“We’re billions of years beyond your petty obsession with gender and its associated stereotypes.”
The BBC has, for the first time, cast a woman in the lead role of Doctor Who, and the Internet (predictably) has lost its mind.
First, for those of you unfamiliar with Doctor Who, a brief introduction. Doctor Who is a science fiction series which first aired in 1963. It concerns the adventures of an alien — a Time Lord named The Doctor (never, ever refer to the main character as “Doctor Who” unless you want to be exposed to gales of derisive nerdly laughter — it’s just “The Doctor”). Just as the part of James Bond and Batman have been played by different actors over the years, so has The Doctor.
Here’s the show’s particularly science-fictional twist on that process: The Doctor doesn’t die… he just regenerates into a new form and a new personality (and a new actor) and carries on with saving the Universe just as before. It’s a particularly clever conceit which enables fans to believe in a story that has the same exact lead character it always had, despite the obvious march of time. Somewhere in the part of your brain that cares about these things, you know that Michael Keaton’s Batman and Adam West’s and Christian Bale’s Batmen are all different manifestations of the same idea, but they’re all inherently different guys. The Doctor, despite all his changes over the years, is always the same guy.…Except now he’s not a guy, exactly. Actress Jodie Whittaker has been cast in the lead role of iconic BBC series, and yes, Jodie Whittaker is female. Predictably, even though the news is only a few hours old, many on the Internet have erupted with emotion at the thought. For what it’s worth: I had seen Jodie Whittaker previously in both Broadchurch and Black Mirror, and I think she’s an excellent choice for the role.
Nonetheless, the same people (you know who you are) who screamed bloody murder at the thought of female Ghostbusters quickly took to Twitter and their blogs to complain about The Doctor’s New Genitalia — despite the fact that The Doctor’s gender has never really been an issue. When the show began in 1963 there were only two options on the menu (and nobody would know what the heck “cisgender” meant anyway). But in the hindsight of living in our LGBTQQA world, it seems to me that The Doctor may in fact be a hero for the “As”: asexual. No one watches Doctor Who to see who’s getting snogged this week.
Think about it. The Doctor comes from a species with a life span of thousands of years. It doesn’t make the least bit of sense that they would have nearly the focus on sex that humans do. Rabbits spend a lot of time breeding because they’re easy prey with short life spans. On the other hand, you don’t see a Galapagos Tortoise sitting in the bar looking for a new hookup every night, do you? But of course, despite the fact that The Doctor is an alien being who travels through time and space in a box, some of us just have to apply our standards to the character. And some of us who do so are idiots about these things.
But hey… remember kids: the Internet is made primarily of electrons and indignation.
The Doctor has always been (and hopefully always will be) a champion of the underdog. The Doctor doesn’t go around imposing his will on other, forcing them into a narrow role. That’s the function of a Doctor Who villain. Go ahead and take either your 15 minute victory lap or scream in indignation. You’re both missing the REAL issue here: how long will we have to wait for a new season?