'Doctor Who' and the Genesis of the Identity Freakout

  1. So, the new Doctor is Jodie Whitaker, and having seen her in Broadchurch and Black Mirror, I couldn't be happier. I think she's going to be an excellent Doctor, and I'm excited to see what she and new showrunner Chris Chibnall bring to the venerable sci-fi favorite.
  2. The Thirteenth Doctor revealed - Doctor Who: Trailer - BBC One
  3. Mind, I expected some misogynist pushback – people are nothing if not predictable – but it wasn't until the next morning, when I saw the Daily Mail article, Doctor Nude! First ever female Time Lord Jodie Whittaker joins her male predecessors in stripping off on camera after having sex on the stairs in 2014 drama, that I realized the depths of the problem, aside from the Mail's unfortunate habit of mile-long titles. Seriously, people. I'm all for Search Engine Optimization, but this is a little ridiculous.
  4. I went back and forth on whether to link to the actual article, and decided to in the interests of fairness, because while the Mail is indulging in its usual paradox of salaciousness and moral hectoring, there's a halfway interesting article underneath all the risque photos, including pics of former Doctors Matt Smith, David Tennant and Christopher Eccleston in their more ... ahem ... exposed roles. Which I suppose some will appreciate.
  5. No, I can't be surprised that the first thing some did upon learning that the new Doctor was female was to find nude pics of her. Because we live in that world. But as I was pondering the misogynistic streak that leads us to this place, it occurred to me how much of the freakout over a female Doctor is rooted in not only misogyny, but also a fragile sense of identity.
  6. The idea of a female Doctor is nothing new, and indeed, was suggested in 1987 by the show's creator, and also by the most iconic Doctor of the classic era, Tom Baker. Without getting too deep into it, when he dies, The Doctor reincarnates as someone else. Same memories, but a slightly different person. The show has laid the groundwork for The Doctor to regenerate as a woman for some time now, so it's not out of nowhere. And really, the only argument against it that's ever held any truck with me was the idea that there are very few role models for boys that emphasize intelligence and empathy over violence. I'll admit that one gave me pause, but while compelling, I'm not convinced.
  7. However, what strikes me while reading the comments of the freakout is how much of themselves those wailing have invested of themselves in the character, and I can relate to that. I've invested rather a lot of my heart into Doctor Who since childhood, and I care rather a lot about it. The crux of the complaint seems to come down to two points, one made overtly, and the other that only struck me when I saw the Daily Mail article. In the first instance, it seems to me that a lot of the problem is that these are males who like to envision themselves as The Doctor, which has always been a feature of good fiction. The problem isn't that they can't envision themselves as a woman, but that they have a visceral reaction against it. One only has that sort of reaction to something they find immensely threatening. Is a lot of the negative reaction the result of a fragile sense of masculinity? I can't help but think so.
  8. The other issue, made manifest by the Mail, is that I can't help but wonder if part of the problem is that those freaking out are finding themselves attracted to the new Doctor. I don't see why they wouldn't be – she is an attractive woman – but I can't help but wonder if, in the cobwebs of some people's minds, that's not leading a number of those freaking out down the road of wondering if that means they're attracted to all the Doctor's past incarnations. Which is utterly ridiculous, of course but people's brains are ridiculous places. It strikes me that there are grown men out there suddenly wondering if they've always been physically attracted to Tom Baker. And who knows, maybe that's something they've needed to admit to themselves for some time. But however it comes about, there comes a level where all of this freakout begins to resemble misogyny, homophobia and transphobia, to the point where the mere idea of a fictional character being one gender one minute and then another the next seems to completely threaten something fundamental in some people, and perhaps those people would be better served working out their issues with professional help, rather than railing at a TV show.
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