First I saw the skinny jean-clad legs in boots and I thought, Oh brother, the Doctor’s going to be another skinny young man for the fangirls to fawn over.
Then I saw the slender, pale hands and I thought, I think that a good portion of the fandom is going to be disappointed that the Doctor won’t be a person of color from a marginalized community. Oh well again.
Then I saw…. Mascara? The Doctor’s wearing–?
And it then hit me. The Doctor is a woman! But not just any woman. She’s Jodie Whittaker, aka Beth Latimer from Broadchurch, Chris Chibnall’s dark, mature mystery series (that I haven’t really watched much of because it’s not for prudes). I’ll admit I had the teeniest inkling of a Broadchurch connection when Thursday’s teaser for the big reveal of the next Doctor actor showed cliffs by a beach – but that could’ve just been a nod to Chibnall’s directorial work in general.
I was so overjoyed this morning that I was almost ready to cry tears of joy. A lady time lord. The Doctor as a lady time lord. Finally, I can dress up as the Doctor and not get funny looks from my coreligionists because (no pun intended) I’m barely skirting the Torah’s cross-dressing prohibition by gender-bending the originally male characters I cosplay.
And in general, I’m just relieved we didn’t get some 1D-lookalike adolescent dandy to keep the young girls watching. 😀
Then the reactions came in, slowly, steadily. Many of the former Doctor Who companion actresses are expressing support for the casting decision.
Many of my feminist peers are grateful that the Doctor is finally female, but why couldn’t she be a Woman of Color? Then there’s a conservative political pundit who’s never seen the show before who wishes the Doctor could be a genderfluid chicken.
While there are plenty of chauvinist trolls who can’t bend their narrow minds around the thought of a well-loved, historically male character regenerating into a woman for the first time, there are plenty of genuine fans from all persuasions who share mixed feelings about this casting choice. As excited as I am, I too am uncertain.
If you can stand a bit of profanity, I highly recommend checking out Holden Sheppard’s article, entitled The First Female Doctor: When Politics Defeats Art. Holden is “a humanist, a secularist, an egalitarian,” and is less enthusiastic about Jodie Whittaker’s casting than I, but he makes some valuable points that I think everyone should take a moment to appreciate.
The intrusion of politics into art is always bloodless and unpalatable. Whether it is modern social justice warriors’ bullying agenda on our current media or whether it is social and moral puritans from the Victorian era through to now demanding censorship of anything deemed “immoral”, the result is usually the same.
The agenda nullifies the art, makes the art submit to it, extinguishes it.
I wish I could quote the whole thing, because a mere excerpt or paraphrase cannot do his post justice.
Holden’s main concern is that the casting of a woman to play the Doctor was not an artistic choice, but a political one, and that politicizing art is a recipe for disaster. And if you’ve been reading my blog recently, you know how annoyed I am at how nauseatingly political Capaldi’s final season was!
I remember when Hillary Clinton lost the 2016 presidential election, I saw people Tweeting about how they were glad “a woman” didn’t become president. As a feminist/egalitarian, that disgusted me. Also as a feminist, I was glad that that particular woman didn’t become president. (Not saying that I’m much happier with the particular man who did. But I’m not saying I’m not happy either….)
Likewise, when Missy the lady Master was introduced to the series, I wasn’t disappointed because she’s a woman. I was disappointed the character was so gross and vulgar (in addition to being a murderous psychopath). The first thing she did once her identity was revealed was sensually kiss the Doctor to everyone’s immense chagrin!
As a female, I am happy to see someone of the same gender take on the mantle of a favorite hero character. (This is how I felt when Logan the Wolverine in the Marvel Comics passed on and his genetic clone / daughter Laura donned the cowl.) But that’s a very small, base reaction on my part.
On a more intellectual level, I form my ultimate conclusions based on the way they conduct themselves, not on external factors beyond their control, such as the gender they were born with or the natural color of their skin. That is what I’ve done with the Doctor’s last twelve regenerations (thirteen, if you count the War Doctor), and that is the exact same thing that I’ll do with Jodie Whittaker’s Doctor.
Is making the Doctor a lady really such a bad thing when compared with these stellar moments from the past half-century? 😛