Earlier today, the BBC announced that for the first time ever, a woman would be cast in the role of The Doctor on the 54-year-old series, Doctor Who. My initial reaction was one of being pleased (ah yes, I’ve heard she is a good actress), and then later I actually teared up (watching the reveal for the 4th time) when I realized how much it meant to me to have my favorite TV character portrayed by a woman.
I, of course, blasted out the reveal video to my Facebook community and Twitter followers. I wanted to share my excitement with all of my friends.
Are we surprised that the backlash was fast and furious? Of course we’re not. The only backlash that I feel compares in fervor was when JK Rowling agreed that yeah, Hermione could be black. (Sure, yes, people are not happy about the A Wrinkle in Time adaptation in which the main characters are mixed race, but no one cares about A Wrinkle in Time – admittedly my favorite book – like they do about Harry Potter or Doctor Who).
Why are there so many sexist people in the nerd-world?
Yes folks, if you are upset that the new Doctor is woman that means you are… dun dun duuuuuuun: SEXIST. Hate to break it to you. “No Emily”, you say, “it’s just that it doesn’t feel organic” (a legit thing said to me). First off, let’s address this statement, before I dive into anything else: TV show and movie casting has nothing to do with anything organic.
“It felt forced…. The show runners and producers wanted it to happen.” Uh, yes, because that’s how TV shows are made.
“They have an agenda.” Yes, it’s called entertainment and appealing to the masses. Oh, you don’t think people want to see a woman Doctor? Let’s ask 49.6% of the world’s population – who all happen to be women. (Yes, I am aware that the entire world does not watch Doctor Who, just go with it.)
Why are men (and some women, let’s play fair) upset about a woman playing the Doctor? Honestly, I can’t tell you. I had a friend email me after he saw my post, to tell me that he was not happy about the casting. I was hoping he would give me a really good reason, but he couldn’t. He says he loves strong female leads, especially in sci-fi shows and movies, but that the casting of Jodie Whittaker just didn’t feel true to the character. I pointed out multiple times that the character of the Doctor is fluid, that each of the previous 13 Doctors (don’t forget the War Doctor!) have been incredibly different from the one before. But no, he still just said, “It wasn’t right.” Sure, dude.
At one point he tried to make this comparison: what if Ripley in Alien had been recast as a man in Aliens? While this was an interesting attempt at trying to make me understand what he was feeling, it didn’t work. First of all, that’s a hypothetical that would never happen. Second, the default for action star is male; Ripley was so badass because she was a woman doing what a man would do (and because Sigourney Weaver was so freaking good). He seemed to be ignoring the fact that the Doctor has been recast over and over – so recasting the Doctor as a woman would have literally no effect except to add another actor to the roster.
But Emily, you ask, did you mention to him that (SPOILERS!) The Master regenerated into a woman and became Missy? Why yes, I did. And he admitted that he didn’t much care for Missy. (It was here I became incredulous because Missy is one of the best characters on the show, in my opinion.)
This friend and I fought for a bit – I called him sexist many times and he got more and more angry, but continued to try to make his defense. At one point he said something along the lines of how he felt that they were pushing for “sexy romantic everything” and ignoring the fact that the Doctor “was 2,000 years old.” (This was around the time that he tried to backtrack and say he was upset that she was young, not that she was a woman). It was here that I started seeing red. Is this what men believe? That by casting a woman we’d suddenly have a romantic comedy on our hands?
Ugh. Needless to say, I’m exhausted.
Look, my friend is not a sexist. He said a sexist thing and thought a sexist thing, but I know he’s a good guy. I’m sure that it’s not even 100% that she’s a woman, but just that they’re changing the actor – look back to every recast of the recent series and you’ll see a lot of people mad about the choice. Peter Capaldi was too old! Matt Smith too young! (Everyone was happy with David Tennant, let’s be honest here.) But that’s the problem: while you may not be a sexist, being upset that a network shook up 54 years of tradition by casting a woman and making, you know, progress, that sort of makes you sexist.
The casting of Whittaker has nothing to do with being PC (is that even a thing anymore?). It has everything to do with wanting to be progressive, with wanting to get with the times. With wanting to give a woman a chance to play an internationally beloved character (fun fact: David Tennant supposedly mentioned The Doctor in every one of his school papers all the way through university. Maybe Whittaker has always dreamed of being The Doctor, too).
I’m sure we’ll see some more rampant sexism to come. I mean, are they going to cast a woman companion or buck tradition and cast a man? Can viewers handle TWO women at once? If they do cast a man will we have to worry about the sexual tension between the two of them? Wait. If they cast a woman will there be lesbian sexual tension? OH THE HORMONES HOW WILL WE HANDLE IT?
Oh. Right, like we have the other ten seasons. The Doctor, if she has feelings towards the companion, will pretend she doesn’t because it’ll ruin everything. (Rose + The Doctor 4EVA.)
Oh my… how will people handle the Doctor’s marriage with River Song? Will there be a boycott? We shall have to wait and see, I guess.
Oh, my favorite tweet about this whole thing:
Be scared, sexist people. We’re here to stay.
Oh, and before I go, let me point out one very important piece of canon that a lot of these jerks are forgetting (hat tip to my husband Jason for reminding me of this): in episode 901, Missy says to Clara that she has known the Doctor since he was a little girl. See haters? The Doctor has already been there, done that.