I never expected to see a woman play the official “Doctor Who,” but here we are, with Jodie Whittaker cast as the 13th Doctor. Are the fans ready? Not entirely. This weekend at Anglicon 2017 I had one telling experience, with one high-profile guest doubling down on previous comments opposing the casting. He had already been publicly criticized for those comments and had taken those comments as “getting in trouble” unjustly. This tells me that either nobody sat down with him and had a thoughtful conversation on the topic, or that somebody tried and he didn’t listen. Either way, the communication failure is frustrating!
I was most frustrated at having to listen to these comments without the ability to talk back, but well, since I am a writer . . . . I’ll just pull out my trusty soapbox. (It’s bigger on the inside than out, by the way.)
What follows is my recollection of the comments, to the best of my ability, though memory is fallible, and my response.
1. It’s unfortunate to see politics in Doctor Who
Some of the best episodes of the show have been political satire, like “Aliens of London,” where the top figures of government are replaced by windbags, or “The Long Game,” where human civilization is controlled by aliens, through the media. So what do you mean by “politics”?
2. Casting a woman as the Doctor is “political correctness”
It’s the opposite. The simple truth is that for a long time casting a female Doctor was considered “politically incorrect” and even now, it’s a risky move. She will face criticism like you would not believe, from women and men both.
3. All future Doctors will be women
The logic of your comment seemed to be: Since we’ve had fifty years of male Doctors, to balance the ledgers we’ll have fifty years of women. Don’t worry! Misogyny is alive and well in Western culture, and men and women alike both judge powerful women harshly. How many fans liked Captain Janeway? How did Hilary Clinton lose the election? But even in the absence of misogyny, why bar men from the role. That makes as little sense as — well — barring women.
For the record: I vote for Idris Elba as the fourteenth Doctor.
4. Losing a role model for boys
Okay, some people in the audience were offended by that, but I used my magical ability to create “head canon” (fandom’s phrase for “the show as we wish it was”) to convert it to “losing the Doctor as a male role model for boys,” and I’m actually sympathetic to that. There is a gender-utopia view that kids can be anything, do anything . . . and yet, many if not most still look to same-gender adults when shaping their identities and planning their future careers.
And yes, the Doctor is unique as a male role model. He hates guns and uses intellect to solve problems instead. He has boundless compassion and is not afraid to cry. The truth is, we have precious few heroes like that.
See #3. There will be plenty more male Doctors, I’m sure. A generation of boys will not lose that.
Boys can take women as role models.
By the way, I’m the reason my son is a Doctor Who fan.
Since a gender-specific Doctor is so amazing for our sons . . . why would you want to deny that opportunity to our daughters?
I grew up a Star Trek fan and gladly imagined myself in the role of Captain Kirk, and later the Doctor. That worked for me. It doesn’t work for my daughter.
We’ve got a new generation coming to Doctor Who, and, in the words of Captain Jack Harkness, “The twenty-first century is when everything changes. And you’ve got to be ready.”