Over at GeekFeminism there is a really great post about how hating on women characters isn’t cool, especially if you’re doing so using really misogynistic language. It’s definitely worth a read. As I was going through the post, I found myself cringing at the language and hatred on display. I mean, I have issues with Gwen, too, but dear Isis, people, must we make fun of the gap in her tooth?
Scrolling down the comment thread, I saw this from Lizabeth S. Tucker: “I also believe that the reason that a large number of female characters on television series are not liked is simply because they are badly written. I always hope for a strong female character, not necessarily perfect, but one who holds her own, who stays in character.”
Yes. Absolutely yes. And no where is more apparent than with Gwen Cooper. Let it be known up front that I do not usually like Gwen. I did not begin disliking her immediately, as many fans did, but over time. After watching my favorite Torchwood episodes over and over again, I discovered that the times I really wanted Gwen off the screen were the times she was in a room with a guy she was snogging or wanted to snog. She was fine in scenes with Jack until the horrendous moment when Torchwood decided that the two of them were inexplicably in love. Anything she did when Owen was around annoyed the hell out of me until they finally got over each other. And I am convinced that I hate Rhys only because we rarely see him not with Gwen, and thus everything is just horrible all around.
When Gwen is not in a scene with a man she fancies, suddenly all the things that I find annoying about her fall away and she becomes a character I can really like and root for. So what’s up with this? I suspect that it’s because many of Torchwood‘s male writers do not know how to write relationship and sexual tension stuff to save their lives. They do not know how to make a woman be in love or in lust without being insipid and ridiculous. Need more evidence for this hypothesis? Look 3 feet to the left where Toshiko is standing.
And, as always, I blame Chris Chibnall most of all.
So really, the problem here is not Gwen, it’s the writers. And I’ll just bet if you went through every episode of Torchwood that was written by a man (with the exception of Russell T. Davies), you will find the bad writing, characterization, and awkward, bullshit sexual stuff with Gwen and Tosh (though Tosh’s stuff was limited to Owen, mostly, and her badly written character we felt sorry for). If you look at the episodes written by women, I bet the better aspects of both Gwen and Tosh come to the fore, and we feel less sorry for the latter and/or more warm toward the former.