Spoilers: This post talks a whole lot about “The Woman Who Fell to Earth,” the series 11 premiere of “Doctor Who.” So, if you haven’t watched it yet, get to it.
The new Doctor and her upcoming season has had me thinking about the importance of female representation in the media, particularly for geek/nerd culture, and what this means for women and girls.
Throughout my adult life I’ve been rather open-minded. I’ve believed some very incorrect things, but I also give myself some leeway, as I’m always learning something new and growing. So, when I learned that gender and sexuality are more of a spectrum than a binary choice, I was absolutely all on board.
For a while, I honestly believed that there was no difference in men and women. I wanted equality because I’m a feminist, and thought that was the appropriate way to approach the topic. Then I realized that this way of thinking is more harmful than helpful. Men and women are different, but those differences should be celebrated. Those differences don’t necessarily mean one or the other is incapable, just different, and sometimes “different” is treated like the most egregious of four-letter words.
Fast forward to July 2017 when Jodie Whittaker was revealed as the new Doctor.
I screeched and cried. It was different – a traditionally male role just went to a woman – but I was, and am, stoked. Jodie Whittaker is Thirteen. She’s 13. She’s the Thirteenth Doctor.
The recent years have been tough because Steven Moffat hates women. I’m not even going to sugar coat that. He has said some pretty outrageous things, though he has made some of my favorite “Doctor Who” episodes.
It was a thrill when I heard he was retiring from being the showrunner. Then, I was ecstatic when it was revealed that “Broadchurch” showrunner Chris Chibnall would be taking over Moffat’s spot.
It was a completely new start. New showrunner, new Doctor, new title sequence, new TARDIS – the possibilities were endless. I figured he would bring on someone he’s worked with before as the Doctor, but I have to say I was surprised when Jodie Whittaker was announced.
In Capaldi’s last season, there were several references to the future being female, which had me, and other Whovians everywhere, suspecting that a woman would be next.
It’s one thing to hope for it, and another to receive it.
That moment made me realize how important representation in the media actually is, because even as a kid, I looked for the characters who looked like me. It wasn’t hard – blonde hair, blue eyes, wearing pink. Barbie was my fave.
Then, as I got older and traded in pink for black, I started to struggle. I wasn’t the all pink everything girly-girl anymore. The girls in shows wearing all black are often forced into changing – becoming “normal” after a struggle. (Seriously, this is still the biggest problem I have with the way Violet is characterized in “The Incredibles” to this day.)
So, I started relating more to the guys. I had more guy friends. It was easier to be the girl-who-isn’t-“girly”-so-she’s-cool-with-the-guys type, but it left me feeling a bit out of place. I like being one of the girls, too. (Cue copious amounts of Gwen Stefani quotes.)
When I saw Jodie Whittaker, I finally saw myself as the Doctor and not Rose.
That’s not to say that there’s anything wrong with being Rose; I adore Rose. She’s my favorite companion. I love so many companions, but they always seem to fall second to the Doctor because the show is called “Doctor Who” and not “Companions.”
But the companions are often portrayed as romantic possibilities, which isn’t always how I feel about the Doctor. Most of the time I feel like the Doctor, because I’ve got this past that tends to creep up on me. I have baggage that I’m afraid to let others see. I run away from relationships and find the thought of dropping everything to backpack around the world, never staying in one place, is heaven.
On the other hand, the Doctor is still hopeful. The Doctor always tries to help, and sometimes it doesn’t work out, but that’s okay. The Doctor still hopes for the best, even when the Doctor has seen the worst.
I’ve always seen a bit of myself in the Doctor, but he never looked like me – until she did.
And the beautiful part is that she’s still the Doctor. She has her own fashion sense, which is very much like the Doctor. She’s insane in all the best ways, travelling and helping. The Doctor is still incredibly intelligent – she builds her sonic screwdriver (ahem, sonic Swiss army knife without the knife) from scratch! But now she looks like me.
She looks like us. She looks like hope and all the possibilities.
Now, of course, there are critics. There are people who will hate the Doctor being a woman. There are people who will never admit that maybe they don’t like Thirteen so much, but feel it’s necessary to demand that she’s the best Doctor because she’s a woman.
But Jodie Whittaker is quite possibly the best actor for the job and that’s why we should be excited – not because she’s a woman, but because she’s the right woman.
I loved her performance in “Broadchurch,” which I thought would be a good exercise for dealing with the Doctor’s troubled past, and in “The Woman Who Fell to Earth,” we see how she takes on the Doctor’s less serious moments as well. She puts her finger in her nose like that’s how she’s always been able to tell when she’s going to pass out. She holds the sonic like it’s always been there, an extension of her hand.
So, I cried when I saw Jodie Whittaker remove the hood. It is something that seems so small, but means the world to women across the globe.
And #itsabouttime. Not because there’s a resurgence of women standing up for themselves, for what’s right, but because Doctor Who, and science fiction as a whole, has been driven by women since its very inception.
Because women are nerds and we are loud and fierce and we love our Doctor with a passion only other nerds (and possibly mothers) could understand.
Because now there are little girls who look up to the sky and hope to see Jodie Whittaker dangling out of a blue box, and that’s such a gorgeous thought to me. There are little girls who won’t be questioned for wanting to be the Doctor for Halloween. There’s the very first Doctor Who Barbie of Thirteen. There are little girls who will grow up and realize that science fiction and general geekiness are for girls, too.
For so long mainstream culture has dictated that you’re either a girl or a geek, and we’ve known we can be both. But the Doctor is representation of what we’ve all been, and it’s about damn time.