It’s been nearly two weeks since Jodie Whittaker was announced as the 13th Doctor on Doctor Who (one of my favorite shows), and the Internet has been on fire ever since.
I added my voice to this fire by speaking out against this casting and declaring that I was done watching the show. This led to arguments online and offline full of ad hominems aimed at me. As far as I care, if someone has to resort to such tactics, they automatically lose the debate regardless of how good their points are. I was accused of sexism and misogyny and told I would scare away any and all potential dates by saying what I was saying (in other words, I’d never get a girlfriend).
I kept quiet after a day or two, but now I’ll lay out what I think are nuanced reasons for disliking the BBC’s decision. I won’t repeat what I said in a 2014 blog (which has now garnered me some derision). This isn’t as simple as, “The Doctor is a woman, therefore I hate it!”
Let me begin by asking my female readers this:
If you heard Katniss Everdeen from The Hunger Games was being transformed into a boy and recast with a male actor, would that upset you?
If you said yes, then you may understand why I don’t like the idea of female Doctor.
It’s perfectly plausible that it could happen. Given the Capital’s penchant for genetic manipulation, vanity, and cruelty, it’s quite reasonable they could force a sex change operation on Katniss. But neither Suzanne Collins (the original author) nor Lionsgate ever did that. It would’ve made things needlessly complicated and messy. If they wanted to tackle gender issues within that universe, they’d have been better off creating a new character.
I say this because that’s the sort of arguments I hear for making the Doctor a woman. Recent additions in the Who mythos—most notably his archenemy, the Master, regenerating into a woman—paved the way for this happening (despite the fact that if Gallifreyans could do this, their society would look vastly different, but I digress). Others say science fiction has always tackled the issues of the day, and issues of gender identity are certainly hot topics now. But as I said above, taking a main character who’s been established as being male (or female) and forcing a gender swap just to make a social commentary isn’t good storytelling. It just makes the character a means to an end and doesn’t do the character or the audience any favors.
What saddens me is I’m pretty sure that if a female character was changed to a male in a similar fashion, there would be huge backlash and it would be considered legitimate. However, most people who criticize the decision to make the Doctor a woman are met with nothing but trolling and accusations. That, True Believers, could be extrapolated to be a double standard.
Would I object to a rebooted Doctor Who with a new continuity and new characters that included a female Doctor? No. That’s worked for other franchises like Battlestar Galactica with a female Starbuck. How about a spin-off with a Doctor-esque Time Lady? That’d be cool. Heck, 5th Doctor actor Peter Davison even suggested that a few years ago while also saying the Doctor shouldn’t be a woman. (His opinion hasn’t changed, and he’s been criticized for it).
Another argument in favor of this decision is it’ll give little girls a Doctor for a role model. While I’ve argued that representation is overrated and people can relate to a well-written character regardless of demographics, the fact remains that people still gravitate toward characters who look like them. But what about the little boys who are about to see their hero morph into a woman? Wouldn’t that be a shock? Might they ask awkward questions of their parents? It’ll already be difficult adjusting to a new Doctor; this’ll only make it harder. They might even stop watching.
Admittedly, this is all pure theory. I have no way of knowing what will happen. Regardless, as much as it pains me, I don’t plan to watch the series beyond the Christmas special. I find this decision to be a desperate gimmick motivated by political correctness aimed to please a vocal group of fans who don’t speak for the whole fanbase.
Do you agree or disagree with me? Why? What do you think of this decision? (Please keep your comments civil).