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Thoughts on Torchwood Part 1: So People Don’t Like Gwen Cooper?

A quick preface: Over the last few months I’ve watched 4 seasons of Doctor Who and all of Torchwood. I know I was late to the game. I actually managed to avoid spoilers during that time and so, I’ll put a spoiler alert in here just in case you’re like me and took your time getting here.

About a month ago as I was watching I forget what episode of Torchwood, I paused the TiVo and declared to the Geekboy, “I like Gwen Cooper.” (I do that sometimes. Spontaneous declarations. It wasn’t an argument or anything. I was just overwhelmed with the like and so I decided to say something)

From across the room, I hear a chuckle and the long time Whovian and Torchwood fan that is the Geekboy answers, “Oh…there’s a lot of people who don’t. You’d be surprised.”


So, I watched further. I even watched trying to figure out why people didn’t like her. People not liking Owen, that I could understand. Heck, there are days I wanted to kick Tosh in the teeth. But Gwen?

I asked Twitter and, yep, the responses came back. Negative over positive pretty much 2 to 1. They didn’t like her. For a number of reasons. The cheating definitely came up. Her thoughtlessness. Some people think she’s whiny, others just don’t like her and didn’t say why.

And I can see where everyone’s coming from. I can. But, in a way, all of those things envelop back into why I like her.

Gwen’s human.

She does all the things real people do. All the screwed up, “non-thinking but gut reaction” things people do. Real people cheat on their fiance’s because they feel more “alive” with someone else even if they know it isn’t going to work. Real people forget they might step on toes when they suddenly come into a situation and they have a better feel for how to handle it. Real people go from the gut and feel and can be sensitive to one person while totally stepping all over someone else.

I’ve cried more because of things Gwen did or said because I understand them on a gut level, I suppose. Her unwillingness to postpone a wedding even when preggers with an alien because she wasn’t going to let one more thing get between she and Rhys? I loved that. Actually, I loved “Something Borrowed” on a number of levels.

There’s a moment in “Exit Wounds” when Gwen takes over in the police station that Rhys looks at her and says she’s “brilliant” as he’s watching her take control of the situation. I thought pretty much the same.

And let’s just say it. Yes, she has a thing for Jack. How could she not. How could anyone with a heartbeat not? But Jack’s someone you have a thing for, because you just can’t help but love him. You don’t postpone a wedding for him and you don’t forget that you love your fiance for him. But, yeah, you have that moment somewhere before you say “I do” where you smile to yourself and you wonder “what if?”

Like I said, human.

I’m not even sure why I wanted to have this conversation. I know I just wanted to write it. Maybe to change a mind or two. Maybe to get feedback from people as to why they dislike her so much.

I actually think Russell T Davies looks to make a lot of people human. From the way they love to the way they fight, to the way they struggle with being human. It seems to me he has a plan. Actually, I’m getting ahead of myself. That’s for another post entirely.

Okay, back to this post.

I guess, in a way, I just wanted to share the Gwen I see. And maybe to ask other people why they dislike her so much.


I’m human. I have to ask ;-)



  1. Elle Elle

    I’m late to the party but I *loved* Gwen. At first. But her drugging Rhys with Retcon just to demand forgiveness without dealing with the consequences? Disgusting. Owen can be a bit of a prick but his selfishness never reached THAT low. And the fact that it was NEVER dealt with and they just went on to get married and have a kid? Gross. Switch the roles for a moment. If a male character drugged his fiancee, it would NOT have been forgiven like that by the general audience. I was appalled at her actions and NEVER got back on-board with her character.

  2. Anonymous Anonymous

    Huh. I liked Gwen.

    I just don’t like Torchwood. The writing starts out mediocre and then turns dreadful. Characterization? Who needs characterization, we have angst! But maybe you haven’t gotten to _Children of Eeeeyuch, this is stupid_ yet.

  3. I like or dislike her a lot based on the episode. I like her a lot better once Rhys is on board or has some clue what’s going on. Then they still fight but he’s an informed partner. The cheating I could’ve maybe handled, but the confession + recon was another bad moment.

    And I know that Gwen is supposed to be our eyes/ears characters, so it makes sense that she & Jack have a bit of a thing but that she’s cheating on her sweet sweet boyfriend with Owen and lusting after Jack in the meantime (and yes, it hurts a bit that he’s ignoring Ianto because I saw potential in that pairing which we’ll never get now) was just a bit much.

    But she can be bloody brilliant, which is why it’s good Torchwood has her. And she does some really good things while she’s there.

  4. There are a lot of things that come into play with regards to this issue. Kristen is right, a large part of it IS that Jack put Gwen first in everything and I know a lot of shippers hate her for that. I’m a shipper. I’ll admit it. But I didn’t hate Gwen b/c I secretly thought she was getting b/w Jack & Ianto. Far from it. In fact, as I’ve mentioned many times, I started off a Gwen/Jack shipper and switched to Jack/Ianto by the second season b/c the Gwen/Jack stuff seemed…I don’t know, not that relevant after her wedding.

    Unfortunately, my problem with Gwen has almost nothing to do with her character and everything to do with Russel T Davies. It’s not really fair to the character or the show but that’s what it boils down to. I initially loved Gwen. I knew her role was as our stand-in, I thought the actress was adorable, and I loved that she was human. I DON’T hate the character.

    I hate what Russell T Davies did with the show in favor of that character. I hate that he puts her character first (sometimes even over Jack in my opinion). I know that she stands in for us and I guess that means we’re first but…in almost every interview I’ve heard with him it feels like he’s shoving her down our throats. Of course I was devastated over certain things that happen but I feel as though I could get over that if it weren’t for his responses in interviews. I just don’t like his attitude I guess and that resentment gets pushed onto that specific character.

    Maybe things will change in my mind with time. I guess we’ll see.

  5. I’ll be first to say it here then. I hate Gwen. Kristen caught on to part of my reason because of how Jack puts her first. It was also how the show seemed to put her first as well. I don’t understand Jack/Gwen shippers the same way I don’t understand Rose/Ten shippers. I feel like those couples were forced feed to fans even though there was hardly any chemistry or much sense to it. Jack had more chemistry with John and Ianto than Gwen.
    The show put Gwen first and as an afterthought put Tosh second and it was something that it felt like they recognized but just kept doing. Tosh was infinitely more interesting than Gwen. And yet, it was all about Gwen, the least interesting character on the show. I hated Owen for a while too but at least he was fun and bit complex. Layered.
    Gwen was annoying and not just a little whiny and she came with Rhys who I tried to like but kept hoping he would get killed. No, I’m serious. I crossed my fingers and hoped to what Gods may be that either Rhys or Gwen would bite it. Or both. I would have silently accepted Rhys’ death.
    I’ll admit there were small moments in which I didn’t hate Gwen but those moments were small and I don’t remember them. I was just trying to be fair and balanced really.
    This is long.

  6. Nicely said. I have thoughts, but they’re more of the, “I’m working on things and I need to hold some of it back,” variety.
    My biggest non-stealth idea on why people hate Gwen is, (and I think it’s one most won’t admit,) they hate her because Jack always puts her first. Especially, *coughshipperscough* over Ianto. Gwen Cooper Torchwoods Better Than You, and Jack hurts Ianto for her.
    Human, maybe, but not cool.

  7. I love Gwen, from the 1st moment.

  8. Elster Elster

    I always liked Gwen. I adore Torchwood for its flawed characters. They all fuck up at one point and do stupid and selfish things and I think it’s great because this is how people work.
    To me Gwen is a person who often rushes into things without a lot of thought (especially in the first season) and this way is bound to make some mistakes, but I like her courage and idealism. I like how she always does things 100% and never gives up even if it would be better for her. She is not a person who’s terribly hung up on her mistakes or given to self reflection, but that doesn’t mean she doesn’t see when she’s done something wrong. She grows a lot during the show.
    I don’t understand why so many fans judge her. That she drugged Rhys was really low, but I don’t think it is an impulse that can’t be understood or forgiven. She had a really hard time coming to terms with Torchwood and Retcon is a very tempting thing.
    So, I don’t know, I think Torchwood beneath all the lovely sex and violence is a show that is meant to provoke a tiny bit of ethical and moral discussion and thus provokes a lot of outrage in those who think they have the moral high ground ;) RTD probably likes this.

  9. The thing that pushed me over the edge about Gwen was when she used the reset drug on Rhys poured her heart out to him, not for the purpose of sharing or getting it off her chest, but to beg him to tell her it was okay and he forgave her, despite having drugged him senseless. She would have done ANYTHING to get him to say the words, even under those incredibly false pretenses, just to assuage her guilt.

    You say doing that kind of stuff makes her human and I suppose it does, but it makes her a despicable human. I’ll say it again, she doesn’t deserve Rhys and Rhys doesn’t deserve to be treated the way Gwen treats him.

  10. I also liked Gwen Cooper. She was curious and interesting. Basically, she was someone I found worth watching. People don’t always have to be right or responsible to be engaging. She wasn’t malicious and at the end of the day she wanting to help.

  11. More than any other Who series since the first, Gwen is our eyes and ears. She’s Torchwood’s Ian Chesterson and Barbara Wright, learning about the world they’ve walked into at the same speed we are.

    Gwen’s choices are those of a person new to the world of Torchwood, so as time passes and she starts making the choices that Jack or Owen would have made straight away, it’s all the more jarring. By the last series, she was functionally in charge of a whole new team.

    The episode where we learned about what the rest of the team were like when they first came on board was interesting, but came off as inorganic in some cases. These were certainly not stories that had been thought up ahead of time, and as such did not color the way the characters were played. Owen’s was the most jarring and felt the most fake. Owen was never played as someone that had ever had anyone in his life. It came off as a sort of a “so there” to the audience.

  12. I’ve never hated Gwen. I did the whole Who/Torchwood thing backwards. I watched all of Torchwood(except COE)before going back and watching Dr. Who so I sort of came into it all, a bit skewed.

    Gwen annoys me yeah, but I’ve never disliked her. I like that she hates to let things go. Like in the case of Jonah. You feel bad for him, and his mum, and you realize that Gwen just wanted to make things right.

    Also on a sidenote, yes anyone with a pulse has a thing for Jack. This includes me. Capt. Jack FTW

  13. I think the question of Gwen’s “humanity” comes up in the context of the show’s very uneven first couple of seasons. For a Top-Secret Band Of Paranormal Investigators, the team was pretty much a bunch of horny f*ck-ups on any given week, and I know that sometimes that got in the way of enjoying the show for me. (Personally, I had more of an issue with Owen – his “humanity” took on the form of being a slimy git.)

    That said, the Gwen of Children of Earth was a revelation: a full-on action heroine who was able to balance being a partner in a loving relationship. It’s really the culmination of her maturation process (and credit, too, should go to RTD for writing Rhys to grow with her.) In fact, before we got the news of the show moving to Starz, I was perfectly ready to move on with it becoming the Super Gwen Cooper Action Funtime Kick-Ass Hour.

  14. I really like this, because I’ve never hated Gwen… or Owen, for that matter, and they seem to get so much ire from Torchwood fans. Like you, I can understand why people do hate them, but, like you say, they’re human, and their flaws make them much more real. This also makes them frustrating sometimes, but that’s only natural.

    Also — and this might be a cop-out, I don’t know — I don’t think I could truly hate a character in a show I love to watch. I think there are being I don’t like as much, who annoy me more than others, but I think, for me, it would take too much away from my enjoyment of the rest of the show.

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