel, which you can listen to here).

Is High School Musical targeted at teenage girls?…yes. But so is Buffy The Vampire Slayer, and look how popular that is. Why is there this social stigma that something that’s tailored specifically for teenage girls is immediately stupid? There’s a reason we answer “WILDCATS!” when someone shouts “WHAT TEAM?!” The movies and the lessons we’ve learned from them have stuck with us, even into our adulthood. Not just because of the songs that get stuck in your head. They taught us that it’s okay to be ourselves, that we can be more than a stereotype, that human beings can have layers. That we are all part of a whole body, and no one is wrong or alone. It’s the human condition at its best description. And that, for me, is a very important message indeed. After all…we’re all in this together. ~TRL

Photo cred: here.