Thursday, 20 July 2017

Gender Politics Amongst Time Lords

Peter Capaldi well and truly set the wheels of fan speculation into motion when he announced that he would be hanging up his sonic screwdriver and leaving his role as the twelfth incarnation of Doctor Who. The names of usual favourites who are deemed desirable by fans such as Richard Ayoade, Stephen Merchant, Kris Marshall and Ben Whishaw were thrown around. However, there was an overwhelming number of fans who were putting names of female actors into the mix too. So, would audiences be on board with a female doctor?

On July 16th the BBC announced that Capaldi would be passing the Time Lord torch to Jodie Whittaker, best known for her roles in the ITV drama Broadchurch and the film Attack the Block (2011). Most people will politely state that the casting of a female lead 'divided fans', but I will bluntly say that it shone a bright light on the misogynistic attitudes of a proportion of fans of the show. According to this group within the Doctor Who fandom, 'the show was over' and many planned to boycott it as there was no physical way that the Doctor could be female. Was their disdain over the biology of the Gallifreyans, or was there something more deep rooted? On paper it seems as though there would be no problem that an alien being with the ability to time travel and take on a human form would be able to appear as either male or female. And, if they explained why Christopher Eccleston's Doctor had a Mancunian accent, then it's highly likely that the writers will provide an explanation as to why the Doctor's thirteenth form is female. It also seems likely that certain, disgruntled fans are hiding their misogyny behind this "it's just genetically impossible" excuse.  However, it doesn't seem as though all of these angry fans are hiding their displeasure behind the veil of genetic impossibility. There was a high number of to-the-point people that took to Twitter to slam the show simply for casting a female. Yes, you read that correctly, in 2017 people got angry just because a female actor was given a role.


Hours after the BBC announced that Whittaker would be playing the Doctor, The Daily Mail posted an article that showcased twelve sexually explicit stills of her, taken from the 2014 drama The Smoke. Whilst most media outlets were reporting on, and some even celebrating, her casting, The Daily Mail thought it more appropriate to delve into her filmography and remind the world that the thirteenth Doctor once bared her body and sexuality in front on the camera. Well, how dare a woman choose to bare her body for her work! It's a good job that everyone's favourite news source shamed her through an article that was veiled as an informative piece of writing about her career. Without particularly mentioning any of her roles in which she wore clothing. Presumably after some backlash, the article was later edited to feature nude stills of previous Doctor Who actors to give it a 'look, she's just like her predecessors' twist.

Despite the mass reports of Doctor Who fans displaying a sexist attitude, it still seemed as if the majority of people were completely in support of a female Doctor. It simply seemed as if there were hordes of misogynists because a decent amount of people decided to give a damn and call the few anti-Whittaker fans out on what they were saying and managed to blow up social media in doing so. Alas, the questions still lingers. Why do these groups of people feel this way about women? The Doctor Who demographic won't necessarily be full of people who were raised in a time when gender roles were enforced, so why can't they accept a woman as their Doctor? Is it because women are still very much 'Othered', they don't rule the hegemony so we should disregard them, right? Wrong. We may not be able to pinpoint the exact reason why people reacted badly to this particular news, but no one need lose an sleep over the matter, as every misogynistic fan that turns their back on the show will be replaced by a young girl with a sonic screwdriver.


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