Thursday, 20 April 2017

Dear BBC, It's Not Me, It's Who.

TV has annoyed me twice in the last 24 hours.  

Last night, having binge-watched the whole nine seasons of How I Met Your Mother in just 7 months, I sat down to watch the finale.  That finale, much like the finale of Friends, gave me feelings (such strong feelings).  Except, the finale of Friends made me feel warm, fuzzy, sad and ultimately satisfied, whereas the finale of How I Met Your Mother made me feel cheated, upset, angry and so unsatisfied, that despite the fact that I watched it years after it first aired and the moment has very much passed, I am certain that before this week is over, I will have written a furious blog about it.

So, I wasn't in the jolliest of moods, this morning, when I clicked on a link someone had shared on Facebook.  That link led to an article, explaining that a father had sent an official complaint to the BBC, insisting that there should not be a woman cast as the titular character in Doctor Who, because it would "confuse" his children.  His complaint was met with a response from the BBC, calming his fears (oops, sorry, his children's fears), by insisting that they had no intention of casting a female Doctor.

Okay, let's start with the obvious bit: this guy was not worried that a female Doctor would confuse his children.  How can I be so sure?  Well, firstly, there's the fact that if your kids are already on board with an alien who can change his entire body and persona in order to cheat death, whilst travelling through time and space in a wooden box that's bigger on the inside, fighting a variety of baddies, some of whom look distinctly like pepper pots with sink plungers stuck to their heads, I'm pretty sure that the Doctor suddenly gaining boobs isn't going to boggle their brains, too much.

But that's not the only way to tell that it's not the children who don't want a female Doctor.  The response the BBC made to the guy's official complaint, features the words:

"We appreciate that you're a big Doctor Who fan and you have concerns that the programme would change should there be a female Doctor. Be assured there are currently no plans to have a female Doctor Who." 

We appreciate that YOU are a big Doctor Who fan and YOU have concerns that the programme would CHANGE should there be a female Doctor.  Because goodness knows, if the Doctor was a woman, she'd probably be late for saving the world, because she couldn't get her hair just right, and she'd struggle to parallel park the TARDIS due to the fact that it's her period and there's no chocolate to calm herself down with, or something.  Tsk, women.

Let's be real here, guys.  This dude's kids probably couldn't care less whether the Doctor is a man, a woman, or a bear in a hat.  They just want the show to be good.  They want explosions, aliens, time travel and excitement.  They want a hero they can believe in and stories that have them hooked.

Newsflash:  That's what any Whovian wants.

The ironic thing about this idiot blaming his children for his own fervent need to have a MANLY MAN in the TARDIS, is that on the whole, kids don't care that much.  I've worked with children my entire adult life, and for several months, I was a TA to a class of 8-9 year olds.  Those kids noticed that I had Doctor Who badges on my coat.  Chatting about the show became a regular occurrence.  Many of those children would mess about in the playground, pretending to be the Doctor, his friends and his foes.  One day, when we were talking about what we wanted to be when we were older, I said "ooh, I'd like to be the Doctor."  

One boy replied: "You can't; he's a man."  

I responded: "Ah, but he regenerates, doesn't he?  He turns into a completely new person when he does that.  So, maybe one day, he could regenerate into me!"

And every single one of those kids nodded in agreement.  Because children aren't born with prejudice.  They learn it.

They learn it when their fathers are so disgusted by the mere idea of high heels in the TARDIS, that they send an official complaint to the BBC, demanding that it never happens.

But really, why should it never happen?!

We can discount the "because it would confuse the children" argument, because we've established that that's a load of tosh.  If anything, given the enormous number of young, female fans I've met over the years, the children would relish a female Doctor.  For the girls, it would be a way of showing them that they can take the lead, rather than playing the companion.  For the boys, it would show them that women can be brave, strong heroes, too.  All of which are important life lessons.

Another common argument is that "he's always been a man," so it would be weird to change it.  Seriously?  He might have always been male, but he's changed drastically in terms of height, age, eye colour and hairstyle.  His temperament has changed between each incarnation, too.  So, given that the Doctor changes pretty drastically every few years, what's the problem with his genitals changing, too?!  A female Doctor would be different, yes, but at its heart, the character of the Doctor is always the same: a slightly lost soul, an adventurous traveller, someone who wants to help people and fight monsters.  None of those attributes has to be inherently male.

Fans also like to wheel out the classic-era argument that Timelords can regenerate their bodies, but they can't change their gender.  This, as proved by Missy, is simply not true in the nu-Whoniverse.  Unless we're about to get a big twist this season, we've already seen a Timelord (The Master) regenerate from male to female (Missy).  If it can be done with another Timelord, why not the Doctor?

But by far and away the biggest argument I see from fans who are infuriated by the idea of a woman taking over the TARDIS, is that it would somehow be "political correctness gone mad."

Yes, some people feel the need to rush to the most thoughtless, stupid response possible.  Today, when I voiced my opinion that it's wrong to entirely rule out the idea of ever having a female Doctor, a man quickly responded: "aaaw, poor little snowflake."  Because, I can't possibly have a reasoned argument for my views.  I simply must be one of the PC brigade, trying to ruin his fun with my irritating belief in equality and my habit of taking offence with anything that differs from my over-sensitive views.

Here's the thing, guys:  I'm not a "snowflake."  I actually detest the use of the word snowflake in situations like this, because essentially, it's a way for some knuckle-dragger (of either sex) to bark about toughening up, whilst often shutting down a valid argument.  You see the same response when someone suggests that a piece of media might need a trigger warning:  "Oh, here come the snowflakes..."  Actually, no.  Here comes someone who might have a lived experience that gives them a different perspective on something to the one you have, and who might, therefore, understand that certain things can cause negative flashbacks to people dealing with past trauma and feels that it's right to give those people a heads up as to what's coming.

But I digress...

It's not about being politically correct.  It's not about saying "the Doctor has to be a woman, in order to even things out."  I'm not going to sit here and laughably suggest a female James Bond.  That character is male and he's also human.  He can't regenerate, so the only way he could become a woman would be through transitioning.  And, given what we know of the character, that is massively unlikely.

So, no, it's not a case of "political correctness gone mad."  It's not true that I (or any reasonable fan) is sitting here, thinking: "I don't care who plays the next Doctor, as long as it's a woman."

Whoever gets the keys to the TARDIS, my biggest concern - and that of any real fan of the show - is that it's the right person.  The show is carried by the actor playing the Doctor and that's a heck of a lot of responsibility.  Whoever takes over has to have the right persona for the job.  They have to keep the Doctor seeming real, despite the crazy adventures that might take place.  They have to be someone that younger viewers can look up to, because the Doctor is, for many kids watching, a hero figure.

The only thing people like me are asking, is that a woman could be considered for the role.  Not because we've gone PC mad.  Just because there's no real, solid reason why a woman can't be considered.  It's established canon now, that the Timelords can switch gender during regenerations, so there's nothing stopping the BBC from hiring a woman, should they choose to.  Frankly, if we want the best person for the job, we shouldn't rule out half the population, just because a woman hasn't undertaken this particular job, before.  

Nor should we worry that giving a woman a role that was always previously a male one, undoes feminism in some weird way, as one girl suggested to me, earlier.  She claimed that if there was a female Doctor, it would just be a case of women having to piggyback men to get the top job, once plenty of guys have done it, first.  She said there needed to be more strong, female roles in the show besides the Doctor, to prove that women don't need the top job.

I kind of saw her point (if I squinted), but it doesn't entirely make sense.  You don't say "hey, this bank has always been managed by a guy, so we can't give the top job to a woman, or she'll feel like she's only gotten success off the back of all the guys who did it, first."

Besides, the Doctor isn't the only strong male character in the show, so why are we going down the weird road of suggesting that if the Doctor was a woman, there would somehow not be as many strong female characters on the show?!  You can have a woman in the top job and still have other strong female roles in there, too.

Of course, the real reason that the BBC have cowardly sucked up to the "worried fathers" of the world, is fear.

Should a large chunk of viewers dig in their heels and point blank refuse to so much as give a female Doctor a chance, their ratings will decline.  Never mind the fact that a female Doctor could actually bring in a whole new raft of fans in time and never mind the probably high number of people who will tune in out of curiosity (and potentially become regular viewers); the BBC will always cower behind what they know works.  So, the Doctor will remain a man.  

He'll remain a man, despite the fact that Timelords can change gender during regenerations.  Despite the fact that with good writing and the right person in the title role, a female Doctor could be a breath of fresh air for the show.  Despite the fact that literally nothing about the character, beyond genitalia, needs to change.  Despite the fact that a female Doctor needn't change the premise of the show at all.

The Doctor simply has to stay a man.

For the sake of the "children."


  1. Oh yes, please DO write that blog about the ending of HIMYM! It was so awful, I hated it.... and I really want to read what you have to say about it!

    Totally with you on the female Dr. Who - why the heck not?

  2. Haha, I'm literally just about to start writing my rage-induced HIMYM blog! ;-)

  3. yay, I can't wait! I first stumbled over your blog after reading shades of gray and thinking: is anyone else out there as appalled by it as I am? I'm sure you'll do HIMYM justice, too...


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