Sunday, 16 July 2017

The Doctor IS A Woman - And About Time, Too!

It's July 16th 2017.  It's raining.  Roger Federer has just won Wimbledon for the 8th time.  

Oh, and something else happened.  Let me have a think, what was it...?

Ah, that's right.  THIS HAPPENED:

Yep, the latest keeper of the TARDIS key was finally announced and, after more than 50 years, Doctor Who is getting a female Doctor at last.

Guys, I've always strived to be honest with you in these blogs, so I'm going to tell you the truth: when Jodie Whittaker pulled down her hood and we first saw her mascara-coated eyelashes, I screamed.  Screamed.  And when the hood came down fully and she stood there, looking like a freaking bad ass, I cried.

I cried for every little girl who watches the show and has never believed she could be the lead character, because they've been told that "the Doctor should be a man."

I cried for every time I've felt that nauseating, stabbing feeling inside my chest, because I've read some small-brained misogynist assuring the world that "the BBC will never cast a woman, because they know it'll ruin the show."

I cried because that time is over.  The Doctor IS a woman. 

We should have seen it coming (and in fact, many did), because the hints have been dropped throughout the most recent season.  The Doctor's conversation with Bill, on the gender fluidity of Timelords during regeneration was one of the biggest clues that, having already seen the Master regenerate into Missy, the Doctor could be about to undergo a more radical change than previously seen...

Of course, there was another, less triumphant reason for my tears.  

If there's one thing we know by now, it's that there is nothing a certain section of the Internet likes less than what they perceive as "political correctness gone mad."  And sure enough, within moments of the announcement, people were popping up on Twitter, insisting that that's exactly what Jodie Whittaker's casting is.

"F**k your political correctness," one idiot yelled into the abyss.  "Doctor Who will totally fail, now."

Aaaaaand you know that how, exactly?  Based on the fact that the Doctor has a vagina, now?!  Because if that's your "logical" argument, then you may as well have just posted:

I expected it.  I think many of us did.  There has long been a loud chorus of dissent whenever the mere idea of a female Doctor has been put forward.  Apparently, she'd "leave bras all over the TARDIS" and "time travel is for men and men only."

I wish I was making those ridiculous comments up...

Look, the show has established that a Timelord can transition from male to female during regeneration, via The Master/Missy.  We've also seen another Timelord go from being a white dude, to a black woman, in recent history.  The seed of male to female regeneration was not just planted, in the last few years, it took root and it flourished into established canon.  The choice to cast a woman as the Doctor was always just a matter of time (pun intended, because I flipping love a pun).

So, if we remove the idea that it's impossible for the Doctor to become a woman, what other argument could possibly exist against the change, beyond personal preference and/or misogyny?!

I get that some people just can't imagine a female Doctor.  That's fine; it's never happened up until now, so it's bound to be a little strange.  I mean, for the first years of the show, I doubt anyone could imagine The Doctor being played by someone other than William Hartnell.  

Until that happened.

Yet, despite the changes in lead over the years, every actor who takes on the role has made it their own, yet retained the same core for the character.  Why do you think Jodie Whittaker will be different, just because she's female?  

The character remains quintessentially the same, regardless of who's playing it.  You're talking about an ancient alien from a faraway planet, who chases baddies and saves the Earth, whilst making the odd comical quip or grandiose speech.  You're talking about someone who is able to travel forwards and backwards in time and across the universe in a box that's bigger on the inside.  How is any of that going to change, just because the Doctor now has a vagina?

I know, I know.  I said VAGINA.  Try not to cry.

The Doctor will still save the world, countless times.  She'll possibly even run in heels, which is frankly almost as impressive as cheating death by regenerating into an entirely different body in the first place.

The Doctor is The Doctor.  No matter what she looks like, or what she has underneath her clothes.  She's still going the have the same core values and the same self-imposed "mission."  The baddies are still going to try to outsmart her and she's still going to kick their backsides.  There's not a single, convincing argument that I've seen, for the Doctor being a solely male character...

"A woman Doctor would be too emotional."

Um, because Tennant never wept about not wanting to go, or anything and The Doctor has never shown emotion ever...  *insert eye roll*

"The Doctor is a stereotypically MALE role."

Yeah... No.  The Doctor has, especially in recent years, been a man in touch with his emotions, with a strong sensitive side and a firm respect for women.  Seeing as people like to compare The Doctor to James Bond when making their "a woman can NEVER play this role" arguments, let's do just that: James Bond is a stereotypically "macho" character, who likes blowing things up and attempting to have sex with anything remotely female.  THAT - rightly or wrongly - is a stereotypically male character.  The Doctor is anything but; in many ways, he's the polar opposite.

"Only a man can travel in time."

Sure.  Because Rose, Amy, Clara, Martha, Bill, River Song and every other woman who's ever stepped foot in the TARDIS and travelled in time has been a figment of my crazy, feminist imagination.

"Boys need role models, so it isn't fair to take this one away from them."

Here's an amazing fact, for you: Boys are just as allowed to have female idols to look up to, as girls are to have male idols.  In fact, it's healthy to have female role models for boys, just as it's healthy for girls to look up to male role models.  Besides which, Doctor Who isn't about to become a show with zero male roles.  Who's to say Jodie Whittaker won't have a kick-ass male companion?  The show has given us brave and loyal guys like Rory, who are perfectly good role models for any boy who apparently can't look up to a woman.  And what of girls, who also want role models?  How about, just for once, giving them a chance to know that they can take the lead and they can save the world?  

And you know what?  If you're so hell bent on needing a male role model to show boys that same thing, there are literally hundreds, if not thousands of TV shows, comic books and films doing exactly that.  Pick one and leave Doctor Who to those of us that can appreciate it.

"The ratings will plummet with a female Doctor."

Show me the evidence.  Did Star Wars bomb, once a female Jedi was introduced?  Does nobody become emotionally invested in female characters on Doctor Who?  Because the sheer level of continued adoration from many for Billie Piper's Rose Tyler begs to differ.  Besides, a new lead actor always leads to this argument, regardless of what's between their legs.  Many people thought nobody would watch the show if there wasn't a sexy young guy in the title role and yet there are fans devastated now, at the thought of losing Peter Capaldi.  Sure, ratings go up and down over the years - that's par for the course with such a long-running show.  But I've seen plenty of people getting excited about this casting, saying they'll tune in for Jodie's first episode just to see what a female Doctor is like.  With good writing and great acting, there's literally no reason why people should switch off in droves.  And if they do, there'll more than likely be a whole new generation of fans to take their place.

And, of course, the most commonly heard argument, today...

"You're just pandering to liberal lefties.  It's political correctness gone mad!"

*Sniff*  Aaaah, bullsh*t.

Let's have a look at the previous twelve actors who've played The Doctor over the years (thirteen, if you count John Hurt's War Doctor):  ALL WHITE MEN.  Wow, fifty plus years of pandering to... Who, exactly?  Right wing misogynists?  People who hate change?!

Very few people make the argument that to keep having a white man in the title role is "pandering" to anyone, yet we're supposed to just accept it in the case of a female Doctor.  Why?

Firstly, let's talk representation.  Women watch Doctor Who.  Young girls watch Doctor Who.  And for over fifty years, the message they've gotten from the show is that women are companions.  Sidekicks or potential romantic interests.  Sure, they can help save the day and they can be strong and powerful.  But they're never going to take the lead.

When I watched Jodie Whittaker pull down her hood and reveal herself as the thirteenth Doctor, I cried.  I know others who did the same.  I know of people whose young daughters wept.  Representation matters.  It matters to see someone who looks like you up on screen, being the hero.  That's why people were also campaigning for a black or Asian Doctor.  Because representation is important.  The world is full of people of all ethnicities and sexualities and we all deserve to have a hero who represents us.  If you think that's me being a liberal leftie, so be it.  I call it being a decent human who respects everyone equally.

Secondly, you're assuming that Jodie was chosen purely because she's a woman.  And I call bull on that one, too.  She's barely had time to speak about her new role, but in the brief soundbites she's given, she's talked about being asked to audition.  So, we can assume she went through the same audition process as any other actor would for the role.  To suggest that the BBC would take one of its most popular TV shows and hire a female actor for the title role just to appease "liberal lefties" is at best total ignorance of how television production and promotion works and at worst, total ignorance full stop.

Are you actually expecting me to believe that a massive corporation would take a show that has been beloved to a notoriously obsessive fandom for over half a century and just go "aah, shove a woman in the title role; it'll shut the lefties up for a bit"?!  No.  Money is spent on Doctor Who.  Money is earned through Doctor Who.  Ratings matter.  Opinions matter.  

Change will not happen purely for the sake of change.  Sure, someone - or even several people - may have thought: "it's about time we had a woman in the lead role; that'll shake things up a bit," but those kinds of decisions are weighted with other factors.  Those in charge know one crucial thing: the real fans of the show will not be happy with bad writing, bad acting or bad direction, regardless of who's playing The Doctor.  Chris Chibnall wouldn't have merely been handed the job of showrunner "just for a change."  He'll have been selected because after a search, he was deemed the best person for the job.  Likewise, Jodie Whittaker will have been chosen as the thirteenth Doctor because, after auditions and talks with the production team, she was deemed to be the best person for the job.

And if the production team and the crew and the BBC have all gotten behind the idea of a female Doctor - and they're the ones having to actually put the work in to make the show a success, regardless of who's at the helm - why can't you?!

Literally all we've seen of Jodie Whittaker's Doctor so far, is her standing in a long coat, with her hood up, dramatically pulling that hood down and shaking her hair as she strolls towards the TARDIS.

And you've got "WORST DOCTOR EVER!!!!ONE!!!" from that?!  

That's impossible.  We know nothing about how she'll play the part.  Whether her version of the Doctor will be brooding and tortured, like Eccleston's, or quick-tempered and slightly manic, like Smith's.  Heck, we don't even know how she'll dress, yet (Jodie has stated that the costume used in the trailer is not what her Doctor will be wearing in the show).  So, what exactly are you basing your judgement of her performance on?

Her gender.

And that sucks. 

The Doctor is a woman, now, whether you like it or not.  And if you choose to switch off and refuse ever to so much as glance at the show again, that's your decision to make.  But whilst you're bashing your keyboard with impotent fury, making up easily debunked arguments as to why this should never have happened, I'll be wishing Jodie Whittaker all the luck in the world and waiting excitedly to see what's going to happen next.

Because I don't just abandon a show I claim to love, based on the gender of the lead character.

Good on you, Jodie.  I'm rooting for you.  You're gonna smash it.


  1. Right. On.

    100% agree with everything you've just said. I used to be uncomfortable with the idea of a woman Doctor, but I think a large part of that discomfort came from Moffat as showrunner (I personally don't feel he would do a good job at all attempting to write a female Doctor). I've been a bit eh on DW for the last few seasons, and Jodie's casting along with a new showrunner has me very excited to watch the show again! I can't wait to see how she does and what kind of Doctor she plays!

    1. Yeah, I must admit, I'm more comfortable with a female Doctor under Chris Chibnall, not because I haven't always wanted one, but because I think he'll do a better job. I'm so excited to see Jodie in the role!!

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