Caitlin Moran has blogged today about the Twitter walk-out she has proposed in response to the threats received by Criado-Perez and others is also on this Sunday. It’s a great article – I encourage you to read it.
In her article, Moran makes some persuasive comments about change, and resistance to it. I am now going to make an extremely tenuous literary leap that has nothing to do with the context in which Moran addressed this, and start talking about Doctor Who.
Change is a crucial aspect of Doctor Who (viz. the whole regeneration thing). Fans will know that the current incumbent of the role, Matt Smith, is due to leave at the end of the year. His replacement will be announced on Sunday at 7pm. I’d like to be cool, and pretend that this news doesn’t have me wild with excitement, but the reality is I’m an incorrigible geek, and therefore it does. In fact I have never experienced such frustration as when trying to breastfeed the Nipper whilst simultaneously surf the internet for snippets of potential leaks as to who the new Doctor might be.
I am actually sorry to see Matt Smith go. I liked him as the Doctor. I liked the sexual tension with Amy and Rory before they became his in-laws (weird); I enjoy his affectionate obsession with Clara Oswald; I like the occasional Tom Baker-esque moments he delivers; I loved the fish custard scene from his debut episode. However, I am nothing if not fickle, and I’m ready to get proper excited about his replacement.
Apparently the favourites for the role are: Peter Capaldi, Ben Daniels, Rory Kinnear, Daniel Rigby and Ben Wishaw. Capaldi is the favourite of favourites, which suits me fine, as I don’t really know who the others are (this is what comes of a TV diet solely consisting of Game of Thrones, Made in Chelsea and Masterchef). However, whilst I like Capaldi a lot, I can’t quite see him as the Doctor. I fear I will forever be waiting for him to slam a door and call someone a see you next tuesday in Malcolm Tucker-esque rage.
Amidst the placing of odds and speculation, there’s a lot of whinging about whether the next Doctor should be female, or black, and equally a lot of whinging about how if we had a female and/or black Doctor that would just be capitulating to the politically correct brigade (heaven forbid of course that a female and/or black actor might actually be good in the role). Matt Smith was asked here if there could be a female Doctor. In his response, he said:
“Why not, if she’s the right actress for the part, if she’s the most inventive, if she can do courage and madness and all the things that you need to be a Doctor?”
Let’s skip the right actress part for the moment; yes, yes, I know Olivia Colman is the bookies’ favourite for a female Doctor, and brilliant she would no doubt be, as would Dame Helen Mirren, or Miranda Hart, or any of the other half-arsed suggestions of excellent female actresses. The fact is, for many people, myself included, the concept of a female Doctor feels uncomfortable, at least at first blush – but why? We expect the Doctor to be inventive, courageous and mad – why can’t a woman be all of those things, and more? Is it because there is an unspoken expectation that, because the Doctor adopts and is often accorded a position of authority and respect, we also expect him to be white, and male, and middle-class, just as he has been for the past five decades?
I am ashamed to say that I think the answer is yes. Whether I am right or not, I am guilty of that subconscious assumption. In some ways it’s inevitable. I come from a family where my father – white, middle class (and, for the avoidance of doubt, male) – had absolute authority, and my brothers’ sporting prowess was always to be preferred over any academic or creative success I might achieve. I also work in an industry where the majority of the positions of power and authority are filled by men; where women do occasionally get on, but in spite of themselves and their “encumbrances” (i.e. their gender, their families); where women will often act in a stereotypically male way in order to compete with the boys. And I am guilty of subscribing to these expectations, rather than pushing for change, and I hate it, not least because I don’t want the Nipper to grow up in a world where women are still told to get back in the kitchen (see glosswatch on this subject if you don’t believe that this still happens).
I do know, thank you, that Moran is not an actress and unlikely to be in the running. I am also aware, thank you, that Doctor Who is a fictional character (I say that scathingly – there is of course part of me that hopes he’s not) and therefore not too much weight should be given to his casting; it’s hardly a presidential election. But he is a cultural icon, and a hero, and he too is guilty (or his writers are) of perpetuating the stereotype of the male hero and the weaker female companion, however “kickass” the companions might be portrayed to be. The writers have a golden opportunity to ring the changes here. Why don’t they, and make the next Doctor a woman?
And I think that woman should be Caitlin Moran. Why? Because Moran isn’t afraid to be a woman. Her writing, particularly How to be a Woman, makes me realise that when I think I’m being a feminist, I’m often just trying to be a man. She kicks feminism right into the forefront of popular debate, where it should be; she does so in ways that are inventive, and courageous, and sometimes mad. She can be brutal, but she is also passionate, exuberant and above all funny. The Doctor is all of these things.
So Caitlin Moran for Doctor Who, I say. That would be a regeneration well worth watching.