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Doctor Who Ruminations: Good Guy Rory Williams (Part 2)

(This is Part 2 of a reflection on relationships in the Doctor Who Universe, particularly examining the claim that Rory Williams is a “Nice Guy.”)

Rory Williams is an everyman. He’s Peter Parker to Amy’s Mary-Jane, minus the advantage of getting bit by a radioactive spider. And he’s also kind of like a Dave Lizewski from Kick-Ass (both guys temporarily play the role of the gay friend). All three of these guys are a little dweeby and a bit overmatched in their romantic pursuits. And all three of these guys do get closer to their respective interests by being nice to them.

This move really should not have worked for Kick-Ass.

But I would like to argue that Kick-Ass is the only one who falls into the “Nice Guy” category. While Rory is crest-fallen when he finds out that Amy thinks that he’s gay, Kick-Ass uses the misunderstanding as a way to get closer to Katie (his crush). Eventually, Kick-Ass decides that the act is up, and moves in for his “reward.” The inexplicable thing is that Katie isn’t completely disgusted by this strategy. In the comic book original, Katie is creeped out by Kickass’s behavior and rejects him, which really seems fair.

So, there really is a subtle distinction between “Nice Guys” and nice guys. And it mostly has to do with making intentions clear from the outset. Otherwise, a woman is left in the position of having to guess whether a guy is putting on an act or not (and why she should care to take the time to figure that out is a fair question). But the fact that Rory did put his cards on the table and Amy reciprocated, should put him in the clear. As for guys who are genuinely nice and are also clear with their intentions, yet still get repeatedly rejected – there are probably other issues in play. Whether they should continue to be “nice” or not won’t even enter the conversation, because that’s just who they are. As soon as someone says: “She rejected me, even though I was nice to her,” it should be pretty clear that this is a person who isn’t actually nice.

I’m pretty sure that Rory isn’t a “Nice Guy.” He doesn’t act like he’s entitled to Amy, and he’s honest with her about his jealousy for her relationship with the Doctor (even if it makes him look insecure sometimes). It’s certainly fair for someone to not find Rory compelling, but it’s hard to see anything manipulative or duplicitous in him. A final counter-example to Rory is the character Ryan in the FX show Wilfred.

Ryan Newman. Another manifestation of the “nice guy?”

Wilfred centers around interactions between Ryan, an aimless loner, and Wilfred, a dog who he sees as a man wearing a dog suit. But Ryan only hangs out with Wilfred as a favor to his neighbor (and Wilfred’s owner), Jenna, whom he has the hots for. Ryan is friendly to Jenna, and there’s nothing wrong with that. The thing that makes him a “Nice Guy” is that he uses the guise of friendliness to stay close to Jenna, while secretly wanting much more. When he finds out that Jenna has a boyfriend, he decides that the best course of action is to feel sorry for himself, rather than to actually put anything on the line. Ultimately, people like Ryan aren’t doing anyone any good, and should only blame themselves for the cycles that they put themselves in (want an example of a “Nice Guy” who realizes what he truly is? Look no further than Petyr “Littlefinger” Baelish).

Rory’s situation and approach is considerably different than Ryan’s and that of other nice guys. Mainly because, from “The Eleventh Hour” onward, he and Amy are in a real relationship, and not in one that only exists in his head. Rory genuinely loves Amy, and he doesn’t try to manipulate her (I think that’s evident in the way that he copes with being kicked out in “Pond Life” and “Asylum of the Daleks”). Rory isn’t with Amy just because he refuses to leave her alone. In the end, he really is Amy’s choice.

The funny thing is, my first idea for this article was to write about whether Rory was right to wait for Amy or not. But a little self-reflection and internet perusal convinced me that the “Nice Guy” issue might be one worth addressing. There are some good feminist critiques of recent seasons of Doctor Who out there (some specifically focusing on the way that Amy’s character was written), but I do think that Rory Williams goes in the Jim Halpert, Peeta Mellark camp of genuinely nice guys. As to whether Rory was right to wait for Amy – I don’t necessarily think that he was. But since he did, I’m glad that it worked out for him.