Monday, July 17, 2017
Ask JKM a Question: A Female Doctor Who?
A reader named Don writes:
“One other question for your "Ask JKM" segment”-- one I'm sure you've had in your inbox a few times the past 24 hours: what's your take on the casting of Jodie Whitaker as the first female Doctor?”
Don, I know you submitted a few questions, but I’m going to answer this one first, since it is so timely today. Also, as you say, my inbox has been filled with commentary on this particular question.
I had hoped to comment on the remarkable casting news yesterday, but I was blindsided by the passing of George A. Romero and Martin Landau, and am only now landing on my feet.
Excuse me, if, given the events of the last twenty fours, I am a little less diplomatic than I usually am in this response to those who have found cause to complain about the casting news.
My thoughts on Jodie Whitaker as the first female Doctor in Doctor Who?
It’s about bloody time!
Doctor Who has endured and even thrived, basically, for almost fifty-five years, by constantly re-inventing itself.
It has re-invented its style, its lead character, its universe, its hero’s background, and more. The Doctor is a character who has been old, young, Scottish (!), mischievous, deadpan, pompous, and comedic. The Doctor has had curly hair, dark hair, blond hair, and gray hair. The Doctor has been a renegade, on the run, a cosmic hobo, and even trapped on 20th century Earth for a time. The Doctor has fled Time Lords, worked with the Time Lords, and witnessed the death and rebirth of the Time Lords.
Change is, actually, the essence of this particular character, and that change is one significant factor that keeps the series fresh and intriguing.
I like and appreciate Peter Capaldi very much in the lead role, and feel he made the character his own. I feel he will be evaluated as a strong “Doctor” in terms of franchise history, but I have also read so many comments on the Internet about his era feeling old and tired.
There was starting to become this overwhelming sense that even in a universe of constant change, Doctor Who was starting to feel old. It needed an injection of new blood that a standard regeneration might not provide.
So we now have the opportunity for new blood in the writing, behind the scenes, and in front of the cameras with Jodie Whitaker as well. The Doctor shall be re-invented again, just as the character was reinvented after Hartnell, after Troughton, after Pertwee, and so forth. But for the first time, the Doctor will be a woman.
We could be on the cusp of something great, I feel.
And there is absolutely no plausible reason why the Doctor should not be female, given what we know of regeneration, and given the Doctor’s long history of constant change. We have the example, for instance, of the Master.
All the jokes about “bras in the TARDIS” are -- forgive me for being blunt -- stupid and juvenile, as are the by-now predictable cries of “SJW Doctor Who.”
The Doctor is a character whose very existence has been defined by elasticity. The cries of anguish over a female Doctor are sexism, pure and simple, and I hope that those making this complaint fulfill their written (online) promises to leave Doctor Who fandom at this juncture.
We won't let the door hit them on the way out.
And while they are making a hasty exit, they should also leave modern science fiction fandom, in general, if they have a problem with a female Doctor.
Now, I don’t like change just to be edgy, just for the sake of change, but change is “baked in” on Doctor Who, and this change is not out-of-line with what we have seen in the series, historically-speaking.
Those who can’t bring themselves to watch the adventures of a female Doctor can content themselves with 12 incarnations of white male Doctors, and just enjoy those, again and again, ad infinitum without ever having to come up for air, or face the fact of a changing, more just, more equal world in terms of on-screen representation.
These snowflakes -- to coin a phrase -- belong in the past, in their own safe space of eternal reruns. Personally, I look forward to not hearing from them again. That would be such a relief.
For it has been a huge embarrassment, I feel, to see this sort of bad white male behavior crop up again and again in fandom, and be forced to defend it.
I remember white men feeling wounded and betrayed by the presence of a strong woman, Furiosa, in Mad Max: Fury Road (2015), and wondering what on Earth they could be thinking…when they should have been rejoicing a marvelous addition to that cinematic universe.
Just weeks ago, I watched with dismay as Star Trek Discovery was attacked as Star Trek: SJW because it featured diversity in its leading cast, even though this diversity follows well the tradition of Deep Space Nine (1993-1999) and Voyager (1995-2001). Indeed, diversity is the essence of Star Trek, much as change is the essence of Doctor Who.
Look, I’m a straight white man, myself, and I just don’t understand at all how this kind of misogyny and racism can go hand-in-hand with a love of science fiction, and a love of Star Trek, or Doctor Who in particular. And I won’t defend or apologize for the behavior of those who feel the Doctor must always be a male, or that all starship captains should be white males simply because of “tradition.”
As I’ve written before, that’s a logical fallacy, the appeal to tradition. Just because something has always been one way, it must continue to be that way, the belief goes. That’s a bad reason to do something, in my book. Why? Because over time, we learn, we get new facts...we grow.
I feel those who make this argument are not just misogynist and racist, but trapped in a perpetual victim mentality loop.
It’s obvious that there are plenty of white male heroes out there for these snowflakes to continue to enjoy.
They have names like Captain Kirk, Luke Skywalker, Harry Potter, Bilbo Baggins, James Bond, Dr. Strange, Iron Man, Thor, Captain America, Batman, Superman, Ethan Hunt, Jason Bourne, Hercules, Ant Man, Sherlock Holmes, Tarzan, Hawkeye, Wolverine, Peter Quill, Owen Grady, Rick Grimes, Jon Snow, Paul Atreides, John Connor, Jean Luc-Picard, Captain Archer, Buck Rogers, Flash Gordon, Mad Max, Mal Reynolds, etc., etc.
I just can’t feel sympathy for these complainers because one regeneration of a multi-incarnation hero -- the Doctor -- is going to be, perhaps for three years, a woman.
The fact that they are complaining about this -- one three year stint out of 54 years or so -- exposes the fact that they are total and utterly indulged, or to use a term they hate (but which is apt): privileged.
If they don’t want to watch a female Doctor, then by all means, they should opt out and make a beeline for the safe spaces of reruns.
But they should know that they won’t be missed.
And that time is rapidly passing them by.
They are loud and vocal and obnoxious, and let's face it -- even threatening -- now, in 2017, but more and more people are seeing them for what they truly are: bullies.
Their complaints are not about ethics in journalism.
Their stance is not a a response to “social justice warriors.”
These folks are gate-keeping, and arguing for a status quo that they perceive they benefit from. They represent a rigid, exclusive brand of close-mindedness that doesn't belong anywhere near the concept of science fiction, and a universe of endless possibilities.
I hope Jodie Whitaker does a great job as the new Doctor, and I recommend that she give Kate Mulgrew a call at her earliest opportunity to discuss what it is like to carry the torch for a science fiction brand (mistakenly) thought to be the exclusive terrain of white males.
It's going to be an interesting three years. But for every hater out there, I hope there will be a voice like mine too, urging on the new incarnation of Doctor, and helping to usher in a fantastic, exciting future.
Don’t forget to ask me your questions at: Muirbusiness@yahoo.com