Companion Tropes 25
I mentioned in a previous article how Amy is a strong example of a tsundere character. In fact, she’s probably the best example Doctor Who has ever given us, with the possible exception of Tegan, although she struggles to ever find the dere dere side of her nature. For the lazy clickers, here’s a quick quote from my Tsundere article about what that all means:
The tsundere archetype describes characters who are generally (but not exclusively) female and are outwardly cold and hostile, or perhaps have a fiery nature. But they also have an inner warmth, a flip side to their character. Originally this was all about girls in fiction with a hostile attitude to a male character, but gradually falling for him as the story progresses. The term has widened since to any character who is outwardly hostile but has a softer nature as well, or perhaps runs hot and cold between two moods. The word is a combination of two Japanese terms: tsun tsun, which means to turn away in disgust, and dere dere, which means to be loving.
Tsundere characters can be tsundere characters because that’s just how they are, but a shrewd writer will allow the character traits to flow naturally from a back story, and that’s where Amy Pond comes in, because she is damaged goods. The origins of that term are clearly quite literal. The post office delivers some of those to me, especially when it is raining, but when the term “damaged goods” is applied to a human being, here is what the Collins Dictionary defines that as:
A person considered to be less than perfect psychologically, as a result of a traumatic experience.
Now, I would hazard the suggestion that nobody is “perfect psychologically”, so the definition downplays the meaning of the term a little, and we are dangerously close here to defining people as not “normal”, as if such a thing even exists. There’s no such thing as a “normal” human being, just degrees of conformity to the socially accepted standard. So the key to the expression is the second part of the definition: the traumatic experience. In order to be “damaged goods” a person has to have suffered something in their past that has strongly impacted on their personality in the present. In Amy’s case, the impact is to turn her into a tsundere girl, and that’s a common outcome.
Firstly, let’s have a look at the traumatic experience itself. The obvious trigger for Amy’s damaged goods status is the Doctor failing to turn up when he promised, to whisk her off among the stars. While this might seem more like a disappointment rather than a trauma, it has to be viewed as part of a bigger picture. Amelia Pond lost her parents, swallowed by the crack in her wall, and had to be raised by her aunt. So it clearly isn’t going to help when the Raggedy Doctor breaks his promise, leaving Amelia the subject of psychiatrists due to her obsession with the Doctor.
AMY: Twelve years and four psychiatrists.
AMY: I kept biting them.
AMY: They said you weren’t real.
It’s played for laughs, but stop and think about that for a minute. A child who resorts to violence such as biting against an adult authority figure who is trying to help her, and does that repeatedly, is severely troubled.
Unsurprisingly, a girl with abandonment issues grows up to become a woman with relationship issues. Perhaps her fear of abandonment causes her to be reluctant to fully commit. She clearly loves Rory more than anything in the world – later episodes make that abundantly clear – but she hedges her bets, trying to form a relationship with the Doctor as well. It’s not quite a case of confusion about who she wants. She wants them both. And arguably the lack of self-respect that leads a woman to pursue a friends-with-benefits relationship (with the Doctor) and become a kissogram is indicative of somebody who is afraid of actually committing to everything that a happy marriage involves.
Writers often take a cute female character and put them through the mill. We saw that with Victoria the Woobie. Amy, as damaged goods, is the flipside of the woobie character, because her default starting point is to be broken. Instead, her journey is about healing. As a tsundere she veers back and forth between tsun tsun and dere dere throughout her adventures. She is fiery, independent and strong, and those are all good things, but she frequently crosses the line into the realms of an unpleasant personality, particularly in her treatment of Rory, whom she throws down and picks back up like an old sweater. Eventually she does learn to be the Doctor’s friend (rather than trying to mythologize or bed him) and to commit to Rory, and the damage of the past is healed. The Raggedy Doctor who broke her comes back into her life and gradually fixes the damage he caused, or at least allows Amy to fix herself. Does that take anything away from her? Not necessarily. She is a strong character to the end, retaining much of her tsundere personality. It simply brings her story arc to an end. Has the Doctor healed his patient, or does Amy heal herself? In the end, it doesn’t really matter. Healing involves change, but it’s possible to change and remain true to yourself. And the damaged goods may have been repaired, but maybe a crack always remains. RP