A Female Doctor Who

So, the next Doctor is going to be a woman. I’ve mused on this before:

The issues around a female Doctor are a bit more complicated. My first thought was that we had seen female Time Lords in the past, and had had no real reason to think that the Doctor’s regenerations could change gender, and so then we didn’t want to turn this into another “Dax” thing with male and female memories in the same body and all of the issues around them when we’ve gone for decades without having to worry about it. But then in some random surfing I found that it is possible that one of the Master’s incarnations was female, which means that that’s already there. I’m still not convinced it’s something worth exploring in Doctor Who, though, especially considering the shortness of those series.

Of course, the typical Social Justice people are generally thrilled with it, like Adam Lee. Of course, their arguments for it actually make me less inclined to support it because of just how bad they are and how they highlight potential complications and consequences that aren’t that great.

So, let me start with fandom in general, as any criticism of these things is always presented by them as simple misogynistic/racist ranting. Lee gives an example of one in his post:

I awoke this morning with a heavy sense of melancholic despondency, as if a dear lifelong friend had just died. Oh, wait a minute, a dear lifelong friend HAS just died. He was Doctor Who, albeit a fictional character in a sci-fi series but one who I’ve kept company with since the show began in 1963 when I was knee-high to a grasshopper. My now-adult children watched it, too, when they were younger. But the good Doctor has been slain by a small cabal of fanatical ideological fundamentalists in the name of “diversity” and “cultural relevance.”

I find that my waking melancholy is progressively giving way to vein-bulging rage, which is very childish of me and will give delight to virtue-signalling Guardian readers, whose intolerance and cruelty actually knows no bounds, despite their preposterous displays of right-on, Newspeak-approved compassion. While I’m still in the grip of that childishness, I should say that while of course I harbour no malice toward Ms Whittaker, I really do want the show to crash and burn after this preposterous casting decision…

Now, pause for second and consider this thought experiment. Imagine that the writers said that for the next series they were going to change the exterior appearance of the TARDIS to be something other than a police box. After all, people outside of Britain have never seen the things, and even in Britain they are quite rare, so new viewers are confused about just what it’s supposed to be. And it was established that the TARDIS had the ability to change its exterior to blend in, and that that circuit was broken. And even originally, it was just done to save money, but with current CGI that’s no longer necessary. So they’re just going to go ahead and fix it so that it blends in again.

Do you think that a large number of fans wouldn’t react to that in at least as strong a manner as Lee’s example?

Look, this is what we know about dedicated fandoms. First, they don’t particularly like change. Second, they certainly don’t like change for the sake of change. And thirdly, they particularly don’t like change that is aimed to appeal to an audience that isn’t them. Lee might want to consider this “entitled”, but for a dedicated audience this isn’t unreasonable. They were the ones who supported it all of those years. They are the ones that are responsible for it still existing, through their keeping it alive and in the public consciousness. Given how often these sorts of “changes” take away the things they like to add things that they don’t care for, they are right to fear those sorts of changes and are right to think that the writers shouldn’t be ignoring the existing audience to appeal to a new one, whether that is based on economic status, main stream status, or Social Justice status.

Peter Davison has rather mildly criticized the move:

But the 66-year-old told the Press Association: “If I feel any doubts, it’s the loss of a role model for boys, who I think Doctor Who is vitally important for. So I feel a bit sad about that, but I understand the argument that you need to open it up.

“As a viewer, I kind of like the idea of the Doctor as a boy but then maybe I’m an old fashioned dinosaur – who knows?”

Lee attempts to respond to that:

First: if this is really what you’re concerned about, let me assure you that boys growing up today are in no danger of being unable to find a male role model. Even if they don’t like Jodie Whittaker, the BBC isn’t throwing out old tapes anymore; they’ve got twelve male Doctors to choose from.

So, let’s consider a case where I decide to reboot the Sailor Moon anime using male characters, and when people say that doing so takes away important role models for girls I simply reply that they can still watch the original anime/cartoon and so that’s not a concern. Seriously, why in the world did he think that was even an argument? If he’d stuck with the standard line that there are already many similar role models for boys in other works — although those are getting rather thin on the ground — he’d at least have something that looked like an argument. This is just sad.

In the meantime, what’s so bad about letting the girls have a turn for once?

They did have a turn. It was called “The Sarah Jane Adventures”, was reasonably well-received, didn’t face this sort of criticism as far as I can recall, and only ended because the lead actress and namesake passed away. If they wanted to add role models for girls, all they needed to do was spin off another new show doing so. They could do, for example, “The Martha Jones Chronicles”, given her character development in Doctor Who. Or they could have spun off that lizard private detective and her lesbian lover with the Sontaran butler, which entertained me, at least, when they were on. If they had done so, then they could have maintained the role model for boys with the Doctor and added a role model for girls with the new series. If they really wanted a female Time Lord, they could have added one in Doctor Who and spun her off. But there’s always this insistence on changing existing characters for diversity or to add a role model for girls or minorities instead of adding new ones. This seems to be either a lack of creativity and imagination or else a cynical attempt to play off the existing popularity in order to support their own ideological convictions. Maybe one of them can reply here with a better explanation (although arguing about how hard it is to compete against established franchises doesn’t work here because since these are all spinoffs they would get the boost from the original franchise and, well, both The Sarah Jane Adventures and Torchwood worked out).

This also seems to miss the fact that even Doctor Who can provide those role models for girls. While Classic Who might have treated the Companions as, well, just companions the Modern Doctor Who clearly treats them as quite prominent and more as partners. The show has established how important they are to keeping The Doctor human, and a lot of the time the plots are driven not by The Doctor but instead by the Companions (“The Impossible Girl”, “The Girl Who Waited”, Rose, and so on). Why can’t Martha, Rose, Clara, and Amy be good role models for girls? Heck, Billie seems to be written precisely as one for girls and gay characters, so why don’t we have good role models for boys and girls right now? They could make a case if they were going to swap the Companion out with one who would be a good role model for boys … but they don’t seem to be doing that here. Thus, the whole model here really is taking a role model for boys away and not replacing it with anything, in a series that already had good role models for girls. That can’t be seen as anything other than a loss.

Also, it begs the question: why can’t boys look up to a woman as their role model? Davison takes for granted that this is the case, but doesn’t attempt to explain why.

Because the whole concept of the oft-cited arguments that we need to have more women as role models for girls pretty much refutes it? I don’t really see it as an issue that he accepts the argument that those who are pushing for a female Doctor are relying on in order to make his criticism. If we can expect boys to look up to women as role models, then we can expect girls to look up to men as role models, and then the whole role models argument falls apart (In little pieces on the floor, too wild to keep together, you know the rest). Since Lee references the “we need role models for girls” argument above, I’m not at all convinced that’s what he wants to do here.

There’s a profound failure of empathy here, one that’s at the root of many other problems: the idea that white men should only ever have to empathize with characters who look like them.

Which is balanced against the profound failure of empathy from Lee’s side, which both ignores that the counter-idea is that minorities can’t or shouldn’t have to empathize with white male characters — ie characters that don’t look like them — and that a lot of the reaction is due to the often explicitly cited justification for these changes that it will advance an ideology that is not theirs and that they are often neutral to as opposed to hostile to. Which ties back into the idea that if you want to make diversity or role models for girls an explicit goal creating something new or spinning off something would allow you to explore that ideological goal all you want without changing the existing thing in ways that might not work. Gee, it’s almost like empathy is a really bad method for figuring out how to deal with other people. Who knew?

Let me just quote his summary here:

There’s no way to appease people who are clinging to the past. The only way to introduce diversity to a classic series is to just get on with it, and ignore the mutters and grumbles of the troglodytes. It will soon seem like a natural, even obvious step, and the next generation of fans will wonder why anyone ever had a problem with it.

This just reflects perfectly the sanctimonious arrogance that characterizes Lee’s — and many other Social Justice advocates — arguments. He doesn’t actually have an argument here, contradicts himself and some of the key arguments used by his own side, has never established that it is good or even necessary to introduce diversity to a classic series, and yet someone this is just natural, obvious and only opposed by people “clinging to the past” and who are “troglodytes”. And remember, as proven I’m neutral on this, and his comments here are not helping his case, nor is his tone. The best way, it seems, to argue against diversity is to have Social Justice advocates argue for it, and that can’t be a good thing for their side.

7 Responses to “A Female Doctor Who”

  1. Tetris Says:

    I’ve been thinking along similar lines as well. For instance, women who complain that there are too few woman movie heroes for them to identify with, do not get to ridicule men complaining that since the Ghostbuster remake flipped the genders it wasn’t interesting to them. I mostly move in the SJW-leaning sections of the internet, so I saw a lot of this ridicule when the new Ghostbusters came out. “Ohh, poor widdle men, they can’t watch it now that there’s a female ghostbuster! Like men have nobody to identify with or something!” Overall, the impression I got was that the remake had kept the original three ghostbuster characters, and added a fourth, a woman, for diversity reasons. Then I actually saw the movie, and found out that they had gender-flipped the whole core cast. Suddenly, it was the SJWs who were looking unreasonable…

    Aaanyway. I’m glad I found your blog. It will make a nice counterweight to some other stuff I follow. Keep up the nice writing! 😊

    • verbosestoic Says:

      Yeah, the argument leaves them in a poor position. If they play up the idea that women and girls need to identify with the heroes, then the counter that the move will cost them the male audience becomes valid. But if they then turn around and argue that men and boys should be able to identify with female heroes like women and girls have had to, then it doesn’t seem all that important to actually have female heroes for women and girls to identify with. The debate only survives if they can switch between the two arguments seamlessly and don’t bother to examine the contradiction, or deflect it with accusations of sexism.

  2. Andrew Says:

    What you need to remember is that colonialism is bad when Western governments do it to countries and good when social ideologues do it to art or philosophy. Simple, internally consistent (despite all the ridiculous arguments used to provide justification), and anyone who doesn’t “get” it (e.g. you) is a troglodyte whose opinions don’t matter anyway.

  3. Tetris Says:

    Oh, I know… isn’t it annoying when people don’t realize the possibilities of different worldviews, and thus, anybody who disagrees with them is either ignorant or evil?

  4. natewinchester Says:

    Here’s the real issue: Dr. Who is not just Dr. Who. It’s not just about role models either. It is a show that has lasted for 50 years and is beloved around the world. As one person put it, it’s one of the two things Britain can still export after all its guilt over colonialism. Just look at some of the behind-the-scenes stories of it with SFDebris’ video essays on the topic – they’re almost as entertaining as the show. That’s what the aforementioned writers are getting at even if they can’t figure out how to express it. They want a woman (or whatever minority is in vogue at the moment) to have a 50 year old show that people are going into dangerous foreign countries to look for tapes of. They want a cultural institution.

    But there’s a problem. To get such a show would take 50 years at least. And a lot of work. A LOT of work. And it might not succeed anyway. So what do you do if you want all this and are impatient? Obviously then you go and replace the Doctor with a woman. It’s an attempt to apply marxism to social capital. Once you grasp that, you can start seeing the argument they’re trying to make and why they’re doing it so badly.

    Which is a shame since I think they could have been really daring and done an entire “dr-lite” season with the pilot of the TARDIS being revealed as someone like Susan or Romana looking for the Doctor. Then if things work out well you can give her her own ride and have a spin-off show potentially as successful as the Doctor’s.

    • verbosestoic Says:

      While I’m sure that many of the SJWs don’t really understand what they want, I think in a lot of cases the reaction isn’t just that they want that Social Capital, but that not having that will impede their goal of getting more representation/role models. As you noted, when you hear “Superman”, “Doctor Who” or whatever, there’s an instant recognition and usually an already existing audience. It’s easy to promote them and get them out into new media or with reboots. It’s HARD, as you noted, to do that for new characters in general, and ESPECIALLY if those old characters are taking up resources and competing with you. So they see the short-cut to their goal as replacing that character with the “representative” character in order to get the boost from that existing recognition AND to avoid extra competition. The problem is that they aren’t very creative, and so can’t see how to leverage that existing recognition into getting what they want without risking the ire of that already existing audience that’s responsible for that recognition in the first place.

  5. Why Doesn’t Sabrina Count as a Role Model for Girls? | The Verbose Stoic Says:

    […] In a comment on my post about a female Doctor Who, Nate suggests that what they want is a cultural i… However, given its long prominence in Archie Comics, Sabrina has that name recognition, and there are a number of other characters and series that also have that that they could promote, and yet they still don’t. Sure, Sabrina isn’t as well-known as The Doctor, but nothing is, and that hasn’t stopped them trying to convert less well-known properties (like Thor). So I think that there is a simpler interpretation here: they don’t push for these things because they aren’t aware that they exist. […]

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