It’s great the next Doctor Who will be a woman, even if it means the following one will be a monkey.
By E.F Nicholson
Last week it was announced that Jodie Whittaker will take on the role of the 13th Time Lord when the sci-fi series returns for a special episode at Christmas, becoming the show’s first woman Doctor.
As you can imagine, outrage soon followed. This was perfectly captured by a 60 year-old man ringing in to the BBC 5 radio program to express his indignation.
“Time Lord, not a Time Lady. A Lord is a male and a lady can’t become a Lord. Even though I don’t watch it anymore, it is ridiculously PC. I am fed up of living in a PC world. What happens when this woman finishes, what’s it going to be next, a monkey?”
“Time Lord, not Time lady!” Love that line, reminiscent of the “it’s Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve” that we so often hear born-again Christians howl. Yet he has some valid points. Given the Doctor has two hearts, regenerates a new body whenever he/she needs and travels through time via a blue police box that defies the laws of space and time, yes, it’s totally unrealistic that the Doctor could become a woman. (Although I don’t imagine the caller was equally outraged when “The Master”, the Doctor’s long-time nemesis, turned from a Time Lord to the Time Lady, “Missy”, back in season 8.)
I feel for the guy, as he opens up his Daily Mail over a cup of tea to read his once beloved character, Doctor Who, who he watched on TV 50 years ago now becoming, of all things, a WOMAN! Then he makes the next logical conclusion that changing to a women is just one step away from changing into another species of mammal. What’s next, he must have thought, a black man playing James Bond? Heaven forbid, damn this wretched PC world! Global poverty? Climate change? Social injustice? I can handle all that but what I can’t handle is living in this PC world! Poor thing.
Yet he need not worry too much, as he can rest assured that this is a strange anomaly. As even though women constitute 50% of the human population, research by the Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film at San Diego State University found that females comprised a paltry 12% of protagonists in the top-grossing films of 2014. So the PC police still have a long way to go. Then when the women characters do appear, their stories often revolve around the lives of the male characters, as the 28% of films that fail the Bechdel test reveal (the Bechdel test asks whether a work of fiction features at least two women who talk to each other about something other than a man).
It’s a funny thing when the anti-PC police come out to defend a fictional character’s right to be as we made them. We saw this in 2013, when Megan Kelly on Fox defended the scientific truth that Santa was white. Which makes sense as the jokes goes; if there were a Santa Claus there is very little doubt that he would have to be white, as surely no black man could get away with breaking into millions of homes, even if he was bearing presents, without some cop or neighbourhood watch captain shooting him in the back.
What was worse is she dug her hole even deeper; as she went on to say that in addition to Santa being whiter than the Christmas snow, so too was Jesus. “Jesus was white” she emphatically states, and then lamented on the fact that people just revised history to suit their PC whims. In reality, it’s Jesus who has been revised through white eyes. The blue-eyed white Jesus is not even close to the historical reality of Jesus, who was a Palestinian Jew, who in reality would have looked more like Klinger from M.A.S.H, than the young Kris Kristofferson type image we see depicted in the west.
Yet like the BBC caller or Megan Kelly, some people are just perturbed by change. In particular, when you have been in the dominant social group, it feels like anything that challenges or encroaches on your assumed privilege is something sinister, directed by the PC police or Feminazis. In reality, our culture and its values evolve and that is reflected in the way our media represents this. Yet it’s still a seriously slow process, as our media landscape is a long way from representing the diversity of race, class, culture and ethnicity that is the reality of most people’s lives. As things stand today, the major cultural, political and economic institutions that wield most of the power are still heavily stacked with wealthy old white men. And when even some crumbs of equality get thrown down, the outrage that ensues tells you we still have a long way to go.
All that said, with two daughters getting to an age where they could handle the Doctor Who scariness, I will be happy for them to see a strong, intelligent female protagonist battle down the evil Daleks, Cyber Men or Zygon’s. It won’t diminish or detract from the legacy, rather just add to its depth and appeal.