Sunday, 16 July 2017

Why A Female Doctor Who Is So Important

13th Doctor Who Jodie Whittaker

Image Source: @BBCDoctorWho

Today, it was announced who would be playing the 13th Doctor in Doctor Who. That person is Jodie Whittaker. A woman.

This is huge. It shouldn't be, but it is. As a fan of the show, I am absolutely over the moon that we will have a female Doctor. At last. I can't tell you how emotional it makes me that next year, we will get to see a woman having adventures, travelling through time and space, saving lives and saving the world, in a lead role, every week.

Young girls will be able to watch the show, and see a woman, like they will grow up to be, as the Doctor, not just the Companion. They can imagine themselves going on adventures not just as the sidekick, the helper, the assistant, but as the one with the power. They will see a woman saving lives, instead of needing to be saved. They will see a woman with such intelligence and knowledge, making plans and strategising. They will see a woman being strong and powerful and in control.

We've seen more of this lately, what with the female cast for Ghost Busters and with Wonder Woman. But Doctor Who has a unique opportunity here. A person who was a man for centuries will now be a woman. Sure, the Doctor is an alien rather than human, and so is separate from us anyway, but I'm sure while becoming a woman may not necessarily be a surprise (Missy), it will be a shock. Will the Doctor experience gender dysphoria perhaps? There are trans themes here that could be explored, but only if they are dealt with respectfully and sensitively.

But there's also a chance to show the effect of sexism. The Doctor has always had the privileged of being deferred to as a man, if alien. Will the human race be so accepting of the authority and power of the Doctor, of the President of Earth, when she's a woman? That's if they even know the Doctor is the Doctor, but I'm sure the Doctor will experience the everyday sexism as a woman. Will the Doctor be catcalled, maybe? Will her ideas, thoughts, opinions be dismissed? Will she be listened to? Will she have to work that much harder to be heard, to prove that she's right? Are things more likely to go wrong because the Doctor's not listened to because she's a woman?

There's the Doctor experiencing sexism, and then there's the audience seeing how the Doctor is being treated differently to how she's used to now she is a woman. There is a lot the show could do here to explore and discuss gender inequality and sexism, and the conversations or change in perspectives they could spark.

I'm also interested to see what will happen in regards to the Doctor's sexuality. We've had Captain Jack Harkness, who is omnisexual, and Bill, who is gay. I don't remember the Doctor's sexuality ever being mentioned, but he has fallen in love twice, with women - with Rose and with River Song. The Doctor doesn't fall in love that often, and not all his companions have been love interests, but Rose and River will always be important to the Doctor - the Doctor will always love them, no matter what his gender. And what if the Doctor as a woman meets someone who becomes just as important? Will the Doctor, as a woman, be gay? Or will her sexuality be fluid? It's not impossible for a person's sexuality to change; they can believe they were one sexual oritentation, and then later discover they are another. So it wouldn't be surprising, necessarily, if the Doctor, as a woman, were to fall for a man. However, I think it might mean more if the Doctor were to remain attracted to women.

As I said, the creators of Doctor Who have a unique opportunity here. I am so excited to see what they do with Doctor Who next. Of course, Doctor Who will still be Doctor Who, the show at it's essence won't change. It will just be interesting to see this new change. Of course, there are more steps that could be taken. The actress they chose could have been a woman of colour, right? There are those fans who will have a problem with a female Doctor, so maybe they want to make changes one step at a time. A woman first, a person of colour next? I don't know whether that's necessarly the right thing to do, even if that is what they're doing. But it's a step in the right direction, at least, and I can't wait to see Jodie Whittaker in action.

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