Sexism and Transphobia in Doctor Who June 5, 2013Posted by wfenza in Skepticism and atheism.
Editorial Note: This post was written by Wes Fenza, long before the falling out of our previous quint household and the subsequent illumination of his abusive behavior, sexual assault of several women, and removal from the Polyamory Leadership Network and banning from at least one conference. I have left Wes’ posts here because I don’t believe it’s meaningful to simply remove them. You cannot remove the truth by hiding it; Wes and I used to collaborate, and his thoughts will remain here, with this notice attached.
I love Doctor Who (the show. I have mixed feelings about the character). I think it’s an excellent show, particularly New Who. We all love Doctor Who. I look ridiculously forward to new episodes. At its best, Doctor Who presents masterful storytelling and character development that could be a model to television shows everywhere. I’m currently producing a freaking Doctor Who themed burlesque show I love it so much.
I also love that Doctor Who introduced the character Jack Harkness – one of the first openly bisexual characters in mainstream TV, and with an overwhelming sexuality that was a welcome contrast to the relative asexuality of the Doctor. It showed that the BBC is not afraid to piss off a few haters in order to create compelling characters and deal with adult topics.
However, something that’s always bother me about the show is the sexist undertones. The Doctor, through 11 regenerations, is always male, is always the smartest person in the room, and generally has a pretty young female companion (who often has a crush on him) who wanders off, gets into trouble, and need the Great Man to come rescue her. There are some exceptions (and companions often end up saving the Doctor, but never by being smarter than him), but largely the pattern holds. Even the current season was disappointing in that regard. It opened with Oswin, another pretty young woman. But this time, she was an intellectual equal of the Doctor. That lasted for one episode. When she was reintroduced midseason, her character had no memory of the resourceful genius from the first episode, and was back in the classic hapless woman companion role.
Against that backdrop, we now have this:
After bookies William Hill revealed that the new Doctor Who to replace Matt Smith when he leaves at Christmas was odds on 8/1 to be a female, bosses at the BBC have come out to rule this out as an option.
According to The Daily Star newspaper, bosses at the BBC have ruled out a female Doctor, which Sue Perkins and Miranda Hart were both being linked to also, as they feel that it would cause upset amongst its younger viewers, and awkward conversations about sex changes with their parents.
Confirming this decision, Russell T Davies explained to the publication how this mega change would never be allowed because it is “a family show”, adding:
“While I think kids will not have a problem with a female Doctor, I think fathers will have a problem with it.
“That’s because they will then imagine they will have to describe sex changes to their children.”
So much fail.* Before we even GET to the transphobia, what the fuck is Davies even talking about? He thinks kids will understand that during a regeneration, a time lord’s height, weight, hair, face, arms, legs, torso, feet, and entire personality can change, but if their genitalia changes, then IT WILL BE TOO CONFUSING!!! THINK OF THE CHILDREN!!!
But obviously, the REAL problem is that if having a female Doctor might lead parents to discussion the existence of trans* people with their children, that’s a GOOD thing! Just like Jack Harkness helped confirm the existence of bisexuals, a female Doctor could help confirm the existence of trans* people.
And let’s not neglect to point out the sexist assumption that it’s fathers who will be having this conversation. Because mothers couldn’t possibly. How uncouth.
This is extra disappointing because personally, I would love to see a female Doctor. Flipping the gender roles that have pervaded the show in the past would go a long way toward undoing some of the sexism that it’s perpetuated in the past. I would love to see how various alien races react to a hyper-intelligent woman who battles the forces of destruction with her mind and wit (and sonic screwdriver). I would love to see a woman be just as giddy, juvenile, reckless, dramatic, arrogant, playful, condescending, and ultimately lovable as David Tenant or Matt Smith.
Also, Katie McGrath would be an awesome Doctor. Just sayin, BBC.
* to be fair, Davies is no longer affiliated with the show, but he was the lead writer from 2005-2010, and is still affiliated with the BBC.