Sunday, July 16, 2017

Two hearts, no tits — Why a Lady Doctor is a bad idea


Most of you will probably call me a misogynist, or worse, for opposing the casting of Jodie Whittaker to play The Doctor. But as most of you who know me know all too well, my feeling is that most of you can go to hell.

So, for those of you still here after reading that . . . here's why I think the BBC and new DOCTOR WHO showrunner Chris Chibnall made a massive Giant Face-sized mistake in casting a woman to play the iconic role of the The Doctor. Honestly, the Daleks could not have done a more thorough job of decimating everything that is special and wonderful about the character. 


And, of course, now we know why David Bradley will be playing the First Doctor in the upcoming Christmas Special, which will see 12th Doctor Peter Capaldi regenerate a tad top heavy as No. 13. 

We can now well imagine a scene with Bradley as No. 1 nodding approvingly as No. 13 emerges from the regenerative glow, perhaps even pounding home the point by saying it was expected, maybe even that it is "about time" (pun probably intended). Yes, the idea will be to cement buy-in from fans by intimating this change comes complete with a regenerative energy-plated, Hartnell-inspected, BBC-PC stamp of approval.

As if.

Because while Chibnall and Whittaker's Doctor may also be special and wonderful, it will be special and wonderful in a completely different way.

What bothers me is not that my beloved Doctor is no longer a cinematic expression of myself — an occasionally goofy, often curmudgeonly, but ultimately caring, old, white guy — but that, whether consciously or not, the BCC has subtly re-titled the show. Henceforth, whatever the main credits actually say, the show will be known as "DOCTOR WHO, SJW." 

And as such, it is now all about advancing feminism — an agenda which is centered not just on saying that a woman is just as good as a man and can do just about anything a man can do, and much of it better, (which is unquestionably true), but that a woman is exactly the same as a man in ever respect that matters (which is complete rubbish).


And, as much of feminism and all of social justice warrioring does, the result is not to build women up (a worthy and laudable goal), but to tear men down. This casting doesn't just say, "There is no reason a woman can't be The Doctor," it says, "There is no reason at all why he should be a man," as if there is absolutely nothing about the condition of being a man that matters, or is worth exploring. 

Oh, yes, chuck all that to the curb, not a bit of it worth considering. Never mind what a man would think, or do, or how he might react, because so far as we are concerned, it's exactly how a woman would think, or do, or react. 

Except it's not, is it.


Capaldi spent much of his first season asking, "Am I a good man?" Well, surprise, bubbie, now yo ain't no man at all. 

In the past, each regeneration of The Doctor has been a different kind of a man, owing in large part to the strengths and weaknesses, as a an actor and as a man, of each person who played the role. But it was always a male energy. A male view, a male perspective. Well, we've had 50-plus years of that, you say, time for something new. Hey, I don't entirely disagree. And you say, these are Time Lords, they're different. Gender is fluid to them. Again, likely true enough.

But then again, in Doctor Who, as in all fiction, the story is used as a means to reflect the human condition. Sure, we're talking Time Lords, but, at the heart of it, what we're really taking about is the human men and woman behind the production, making a thing for other human men and women to enjoy. 



And here's the thing – this change is not saying to us, the fans, "Hey, a woman can be a Time Lord." As in, "Hey, a woman can be a doctor." It is saying, "A woman can be THE Doctor." Like, "A woman can be Winston Churchill." 

Big difference. And, to my mind, a difference with far too big a distinction.

Some of you will remember how I railed against the casting of Mehcad Brooks as Jimmy Olsen when SUPERGIRL made its debut on CBS. It's a complaint that has not changed since the show moved to The CW. It's not that Brooks is black. It's that he was miscast. Jimmy went from what he always has been — essentially an action-loving King of the Geeks — to being a swab and debonair uber-mensch. To be Jimmy Olson, to really BE Jimmy, an actor needs to carry about him an air that he could, at any moment, turn into a giant, walking, talking, bug-eyed Turtle Boy. Brooks seemed more like every line he utters should end with, "Shaken, not stirred." 


In fact, Jeremy Jordan as Winn Schott plays a better Jimmy that the guy actually cast as Jimmy. I've often said I'd be happy if, in an episode featuring Mr. Mxyzptlk, the 5th dimensional imp snapped his fingers and forevermore, Jordan was Jimmy and Brooks was Schott. Problem solved. After all, Schott, being a new character, can be anything. But Jimmy can't be the person Brooks plays him as (or, to be fair, largely how he is written to play him), because what he's playing is not Jimmy, when we know because the character has a history.

As does Doctor Who.

Or, look at it another way. Jerry Lewis once got into a lot of hot water by saying he doesn't think female comedians are funny. What he meant was that, because woman are different from men, it comes off much differently when a woman tries to ape the kind of clueless stooge character he made his career on. To his mind, instead of coming off as hilarious, it just seemed a little sad. And there's something to that. You may say Jerry Lewis is a fossil, bound by archaic thinking on the roles of men and woman in society, and you're probably right. But think about every dim-witted dad in tv sitcom history — why is it always the dad? How many shows can you name where the dad was the level-headed keeper of hearth and home and the mom was the childish oaf? Not many. 

Now, gender-reversal is not evil in and of itself. The Lady Ghostbusters movie was not bad because it had a female-led cast. It was just a bad movie. And, as the SNL ladies who got so incensed over Jerry's comment have more than proven over the years, woman can well play losers, goofs, and misfits.

But even when the woman does play a ditz, as in Burns and Allen, it's a bit different. You always felt Gracie had a certain sort of wisdom about her in spit of it all, that, in fact, she ruled the roost, and though nominally in charge, George was just happy to spin in her orbit. Even with Lucy, the closest Jerry Lewis analog I can think of, you were always laughing with her, never at her. You always had some sympathy and respect for her character and the situations she got herself into.

Of course, you've always respected The Doctor as well, even when you may not have liked his actions and reactions. But he acted with a male kind of energy, something that will play very differently when performed by a woman. After all, you know that old chestnut, the one about how a stern male boss is a leader, while a stern female boss is a bitch. 

So, that's a problem with society, right? Yes, no doubt. I don't argue that point. But the job of good fiction, in any form, is, as I've said, to reflect the human condition, not to create it. By focusing our attention on certain aspects of our civilization and society, fiction may well trigger reform. But it is never good fiction when it tries to set the agenda, when it says this is how it MUST be and if you have a problem with that, well, there's a problem with you.


And because Chibnall has said his Doctor was always going to be a female doctor, I'm not convinced he's truly thought through the ramifications of what he intends to do. After all, if Whittaker's Doctor reacts as a previous incarnation might have, does she come off as a bitch? And if she does, is Chibnall saying that's society's fault. Will viewers tune in to, in effect, be lectured each week about their own misguided notions of gender? And if how Whittaker reacts is changed to make her not quite so abrasive and/or bumbling, have you changed the essence of what The Doctor has come to be at the core of the character, and what he means to British society, not to mention us Yanks?

And what about companions? Almost anything Chibnall does on that front is bound to come off as the show taking a SJW stance, telling viewers that if they don't like or respond well to what they see, that's only because they're small-minded twits. Bill was one of my favorite companions of all time, quite honestly, at least in part because her sexuality just was. It wasn't pounded home as a message for viewers to either accept or be judged by, if not. But what if the next companion is also a lesbian? What is Chibnall and the BBC saying if the pairing includes any sexual tension, as there often is between Doctors and companions? What if it's a straight female and there are tensions? How will that be interpreted? Does the Lady Doctor still love River Song? Does that make her Time Dyke? And I a bad person for wondering that? 

And if the companion is male and tries to come on to the Lady Doctor, is the show saying something derogatory about men? The Doctor has always been given to mansplaining, but what if a male companion reacts poorly to that from a woman, or, maybe worse, does it to the Doctor? A simple scene suddenly becomes not about the moment, but a kind of metatextual commentary. And what if the companion is gay? Will that be interpreted as something Chibnall had to do to make the man somehow subservient to the Lady Doctor?

I just don't see any way the show goes on from here as a program that just happens to have a female lead now. Instead, it seems to me that almost anything it does is going to be picked apart as being about the fact it now has a female lead. 

You may say, well that's all just because we live in a such a fu*ked up, male-centric society. Maybe. Although I'd answer — and maybe this is because I'm a lifelong comic book geek, a kind of a Gamma Male, if you will — that I'm not convinced our society is quite as male-centric as you may think it is. 

But regardless, DOCTOR WHO is bound to take on an SJW tint from here on in. No matter what else it does, it will be seen as a show that is not trying to entertain its fans so much as fix them. Some fans will resent the show for being that, and the show will resent its fans for thinking that's what it means to so, whether it actually means to do that or not. This schism is preordained because The Doctor has become a woman not because it makes one lick of story or character sense for that to happen, but only because Chibnall and the BBC want it to happen.

And poor Whittaker, she better be made of strong stuff, because she has been placed in an absolutely untenable, no-win situation, I think.

Now, don't get me wrong. The 30-second preview clip aired today is the sum total of what I know about Whittaker. She could be — almost certainly is — an amazing actress. Heck, you know what, that was my age showing a bit there. Let's just go ahead and call her an amazing actor. Period. No female diminutive of the form. See, I'm hip to cultural change. But no matter how great an actor Wittaker is, as a human being, she is still a woman, and that brings an entirely different dynamic to the role, one that might even make for a better, more interesting character, and a better overall show, I'll grant you.

Yes, it could be great. 

It just won't be The Doctor. 


About the only way I can think of to salvage things is if they make a hard point of establishing that gender means nothing to a Time Lord, because there is only one Time Lord entity. If they tell us all Time Lords are THE Time Lord — a celestial being who exists at all points in time — then I'd have an easier time to buy in. 

Maybe they tell us that the TARDIS is not merely a machine that allows the Time Lord to travel through time, it is an extension of his/her energy (we do know it is sentient, after all) and that it acts as a regulator on his/her ability to cross paths with and interact with his/her self. And, of course, Gallifrey, being where all the TARDISES (TARDI?) are kept, that allows the many iterations of the one true Time Lord to congregate there. 

So, if we learn ALL Time Lords are the same being from different moments in time, across an infinite amount of regenerations, I can swallow with greater ease the idea of gender being fluid and non-specific. 

As an aside, that also would add a dimension to the 8th Doctor's reluctance to do what needed to be done, because he was, in essence, committing suicide, as well as an wrinkle to why he failed. It also would mean Susan was never a granddaughter of The Doctor, just a version that regenerated as a juvenile, which was then taken under the wing of and mentored by a more mature version.

And by now you're probably saying, well, what about Missy and the Master? They were the same, aren't they? Yup. So they were. And, frankly, I enjoyed Missy about a million times more than any previous incarnation of The Master .And yet, in the final episode of the most recent season, I had trouble seeing Michelle Gomez and John Simms as different aspects of the same entity. Trouble in a way that never troubled me, as it were, when watching different Doctors playing side by side. That's because, rather a space hobo or a grumpy grandpa, all of the Doctors have played different versions of the male condition. In those versions, the Doctor was a father and a grandfather, and, whatever feminists will have you believe, that is a much different thing from being a mother and grandmother.

Whittaker may take the show to unparalleled heights of creative inspiration, bringing with her a ratings bonanza unparalleled in all tv history. But as her Doctor flits about exploring time and space, she can never hope to find an answer to the one question each previous incarnation of The Doctor has asked, in his own may, because, as great an actor as she may be, as well-written as her version may be, and as well-intentioned as a new SJW take on the Doctor may be, so far as our human experience extends, she is in no way equipped to ask that one over-arching question — "Am I a good man?"

Because men and woman are different.

As they should be.


So, I'll watch the show. I hope it's good. Hell, I hope it's great. But whatever it is, whatever DOCTOR WHO may become, Whittaker is only A Doctor. She is not, and can never be, as Hartnell-cum-Bradley might say, "THE Doctor. The original, you might say."

Because, to put it in the blunt, misogynist terms many of you will still no doubt expect of me for doubting this new development The Doctor is forever this — two hearts, no tits.







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1 comment:

  1. Shouldn't your ultimate question be "Am I a good person?"

    I mean are you letting women off the hook? Can they act however the whim strikes them with no repercussions? Doesn't the Doctor ask that question in lieu of ALL mankind, and therefore isn't a woman capable of asking the same question?

    ReplyDelete