Dr. Who is a Woman Now, and That’s Great
19 July 2017 Film and Television
By: Cameron Hoover
Let me preface this article by admitting that I’ve never seen an episode of Dr. Who in my life. It’s just one of those shows that I didn’t see as a fruitful use of my time. The plot seemed so convoluted that it almost seemed counterproductive for me to get myself involved in the show of Tardises (Tardii?), companions and interdimensional time travel, not to mention that it’s been running for about three of my lifetimes.
Dr. Who has been produced by the BBC since 1963. To put that into perspective, Martin Luther King, Jr. gave his famous “I Have a Dream” speech in 1963. The Super Bowl wasn’t even invented in 1963. A gallon of gas costed 30 cents. And, perhaps most egregiously of all, Beverly Hillbillies was the #1 show on television. Dr. Who literally predates the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which made discrimination based on race, religion, sex or national origin illegal in the United States. Dr. Who has been slicing through the space-time continuum like month-old butter since before our country decided it was going to pretend to stop being racist.
Up until this point, the only controversy that weighed Dr. Who down was a matter of timeline synchronicity and continuity errors, but those are bound to come when you have produced 839 (!) episodes over 54 (!!) years including 13 (!!!) different iterations of its main character, the Doctor. In 2010, fans were outraged over a banner advertisement for another TV show appearing on-screen during a tense Whovian moment. There was a lesbian kiss during an episode in 2014, stirring up controversy amongst some of the show’s more conservative viewers.
But no one, and I mean no one, could have prepared Whovians for the fate that had been bestowed upon them by the executive minds behind their beloved television show.
The thirteenth iteration of the Doctor is going to be a woman named Jodie Whittaker, perhaps best known for her work in Broadchurch and Black Mirror. Pigs are flying. Hell hath frozen over. As one might expect, the angry commenters crawled out from under their bridges and rode their broomsticks all the way to the comments sections of articles covering the news. And, yes, I know I just combined stereotypes about trolls and witches, but if you saw these people, you’d understand. Here were some of my favorites:
From our good friend over at butiamtoo: “and with that they’ve ruined the show, disgraceful. dog-whistling to feminists,” because just the mere presence of a woman has destroyed a television show before she so much as read a line.
From Twitter user @Do228BN2T, who I imagine is a lot of fun at parties:
I trust her companion will be a disabled transgender, asexual, Muslim, Afro Caribbean gay all rolled into one to keep the PC BBC happy
— Sick of tolerance (@Do228BN2T) July 16, 2017
And finally, from very funny comedian steveh2731: “The reason the Doctor can’t be female is simple, she’d only be of any use protecting mankind from the evils of the universe for three weeks out of four.”
But here’s the thing that our Alex Jones clone friends don’t seem to understand: For every one angry Internet hobgoblin who stops watching Dr. Who simply because the main character isn’t a dude anymore, there are four young girls who have someone to look up to on the small screen now. There are four women, or men, who commend the bravery of casting a woman to play a role that has been typically associated with a man.
And I’ve seen this comment all over the Internet, too: “It’s not courageous,” shout the irate ogres from the back of the pack. “It’s just adhering to the politically correct culture that is pervading our society!” And yadda, yadda, yadda.
But what these bugaboos don’t understand is this: Contemporary society really doesn’t adhere to political correctness as much as it may seem. With the rise of vehement nationalism in the United States and sweeping across Europe, the voices on the right, who prefer every movie and television character look like Tom Cruise, are just as vocal as those on the left. What BBC did, excuse the wordplay, took some serious stones.
We’ve all heard the phrase “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” Nothing was broken about Dr. Who. It had been on television for 53 years and showed no signs of shutting down. But the BBC took a big leap of faith. Casting Jodie Whittaker, not only a woman, but a fairly unknown one at that, could piss off enough alt-right dude bros to really put a dent in their ratings. I just hope that the courage of everyone involved inspired enough people to give the show a chance to keep it afloat.
But my point is this: If you are seriously so threatened by people who aren’t like you that you have to go on the Internet and attack them for their success, maybe the 21st Century isn’t for you. We’ve seen in recent years that women can act circles around some of their male counterparts in blockbuster movies. (Think Gal Gadot in Wonder Woman, Emma Stone in La La Land, Octavia Spencer and company in Hidden Figures, etc.) So maybe retreat from the deep, dark recesses of your caverns and step into the light over on our side, because things look a lot nicer when you see the beauty in small things, even if it’s just a woman finally getting the chance to play a dumb TV character.
Give Jodie Whittaker a chance. You might be pleasantly surprised with what you find.