Wednesday, November 1, 2017

The Female "Doctor"

I was excited for the announcement of the Doctor to follow Peter Capaldi. Even better, the announcement was made on July 16th -- my birthday. But the fact that Jodi Whittaker was named to follow Capaldi did not fill me with joy, and the division the fandom has felt since then is still going strong. Apparently, you aren't allowed to dislike a female playing the Doctor without automatically being called a sexist. Because "how DARE you NOT support a female" being named . . . in a part that has been exclusively male for more than fifty years?! And you've got people bringing in the race card, too. Saying only sexist racists would be against a female Doctor, and they'd bet that the ones against it were also against a black woman to play Hermione in Cursed Child, and so on.

Frankly, to address the Hermione thing first off, yes, I will admit it's weird seeing a black woman play Hermione when the face associated with the character is that of Emma Watson. It's also weird because in the third book, I believe it was, there's a mention of Hermione's white face. So, yes, the character is Caucasian. However, that doesn't mean a black person can't play her. If she's a good actress, then she'll be seen as Hermione regardless. I look at it the same way I look at the 25th anniversary of Les Mis at the Royal Albert Hall. A black guy played Javert. Is that historically accurate, that a black person would be in that position of power? Highly doubtful, so yes, it is a bit jarring to see a black man playing Javert. However, it in no way detracts from the performance he gives. (The automatic comparison to Phillip Quast from the tenth anniversary does that, and I'm sorry to 25th anniversary Javert, but you do come out lacking.)

Now, I'm aware, people reading this will then ask, "If you're not against a black Hermione, and say that if she's good, she'll be seen as Hermione regardless, then how can you be against a woman Doctor?"

Equating the two doesn't work. Especially in a play setting, the best actor/actress should get the role, regardless of what they look like, unless body type/ethnicity is integral to the role. For instance, I remember one play where two woman are talking, and they are comparing sizes, and both are small women, I believe a size two and a size four. There, you would need specifically small women, so anyone over a size six, unless the director takes liberties with those lines, is not going to work in the part. Anyway, having a black Hermione doesn't equate because they aren't changing base things about the character. They're not suddenly changing her into a guy because "reasons." They're simply saying, 'hey, this actress was the best one, she got the part.'

A woman Doctor, in what has been an exclusively male role up till now is not the same thing. Changing the Doctor to a woman will change the entire personality, the way people look at and react to the character, and how the writers would even be able to set up episodes. I'm aware this is sci-fi, and I'm aware this is fiction, but there are elements of reality within. Take the episode Midnight, for example. Quick recap: the Doctor is in a train car going on a tour through a planet made of diamond, I believe. The surface of the planet is such that nothing could survive out in its atmosphere, and the car has to be kept completely enclosed, because any longer than six seconds' exposure to that atmosphere will kill you. On the tour, the car is stopped by something, we don't know what, and the Doctor and the other passengers hear a knocking from outside the car. Whatever the entity is possesses one of the passengers, and later, the ones unaffected think that it's moved into the Doctor. They all agree that the best idea would be to throw the Doctor out of the car, onto the surface of the planet, thereby killing him instantly. It's human nature and mob mentality at its "finest." Obviously, there are episodes after this, the Doctor does wind up surviving, thanks to the one intelligent, logical thinker left in the car, who sacrifices herself to save the others.

Anyway. A woman Doctor probably wouldn't even be listened to for as long as David Tennant's Doctor was able to hold their attention. Women, historically, are spoken over, looked down on, have things dumbed down for us, have things simplified and over-explained to us, and are not listened to simply because we are women. Yes, the Doctor is an alien from Gallifrey, but the fact is, to humans, he looks like one of us. (Or as the Doctor said in one episode, "No, you look like Time Lords.") So people judge him, and now her, by human standards.

Extrapolate that to historical episodes, because not only does the Doctor go to other planets and the future, he also visits the past. There have been episodes featuring Charles Dickens, Agatha Christie, Vincent Van Gogh, and William Shakespeare, to name a few. And in those episodes, all featuring male Doctors, the Doctor wasn't necessarily listened to until it was almost too late. Imagine a female Doctor in those situations. Contending with the males  of the time, talking in circles around them about things they have no comprehension of, and especially in Shakespeare's time, she'd be locked away in an asylum for being a witch! Or in Agatha Christie's time, some well-intentioned man would probably be trying to marry her off to some aristocrat.

The point is, the Doctor, as a female, wouldn't be listened to in any sort of capacity from a true historical standpoint, so they'd either have to completely change how men reacted to females in the past, or take out the historical episodes all together.

Problem solved! you say? Not remotely. Because that still leaves us with the fact that with the Doctor being female, the personality will change. "You moron!!! Every regeneration, his entire personality changes!!! Don't you know anything about Doctor Who?!?!?!"

Yes, I do. There are traits and stature that are present in all the Doctors, even if some of them are a bit more out there than others. And even though these are very different men, there are traits and there is a stature they all have in common. And from the writing standpoint, those traits and stature are kept because it's men they're writing for. The clearest example I can give of this is Missy. She premiered in the first episode of season eight, also Peter Capaldi's first full episode. It's a mystery, though some figured it out long before the reveal, of who she is, until in the season eight finale, she tells the Doctor, "I couldn't very well keep calling myself the Master, could I?"

So apparently, Missy regenerated from John Simm's Master, who was taken by the ones on Gallifrey during the End of Time two parter, when David Tennant regenerated.

Honestly, I was so let down by this reveal, both because, okay, why did they feel the need to make her a woman? and because, are you serious??? What does it take to kill this guy??? (Not to mention that, while I can't confirm the truth of this because I haven't seen enough of Classic Who, but a friend told me that the Master felt he was perfect as he was, and that was why the Masters all have the same type of look about them. They're not so wildly different looking as the Doctors are, because the Master felt he'd already reached perfection. So, now all of a sudden, becoming female is the height of perfection? Yeah, no. I don't buy it.)

In addition to that, Missy as a character just felt sloppy, poorly written, poorly executed, and largely pointless, especially with the several "death" scenes where she inexplicably returns a few episodes later. And that, I feel, is the fate of a female Doctor. A sloppily done, poorly written, poorly executed character who is nothing more than a vague caricature of the powerful character they once were.

Peter Davison got a ton of flak for this, even deciding to close his Twitter account because of the backlash, but he said that it was a shame they were doing this to the Doctor, because there aren't enough male role models out there.

Frankly, I agree with him. There aren't enough male OR female role models. There are characters we like, characters we'd like to be, characters we ship ourselves with, but as far as actual role models, who is there?

I know some would point to Buffy's Angel or Spike, but really? The only reason Angel is a good guy is because gypsies cursed him with a soul so he would feel the pain and remorse for slaughtering their people. And even before he became a vampire, he was a drunken lout who loved gambling and using women. After he became a vampire, when he had no soul, well, he found pleasure in torturing people, sometimes for weeks before he killed them. Spike had his mommy issues, and his obsession with killing Slayers. Even when he claimed to love someone, like Drusilla, violence was involved. When Dru dumped him, Spike said in season three that he was going to 'go find her, tie her up, and torture her until she liked him again.' And in season five, when he revealed that he was in love with Buffy, there was still the bloodlust, because in season six, when he realized that he could hit her without the military chip implant in his head going off, he called her, had her meet him, and they fought. It culminated later near the finale of season six when Spike sexually assaults her when she's about to take a bath.

People may also point to someone like Harry Potter. I could see wanting him as a friend. An ally. Maybe even someone to get advice from. But a role model? No. Most of the time, he has no idea what he's doing, he does the normal thing of throwing tantrums after the events he's been through, he does push away his friends because of his emotions, and I know there's more, but I haven't read the movies in quite some time. The themes of standing by your friends, standing up for your beliefs, and the like, are things to look up to, but using any of them as role models? Again, no.

I do understand why people say there is a need for strong female characters in TV, literature, and movies. But the fact is, women are still coming from behind. We're still playing catch up to men who have always had the advantage. So if we want strong, independent female leads, then they need to be created by strong, independent women and put out there for the world to see. They shouldn't be characters who are already established males, so that a female actress is automatically measured against the men who have come before her. (And don't even try to tell me that won't happen. It happens every time the Doctor regenerates, and it's only going to be all the more vicious now, since it's a woman.)

I do welcome all INTELLIGENT comments on this topic. But if you're just going to come on here and say, "uR a SeXiSt LOSER!!!" or anything similar, your comment will be deleted. I welcome the exchange of ideas, but if you have nothing of substance to add to the discussion, (note I said discussion and not argument,) then save your breath. This post is not about beginning arguments, it's me saying my piece. If you  can't handle that, that's on you, not me.