The Thirteenth Doctor Is A Woman?
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The Thirteenth Doctor Is A Woman?

An analysis of the divide and why this is important to the future of media.

The Thirteenth Doctor Is A Woman?

It finally happened.

After 50 years and twelve incarnations of the Doctor, the BBC announced on July 16 that the leading role for Doctor Who's 11th series will be played by the lovely Jodie Whittaker, best known for her role as Beth Latimer in ITV's Broadchurch.

The Doctor is a character particularly well-suited for a cast change. As an alien who frequently cycles into new bodies through a process of regeneration as an excuse to continue the show after an actor leaves, there is a unique opportunity in Doctor Who to explore the dynamics of a character with the ability to switch between genders and races.

The Doctor, however, has always been played by a white man.

As far as I can see, there have been three reactions to the announcement:

There are those of us who are hyped for this. That such a large show as Doctor Who is diversifying one of its most iconic characters is a big step toward more diverse media and, hopefully, better representation for other minority groups. Plus, as a woman myself, I have to say I'm pleased that we have the chance to shine as the adventurer and thousand-year-old Time Lord (Lady?) instead of being relegated to the often-lovestruck companion.

Some fans, however, are nervous that the Thirteenth Doctor's success will succumb to bad writing. Though Doctor Who's 11th series will be under a new showrunner, Chris Chibnall, that writers won't be able to resist treating the Doctor's character with a good ol' dose of sexism because of a gender swap remains a valid concern for fans, particularly with Moffat's run still fresh in their minds. There is also some dissatisfaction that a woman of color wasn't chosen for the role, a viewpoint that's well-explained in this series of tweets by user @amydieg.

And then, of course, there are the fans who are really, really angry.

This is symptomatic of a pushback against the wider trend in today's media to include more women in heroic roles, from the Ghostbusters reboot to the female protagonist Rey in Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Still, some of you may wonder: why does it matter? Why is it okay when women clamor for a female lead, but "grown men crying over alien casting" when men do it?

Let's ask Colin Baker, the actor who played the Sixth Doctor in the 1980s.

"The dozen or so personalities to emerge thus far from the chrysalis of regeneration have been as different as any you could pick at random on the Clapham omnibus on Gallifrey; except in one particular – gender," wrote Baker in an article praising the Thirteenth Doctor's casting. "They have been young and old, they have been Scottish, northern and received pronunciation, they have been grumpy, feckless, patrician, barmy, innocent, brash and potty – but never female.

"I have always found that problematical, not in the world we live in, but in the world the characters live in, particularly the Doctor’s world. The world we live in has a history of male domination, of stereotyping, of resistance to change, of playing it safe. Doctor Who has never been about that. The Doctor in all his incarnations has always been a passionate defender of justice, equality, fairness and resisted those who seek to dominate or destroy."

That's why we need Thirteen. Because after 50 years of male domination, of stereotyping, of resistance to change and of playing it, we take a chance.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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