Notes on News: A response to the backlash at Jodie Whittaker’s Doctor Who role

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Let’s start with a couple of disclaimers, shall we? Firstly, I don’t watch Dr Who. Never have done, really. I just think it’s all a little bit… well, silly for my tastes.

Secondly, I don’t consider myself to be a feminist. Don’t get me wrong, I do think women should have equal rights, equal pay, sanitary products available for free on the NHS etc., so if that makes me a feminist then I guess I am one. I just wouldn’t label myself as such.

All the above being said, if you need more proof – as if any more were needed – of what unpleasant, sexist, snide, backwards c***s the fine folks over at The Daily Mail really are, then look no further than their opinion piece on the casting of Jodie Whittaker as the 13th Doctor, published in last Monday’s paper:

“Exterminate! As Dr Who changes sex, The Daily Mail‘s TV critic CHRISTOPHER STEVENS asks the provocative question… Why ARE all the male heroes disappearing from the box?” …well Chris, the short answer to your question would be: “They aren’t, you bloody idiot.”

You want the long answer? Strap yourselves in then…

I think it’s the smugness of this headline that I find most offensive; the implicit notion that the eminent CHRISTOPHER STEVENS (so eminent that his name must appear in block capitals, apparently) was the first to express his umbrage at what he considers to be a “politically correct blow to a TV show that was once simply a children’s favourite”. As if thousands of sweaty, basement-dwelling ‘hyper-fans’ hadn’t already taken to Twitter to decry this turn of events, a full twenty-four hours before the latest edition of this rag went to print.

But I digress.

“Perhaps it’s my age,” CHRISTOPHER begins, “but there are some things I don’t feel happy discussing with a female doctor, and saving the world is one of them.” Oh, you’re so right Chris! Let the men be the saviours of the universe, keep the women in the kitchen where they belong. Wonder Woman, hang up thy sword! Black Widow, holster thy pistols! Your place is in the nursery, not the battlefield! Maybe the herb garden if we’re feeling generous.

Apparently casting a woman as the Doctor “heaps pressure on other TV and movie producers to be ostentatiously feminist.” CHRISTOPHER uses British crime serials as an example of an area where such “endemic sexism” is already rife, siting shows such as Unforgotten, Happy Valley, Fearless and The Loch, all of which feature female leads, whilst failing to mention any that don’t: Midsummer Murders, Shetland, Luthar, Sherlock, Endeavour, Line of Duty, Death in Paradise, Maigret, Inspector George Gently, Granchester, The Night Manager… I could go on.

“Imagination is stifled when drama is forced to conform to ‘socially appropriate’ ideals”, CHRISTOPHER claims. Of course, any rational human being would argue that, given the last twelve Doctors were all white men, the casting of a woman in the role is actually quite imaginative indeed. “Children cannot abide change”, CHRISTOPHER goes on to assert. Here I think Chris might be confusing ‘children’ with ‘goldfish’.

“Children need positive role models – male as well as female”. Here, at least, CHRISTOPHER and I agree. But here’s the thing Chris: our role models shouldn’t have to be exactly the same as us. If they did, then the only people looking up to Peter Capaldi’s incarnation of the Doctor would have been white men over the age of fifty. I consider Daenerys Tagaryen to be a personal role model, and I was a man last time I checked, which was about five seconds ago.

Role models are role models because we aspire to be like them in how they act, not what they look like or what gender they are. And of course, the ultimate irony, the Doctor is a genderless shapeshifting alien with two hearts! Of all the characters in all the TV shows on the planet to throw a hissy fit over when their gender is switched, he/she should be at the bottom of any list!

The most disgusting thing about this article, though, is that CHRISTOPHER attempts to use it as a stick with which to beat the BBC for the recently revealed pay gap between its male and female stars: “It’s feminism for effect — serious commitment is lacking if you’re not paying female presenters as handsomely as the men.” Whilst I agree the pay gap is a genuine problem, the multiple layers of hypocrisy on show here are so dizzying that I feel like I’m stuck in Inception!

That the Daily Mail – a paper that regularly treats female stars and celebrities as slabs of sexy, bikini-clad meat to be stared at through butcher-shop windows by horny teenagers with their dicks in their hands, or lambasts them for being too fat or too thin like they’re bowls of Goldilocks’s porridge – has the gall to berate another company for not paying women their dues, whilst simultaneously bemoaning the creation of a new, strong female role for television viewers, is enough to make me want to scream.

I’m afraid this won’t be the pithiest of endings. Never before have I been more furious about a response to a topic that I couldn’t care less about. It’s f*****g shameful.

P.S. Since writing the body of this article, I have come to discover that the very first article Mail Online chose to post after Whittaker’s appointment was titled “Doctor Nude!”, and featured a series of pictures of Whittaker, in past roles in which she was required to strip on camera. Because, y’know, The Daily Mail is all about gender equality, and treating men and women the same, and not throwing naked pictures of one sex all over the internet for people to goggle at, and all that… there are no words…

Check out Whittaker’s announcement as the new Doctor below, and weep for how shameful and horrid it is that sci-fi finally gets some representation:

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A BA English student with a love of film, tv and all things screeny!

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