Wednesday, 5 June 2013

Top 5 Most Bullshit Reasons Why Doctor Who Shouldn't Be A Woman

I'm going to start this post with full disclosure - I don't watch Doctor Who.  I used to, when I was young, though this was largely because my father appeared to consider it a mandatory part of my upbringing. This is why I'm also fairly well versed in Star Trek (and Prisoner: Cell Block H, oddly enough.  That was a lot of sex and murder, and sex that ended in murder, to process as a nine-year-old.  But I digress). So I'm coming at this from a feminist angle, rather than as a fan - I'll leave it up to you to decide how much of a "right" I have to speak on the subject.

What has prompted me to write this, though, is the outright misogyny that some Doctor Who fans (I'm not calling them Whovians.  I refuse) have been spewing all over the internet ever since the incumbent actor, Matt Smith, announced his resignation, and writer/producer Stephen Moffat didn't immediately issue a statement saying that the next actor wouldn't be female, which, given the speed with which the subject came up, is apparently something some Doctor Who fans live in near-constant terror of.  It must be very stressful, living with this malice, even when no one had resigned and made it a pressing issue.  I imagine the average Tuesday for these people goes something like this:

(Our Doctor Who fan, let's call him Mike, walks into his workplace)
Colleague: "Morning Mike!  How are you?"
Mike:  What if the next Doctor Who is a woman?  Oh God, I CAN'T TAKE IT ANYMORE!!!"
(Mike collapses, sobbing, against the photocopier)

So, without further ado, I present to you, The Top 5 Most Bullshit Reasons Why Doctor Who Shouldn't Be A Woman, with (not wholly unflippant) responses.

Bullshit reason number 1: It just wouldn't be the same.

Do not respond to this.  This is not a reason.  If you cannot be bothered even to formulate a simple argument beyond "Arrrgh!  Change!" then I cannot be bothered to engage with you.

Bullshit reason number 2: But Doctor Who being a man has been a tradition for 50 years!

So was slavery.

Bullshit reason number 3: It would divert attention away from some of the other strong female characters who sometimes appear on the show.

Yes, this is a common problem in television.  This is why writers and casting directors are so reluctant to put too many men in any one show, lest it detracts from the strong, male characters.  Oh no, wait THAT HAS NEVER HAPPENED EVER.  There have been plenty of programmes with all male and near all male casts, and people, by and large, have not struggled to distinguish between the characters, so unless it's actually the population at large, rather than just Daily Mail readers who view women as one homogeneous mass, I think we'll be able to appreciate the individual attributes of at least two female characters at once.

Bullshit reason number 4:  Young boys would lose a valuable role model.

This one's actually from the Daily Mail, if you couldn't guess.  Apparently Doctor Who is good role model, because he's thoughtful, and moral, and has no discernible sex life (I presume the latter is one of the reasons why they like him).  Take this away from young boys and they will have NO ONE to look up to.  Apart from maybe the all male writing team?  Or, like, 70% of everyone appearing on television, anywhere, ever?  Boys are lacking anyone in the public to look up to?  ARE THEY FUCKING SERIOUS?!

Now lets take this moment to think about female role models, shall we?  What about female role models in this very show?  One of the reasons I found my youthful affection for Doctor Who waning is because I grew increasingly uncomfortable with it's representation of women.   You can't deny that the last run of assistants have all been very much "something for the dads".  Always attractive, grown up but still very much young, women, younger and more attractive than their male leads (I'll grant Matt Smith was only 26 when he took the role, which a lot of Who fans threw their toys out of the pram over.  I'll also maintain that, in my opinion, he looks like he was beaten about the face with a breeze block by someone who then had an attack of conscience and tried to reverse the damage by ironing his head). What's more, they're always the sidekick.  I'm not denying that these women can be fiercely intelligent, warm and passionate in their own right, or saying that they don't have many other admirable qualities.  What are young girls, watching this show for the last 50 years, going to learn?  That they can be strong, sassy and independent, that they can be anything they want, so long as what they want to be is second best.  And that they're under 26 and look good in a tight jumper.  So no, I don't think the programme would suffer from introducing another female role model.  Unless you choose to believe our Daily Mail commenter, who said, and I quote, "Girls have already got lots of role models, like Rihanna, Lindsay Lohan and the Kardashians."  I genuinely don't know if he's being serious, folks.  I JUST DON'T KNOW.

Bullshit reason number 5: Doctor Who is married to a woman, River Song.

Yeah, our misogynists are starting to scrape the bottom of the barrel now.  This was also from the Daily Mail, who's main objection seemed to be that a female doctor would thus be a lesbian by default.  Why aren't I surprised that people who don't want a female doctor who don't want a gay one, either?  And don't kid yourself that there haven't been pre-emptive "And he should stay white, too!" comments.  You could almost hear the sound of them all hitting the floor as they all fainted from horror in unison when Idris Elba's name was floated.

So yeah, oppose a female Doctor Who, if you have a valid reason.  If it's for one of the reasons above, you're aligning yourself with homophobes, racists, and worse, Daily Mail readers.  Is that really something you want?


  1. my main quarrel with the doctor being female is a) Steven Moffat cannot write female characters well to save his life and b) the Doctor has identified as male for 900yrs if he's suddenly going to be confused about this I'd like a little explaining, if it's handled well then no further qualms from me, but here I must refer you back to point a. Russle T Davis could have pulled that off, Moffat I don't think so.

    As for you point about female characters being young and second best. No I'm afraid I disagree completely. Unless we are talking about Moffats companions then yeah agreed but again point a.

    What about Catherine Tate? She's not under 26 and good in a tight jumper. And she helped the Doctor to be a better person, she stopped him from going to far. Donna was the one wearing the trousers in that relationship there was question. And often and this is very often its actually the companions that save the day, not the doctor, so I wouldn't say they play second fiddle to the doctor or set girls a example that they can only ever be second best.

    1. I knew someone would eventually mention Catherine Tate. I LOVE Catherine Tate. She's very much an exception rather than a rule though, hence her being the only example of an older assistant anyone can think of. Hire her permanently and I would definitely watch the show more though.