On 16 July, Jodie Whittaker was announced to play the thirteenth incarnation of Doctor Who in the hit TV show, following the Christmas 2017 special when Peter Capaldi will leave the role.
Whilst Capaldi has said that his successor will “be a fantastic Doctor,” and many fans have taken to social media to express their pleasant surprise at the first female Doctor, with light there is always darkness: some people are really not happy.
Outrage that there is a female Doctor was quickly squashed all over social media, with many users making jokes out of the seemingly futile indignation. Mark Hoppus, co-leader singer and bassist in Blink-182, tweeted: “Oh great a female Doctor Who. What next? Female real doctors? Female pilots? Female scientists? Female sisters and mothers? Female WOMEN?!”
Sadly, the tabloids don’t hold the same view.
On the day of the announcement, everyone’s favourite Rupert Murdoch newspaper The Sun published an article on Jodie Whittaker titled ‘DOCT-HER WHO’, stating that the “Broadchurch star has a much less family-friendly career” (it may surprise them to know that female doctors also tend to go by the title “Doctor” rather than “Doct-her”).
Writers Andy Halls and Grant Rollings noted that in several of her television appearances, Jodie Whittaker’s “saucy screen past” involved “[stripping] off more than once for roles”.
Mail Online also published a similar article involving naked pictures of the esteemed actress, apparently equally bestowing the belief that her naked body in previous roles has anything to do with her credibility for landing this one.
It does bring up questions of gender equality: would a male Doctor Who receive similar treatment? Equal outrage?
Doctor Who as a character has been reincarnated several times, allegedly first originating from the poor health of the original Doctor, William Hartnell, who played the role for three years. A change of sex and gender hardly seems unreasonable, then, when the Doctor has been played by twelve actors, as of today—thirteen if you count John Hurt.
A female Doctor is an invigorating change, supported fully by the show’s new Head Writer and Executive Producer, Chris Chibnall, who stated: “Jodie is an in-demand, funny, inspiring, super-smart force and will bring loads of wit, strength and warmth to the role.”
The BBC, however, seem to convey a different message. Lizo Mzimba from BBC News said, “With the BBC having committed itself to greater diversity, it’ll be hoping that today’s announcement will not only excite viewers but will also clearly demonstrate that the time-travel show has moved firmly into the twenty-first century.”
Sure, this may seem encouraging, but why is the focus here on the BBC “having committed itself to greater diversity” and moving “firmly into the twenty-first century”? Perhaps it is a result of the phrasing, but it seems as though Mzimba is claiming that Whittaker was cast in the name of greater diversity and moving into the current social climate, rather than on the merit of her acting skills.
Of course, casting a female Doctor does reflect a change in diversity from the previous twelve male leads, but this seems to be an issue of cause and effect. Casting Whittaker because of her “inspiring, super-smart force” should be what creates a sense of diversity amongst the BBC, not Whittaker being cast for the sake of needing a female Doctor.
Whether or not you’re convinced by this casting choice, rest assured that her appearing naked in previous roles won’t affect her performance as Doctor Who at all! In fact, Jodie Whittaker asks that people not “be scared by [her] gender”, and the writers of Doctor Who seem to stand firmly behind her, naming her their “number one choice.”