As with last time, I decided that I was going to try to avoid any Doctor Who related news so as to be genuinely in the moment when Capaldi finally regenerates and shows us his next self. Three seconds after making this decision, the internet became a blazing inferno of people screaming about the Doctor being a woman.
Annoyed, but resolute, I soldiered on, certain I could do my usual internet stuffs without stumbling into any depictions of just who, exactly, this new "guy" is or what she looks like. "Good luck", forewarned my roommate with a prescient tone that conveyed both his amusement at my inevitable failure and the weary frustration of having obviously been bashed over the head with the news multiple times already.
"Psshh!". I noised, more resolute than ever to make it to Krimbo without seeing one glimpse of her face. And then I refreshed my Facebook feed to see this as the very first loaded post:
So with the catfighting out of the bag, I surrendered to curiosity and watched the teaser of her introduction, and took some time to digest my thoughts on the matter.
I am not happy.
I am not happy for several reasons, but the biggest reason is resonant to the emotional response *you* just probably had to me saying I am not happy, and this is something we will get to in time. Oh believe me, we will get there.
My more ruminated conclusions about this response fall less under the purview of what some have inelegantly argued to be "tradition", than "consistency". The Doctor is an ever-changing flower, constantly blooming in new colours. We know this. But the essence of what he is - the FLOWER remains consistent. Across all forms, there are aspects to his personality that remains the same.
Through all of his changing personas and switching quirks, there are consistencies that make the Doctor, fundamentally, what he is. Aspects that keep him the quintessential "Doctor".The question is... is there a "maleness" about that entity, or am I unknowingly imposing my own perspective onto an abstract? This is something I have experienced before.
We are, thankfully, entering an age of more ubiquitous acceptance of Transgender individuals, to the point where it is not at all uncommon for anyone to know someone who has transitioned. The first time I encountered such a situation was several years ago. A very old and dear friend of mine confessed, with a certain heart-breaking self-deprecation, that "he" was really a she.
Being no stranger to alternative lifestyles, I didn't hesitate to accept her as she really was, however I also promised to be honest with her about how I felt as we continued to discuss it. The first thing I noticed was a stark change in her personality. She seemed more open, happier, but also just very, very different from the "man" I had known. This left me with an odd cognitive dissonance.
You see, her personality changed so drastically that I couldn't help but feel she was a stranger to me now. A stranger I was happy to know, and to continue getting to know, but still. What had happened to the guy I *used* to know? I understood, intellectually, that "he" was a mask, a false persona she wore in part to deflect suspicions about her true self. I get that.
But that was the persona I had gotten to know. That was the one I was friends with. I had no issues about her changing, and I wanted her true personality to come to the surface without obstruction. I just couldn't help feeling like I didn't recognize that guy in her anymore. I had gained a friend, but also lost one, even if the one I lost was never real to begin with. Was it right to mourn that? I *honestly* don't know. But I did.
So with that in mind, I do know what that cognitive dissonance feels like. To suddenly find that someone you know is a different gender. To feel that they just don't "work" as that gender, because what you have gotten to know is so different. This is what people are trying to articulate when they say "The Doctor has always been male, it's tradition". They're trying to say "This is how it has always been, and it made sense that way". In other words, changing it now takes something away from that history, it makes it, retroactively, not make sense anymore.
But of course, the difference between my example and this, is the Doctor is NOT putting on his personality. It's not a disguise, it's simply who he is. And IS there a maleness to that character? I think there is. And before you start shouting sexist from the rooftops, yes I know that females can hold any of the same personality traits as males and vice versa. This isn't about what CAN be, it's about what IS. And there ARE general differences between how males and females behave (otherwise the entire concept of being transgender would be rendered meaningless, right?)
It's not just machismo, either. I am not lauding his strength, sense of duty or vigour as a manly sort of thing. I'm saying that The Doctor is Father Time. He is an old, wise man who has watched the human race struggle to walk from infancy and watches them run about with kind and knowing eyes. He's seen a lot, and he's seen it all from a male perspective. Which isn't to say that he couldn't benefit in new and interesting ways from a female perspective, but all of that collective experience *reinforces* that male perspective, for both him and fans of the show. I mean if you woke up in the body of the opposite sex tomorrow, would you just toddle on with your day, assuming that role?
I know his persona changes when he regenerates, but as I have argued, SOME parts of it remain the same, and they are paternal, masculine, even somewhat human. If we change him THAT drastically, are we not simply removing from that character the essence of what he is? Does the show not become something else entirely?
And yes, I know they've been setting it up in a really sort of contrived and forced manner by doing the other Timelord male to female regenerations. Which isn't to say I am not in love with the Mistress, who isn't?! Michelle Gomez is *AMAZING*. But it's clearly just the new "deadlock seal" or "Screwdriver can't do wood" of the show. Brand new rule introduced that was somehow now always there but never mentioned before. I am not a fan of that sort of writing, it lacks grace.
Instead of jamming a retcon into a script, why not point out some old inconsistency (Like the 2nd Doctor remembering things that happened immediately before his regeneration in The Five Doctors) and THEN write in a retcon that EXPLAINS it, and looks planned from the start. They teased such an idea with the Hybrid plotline, harkening to the Doctor's possible human heritage mentioned by number 8. THAT is good writing. More of that, less of the "SUDDENLY all timelines go out of sync when we meet ourselves and thus inconsistencies are magically erased" rubbish.
But I digress (sometimes violently), forced retconning aside, the fact that the Doctor can change sexes is not a point of contention from a mythology standpoint, as it is a feeling that the character we have gotten to know for so many years, those aspects of him that remained consistent, simply don't suit a feminine form. He's Father Time, not Mother Nature. And I have nothing against the latter, they are both very fine archetypes, but they are *different* by essence of themselves, and this is what makes the new Doctor feel wrong.
All of that being said, while I find it to be not to my personal taste, I am okay with the decision. I am curious to see where they go with it, and it's definitely going to be an intriguing footnote of his journey through time, sure to be referenced often by future Doctors to the dumbstruck faces of his future companions. I'm okay with something wildly different and new happening, and I think it could be healthy for the show to get shaken up in that way. I want to see what they manage to build out of these new pieces, and I'm sure I will greedily gobble up every last scrap of Whittaker's screen time they toss me.
But there is still the issue of that "main" reason I am not happy about this. And that's you. Ya bastard.
Specifically, those of you who were sharpening your pitchforks the second I said I wasn't happy. I am sick to the goddamned backteeth of people who are just mobs looking for something to be outraged about. Now the Doctor is female, if ANYONE doesn't like ANYTHING she does, they are just going to get branded a "misogynist" and will have to shout over a crowd of angry idiots just to continue their thought. Remember that dreadful Ghostbusters movie with the all-female cast? It was clearly TERRIBLE. Unfunny, unimaginative and just plain dumb, but the feminists crucified anyone who dared to say it.
And that's going to be the way of things until this nonsense ends. Some people get so used to being warriors that they don't know how to stop fighting. You fight for equality, and when the world finally gives in to your point of view, suddenly you realise that your whole identity is raging against a machine that no longer gives a fuck about stopping you. So what do you do? You bottle up all those feelings like a grenade of pure wrath and you just fling it at the first person who says ANYTHING even vaguely connected to the topic that was once your battlefield. And in the end, does this help us to BATTLE divisiveness, or just make us more divided?
As of this moment, the world of Who will become a senseless battleground with teeth-grinding women and their shining white knights marching beneath a burning bra on one side. and the depraved army of trolls who exist just to rile up anyone who is easy to rile up on the other side, with a little island of seven dudes who actually hold the sexist views that the hysterically angry want everyone to think so they can justify their hysterical anger. The rest of us? We're just the casualties.
I was in disbelief when I read the comments of the reveal video to see many thousands of threads that have already been created by people who are furiously lecturing the "sexists" for how wrong and stupid they are for being so opposed to this change. And then get further confused as I kept looking to see who they are arguing with and find. Nothing. THERE. They were arguing with NO ONE.
By now, however, the mere presence of feminists ranting about this has only begun attracting anti-feminists at this point who are just ranting about feminism itself, not the issue of the Doctor's gender. Meanwhile, the few trolls are chuckling like Muttley as they detonate every thread with remarks designed to provoke. Trolls, by virtue of being trolls, tend to have the loudest and most obnoxious voice in the room. They are self-designed to look big and representative of whatever group they are imitating to goad a reaction.
But the people who ACTUALLY care about this are far fewer in number, and the ones who are bothered for genuinely sexist reasons are even fewer. And I'm not even annoyed at them, they're the spiders of the Web, you expect such people. It's everyone else who is pissing me off, and tainting an otherwise harmless, even if ill-advised, in my opinion, story twist with a toxic atmosphere of rage and idiocy.
I'm annoyed, not because of the decision, but because people are too stupid to be trusted with their own stupid opinions. And now everything Who related is going to be charged and overdramatized and the ratings may suffer, who knows how bad it will get? It could even lead to the cancellation of the show. All I know is, boring old normal people like me won't be able to so much as voice a dissenting opinion on the matter without having to construct a stupidly long blog post explaining in very clear detail where we are actually coming from, and most people aren't dumb enough to waste their time on something so asinine.
As for me, my tiny little nugget of text will have to suffice, and despite not LIKING this change (if you recall, I said the exact same thing about Capaldi, and boy was I wrong) I look forward to being proved wrong again. I hope the writer's knock this out of the park, I really do. As a writer myself I am already imagining new and interesting scenarios. Girltalk with the Mistress, the Doctor meeting up with and slowly falling for a male version of the Corsair, despite knowing he will eventually die. Imagine what a more feminine take on the TARDIS interior would be like? The possibilities are endless.
But please, guys, let's not overdo it, okay? Just the one female Doctor. I'm happy to embrace change, but I don't want to build my home there. The Doctor is male, and as far as I am concerned, HE (which is not an attack on gender expression, merely an affirmation of my own interpretation of this particular mythology) is just going through a phase. I'm interested to see that phase, but I think I speak for many fans when I say, as at least a general rule - keep the Doctor male. I really do believe that is intrinsic to his nature.
And if you have a problem with that, I'll send you a sonic screwdriver of your very own, and tell you where to stick it. People are entitled to their own preferences, and it doesn't have to come from a place of hate. STOP being a mob first and a person second.