Why It’s Time To Genderflip Doctor Who
Matt Smith is done being The Doctor.
Which means it is now time to introduce a female Doctor.
This apparently upsets some of you.
Don’t worry — it won’t happen. You’ve already won. You can be sure that right now they have suggested and summarily dismissed an actress for the role. (See also: Idris Elba.)
But I’m going to tell you why that’s fucked up.
So, I said on the Twitters like I just said here: it’s time for a female Doctor. I even mentioned what I felt was a good choice — Imogen Poots (Google her), who I think might carry on the same kind of gleeful anarchy and smoldering emotional intensity The Doctor so requires. Others mentioned Tilda Swinton — which I think also works! She’s maybe a little praying-mantisy, but she’s also really well in line with what Christopher Eccleston brought to the table, so hell yeah.
In response, I got a lot of folks saying that this was “PC tokenism.” That it would just be marketing. Falsely trying to balance — well, who gives a shit. You know the drill.
Crap of the highest order.
You’re going to defend it as being against the story. Like it’s a money or culture decision made ahead of the interests of the narrative. Here’s why that’s wrong: the cultural status quo and the financial weight lies with keeping things the same. The Doctor of Doctor Who has always been a white dude. Cultural inertia and financial interest is stronger when that remains true.
(Plus, making the character female opens up new story avenues.)
You say, it’s “tokenism.” But tokenism isn’t what you think it is. Some people said — “Well, why not make the supporting characters be strong female characters?” That’s tokenism. Putting a black dude in your TV show — oh, ho, ho, not as the lead character, mind you — because you need a black dude for your “demographics,” that’s tokenism. Tokenism is a dismissive, hand-wavey gesture. Tokenism is, “Here, happy now? We’re eating bread, but you enjoy these crusts. HEY IT’S BETTER THAN NOTHING, SHADDAP.” Making your titular character — in this case, making the Doctor a woman — isn’t a token. It’s a nuclear bomb.
You might say, well, it has nothing to do with the story, so why do it at all? But that’s part of the magic, here. Doctor Who is a show about a character whose very flesh is transitive. This character has carried across multiple iterations so far — this role is tailor-made to see actors and actresses who are not White Dudes. It’d be one thing if the character’s “maleness” was key to the role, right? You could make a case that says, this or that story — Ulysses, Fight Club, whatever — has its roots in a kind of male experience, and changing that might alter the story so much it’s not worth the genderflip. But this is Doctor Who. It is, as its heart, a show for kids and family. It should not be protected by some kind of geeky jurisdiction. The Doctor is practically already without gender. The romances are barely that; the sonic screwdriver is not a metaphor for some dude’s wang. If we can’t give the role of a flesh-changing alien to a woman and instead relegate the actresses only to the “girl groupies,” that’s kinda fucked up, isn’t it? What kind of message is that for the families who are watching the show? Not the adult geeks of Whovian fandom, but kids who dig the character and all its assorted fictions?
And it’s that last point that matters most for me; this is a show where kids are watching. Little boys. Little girls. Do we really want to say to little girls, “You can never be The Doctor? You are forever relegated to The Companion?” And do you really want that same message for boys? “You will always be The Doctor. Girls are forever your Companions.” Fuck that noise. I want my son to grow up in a world where women can be real doctors and imaginary Time Lord Space Doctors.
So, now I ask you —
Who would be a great female Doctor?
Note that I’m not asking to have a conversation about whether the Doctor should or should not be played by a woman. You want to have that conversation, have it somewhere else.
(Sidenote: I’m told the Corsair proves it possible for Time Lords to flip the gender, thus showing how the Doctor could do the same. I’m honestly not a Super-Fan of the show, more just a casual watcher, but YEAH WHATEVER LET’S DO IT LADY WHO WOOOOOOOO)