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The importance of a female Doctor (Who)

Unless you’ve been living under a rock or were too excited about Game of Thrones to care about anything else, you must have heard it from the grapevine: the new lead for Doctor Who has been announced and… the Doctor is now a woman! Or, more accurately, the Doctor is now played by a woman, since Time Lords have no concept of gender when it comes to their own species and can regenerate into whichever human gender.

And unless you’ve been living under a rock or been too focused on “wait, Ed Sheeran is in GOT?!”, you’ve must have heard it from the grapevine: the fanboys are not happy about it. So let’s discuss why the Doctor being played by a woman is important.

In 2016, women represented 29% of movie protagonists and 38% of major characters on television. Which, of course, is far away from the 50% of women in the actual world population. Women (and especially women of colour, queer women and disabled women) are under-represented in today’s media, be it movies, shows or video games. The heterosexual white man, for all intents and purposes, still remains the “norm” in storytelling, and that despite Wonder Woman being well on its way to be the highest grossing movie of the summer and being praised as single-handedly saving the DC Cinematic Universe or despite the popularity of Moonlight and Hidden Figures. Long story short: diversity sells, and everyone telling you otherwise is lying.

But capitalism isn’t the point of today’s article, nor why it is so important that the Doctor is finally played by a woman. No, more importantly, the announcement that Jodie Whittaker is going to be playing the iconic time-traveling character comes after the success that was Rey as the helm of the new Star Wars trilogy and the announcement that Sonequa Martin will be the leading actor in Star Trek: Discovery. That’s right, folks: all three biggest science-fiction franchises now have women in the leading roles. And it was about time. Ripley was starting to feel a little lonely here.

DOCTOR WHO: The Doctor is a woman played by Jodie Whittaker, and why it's important

And here is the catch. We have now entered a time where an entire generation of little girls will grow up with the knowledge that they can be time-travelers, and Jedi, and space officers. An entire generation of little girls will grow up with those role models on screen, and an entire generation of little girls and little boys will now see that women can kick ass just as much as men if they want, and that they too have every right to exist in science fiction.

If you still don’t believe how important that is for little (and not so little) girls, a picture is worth a hundred words. And a video is worth even more than that. (That’s several links, by the way.)

Anyone telling you it is only fiction and it doesn’t matter is wrong. Fiction influences our society even when we don’t notice it, which is why the Truman Show delusion exists and why so many people started studying science because of Star Trek. This is also why so many women cried watching Wonder Woman – because they can finally see themselves in a female superhero who is not sexualised or treated badly by the narrative. So how better to fight for gender equality than to show the audience that women can be at the forefront of well-loved franchises and can be just as equally badass as their male counterparts? How better than to show children that women can be heroes just as men are, and that your gender should not even be part of the equation when it comes to saving the day?

We’ve had generations after generations of women having to look up to male characters as their role models, because good female representation was so few and far between. Isn’t it time that women finally get the role models they deserve? And that men learn they can look up to female characters the way women do with male characters?

Of course, the announcement comes with a lot of doubts and questions regarding how they are going to handle the Doctor’s gender-fluidity, and why it is yet another white actor playing the part. But after over fifty years of men, Jodie’s casting definitely is a step in the right direction, the same way Bill Potts as an openly black lesbian character was. And if it makes a few misogynistic crybabies upset in the process… Well, that’s just bonus points, really. And not all that surprising, after Ghostbusters and Star Trek: Discovery.

Now, let’s focus on the most important issue at stakes here: will the Doctor be able to find an outfit with functional pockets? The jury is still out.

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