Forget tradition, Dr Who needs a female star

TV is short on fierce female lead characters; this chance should not be passed up

Nicole Froio@NicoleFroio
Wednesday 05 June 2013 12:44
Matt Smith, the departing Dr. Who
Matt Smith, the departing Dr. Who

The word ‘tradition’ brings about warm feelings. It represents the constant factors in life, things that don’t change and are always there for some comfort and security.

But lately the word hasn’t been employed in that way; mostly, in fact, it has been used to defend prejudice, to argue against progress and change.

In a recent debate about who is to play the Doctor in the hit BBC series Doctor Who the word ‘tradition’ – and/or variations of it – has been thrown around to determine that the Doctor could never, ever be played by a woman. The character, after all, is traditionally played by a man, so a woman could never do it justice, apparently. It wouldn’t work because she would be doing a man’s job.

Creator of the series Steven Moffat has already said a female Doctor is a possibility. And according to the show’s plot, the Doctor can transform into anything or anyone he wants. So why not? To have a female main character in one of the most watched British-produced shows in the world would be a strike against inequality.

But The Daily Mail was quick to criticize Moffat’s pro-female Doctor statement by running a story written by TV critic Christopher Stevens claiming that the new Doctor should “be ANYONE but a woman!” Stevens argues that the Doctor must be a man, never a woman, so that little boys have someone to look up to. He completely fails to observe that boys can also look up to women, just as little girls have looked up to men for centuries because there weren’t enough fierce, strong women in the public eye.

There are still not enough female CEOs and world leaders to make up for this– not to mention most female characters on TV and in movies have the same ditzy, pathetic, plain, uncomplicated personalities. Either that or they are sidekicks to men. So if little boys would be losing a role model, where’s the compensation for little girls who had no one of their own gender to look up to?

Similarly, Louise Mensch wrote in her blog Unfashionista that the Doctor should always be played by an ‘alpha male’, and never an ‘alpha female’. She seems to forget, however, that a person’s gender is not an indication of their capability to perform a job. Challenging gender roles to expose the idea that men and women are both capable of performing the same tasks definitely goes against tradition.

But The Daily Mail and Mensch don’t want to step one toe out of the comfort zone.

In both articles, the authors are repeating one of the most common beliefs about gender: that men are more competent than women. Although Mensch recognizes that ‘alpha females’ exist, the tone of praise for ‘alpha males’ seems to suggest male leaders are somehow more qualified than female leaders.

And tradition is carrying all of these arguments on its back.

Breaking tradition to bring about change can only be done by taking people out of their comfort zone. The progress of women’s rights has in large part been achieved by challenging traditional gender roles and forcing men out of their privileged bubble.

Tradition is tired, it needs a rest. Leave all preconceptions about gender behind and embrace new ideas. It’s time for a female Doctor, if just for the sake of shaking things up a little bit.

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