I have opinions on the new Dr Who announcement, specifically on the Dr being a chick, and just because I haven’t watched the show for some years doesn’t mean I don’t have a right to shout my opinions into the cyber-void like the rest of the geek-minded world.
So, here goes. As a feminist and as a proud geek, I have only one thing to say: I don’t give a fuck whether the new Dr Who regenerates as a man or as a woman.
As a storyteller, however, I think Jodie Whittaker’s casting is just fab. 🙂
Let’s just stop and dissect that a little:
As a feminist, I don’t give a fuck
This might seem a little counter-intuitive, but the fact is, hiring a woman as the lead in a long-running television show is not actually going to advance the cause of feminism in any meaningful way. No, seriously. Nobody is going to earn equal pay, break through any glass ceilings, gain respect for unpaid, domestic or caring vocational callings, or suffer less from systematic, structural gendered inequalities, simply because Dr Who now possesses a vag.
And yes, I know, I know, “representation matters”. Sure. It’s nice. We all like it. I just don’t actually think it matters that much. I grew up watching Ripley, Sarah Conner, Buffy, even Leia held her own, despite being like the only woman in the entire damn galaxy.
I don’t think these fictional characters taught me women could kick-arse. I already knew women could kick arse. But I loved seeing it on the screen, I loved seeing me – or an idealised, wannabe, fantasy me, because let’s face it, I was never going to fight terminators or vampires or aliens in reality and if I did, I wouldn’t be the one still standing at the end of the night.
I am really happy there’s another awesome strong female lead on the tele for today’s young girls to watch and cheer for. Woohoo, cool, you go girls. I just don’t think that makes much of a difference when it comes to breaking down the systematic and structural gendered inequalities inherent in our culture, politics and economics.
As a proud geek, I don’t give a fuck
As a geek, all I want is to see someone awesome in the role of the Doctor. Peter Capaldi was perfect. And Jodi Whittaker looks like she’ll be awesome too. Excellent. I think they chose well. But as a geek, I didn’t care right, left or centre if they hired male or female or beyond the binary for the role. There were some excellent male possibilities who, as a geek, I would’ve been quite happy to see in the role of the Doctor. That’s all I have to say on that matter.
As a storyteller, the Dr being a woman is the Best. Thing. Ever.
But as a storyteller now, making Dr Who a woman is a wonderful, long-overdue, awesome move that I am cheering to see.
It’s like this: any fictional character who’s physical presence is not in any way inherent or permanent, does not need to be bound by binary gender concepts, and should absolutely not be tied down to a single gender type. And considering the Doctor’s personality has altered with every regeneration, so his character changes every time, there is absolutely no storytelling reason for the Doctor not to be a woman.
But more – not only does it make storytelling sense for the Doctor to be a woman in some regenerations, by not having a female Doctor at least once or twice in the show’s history, a huge storytelling opportunity is missed.
Why do we tell stories? Why do we consume (watch/read/listen) to them? One of the reasons must be to explore, who we are, individually, collectively, and what makes us so, internally, also externally, our broader context and our self. Subjectivity and objectivity. All that jazz. A character like the Doctor, who is not tied to a specific physical presence, who regenerates into someone new every few years, offers immense scope to explore and investigate such concepts. Indeed, every time the Doctor regenerated back when I watched it, there was always a sense of discovering who this new Doctor was, and him working this out through his interactions with others. It’ll be interesting to see how this is influenced by the change in gender.
It made me think of Richard Morgan‘s Takeshi Kovac’s series, of which I am a huge fan (far more so than I am a Dr Who fan, actually). In Kovac’s world, digitised personalities slip on and off ‘sleeves’ – physical bodies – with startling ease. Only once, in the first book, does he wear a female sleeve, and it’s a pretty brutal end to that physical presence, but I always thought Morgan did that switch in gender exceedingly well, and I always wished he’d have explored this more.
Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t a criticism of that book series. I don’t think it was necessary for Morgan to go down that path and it wasn’t really the point of the books. He chose not to, no problemo. But for me personally, I would have found it interesting to explore Kovacs as a female. To explore, too, gender post the binary in a world where physical presence is fleeting and sexuality potentially fluid. It’s fleetingly touched on, when Kovacs pretends to be a hetero woman in a male sleeve, but he chooses not to go there in any major way. For me, that leaves a whole host of storytelling territory untouched that would have been fascinating.
Anyhoo, there’s no law that says an author must explore the storytelling territory I personally find interesting, and maybe that’s why I’m a writer, because I have interests and areas I want to explore in fiction, so I write the stuff myself. And I will always, *always* adore one of Morgan’s other books, Black Man, (Thirteen in the US) for it’s final few pages (well, for lots of reasons, but its ending too), when the hyper-masculine 13 meets a female 13 and is totally thrown to understand that his gender perhaps does not necessarily make much difference.
Anyway. I’ve digressed. Again.
In short, I love that the new Doctor is female, but not for the reasons you might think. Or maybe they are. Either way, I might just give it a watch again.
Or I might just go read Morgan’s books again.
Or maybe go write something of my own to explore issues of gender and sexuality when not tied to a single physical presence.