Yesterday, quite a bit of my newsfeed concerned the uproar of “fans” of Doctor Who who were upset that the godlike alien has gone from Time Lord to Time Lady. But has there really been an uproar? I’m dubious. I suspect that sometimes content producers scourer twitter for the craziest of the crazies (the kind of internet troll who actually lives under a bridge) in order to drum up some drama around stories like this. I put ‘fan’ in quotation marks earlier because I cannot believe that anybody who actually follows this show didn’t see this coming. They have been telegraphing this for years (remember how it was basically the Clara Show in seasons 8-9?)
It’s difficult to believe that the kind of person who would be upset by the gender switch would have been onboard with the direction the show has taken over the last few years. The Doctor has been less about fighting aliens and more about delivering heavy-handed soliloquies lately. Even for a lefty like myself, it’s gotten a bit preachy. I figured that this show probably already represented the worst fears of the people who tend to decry “political correctness gone mad.” What I can believe that there are some people on the internet with a fundamentally bad understanding of what feminism is for and why representation matters who are only too eager to post a bunch of hateful nonsense threatening they’ll never watch a show that they already don’t watch.
I can also believe that it is good PR and good click bait to make this a thing. Okay, I’ll try and explain this in away that doesn’t outrage people (fat chance of that, I’m sure).
When my very favorite movie theater, Alamo Drafthouse, announced a woman’s only screening of Wonder Woman the kind of people who get predictably pissed got predictably pissed. I enjoyed reading the pro-Alamo op-eds as much as anybody. Of course, it was ridiculous to be mad at a one-time event catering exclusively to women. A silly stunt that allowed people celebrate a major motion picture franchise finally placing a female hero front and center. The kind of thing no-one would have batted an eye about had it been a screening of say… Sex and the City.
It didn’t occur to me until after I had liked about a hundred of these defensive articles and meme’s, that there were just so many people resisting the predictably pissed. Maybe resistance was predictable. There are people with a platform and a voice who will use both to explain what feminism is and why representation matters. Despite everything, the zeitgeist is still looking forward which is very hopeful.
But here’s the possible fly in the ointment… People can be counted on to resist. These diversity wins are bound to be shared and liked by supporters. Clever marketing folks have surely figured out that if you anger the right people you can earn yourself quite a bit of free publicity. We’re all anxious these days. We’re all eager for a fight. We especially want to fight anyone representing anything remotely regressive. Doctor Who is now a woman, not because a Steve Moffat is a brave man who made a brave decision to thwart the patriarchy but because this is the move that fans of the show wanted and a move that a large portion of society wants, at least they enjoy pissing off the people who don’t want it.
So, does this fly invalidate the hope?
If the point of petitioning for representation is to undo the structural violence which props up inequality, giving us a chance to see ourselves as heroes whatever our gender or orientation, then today is a great day. Today it has become economically viable to have a female lead. Let’s keep pushing and see what else we can do.
I’m not worried that this is a gimmick. I know it’s a gimmick. But isn’t every bit of popular culture a gimmick? I mean, it’s all about promising us something shiny and exciting in exchange for our attention, right? It’s gimmick and it’s also one I think will be pretty good for the show.
Someone pointed out in opposition to the idea of the woman Doctor that the Doctor hasn’t been a powerful decision maker for a while. The companion has been the leader… maybe since Donna? In light of this, they said, the audiences won’t like the female Doctor because she’ll be so dis-empowered. I take the opposite view.
As a legit fan [smug] the show has been really bad. Clara was the worst. Bill was slightly better but over all Capaldi was totally wasted in that role. He could have been one of the best, he had all the curmudgeonly snark that makes the Doctor great, but he was generally pretty useless. When he wasn’t soapboxing he was basically just marking time while Clara did stuff. Moffat totally Moffated the whole thing;
1. He gets something good
2. He doesn’t understand what’s good about it.
3. He selects a couple of bits he thinks are the good ones, then does them to death.
(Don’t even get me started on what he did to Sherlock).
All in all, I’m hoping this new Doctor is a stronger more decisive Doctor (the kind audiences want to see from the first female in the role) and I hope that this gimmick breaths new life into something that was so good once and can be good again.
I’m onboard for