RIGHT THEN. When I wrote the rest of this post, the new series of Doctor Who- starring the one and only Jodie Whittaker- hadn’t yet aired. Now it has. And oh my, she really is one and only. She’s AWESOME. I love that we’ve got a female Doctor, and the female Doctor we’ve got, I love her too. And the first episode! When she said “I’m the Doctor”, I felt like I was actually going to cry. This is what we fight for. Moments like that.
Proud to say she’s *my* Doctor…
*Please understand that I wrote this ages ago and that it’s probably super-outdated by the time you read/scorn it in whatever dimension you exist in*
I know Doctor Who isn’t technically a film, but then again, films are only one half of my blog, right? The other half is feminism, and I love to write about feminism. On the day I wrote my review of Pride, it was announced that the next reincarnation of the nation’s favourite Time Lord was going to be played by Jodie Whittaker, in other words- gasp!- a woman. I, for one, was overjoyed: hey, I love Doctor Who, and I’m sure (most) of the male doctors have been just great. But after 54 years, I think it’s fair to say that it’s about time the BBC recognised that there is more than one gender in the world.
So, great! I was thrilled. Unfortunately, not everyone was. Practically the minute the Doctor’s shiny new gender was announced, the Daily Mail and, no doubt, other papers were frantically surfing the net for ‘revealing’ pictures of Whittaker (in case that word means nothing to you, it’s media-slang for ‘naked’. Because of, you know, that time when The Sun obsessively published nude photos of Peter Capaldi and David Tennant.) Jodie Whittaker’s acting isn’t important; her body is. The root of the problem here is- obviously- the media’s stance on the female body in general: ie, they own it.
Or rather, her acting is important: far more important than the acting of any male Doctor there has ever been. Because of evidence that, say, David Tennant could act prior to his being cast, nobody questioned his worth as a potential Doctor. However, despite the fact that we have similar evidence that Jodie Whittaker can act, loads of people think that “I’ll wait and see how good she is” is an acceptable answer to the question “Should we have a female Doctor?”. Um, did you say that when you found out the identity of any of the previous Doctors? If so, you are a cynic. If not, then you are sexist.
It wasn’t just the media that reacted badly to the announcement. The general populace did too (damn you, social media), with those kind of bittersweet statements that are in equal measure amusing and deeply, deeply depressing. The most popular of these was “Nobody wants a TARDIS full of bras”, which, despite being inherently misogynistic, poses some interesting questions: why would a woman being the doctor suddenly fill the TARDIS with bras? And anyway, the Doctor’s companion has always been female, and please don’t try to tell me none of them have ever worn a bra.
Now to the sticky problem of role models: it has been claimed that the Doctor should stay male because if the Doctor was female then nerdy boys and young men wouldn’t have a role model any more. Oh, poor boys and young men, so devoid of role models in this man-starved society! And as for ‘nerdy’ boys, I will say only this: IF THEY WANT A MALE ROLE MODEL, THEY CAN GO AND WATCH SHERLOCK. Otherwise, they can stick with the Doctor, because at the end of the day we’re all humans (apart from the Doctor) and there’s no reason men can’t have a female role model. Then again, though, saying men can have a female role model does inevitably lead to the question “If that’s true, then why can’t girls have a male role model?” They can, of course, but I think the (predominantly male) people who say this don’t fully understand what it’s like to grow up in a culture where you feel unrepresented in the media you consume. It’s sad to identify as a strong, independent girl/woman, but to feel like the only girls/women you see in books, films and TV are a bit, well, rubbish. Not that they all are; that’s what Hermione Granger was made for, people. But empowering female characters tend to be more of an exception to the rule than a part of it.
So why is it such a big deal that the Doctor is finally, after over half a damn decade, going to be played by a woman*? After all, considering that the Doctor has arguably been portrayed as bi for over a decade and genderfluid right from the start**, why is it such a big deal that now the Doctor will be female? Women are everywhere! Scary, I know, but go outside and you will see them in the street! You may even have one inhabiting your house! There is absolutely no reason for the Doctor not to be female, and the reason why it seems weird to some is that it is an aberration from the norm. What? A woman who actually KNOWS stuff and DOES stuff? No, it’s too scary for me! There’s also absolutely no reason for anyone to publish nude photos of Jodie Whittaker (awesome describes-herself-as-a-feminist Jodie Whittaker, who told fans not to be scared of her gender, but let’s be honest, it’s more women in general they were scared of.)
*Who knows, maybe in another fifty years the Doctor may also be other than young, white and beautiful. This is a revolutionary world we live in, after all.
**Actually, I realised after I wrote this that it isn’t actually true: the Doctor has been male from the start, and only genderfluid, like, right now. I guess the point I’m trying to make is that when, as far back as 2005 (shocking!), a guy kissed the Doctor and pretty much NO-ONE GAVE A SINGLE DAMN***. So why is this such a big deal? Clue: it’s not.
***Or how, slightly later, no-one cared that Jenny and Vastra were married, but when Vastra saved Jenny’s life by sharing oxygen with her (ie ‘a kiss’- something I think you’ll find a lot of married couples do, although of course it wasn’t a kiss, because she was just SAVING HER WIFE’S LIFE), the entire world went mental. Weird what people get worked up about, isn’t it?