You remember that post from the end of June when I said there was no chance of seeing a female Doctor Who in my lifetime?
I don’t think I’ve ever been happier about being wrong in my life. Waking up this morning, to the first day when Jodie Whittaker is Doctor Who is… well, part of me still doesn’t believe it. My Twitter feed yesterday summed a lot of it up quite well, but if I’m honest this tweet is the real reason I’m celebrating:
That’s been me since I pretended to be James Bond, because all the women in his world were simply afterthoughts. Then I discovered Emma Peel, and I’ve sought out my own female heroes ever since… but I’d be lying if I didn’t say I still aspire to be the men. The ‘problem’ here is not the gender of the people involved. It really does not matter one iota whether these heroes are men or women. The bigger issue, by a long way, is their sexuality. That’s what detonated all those bombs yesterday, will cause wailing and trauma for months to come. As Doctor Who becomes a woman, NOBODY should lose their minds. The problem with the individually focused, me-cultured Social media climate we live in is that lots of people can’t separate gender from desire.
I lost a fair number of followers yesterday on the back of my joyous ranting. I asked one of them why this appointment was so galling: she cited the trouble coping with the fact that the Doctor has a grand-daughter. How was it possible to reconcile this fact now the man is a woman? This is, of course, using established conventions that you need one of each sex to reproduce and create offspring. It is the same convention that will imprint on men that the Doctor was their hero… except now, she’s a heroine. The man they looked up to and aspired to become is now someone they could find sexually attractive. That is going to be difficult for many people to cope with.
There’s a flip side to this that’s made me especially angry, and it is watching certain women complain you can’t have a woman in the TARDIS. They enjoy the idea of a man being in control. Capaldi might not have been the most visually appealing of Doctors, but you could always go back to the days of Matt Smith and David Tennant and pretend you were one being rescued, or you were the favourite companion they’d turn to after a long day of saving the Universe. How can you write fanfic when the 13th Doctor’s forcing you to become a lesbian?
All of these issues are underpinned by conventional notions of sexuality. Once one dismisses these, it does not matter one iota who plays what role. What then comes into play is whether your canon will support the change. When a female Thor was announced by Marvel, already established wisdom backed up the decision by stating that Thor’s hammer would only imprint on someone worthy of wielding it, and that choice was not gender specific. The path to gender fluidity in the Time Lords has been laid well in advance, placed into canon as far back as the transformation of Tennant to Smith.
‘The Doctors Wife’ establishes, IN CANON, the Corsair who (according to 11) ‘didn’t feel like himself unless he had (a) tattoo. Or herself, a couple of times. Oooh, she was a bad girl.’ It is another thing to thank Mr Moffat for, I suppose, apart from breaking the whole show apart and putting it back together in a modern, progressive fashion. You can choose to forget all this for the sake of non-canon sensibilities, of course, but anyone who offers shock and surprise that this could happen has really not been paying the right amount of attention.
You can’t complain now, because that’s your fandom, and you should know better.
I want to quickly mention 007 here. This is a Universe that, as it stands, won’t support anything other than a white, hetrosexual Bond, if you look at canon for guidance. Sure, the franchise has tried to reinvent itself (see my mate Roger’s excellent dissection on License to Kill and how changing this male lead’s not as simple as writing in some historical precedent) but even now with Mr D. Craig, Esq in the lead roll, that reinvention has only gone so far. Unless something radical changes in terms of how the lead man is portrayed, it is unlikely we will ever see change on the scale that now exists in the TARDIS. Personally I’d want to pair him up with an equal female agent as we did in Tomorrow Never Dies, but I’m not sure even that is possible at this stage. Some ideas, like it or not, just have to be left to die.
There has also been, quite understandably, some comments on how the kerfuffle in the TARDIS could have been avoided if an actor of colour or from a non-white background had been cast. That is another large can of worms: it might help the Bond franchise reboot, on reflection, but I suspect would have caused similar levels of outrage in the TARDIS, which is ridiculous. This is 2017 and honestly, anyone getting upset at a TV show employing anyone in a lead role who isn’t white and male is on a hiding to nothing.
There are more important things to get upset about, and really this is not one of them.