Reading the Irene Adler-related question in this Q&A with the Sherlock crew, from last year, riled up all the old rage I have about Stephen Moffat. Not even so much that I find massive misogyny is a lot of his writing, but that he refuses to entertain the possibility when called on it. He has that ‘I can’t possibly have exhibited sexism, I’m a Guardian-reading-liberal-type person’ attitude. The quote in this piece shows that he apparently believes chivalry and sexism are mutually exclusive attitudes.
Further reading online only angered me further, as others perfectly articulated what I find so aggravating about this element of Moffat’s writing.
But on a more positive note, it did lead to the infinitely more pleasurable experience of reading this post, in which the talented author de-and-reconstructs the shambolic Season 5 of Who into a thing of arcs and themes, set-ups and pay-offs, decent storytelling in both the plot- and character-departments.
Incidentally, the chivalry/sexism thing reminds me of something I was thinking about Captain America before - one of the reasons he’s a stand-out character for me in the Avengers. I would always previously have dismissed Cap as a smug character embodying the worst version of American ego and self-satisfaction. I don’t know if I did the comic character a disservice or if he’s had a good re-imagining for the film(s), but now he’s wonderful.
He’s a man of strong beliefs and convictions, but he’s not afraid to question and reassess all the time. He’s got some great character beats with the Black Widow - they fight side-by-side; when BW plans to plunge (or ascend) into further danger he doesn’t question her putting herself in the line of fire, because she’s a super-competent warrior. But there’s a moment when there’s some kind of big explosion and he turns and protects himself and BW with his shield. His fundamental instinct is still to be chivalrous.There’s still a baseline of certain beliefs and attitudes in him, but he’s unafraid to adjust them as well. He’s open-minded.
The point is not that he represents any kind of ideal in how men should deal with women. The point is that for this character, learning an appropriate attitude is a process. He’s man enough to look at his attitudes and question them all the time. That’s why he’s a great character. And I guess that’s why he’s a poster-boy for the best version of America .