My Angle: Does a female Doctor really show gender equality?

(Photo used by permission of Wikimedia Commons)
Jodie Whittaker poses for a picture sporting her dark brown hair that she had in “Broadchurch.”

Jodie Whittaker has been cast as the next Doctor in “Doctor Who.” Yes, she’s a woman.

About a month ago, when the final episode of “Doctor Who” series 10 ended and Thirteenth Doctor rumors were invading my Twitter, I said, “If the BBC cast a female Doctor, I am quitting the show.”

Well, although I will say I’m not thrilled about this decision, I will not rashly quit.

Not quitting doesn’t mean that I approve of anything, though.

Of course I want gender equality, but it seems like this is the wrong approach.

I feel the character of the Doctor has a masculinity to him (which pronoun are fans going to use to refer to the Doctor now? They? It?)  and should stay as such.

The Doctor is suave at times but never sultry; he is compassionate but never in the motherly sense.

If the BBC and writers want to prove that they are pro-women’s rights, then they should start by creating original and powerful female characters and casting strong actresses for those roles.

Invent new companions who aren’t stereotypical bimbos; make female villains who don’t let their gender be a defining trait (and who don’t reference lipstick, makeup and dresses); create new Time Ladies who are strong and powerful.

If originality is hard, there have already been some formidable Time Ladies (the Rani and Romana) in the Classic Series who have yet to be brought back to New Who.

Inspire girls to be scientists and to fight for equality by having the Doctor lose to the devilishly logical Rani because of his arrogance.

Show that girls can be just as good as guys by having Romana remind the audience that she excelled in her classes at Gallifrey while the Doctor was being a bumbling fool.

Make these female characters original, intelligent, and, for lack of a better word, badass.

But don’t make a male character female for no reason.

And don’t make female characters, especially the upcoming Doctor, sexy!

Upon hearing the Thirteenth Doctor was now a girl, a friend of mine asked, “What’s the actress’s name?”

“Jodie Whittaker,” I said as I rolled my eyes.

“I wanna see if she’s cute or not . . . Dang, she’s nice! I’m gonna start watching ‘Doctor Who’ now.”

That is not how a show should be gaining new viewers, even if they’re in a ratings slump.

Just like for male Doctors, how attractive actors are shouldn’t determine whether or not one starts or continues watching the show.

In the Classic Series, there’s no mention of Time Lords being able to change gender.

Fast-forward to 2011 with Steven Moffat as head producer, and all of a sudden Time Lords have always been able to change gender.

Now the Master, the Doctor’s fellow Time Lord archnemesis, even had his turn at being a woman – Missy.

And Missy was great in the beginning, very Roger Delgado-esque, encompassing the Master’s insanity.

But once she started bringing up that she’s a woman every few minutes, or mysteriously tried to be good, or had more compassion than her male selves, I didn’t feel like I was watching the Master anymore.

None of those problems are the actress’s fault, but bad writing is a character killer.

So I guess that’s what really worries me: the writing.

(Photo used by permission of Wikimedia Commons)
A picture of actress Jodie Whittaker.

Placed in the wrong hands, the Doctor could end up being another poorly written, moody female character devoid of gravitas – something all too common in modern-day television.

Giving a woman a man’s part doesn’t prevent the root problem from occurring, namely that females are usually objectified, with gender and femininity constantly being brought up in Bechdel-failing ways.

If the fact that the Doctor is now sporting a woman’s body is brought up episode after episode, then no new state of equality will have been reached, and the new “Star Trek: Discovery” will become my favorite modern science fiction show.

And that’s a pity because “Doctor Who” is unique, a blend of past and present on multiple levels.

It’s British tradition – the James Bond of science fiction. And since it’s science fiction, it’s progressive.

So then there are two attitudes that can but do not necessarily run contrary to one another.

The stories have always been progressive, questioning everything from climate change naysayers in the ’70s to excessive capitalism this past year.

But if you want to use the show to deliver a sociopolitical message, maybe you don’t have to be as progressive with the characters to reach a larger audience.

A show can be just as progressive if it has a white male in the lead because what sets the tone for programs is what is being said and how.

Things are more watchable if there is character consistency, and the Doctor’s masculinity is a consistent trait for him.

However, there are other traits the Doctor has had that aren’t very progressive either, traits that aren’t as intrinsic to his character and could be changed.

For example, the Doctor has always been white, but that whiteness doesn’t sculpt his personality.

Before rumors got started about who was going to be Thirteen, I was hoping for a Doctor that wasn’t white since race issues, on a global scale, are becoming more and more of a problem.

Having such an iconic figure look like someone world leaders have been demonizing might help close-minded people see that everyone is the same. After all, Brexit happened in part because the majority of Britain feared immigrants.

That change from the usual would also have fixed the ratings slump the show has had since 2012 and hopefully wouldn’t have been surrounded with as much hype.

If there’s one thing “Doctor Who” has been doing lately, it’s hyping people, and Whittaker’s reveal was more full of hype than Capaldi’s in 2014.

It’s hard for me not to think that the casting of a female Doctor now is more of a publicity stunt than new executive producer Chris Chibnall selecting the best person for the job.

Also, it seems like this was what Moffat has been trying to orchestrate since he took over.

(Photo used by permission of Creative Commons)
A promo shot of the next Doctor that will be portrayed by Jodie Whittaker.

So it makes me wonder if Whittaker really was the best for the job or if she simply was the best available female.

Did they really cast blindly? All of Moffat’s scripts from the last season have included line after line of foreshadowing that the Doctor will be a woman soon. (“The future is female”? Really, how direct do you have to be, Moffat?)

These scripts were made before the next Doctor was cast.

Chibnall evidently made the casting choice, and Whittaker was his leading lady in “Broadchurch,” the British crime drama that brought him success. Coincidence? Likely not.

Chibnall certainly has ideas, but are they the right ideas for this show?

Only time will tell.

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