Make way, gentlemen. This is just what the Doctor ordered | editorials | Hindustan Times
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Make way, gentlemen. This is just what the Doctor ordered

While it’s absolutely true that the fight for equality cannot simply be about changing the gender of a fictional hero; it must also be kept in mind that there has been a normalisation of stereotypes through storytelling, and fantasy is one of the great spaces in which to change the mindset of young boys and men who have historically been seen as the target audience for such franchises.

editorials Updated: Dec 29, 2017 18:50 IST
Hindustan Times
Doctor Who,Jodie Whittaker,Peter Capaldi
Actor Jodie Whittaker takes on the role of the Thirteenth Doctor in the British science fiction/fantasy series Doctor Who(Getty Images)

By bidding an emotional farewell to Peter Capaldi’s wonderfully portrayed Twelfth Doctor, BBC’s 54-year-old science fiction series Doctor Who has truly stepped into the future, which is to say, the present. Since its inception in 1963, the protagonist of the British science fiction TV show has been a character portrayed by 13 different actors – all men. This week the last remaining Time Lord, at long last, regenerated into a woman. And with her first (and only, so far) words, the Thirteenth spoke for all of us waiting for it. “Ah, brilliant!”

After Ghostbusters, Wonder Woman (even if she’s still in skimpy, unscientific armour), and now Doctor Who, it feels like fantasy and science fiction might finally be waking up to the fact that women and girls can be heroes too. When it was announced in July this year that the new Doctor would be a woman (and now again after the Christmas Special aired), the social media universe has been hoarse with outrage about how the show had been “ruined” and a positive male role model would be lost at the altar of seeming gender equality if a woman was allowed to become a Time Lord. This seems to come from some misplaced belief that role models must necessarily be gendered. By this logic, no little girl can be inspired by Einstein to become a scientist or by Arthur Conan Doyle to be a writer.

Another criticism is that simply changing the gender of a character does not count as progress towards gender equality. It’s absolutely true that the fight for equality cannot simply be about changing the gender of a fictional hero; it must also be kept in mind that there has been a normalisation of stereotypes through storytelling, and fantasy is one of the great spaces in which to change the mindset of young boys and men who have historically been seen as the target audience for such franchises.

As Gal Gadot swirls in mid air brandishing her sword and Jodie Whittaker crashes the TARDIS on the face of male domination in fantasy series, there is hope that a new generation of fans will not be boxed into the princesses-for-girls and superheroes-for-boys binary stereotype.

First Published: Dec 29, 2017 18:50 IST