Doctor Who fans, the time (heh) is nigh! After months of speculation, we’re approaching the announcement of the actor to play the 12th Doctor. There has been plenty of talk about who will play the Time Lord’s next incarnation, and, as tends to happen every now and again, there’s been lots of speculation and rumor-mongering about the possibility of a female 12th Doctor. Heck, the possibility has been teased by several of the show’s actors and even the show-runner himself. All of this, of course, has given some really annoying Whovians a chance to throw idiot tantrums online about why a Lady Doctor would ZOMG RUIN THE SHOW FOREVER ARRRGGHHHH BUTTHURT!!!!!!!
Seriously, if you were to find a random message board/blog/news article about Doctor Who that references the possibility of a female Doctor, you will be treated to a long parade of people offering their arguments for why this would be the Worst Thing Evar. And while I have no problem per se with somebody who doesn’t want a female Doctor, I get deeply annoyed by people who present stupid arguments in defense of that position. So here’s a collection of the most popular arguments against a female Doctor, all of them lightly paraphrased from actual arguments made repeatedly in different corners of the Whovian regions of the web. Let’s see how they hold up, shall we?
“I’m not sexist, but…”
They always start like this. “I’m not sexist!” Always with a hint of indignation, too, like how dare those PC bleeding hearts accuse them of being sexist? All they’re doing is loudly asserting to anyone who’ll listen that their very favorite show of all time would be completely destroyed by a change as minor as starring a woman instead of a man. What’s so sexist about that?
“The Doctor is a Time Lord, not a Time Lady!”
Yeah, OK, the Doctor is a Time Lord, and when he regenerates into a woman, he’ll be a Time Lady. Boom. Problem solved.
Oh, I get it, they think the two are somehow mutually exclusive; like, because he’s a Time LORD, he can’t regenerate into a Time LADY. Never mind that gender-changing regenerations have been established canonically. And also never mind that genders aren’t fixed or binary even in our dull real-life Universe, let alone in crazy sci-fi land. Guys, when you don’t have a firm handle on either the real world or your chosen fictional alternative, it’s maybe time to take a break and let the grown-ups sort this one out.
“It would change the whole dynamic of the show!”
Yeah. And? If you want to watch a show that never changes, watch some old episodes with your favorite Doctor. Most of them still exist, and I can pretty much guarantee you they haven’t changed much since you last watched them. Go give “Blink” or “City of Death” another go while the rest of us move on to new things.
“I’m a woman, and I think the Doctor should stay a man!”
Um…OK. I’m a dude, and I think the Doctor should be a lady. That makes us even, right?
“Well, would you make James Bond a woman? Or Superman? Or Captain Kirk? Or…um…Abraham Lincoln?”
Yeah, ’cause Bond and Supes and Kirk and (sigh) Abraham Fucking Lincoln are all Time Lords. They all regenerate periodically and assume new physical forms and new personalities. That’s a thing they do, like, all the damn time. It would totally make exactly as much sense for one of them to become a woman as for the Doctor to do so. That’s an excellent argument. I’m so glad you could make it. Hey, look! I have a toy firetruck! See how shiny and red it is? Wanna play with it? Sure you do! Have fun, Sport!
“Maybe it would work if it was just one episode, or in a parallel universe spin-off in a comic book, or something.”
So you’re saying women should get the one-shot “alternate” Doctors, while men get all the “real” Doctors? Yeah, OK, Separate But Equal always works out well. You’re sure you’re gonna stick to this “I’m not sexist” claim?
“But I’m NOT sexist!”
I love this one, because it suggests that people who think a change of gender would utterly destroy the show have no problem with a major retcon of one of the most firmly established elements of the new series (i.e., the Time Lords [and Ladies] are all dead and time-locked).
“But…but…the Doctor is married to a woman! If he became a woman…well…you know…it would be…you know…”
“Well, if they do get a woman, they should get someone who can actually play the part, rather than just hiring someone because they’re female!”
Oh! You don’t say! They should hire a talented performer to play the lead in their international hit TV show! What a novel concept! You must work in the business! You should have your agent call my agent, we could work out a deal for you to GO FUCK YOURSELF.
No, really, I would take this idea of “hiring someone who can play the part well” more seriously if it wasn’t coming from people who wanted to arbitrarily discard half of the available talent pool.
“If you make him a woman, why not make him American?”
Doctor Who is a British show. It is an iconic part of the country’s history and culture. I can understand wanting to keep the character British, even if it makes no real sense for a space alien to have a British accent. But the show isn’t designed for or associated with a single gender (or race) in the same way. Keeping the Doctor British is just respecting a history and tradition that’s deeply associated with Britain. Keeping the Doctor male is just excluding a bunch of (British) women for no good reason.
“Little boys don’t have enough intellectual, non-violent role models! Don’t take the Doctor away from them!”
This actually comes dangerously close to being a reasonable argument. Yes, it’s a problem that so many role models in entertainment are violent rather than thoughtful. But if that’s your issue, go complain to the people making those shows and movies and comics; you don’t actually “solve” this problem by keeping the Doctor male, because there are still very few like him. Meanwhile, it’s also a problem that so many female role models are either damsels in distress or underdeveloped love interest. And this whole “I’m not sexist” thing would carry a bit more credibility if you were as worried about the lack of good female role models as you are the lack of good male role models.
Mind you, that’s not to say there’s anything inherently wrong with not wanting a female Doctor. There are legitimate reasons to be wary of that sort of change. Whether we like it or not, it would alienate a lot of the fan base, and thereby risk endangering the long-term viability of the franchise. It would be seen by many as a cynical publicity stunt. And this would all serve to make the role unfairly challenging to any actress; she would need to pretty much be the best Doctor ever to really be accepted by the majority of the audience, if even then. Of course, these aren’t really reasons the Doctor shouldn’t be a woman, so much as reasons a female Doctor wouldn’t work, within the cultural context the show has to exist in.
But let’s not forget that there’s a real dearth of female creatives behind the show right now. Even if a woman was playing the Doctor, she still might not be safe from sexism. Just look at the history: Rose and Martha, for all their great qualities, were largely defined by their romantic feelings for the Doctor. Amy Pond spent much of her tenure being defined by her role as a wife and mother. Clara was basically just a poorly-defined vehicle for the “Impossible Girl” plot line. And even River Song, as awesome and badass as she often is, was capable of being reduced to a lovesick sociopath when it served the plot. Maybe, before we worry about having a lady Doctor, we should worry about having a lady showrunner, to make sure the show is really capable of properly supporting a female lead.