Friday, 26 September 2014

Once More With Feeling?

It is incredibly depressing to realise that I have been asking the rulers of the state I live in to refrain from bombing Iraq for my entire fucking life.

There's an extent to which the 'it won't work' critique is entirely valid as an objection to waging yet more war upon the Middle East.  Because the surface aim of the politicians is almost certainly to impose 'stability' on 'the region'.  They like stability.  No threats to embarass them, no revolts to topple their friendly dictators, no threat to Israel, no danger to neoliberal exploitation of local resources and markets, etc.  And, as has been shown, it doesn't work.  They try and try to bomb the Middle East into passive compliance, and all they succeed in doing is generating more troubles for their empire.

This is, of course, what empires have always done.  Create the problems of tomorrow by viciously conquering the problems of today.

But there's another sense in which the 'it won't work' argument is fatally flawed, because there's a sense in which it does work.  It may never achieve 'stability' but it does keep the machinery of empire chugging, and the fuel of empire flowing.  Because the fuel of empire is as much war itself as the resources extracted via war.  The neverending war keeps the military-industrial complex in work, the contracts coming, the factories producing, etc.  It keeps the corporate media busy and happy, reporting yet more incomprehensible strife from 'over there' and 'our' attempts to make things better.  It keeps the endless circular debate about intervention circling (the system can tolerate a tortuous and muddled debate, what it doesn't want is clarity).  It keeps the public money flowing into the vast state run apparatus of military spending, and into all the R&D that is done under the aegis of this and then handed over (free) to private enterprise.  It keeps the empire's power and prestige in the ascendant, with the machinery of death inspiring the fear - and projecting the apparent invincibility - that every empire needs.

No, the war never 'works' in the sense of achieving a stable imperium, but it does 'work' - at least in the short term - in achieving a powerful empire.  One of the paradoxes of empire is that its power relies upon it never being stable.  So even when the bombing doesn't work, it actually does.

Meanwhile, of course, people die.  And die and die and die.

Wednesday, 17 September 2014


Reimagined Moments #3

Onboard the Silver Carrier, the Doctor and Jamie are eating square blocks of food from a dispenser.

"Doctor, what do you think Victoria's doing now?"

"Now?  Well, she's dead Jamie."


"Yes, of course.  We left her in the late-twentieth century.  Looking at this technology, we must be at least a couple of hundred years on from then.  So unless she somehow managed to live to be more than 200 years old, she'll have aged and died a long time ago.  Right now she's probably just a brittle skeleton lying in a coffin, the flesh long since having bloated and peeled away and rotted and been consumed by bacteria and maggots and weavils and worms and stuff.  Unless they burned her up in a big fire.  In which case she's probably scattered around somewhere in tiny fragments or sitting in a vase."

Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Things That Worry Me #1

You know the pre-titles sequence in For Your Eyes Only, in which Blofeld tricks Bond onto a remote-controlled helicopter?

Why does the vicar make the sign of the cross as Bond departs in the chopper?

If he knows something deadly is afoot, he must be in league with Blofeld, so either...

a) he's not really a vicar but actually one of Blofeld's men disguised as a vicar, or

b) he is an actual vicar who's been paid by Blofeld to be part of his assassination conspiracy.

If a), why?  And why doesn't Bond ask about this new guy at the Church where Tracey is buried?

If b), why?  What would induce a presumably average, ordinary, law-abiding vicar to team up with Blofeld?  And also, why doesn't he just shoot Bond in the graveyard?

And what does Blofeld need him for?  Okay, he delivers the fake message about Bond being needed at HQ.  But this is seemingly the only thing he does in the conspiracy (if he is indeed part of the conspiracy, as opposed to an innocent vicar who unwittingly relays a fake message) but the message could have been far more easily faked, given the apparent laxity of Bond's precautions (he just accepts the message at face value without checking it in any way).

And I repeat: if he's not a real vicar, why the religious sentiment with the sign of the cross?

And even if he is a real vicar, but an evil one who conspires to murder people with international gangsters, why is he still worried about giving Bond the last rites? 

He's either a genuine vicar with terrorist-connections and a deeply ambivalent and wildly fluctuating attitude to his faith, or a hood with a very dark sense of humour... and possibly a sardonic vein of anti-clericalism in his character.

Or... another possibility entirely... he's a genuine vicar with the gift of second sight and a fatalistic attitude to the future.

Or he's a genuine (if morally weak) vicar with the gift of second sight, and he hates James Bond for some reason... so much so that he opportunistically chooses to let Bond go to his death.

Or possibly he hates the helicopter pilot for some reason and opportunistically chooses to let him die.

That actually makes a lot more sense because, if he can see the future, that must mean that he knows that Bond will escape the trap and only the pilot and Blofeld will die.  (It can't be that he hates Blofeld because Blofeld isn't there when he - the vicar - makes the sign of the cross, so there'd be no point.)

The only problem here is the implausibility of a specific guy who that particular vicar hates just happening to turn up at the vicar's church in a helicopter on the day when he's about to be murdered by Blofeld as part of an assassination conspiracy... but coincidences do happen.

As far as I can tell, this is by far the best explanation.

My god, Roald Dahl was a great writer, wasn't he?

I wonder why the fatalistic, cynical, vindictive, morally-ambivalent psychic vicar/seer hated the helicopter pilot so much.

This guy may be the most complicated and fascinating character ever to appear in a Bond movie.

(UPDATE:  Yes, I know Roald Dahl didn't write this one.  It was a joke.)

Monday, 8 September 2014

No Name


Apparently, they've found out who Jack the Ripper was.  Maybe.  At least, so says the Daily Mail, and a bloke who's written a book about the case, and who owns a business selling 'Ripper' tours.  So, reliable and unbiased sources.

Turns out, Jack the Ripper was... some guy.

Who'd have thunk it?

So, will this put a stop to the lucrative Ripper industry?  The books, movies, walks, etc?

No, of course not.  Like all previous unmaskings, it'll just fuel the fire, even if this unmasking turns out to rest on marginally better evidence that some hack's ability to create anagrams, or an evidently untrue story told by a publicity hound, or the baseless hunch of a crime writer, or an obviously forged diary, or the manufactured bad reputation of a dead one-time heir to the throne.

Because, contrary to what everyone ever has always said about Jack the Ripper, interest in the case doesn't stem from the fact that the murderer was never caught.  It stems from the appeal of the degradation, humiliation, punishment and silencing of women... and from the way revelling in this (with whatever spurious self justification) can distract us from other stuff about the lives those women led, and the world they lived in.

Our misogynistic culture is obsessed with the murder of women.  It is possibly the main subject of the present-day Western narrative culture industry, aside from the sexual/romantic conquest of women.

It could be objected that there are so many stories about the murder of women because so many women are murdered... but that doesn't explain, say, the lack of a similar number of stories about the rape of women (as Alan Moore pointed out), or about the political and social subjugation of women, or about any number of other things that are more common.

The prevalence of the actual murder of women is intimately connected with the prevalence of depictions of the murder of women, but in ways that are far more complex than the merely causal (whichever way you want to imagine the causation runs).  It's all part and parcel of a cultural misogyny which stems from sexism and patriarchy, generated by class society all the way back to what Engels called "the world historic defeat of the female sex" with the start of social hierarchy.  (None of which is to excuse our present cultural practice by appeal to the influence of older structures.)

The women murdered (as is supposed) by the man dubbed Jack the Ripper are objects of morbid fascination because they shared a fate which made them only slightly unusual for women of their class and time.  Lots of these women were raped, abused, beaten and/or murdered (by men - let's not efface that vital part of the story).  It just so happens that some of these women were murdered in particularly vicious and gruesome ways, with their bodies mutilated and insultingly displayed afterwards.  (It's by no means clear how many women were the victim of the one escalating killer who ended up reaching a crescendo of perverse cruelty in the killing of Mary Kelley and then vanished, but it does seem likely that at least four were part of his distinct sequence.)

There is a degree of pity attached to the fascination.  Certainly, at the time, many common people in similar walks of life were motivated by fury at the fate of people who they knew, or might have known.  But also at the time, part of the fascination was to do with a kind of furtively aroused moralism about 'unfortunates' (as women who were driven to prostitute themselves by poverty were daintily called).  Such patronising and contemptuous pity is a mixture of fear and loathing of the poor, and of women.  And it puts the focus on sex, safely away from other scarier stuff.

But the fascination with the women is marginal to the wider cultural obsession with Jack the Ripper.  The women are props in his story, used as background detail and as titilation (particularly since the women involved worked as prostitutes, with all the sordid arousal this brings to some).

Generally, the obsession is with the man.  The killer has been fetishized, celebrated, glamourised and bigged up beyond belief.  He has been transformed from a skulking trick into a top-hatted, cloaked, evening-dress-wearing toff with a sinister gladstone bag, riding around in a coach with a royal crest on the side.  Gentleman Jack, the genteel and aristocratic killer.  There's no doubt that part of this - alongside the various attempts to make him a royal, a freemason or a posh establishment figure covering up for Queen, Country and Lodge - is the submerged horror of a system in which the poor, especially poor women, were the playthings of the rich, material to be used when needed and then allowed to sink back into the slum.  But the effect is to transform the killer himself, and his vacuously misogynistic crimes, into a meaningful figure, a powerful figure, a figure of purpose and steely determination, or of glamourous and tortured Jekyll-and-Hydean complexity, an artisan with a philosophy and a moral agenda of his own (however twisted), etc.  In this, the Ripper is the prototypical serial killer of the present-day culture industries, of Seven, Messiah, The Tunnel, etc.  The killer as intellectual, as the isolated thinker with lessons to teach us in blood, as the sinister harbinger of well-thought out rebukes (which shows simultaneously how much 'we' supposedly all need rebuke for 'our' sins, and how evil the opinionated outcasts bringing the rebukes usually are).

(I used to quite like the Gull/Masons theory... but it's only a story, and only a good one when told by Alan Moore.)

The bullshit and the obsession started at the time, with most of the mythmaking about the case being spun by the contemporary newspapers, eager to mop up the profits along with the blood.  The case could be moralised about from every angle except actual, practical sympathy with oppressed women (after all, the only place to go with that was to stop blaming the women and start saying they should be allowed to be safe... which was self-evidently unpublishable radical lunacy).  The case was a litmus test on the moral state of society (the killer brings the rebuke that 'we' all need, in his mad way).  The case was about swarthy Jews and their sacrificial religion, or about all the foreigners (no wonder the Mail loves this latest story - the guy supposedly identified as the killer was a Polish immigrant).  The case was about the degradation of the criminal classes (Punch Magazine, as usual, took the opportunity at the time to define satire as consisting of kicking downwards).  The case was a big joke, jolly London lore.  Hence the newspapers' invention of the name 'Jack the Ripper' when they hit upon the lucrative idea of sending themselves letters written in red ink, purporting to be from the murderer, invoking 'Springheel Jack' in their fabricated signatures, and sniggering about the whole thing in words that were painstakingly badly spelled (because, of course, 'Jack' couldn't be an educated man).

By the way - notice the contempt for the women integral to the name.  He's not murdering people, he's ripping things.  In the name, the women become nothing more than sacks or sheets or dresses.  Remember, when 'Jack' drones on in his letters about how he hates 'whores', he's actually a journalist speaking with the contempt of the respectable for the 'unfortunate'.

All this is a massive distraction.  Was then, is now.  Talk about anything, but don't admit that most serial killers - 'Jack' included - are just squalid, pathetic, inadequate little men who hate women because they take the furious feelings of thwarted entitlement inculcated in so many men by patriarchy, and actually act on them.  We don't want to have that conversation, or miss out on the latest thriller.

And don't admit that hugely more women died in the East End as a result of preventable disease, despair, drink, hunger, domestic violence... in a word: poverty... than died because of 'Jack'.

And don't admit that, as now, the London of 1888, the hub of an empire, harboured bigger mass murderers in the corridors of power than on the streets where the poor lived, worked their lives away, drank, hit each other, stabbed each other, laughed, joked, prayed, fucked for farthings and huddled together for warmth.  And those mass murderers in the corridors of power didn't need to sneak out at night to commit their murders.  They oversaw a system of murder every day, from within those very corridors, from behind their eminent Victorian respectability.  And they still do.

And don't damage the Ripper industry by admitting that there was never any such person as Jack the Ripper.  There was a pathetic and revolting misogynist who probably killed four or five women with escalating hatred and contempt.  And then there was a marketing opportunity.  And - in a society that still runs on drastic inequality, and on the disciplining, punishing and controlling women and their bodies - the market is still there.

Sunday, 7 September 2014

Good Soldiers (Into the Dalek)

'Into the Dalek' is about good soldiers vs bad soldiers.

The pain of being a good soldier, the pain of the memories which a good soldier has, vs the anaesthetised mind of the bad soldier.

But, of course, what do we mean by terms like 'good' and 'bad'?

For the army, a 'good' soldier is a soldier who obeys orders without question, kills without hesitation, and doesn't let themselves be haunted.

A 'bad' soldier is a soldier who thinks about, and makes decisions based upon, things other than the orders of a superior... perhaps leading to their inability, or refusal, to kill on command.

In a soldier, morality is a malfunction.  A good soldier is a 'bad' soldier.  Because good people can't do a soldier's job, which is to fight and kill.

At least, that might be how the Doctor would put it, in his simplistic way.  The Doctor doesn't like soldiers.  As in 'The Sontaran Stratagem' he is rude and patronising to the soldiers he meets as a matter of course.  He refuses to take Journey Blue with him because she's a soldier.

But the soldiers on the Aristotle are rebels.  They are specifically described as rebels.  Rebels against the Daleks.  The Daleks, who are, for whatever reason, inherently evil.  This is fuzzy (it still may be because of technological control of the brain) but, at the end of the day, Rusty reverts to type.  He realises that life is beautiful and unstoppable, that the Daleks are the enemies of life, and his response is to decide that all Daleks must die.  Because he's a Dalek, and that's how Daleks think.  So, contrary to the Doctor's hopes, there's no saving the Daleks... which makes Rusty pretty much right: they're beyond saving, so they must be fought.  Which is what the rebels are doing.  So Rusty kills all the Daleks... which is a BAD THING judging by the Doctor's defeated frown (though quite how any of them would have survived if that hadn't happened escapes me).

So, once again, as in 'A Good Man Goes to War', we have an episode which says one thing about warriors while showing us another.  Soldiers are scary and irredeemable... umm, even the ones who rightly rebel against unappeasable and unsalvageable aggressors.

See, I have no problem with the soldiers on the Aristotle.  They're rebelling against the imperialists of the universe.  I'm supposed to think they're wrong or suspect for shooting to kill?  When you're in an army fighting aggressive imperialists or fascists, you'd better obey orders and shoot to kill.  That's what the soldiers of the International Brigades did.  That's what the Red Army did when they drove back the proto-fascistic West-sponsored Whites.  If the Whites, or Franco's troops, or the Nazis, are advancing on you, you want an army that's 'good' at what it does to come and fight them.

Of course, Danny is a former soldier... and Clara doesn't reject him the way the Doctor rejects Journey.  She, despite her copy of the Guardian, rises above the kind of knee-jerk, right-on disdain for soldiers that (supposedly) so many people have, like the Doctor.

So there's some nuance, right?  Taken with the fact that the Doctor's prejudiced hatred of Daleks is what turns Rusty into a Dalek-killer, and Rusty's remark that the Doctor is a good Dalek (however we want to take that), a considerable amount of ambiguity has been created, yes?

And anyway, the Doctor has a bloody cheek being so arsey with soldiers, considering that he ended the Time War by... oh no, hang on, that got fixed last year didn't it.

It really isn't possible to just talk about 'soldiers' as if all soldiers are the same, as if all armies and their objectives are morally equal.  This is obvious.  It's a commonplace of our cultural discourse actually... trouble is, it sits alongside the assumption that 'we' are always the ones with the moral superiority, which is sadly rarely true.  But it could be true, theoretically.  It isn't logically impossible to have soldiers who are both 'good' and good.  It's just that, by a morally and politically realistic evaluation of the world, that doesn't apply to 'our' soldiers.  Our rulers pretend it does.  'Our' media pretends it does.  But it doesn't. 

Presumably, Danny was fighting for the British Army in Iraq or Afghanistan.  Which makes him a soldier in the army of a technologically-superior imperialist aggressor.

He's a good soldier because he cries when he thinks of the people he killed.  Maybe he's even good because he stopped being 'good', i.e. he became 'bad' at his job because he found a moral objection to it (I guess we'll see) but he isn't anything like the soldiers on the Aristotle, the ones I had no problem with.  He wasn't a rebel.  He wasn't in the Iraqi resistance.  He wasn't someone exercising their moral right to use violence against the people attacking them and occupying their country.  He was, presumably, in the occupying force.  He claims that there is a "moral dimension" to soldiering as he practiced it.  In other words, there is a moral dimension to being an aggressor, invader and occupier on the orders of an imperialist hegemon.

So, as always, 'we' are the good guys, by definition.  The ambiguous investigation of the ethics of warfare collapses back into bog-standard liberal hand-wringing over the niceties of what we do in the course of being the goodies.  How terrible it is the bad things happen when we try to help. 

The truth is, we in the aggressive neoliberal imperialist countries... we are the Daleks.

And we're not good.  Though we are 'good'.

Thursday, 4 September 2014

Essential Problems and Dialectical Solutions ('Deep Breath' 5)

Many people have already commented on the expansion of Clara's character in 'Deep Breath'.  I think there's something to this... in that Clara now appears to have a character, now that she's been freed from her tedious and contentless mystery-arc.  Those impatient with the right-on critique of Moffat will respond with all sorts of examples of brave, complex things she did in Series 7, and some of those examples will be right, but still... she really did look like a characterless blur across the screen, a sort of jumble of traits, a Rubik's Cube with a face drawn on it.  There's no denying, she looked better in 'Deep Breath'.  It's possible that, as with so much else that seems better about 'Deep Breath', I may just be perceiving an improvement because the episode is largely free from the dominating and infuriating presence of a certain actor who will not be missed at all by me.  But then, such things do make a difference.  One performance in an 'actually existing' production of a written text can change the meaning.

Clara's monologue rebuke to Vastra is part of her apparent improvement... though I have to say (in my complainey way) that the monologue contains yet another example of Moffat fetishizing the powerful, with Clara saying that Marcus Aurelius was her only pin-up.  Of all the philosophers she could have idolised, Moffat chooses the one who was also a Roman Emperor!  I also noticed an implied contempt towards teenage girls who like boy bands, as if that makes them inherently trivial people.  Clara gets to angrily reject the notion that she is unwilling to accept an older man, but the idea is expressed in terms that imply contempt for young women who who don't reject young hot guys for old, establishment figures.  To be painstakingly fair, I'm sure this is not what was intended.  It's one of those examples of a writer being unable to fully win no matter what he does.  Which happens.  Sometimes writers can't win.  Sometimes they're damned if they do and damned if they don't.  It's not about their flaws so much as the social context in which they write.  That's not an excuse, but it is a thing.  The solution to this, as I've said before, is not to find better writers, or better ways of writing which square such circles away nicely and neatly so we can all watch in perfect comfort, but rather to change society so that massive imbalances of power don't keep setting off these little textual mines.  Sounds like I'm demanding a lot, doesn't it?  Well, I am.  Deal with it.  That's just how I roll.  Etcetera.

At first, the whole business with Clara's difficulty accepting the new Doctor reminded of the nasty reaction towards 'fangirls' that was unleashed by the news of Capaldi's casting, with all those memes about the shallow, hormonal girlies, supposedly devastated by the news that the new Doctor was someone old and wrinkly.  Just another manifestation of the 'fake geekgirl', a chimeric invention of a closed shop full of males objecting to the scary presence of women in 'their' fandom.  At one point it looks as though Clara is being likened to those allegedly inconsolable fangirls.  After all, Moffat makes Clara - the girl who, according to him, saw and knew every single one of the Doctor's incarnations - struggle with the concept of a new Doctor.  The episode is erasing a huge chunk of her experience, a huge chunk of all the stuff she did last year (stuff that is, by the way, also proffered as evidence of what a nuanced character she always was). Though, as I say, the jettisoning of all that baggage from Series 7 may not be a bad thing, given that it was a way for Moffat to insert his character (in both senses) into every previous bit of Doctor Who ever and rewrite it in the image of his own laughing face.

Clara herself rejects the idea that she resembles the sexist stereotype of the fake fangirl who only likes Who for the hottie menz (though why it should be so terrible for girls to watch the show to leer at Matt Smith escapes me, given the volume of comment from male fans about how much they fancy Jenna-Louise Coleman).  Moffat actually goes to some lengths to raise this accusation against Clara so it can be knocked down... which is why a simple reading of the episode which sees Moffat as endorsing this view of Clara is not really adequate.  The Doctor even implies that the fault was the other way, with him mistaking Clara for a girlfriend.  (And, it's true: the 11th Doctor spent far too much time treating Clara like his property girlfriend.)  Pushing aside the self-pity of the older man looking at the young girl he can't have, the "I never said it was my mistake" bit is actually rather a good moment.  The Doctor accepts that Clara wasn't the one who was actually confused about what was what and what wasn't.

But... and I'm sure you all knew there was a but coming... there are still problems here.  For a start, the Doctor is once again the pole around which the women revolve.  He is fetishised, once again, in Vastra's speech about how old and powerful he is.  And he takes on the contours of the complex and tormented man whose complexity and pain are something for the women to work through.  I've complained in the past about Moffat's female companions being puzzle boxes for the Doctor to figure out.  In 'Deep Breath', in some ways, the Doctor becomes the puzzle for the ladies to figure out.  It doesn't help matters much.  (I know, I know - I'm never happy.)  If you insist upon writing friendships as battles of wits, you're going to end up with implied winners and losers.  Though, once again, it doesn't really get us anywhere to do what I've done in the past, and just talk about these issues as though Moffat is alone in falling foul of them.  The battle of wits between the sexes is embedded in our narrative culture, and is a cultural expression of sexism in the form of gender essentialism.

Moffat is rather big on gender essentialism. This is partly to do with the genre he seems most happy writing in, the style of which he retains and adapts to other projects: sitcom.  Even the dinosaur in 'Deep Breath' is as much from Red Dwarf VIII as it is from 'Invasion of the Dinosaurs' (though, as I say, I rather like the melancholy way he ends up using the dinosaur).  Sitcoms are steeped in gender essentialism.  Sticking with Red Dwarf as an example, just look at the jaw-breakingly tedious stretches of Red Dwarf VII which concern themselves with 'jokes' about Kochanski being clean and tidy and liking salad and ballet, as opposed to the scuzzy boys.

Sitcom gender-essentialism revolves upon the ostensible 'war of the sexes'.  The boys behave badly, the women complain about the toilet seat being left up.  The boys make offensive remarks about periods when the girls are not happy about something.  And so on.  (To be clear, I'm not putting this forward as a description of Moffat's work but as a generalisation.)  Very often, in this sort of thing, the silly old men come off worst, as do the comedy hapless pratt Dads in assorted adverts... you know, the ones that privileged manchildren put forward as evidence of 'misandry' (a functionally meaningless word).  In this version of the relationship between the sexes, the men are overgrown little boys, helplessly entranced by breasts and bottles.  The women are long-suffering witnesses to the long childhood of these slow developers.  Basically, as someone once said, the women are better and the men belong in the fields.  Ho ho ho.

But pedestals are a way of controlling somebody, if you make them high enough.

The basic claims of gender essentialism are determinist, which is why it so often gets reiterated by various forms of reductionist science like evolutionary psychology, and why it has a conservative social effect.  It runs thus: men and women are fundamentally different at some irreducible level (i.e. brain chemistry, genes, whatever) and thus will always retain certain essential traits, some of which entail imbalances in attitude and capability.  We've all seen the titles infesting the bookshelves.  Men are From Mars, Women are From Venus (and books like this are from Uranus).   Why Men Can't Talk and Women Can't Read Maps.  Why Men Don't Like Quiche and No Woman Has Ever Learned the Bagpipes.  Etc etc et-fucking-c.  The gender essentialism industry is massive, hyper-profitable, retrograde and deeply reactionary.

No matter what its smiley, jokey surface message may be, this kind of pop-gender-wars stuff always peddles the idea that equality is impossible... or, at least, that further equalisation is impossible and we've already reached the functional optimum.  It peddles the idea that we already live in as equal a society as we can, and all we need to do is understand each other better.  Basically, it peddles the idea that our prejudices about gender are well-founded.  Even if you take the ostensibly pro-woman version of this that gets repeated in all those sitcoms about the ladies vs the manchildren, the message is still conservative and reactionary, a message of permanent and chronic and unimproveable imbalance.

One extension of this idea of built-in characteristics is the idea that, for instance, girls will naturally want to play with dolls and like the colour pink even if subjected to no social conditioning.  Indeed, one of the most pernicious aspects of gender essentialism is the way it peddles the idea that it's even possible to raise kids without socialising them into gender roles.  By over-emphasizing innate gender differences it obscures the forces of social conditioning.  One side-effect is that well-meaning, right-on parents make efforts to keep gender roles out of their kids' life, only to find their kids drifting into toys guns or Disney princess outfits, and then rather than think 'maybe I have unconscious assumptions which also influence my kids... and maybe my kids are also raised by a society which teaches and reinforces gender roles from day one', the parents instead take their failure to mean that it's all the the genes after all.  They then shake their heads at their own foolish idealism, and start being 'hard-headed' and 'realistic' instead, accepting consciously the very assumptions about innate gender differences which were trained into them in their own childhood, and which they have unconsciously been acting on all along.

(On this subject and other related ones, I implore everyone to read the superb Delusions of Gender by the amazingly brilliantly fantastically excellent Cordelia Fine, who is very good indeed.  And great.)

Gender essentialism doesn't challenge male privilege.  It shores it up.  It obscures systemic sexism, taking imbalances out of the realm of the social and into the realm of the universally biological - like all forms of sociobiology.  It acts as an excuse and an alibi for men, and for the system they dominate and which privileges them.  It relieves them of responsibility.  If they can't help staring at boobs that walk by, or leave the toilet seat up, and all those other things that all men supposedly do, that's just because they're blokes and blokes are like that.  Nothing to be done about it.  Some gender essentialist observations may take the form of criticism, but it is criticism which instantly supplies a get-out clause.

The "I never said it was your mistake" scene is a good scene.  A great moment.  But the episode as a whole sends mixed signals, just like the Doctor does.  That scene coexists with scenes in which Clara is described as a control freak and a narcissist and needy gameplayer, and all as part of the sitcom 'war of the sexes' sniping that constitutes Moffat's default mode of writing male/female interaction.  "5'1 and crying - you never had a chance!" thus tends to undercut the brilliance of the scene where Clara, looking truly human (both terrified and heroic simultaneously, with the two being inextricable) faces down the droid.  Yes, we are supposed to frown at this kind of gender-essentialist stuff coming from the Doctor… we’re supposed to think he’s being a prick… yet we’re also clearly supposed to find it funny.  As so often with Moffat, we're told to think one thing while being tacitly invited to enjoy something contrary in the text.

I wrote about 'A Good Man Goes to War' with reference to this.  The whole idea that there is any critique of the Doctor in that episode relies upon us taking River's rebuke seriously, which itself depends upon us taking seriously the notion that there is something shameful in being a warrior... and yet the entire episode is about noble, heroic warriors fighting and dying for a wonderful, moral cause... and about how exciting the Doctor and Rory are when they go all badass (i.e. genocidal) on Cybermen.  (It's only fair to point out that RTD was guilty of just this sort of inconsistency too, perhaps most evidently in 'The Stolen Earth' / 'Whatever the Other Episode Was Called' in which the Doctor is critiqued by Davros while viewing an internal clipshow which proves him innocent.)

We’re also clearly supposed to find the Doctor funny when he displays all the characteristics he charges against Clara and which she charges against him (he said, she said - har de har).  It doesn’t really matter if the writer has strong women declaring “men are monkeys” if the text ultimately and implicitly invites us to find the monkeyish behaviour vastly charming.

We're meant to like it when men behave badly, you see.  And then we like it when the woman puts him in his place.  And then we like it again when he does it again.

And so on and so on and so on forever.

I don't want to imply that any of the problems I raise in this post are unique to Moffat.  On the contrary, they're widespread... and often such problems are unavoidable when anyone writes about things like, say, gender in the context of a society that is deeply sexist.

Remember, the solution to the problem of such textual timebombs is a dialectical one.  So, basically, all we need for Doctor Who to be perfect is a full scale socialist-feminist revolution.

Now, tell me... is that really too much to ask?