The Doctor? A woman? Perish the thought!

The 12th Doctor is Peter Capaldi.

I haven’t seen much of his acting, but the people who have are really excited, so it seems like he’s a good choice. A fairly predictable and traditional choice, but a good one.

But after yesterday’s special, I may actually be done with Doctor Who.

They cast a white, male actor as the Doctor, as they have done twelve times, ever since the 60s. And everyone involved knew that. It was their expected default move. Yet they spent an LOT of time hyping up how this Doctor is going to be unexpected, a change in direction, something that might take people out of their comfort zone. They made sure that their press release, and any mention of the actor before the reveal, explicitly said “the man or woman,” “he or she.” And a lot of time was dedicated to the discussion of whether they would cast a female Doctor. 

They hadn’t, of course. The big “shock” with this Doctor was that he was an older white male than usual. But they still pushed the idea, over and over again, that there would be change. That a female Doctor would be a possibility.

In other words, they were using the very real issue of media representation as a PR device. They used it to build up hype, without actually having to do anything hype-worthy.

As I’ve said before, I’m pretty glad that Steven Moffat isn’t responsible for a female Doctor. That would be a mess of sexist stereotypes just waiting to happen. But it’s frustrating and disappointing that they used the idea as part of their promotion, especially when Moffat made it explicitly clear that he would never, never never never, consider casting a woman for the part.

As he said on TV last night:

I like that Helen Mirren has been saying the next doctor should be a woman. I would like to go on record and say that the Queen should be played by a man.

This is not a paraphrase. He actually said that on live TV. Apart from confirming that Moffat is completely oblivious about his sexism, I think this statement shows two things:

1. Moffat sees the Doctor as a 100% male character. The idea of casting a woman to play him is as preposterous as casting a man to play Queen Elizabeth II.

2. He truly doesn’t understand the issue, or any of the criticisms of the sexism of the show. At all. He thinks that casting a woman to playing a traditionally male part is the same as casting a man to play a female part, despite the fact that male protagonists are the norm in science fiction and that there’s a dearth of good female roles and role models for viewers. Add in the preposterous fact that Queen Elizabeth’s role has actually been played by both real men and male actors throughout history (they’re called kings, Moffat. We had a lot of them), and that last year was literally the first time it was possible for a woman to become ruler over younger male siblings, and you have to wonder what planet he lives on. One where men and women are completely equal and have been throughout history, but where women are still “different” and somehow less capable, apparently.

And I’m not sure I want to watch a show run by somebody so stuck in his own privileged ignorance any more. Especially when that show uses the idea of progress and equality and change as a promotional tool rather than something that deserves serious consideration.

11 comments on “The Doctor? A woman? Perish the thought!

  • Charlie Brown , Direct link to comment

    “I would like to go on record and say that the Queen should be played by a man.” – Does he mean that time Quentin Crisp played Queen Elizabeth I in Orlando? (source: But then again, I can’t imagine Moffat enjoying many works by Virginia Woolf.

  • Âne-Élan , Direct link to comment

    I’m pretty torn about this, because on the one hand I hate Moffat and the feeling only increases every time he opens his mouth, and I was so hoping for a woman/poc/queer Doctor (or all 3! Why the heck not?) and it’s just the same bullshit. They said it was unconventionnal casting, but if you look at all the Doctors it’s actually even more conventionnal a choice than Matt Smith (because he’s younger than the others).
    Also Moffat, you DO NOT talk back to Helen Mirren, WTF. You’re even lucky she took the time to comment about your show.
    On the other hand, there’s always this foolish hope that Doctor Who will become good again… It used to be so important to me, to make me think about stuff… And Peter Capaldi IS an excellent actor.
    I’ll watch the new episodes but I’m soooooo close to jumping ship 🙁

    • Rhiannon , Direct link to comment

      Haha, you know, I say I won’t be watching… but when the new episodes roll around, I probably won’t be able to resist. I LOVED the show a few years ago, and hope springs eternal…

  • Blake , Direct link to comment

    “Especially when that show uses the idea of progress and equality and change as a promotional tool rather than something that deserves serious consideration.” Of course though this doesn’t seem to be the case in reality though. Also if you seen some episodes you’ll also notice that there is Theosophy and Pseudoscience garbage in that show (like Ancient Astronauts, and such) which robs the ingenuity of humanity (also kinda racist too) which I hardly call progressive as well.

  • GallifreyanFallenAngel , Direct link to comment

    I’m on the opposite side; I did not find the remark about the Queen offensive at all. I laughed at it. I did not want a female Doctor and still glad Peter Capaldi has been cast. To me, it’s like making Lucy from Narnia a Lewis or Jane Eyre a John Eyre, but that’s what I think.
    To be honest, I’ve seen sexist moments from both showrunners, but do I think either are sexist? Nope. I haven’t been taught that girls are lesser to men. I’ve always been more focused on the plot, not certain remarks. My brothers haven’t grown up thinking I’m just a girl who will grow up to be a housewife. I’ve been watching classic Who, and I think that the Moffat era is starting to show more of a link than RTD’s era did.
    However, I’m not saying your blog is bad. It’s good to have a different viewpoint on things sometimes. I’d keep watching Doctor Who if I were you. In fact, I’d love to see your thoughts on classic Who, especially since some of the show aired during the 1970’s feminist movement. You can disagree with me, but I’ll keep reading your blog! -a Teenage Girl

  • Anne , Direct link to comment

    I wasn’t too keen on a female Doctor because, as some people on the internet pointed out, if the Doctor identifies as a male, which seems to be the case, it would be problematic for him to live in a female body (and even more so if the writers were to tell us that a female reincarnation would automatically make the Doctor a woman. Of course the Doctor could identify as both, but I mean, c’mon, it’s Moffat we’re talking about… I dread what he would do with the subject).
    What really, really pisses me off is that the Doctor is yet again a WHITE male. Seriously? Because they’ve been enjoying the hype on that front too! I’ve seen the names of several poc actors thrown around. How do they justify having yet another white man? I’m sure Capaldi is great (though it should be expected for such a popular show!), but still…

    • GallifreyanFallenAngel , Direct link to comment

      Neil Gaiman said just a day or two ago he heard a POC did audition, but the actor turned the role down.

      • Rhiannon , Direct link to comment

        I’d like to learn more about this, I think. I’d heard from other sources that they never considered any actor other than Peter Capaldi (although that might just be flattering talk), and it seems strange that an actor would audition and then reject the part, unless something really unfortunate happened along the way. Perhaps they offered the part to another actor first, and he turned down the opportunity to audition? Either way, I’d be interested to know! There’s got to be something going on behind this, cos it currently doesn’t quite add up.

      • Anne , Direct link to comment

        Thank you for the info! I do find that a bit fishy though- it smells like a cover-up. I’m not overly impressed that they should audition ONE actor of colour. Truth be told, I wouldn’t be surprised if they just auditioned said actor just to say they did it, while always keeping their minds set on Capaldi, given what the Doctor Who team said and did in the past (especially with Moffat at the helm).
        Of course, I may be completely wrong. I’d like to know what really happened too.

      • D , Direct link to comment

        I could be wrong but I’m pretty sure he said that was for a previous incarnation, not this one.

    • Rhiannon , Direct link to comment

      That’s very true. It’s an angle I haven’t come across before, which I think is a shame, because it seems very important now you’ve brought it up. I guess it all depends on whether you see the Doctor as essentially the same person in each of his incarnations. If he’s always the same person inside, with different appearances and ways of expressing himself, then I think you’re right. But if each Doctor is somehow a different person, a different aspect of this being that is collectively called The Doctor, then I think seeing a female expression of him would be interesting.

What do you think?

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