The Watcher Cat

The Watcher Cat

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Jodie Whittaker Falls Out of the World

So the 13th Doctor is Jodie Whittaker. She will be the latest to, in Phil Sandifer's wonderfully evocative phrase, fall out of the world.

I am . . . pleasantly surprised. Incoming show runner Chris Chibnall fooled a lot of fans, including me, and showed more daring than I thought he had in him. (I confess, I was underwhelmed with his Torchwood work, which too often seemed to conflate nastiness with depth. I thought much more highly of Broadchurch, however.)

The move is, not surprisingly, controversial (also, just see the comments--if you must--to the video introducing Whittaker I've embedded above).

I have say, I find the controversy. . . sad.

Yes, the obvious misogyny is just pathetic, but the entitlement is even more so.

The less overtly misogynistic rationale that has been offered is that boys need a non-violent role model, and the Doctor has provided that for 54 years.

Now, that's a nice theory, but, well, it hinges on three separate fallacies:

1. That Boys Can't Have a Female Role Model. Seriously? Boys can't admire women, and learn from them? In my adult years, two of my great mentors, one in law school, and the other years later, were women. Each in her own way made me a better lawyer, and, quite frankly, a better man. But beyond that, do we really think that boys can only learn from men? As a boy, my father was invaluable in encouraging my love of books. But--newsflash--so was my Mom, and so was the retired teacher who lived next door, and gave me a copy of Edith Hamilton's Mythology, and opened a whole new world to me. Yes, the men who helped form me modeled a healthy masculinity for me, but I learned so much from the women who taught me, cared for me, and were just around me throughout my childhood, that to not include them as role models seems, well, willfully blind.

2. Hey, Don't Girls Deserve Role Models? Yeah, it's great that they have Wonder Woman (inter many alia), but, what, will the culture bank be broken if we share the Doctor? Somehow Doctor Whittaker somehow invalidates Doctors Capaldi, Smith, Tennant, Eccleston, McGann, McCoy, Baker, Davison, Troughton, and Hartnell? Look,it's rough when the Doctor who hits where you live leaves. I've loved the show since the 1980s, and have come to agree with the Brigadier: "Splendid fellows, all of you." And yet, it turned out that Capaldi is my Doctor. It's a loss to see him go; but I admit that the notion that he'll be replaced by a woman doesn't bother me a bit.

Why can't we share?

3. The Doctor is only Sometimes a Role Model If you read my Anglocat in the TARDIS entries, or Sandifer's excellent TARDIS Eruditorum, or Neal Perryman's Adventures With the Wife in Space, you'll see one common thread: The Doctor is absolutely unheroic to begin with, and even after becomes a hero, he has appalling lapses. (Including Six's fashion taste).

And yes, that is true in the new series. Here's the Tenth Doctor, adopting as his own the Master's catchphrase:

Look, the Doctor inculcates good values, it's true; I wrote years ago of the power to persuade inherent in a "cracking good yarn (yeah, Conan Doyle that last bit). But as the Doctor, I have every confidence that Whittaker can do that too. Just let the scripts be good, and her own charisma and talent have a chance.


I can't leave this post without thanking Steven Moffat, who slowly evolved the show's mythology to get to this point, where a female Doctor can be just the Doctor. From the offstage mentions of the Corsair, to the inspired brilliance of, and redemptive arc, pursued by Missy, as played by the superb Michelle Gomez (who began with Grand Giugnol, and ended with tragicomedy, all equally well handled), Moffat's tenure as showruner changed the question of whether a woman would be cast as the Doctor from an "if" to a "when."

Whatever one thinks of his tenure--and I am an admirer, though not entirely uncritical, in many ways, this is Moffat's victory.

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