The Strength of a Companion – Rose Tyler
“…you don’t just give up, you don’t let things happen. You make a stand. You say no! You have the guts to do what’s right even when everyone else just runs away.” – Rose Tyler
At home on our couches, we are the companions in the world of The Doctor, so when the reboot of Doctor Who began, the first companion had an important role to fill.
Love her or hate her, Rose Tyler is a huge part of why the reboot was so successful.
There’s a lot of talk on the interwebs about why Rose is so awful and why she can’t be considered a strong female character. When I started getting into DW, I was already in the Martha era, so I wasn’t sure how I was going to feel about Rose. But once I started really watching her, from episode one on, I’d say that Rose was a pretty great example of a strong companion.
Rose is intelligent. Rose isn’t what one would consider well-educated. She’s 19, working in retail, and didn’t do her A-levels. (For the non-British, Rose completed her secondary education and stopped there. No college for her.)
Yet, from the very first episode, we get to see Rose paying attention to what’s happening around her, and drawing logical conclusions based on those observations. Sometimes she’s wrong, but hey, when faced with weird alien creatures and things that defy logic, who of us would be right all the time?
Rose is brave. Rose saves the day multiple times – and not in an indirect “I made The Doctor remember something brilliant that helped him save the day” way. She risks her own well-being and, in the first episode, literally swings in to save The Doctor. This isn’t the only instance where she plays savior to The Doctor as well as others.
Does she ever need saving? Of course. But doesn’t everyone need saving some of the time?
Rose is compassionate. One of my favorite things about Rose is how she paid attention to the people around her. Rose is a lower-class girl, which may contribute to why she takes the time to talk to people that otherwise go unnoticed, even by The Doctor himself. She looks out for “the little person”. Even those who should be her enemies, like Cassandra and the Daleks, she tries to see beyond their cruelty.
These few elements alone make for a great character, and yet, the internet is full of Rose hatred.
Rose is a weak character for obsessing over The Doctor.
Rose is a weak character for being jealous.
Rose is a weak character for abandoning her boyfriend, Mickey.
But does this really make Rose a weak female character?
I say no. As a matter of fact, it’s evidence of one of the things I love most about Rose:
Rose is human and imperfect.
Rose didn’t obsess over The Doctor. She fell in love with him. Since when is falling in love a weakness? Using that brand of thinking, isn’t The Doctor a weak character? Oh, wait, falling in love isn’t a weakness because he’s a man?
As to Rose’s jealousy, haters really tend to get riled up over Rose’s reaction to meeting Sarah Jane. But it should be noted that Sarah Jane wasn’t exactly greeting Rose with open arms when they met, and Rose’s reaction may have been about more than meeting a woman who was part of The Doctor’s life.
Rose grew up without her father. One could assume that even though he didn’t leave her intentionally, she had some abandonment issues. Now, she finds out this man she’s traveling with and cares for has left people behind in the past?
Yeah. I’d say she’s entitled to be dealing with some feelings over that matter.
There’s also the matter of her jealous feelings showing up when The Doctor focuses his attention on The Girl in the Fireplace. And yes, her reactions might be a bit immature. But again, we’re looking at a 19 year old girl, who next to this woman who is practically royalty, probably feels insecure about every aspect of herself. Male or female, insecurity can bring out the worst of any of us. (And don’t get me started on the fact that this is a Moffat written episode and what that means for the females in it…)
But what about her boyfriend, Mickey? She took off, leaving him behind. She’s the worst! But what would have happened if she chose her boyfriend over the opportunity of a lifetime? Wouldn’t people be complaining how weak she was for choosing a relationship over the chance to fly through space?
When it comes down to it, most criticisms of Rose have more to do with skewed ideas of what constitutes a strong female character, and are merely simple flaws common to humans (not specifically of the female kind).
Which is kind of the point, isn’t it? The reason the companions of Doctor Who are such fabulous characters is that we can relate to them.
They aren’t perfect.
And they aren’t all the same.
Which is why next time, we’ll talk about a very different companion: Martha Jones.
What do you think of Rose? Are there any of her flaws that you have a hard time getting past, or do you agree with the Ninth Doctor, and say she’s fantastic?