Aliens Can’t Be Female, Apparently

I have never watched Doctor Who, perhaps aside from one or two Comic Relief specials starring David Tennant. Ever since I was little, I’ve always been veered more towards the Fantasy side of the Sci-Fi/Fantasy genre – probably because my dad’s love of history, castles and British monarchies in particular, mean that the medieval reflections in Fantasy have always resonated more than the hi-tech space worlds of Star Wars, Doctor Who and so on. I digress.

When speculation about who was going to play the 13th (and final?) doctor started to circulate, my ears pricked. For anyone who isn’t a Doctor Who fan, or British, it was revealed after the Wimbledon Men’s Singles Final on Sunday.

The character will be played by Jodie Whittaker. Yes, I know, an actual female.

I could drown this post in sarcasm until it was dripping off the screen and onto my keyboard, but I think Twitter has pretty much covered that for me. I recommend a quick scroll through the hashtags #DoctorWho and #Doctor13:

Just a quick search will bring up an abundance of amazing responses to the news; some people were applauding the BBC for contributing to the new push for more female representation in the entertainment industry. I’ll link this BBC opinion piece about the glass ceiling, but it is clear that Jodie Whittaker as the Doctor and Gal Gadote as Wonder Woman are finally giving their daughters the on-screen role models that they never had. This video says it all:

There are also reactions from idiots who are saying it has ruined the show for them. Leah Broad posted a short but interesting piece on the Huffington Post about the varied responses and gender representation in children’s entertainment. It’s something I have strong feelings about but find hard to articulate concisely.

It’s not just on Twitter, though – traditional journalism has exemplified how backwards it can be with ludicrous headlines such as “is the BBC too PC” (The Daily Express), “why are males TV heroes being zapped? (The Daily Mail), and the witty “Regenderation: DoctHER Who” (The Sun). I won’t link, they’re not worth your clicking time.

So why do I care about who plays Doctor Who? I don’t follow the show at all and probably never will. Who is cast as the main character should be irrelevant to me.

Yet, when I found out on Sunday afternoon, sat in the car with my dad, I couldn’t help smiling. As someone who is interested in the creative industries, whether that be books, film, TV, music or art, as well as a feminist, this is a great achievement for diversity and representation. Those two words may make you roll your eyes – “PC gone mad” – but I don’t think this is diversity for the sake of pandering to a few liberals. For decades, the major female role in Doctor Who is his sidekick, maybe a love interest. Always the supporting act for the main character. To me, it’s important to show young girls that they can be in charge, and that the lead role isn’t reserved for boys only.

Regarding the complaints that this will “ruin” the series or isn’t plausible, they are quite frankly ridiculous. Jodie herself released a statement saying that people shouldn’t be “scared of her gender”. I want to laugh, expect for the fact that it seems that there are individuals who are genuinely terrified of what could happen if a woman is on their TV in a main role. God forbid!

You have to laugh at some of the reactions. First of all, the Doctor is a time-travelling alien, so I don’t see how the character can’t be a woman, but can travel across time and space in a police box with a screwdriver for a weapon. In fact, this tweet says it all:

And secondly, would it matter if the writers bent or broke a few rules? It’s a piece of fiction, which already allows for artistic license and a realm of possibilities. Art is often about interpretation; remodelling, reworking and adding a different perspective to something that already exists. Why not just see what happens if we change the gender of a character?

I’m waving the Jodie Whittaker flag over here, not just for feminism, diversity or creativity, but for her. She did an amazing job in Broadchurch and I think this is a fantastic opportunity in her acting career. It’ll be exciting to see what she does next, because at the end of the day, she is a woman who is just doing her job – she shouldn’t have the weight of all future female roles (and whether they will exist) on her shoulders. Carrying on the Doctor Who legacy is a big enough pressure without the added responsibility of representing all women.

What is your opinion on the new Doctor Who? And how do you feel about the mix of responses to the casting?

Best wishes,

Siobhán

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