On Sunday, the BBC announced that the next Doctor from the globally beloved Doctor Who enterprise will regenerate as a woman—despite the fact that her twelve previous generations were all men. The Doctor, as the story goes, is a non-human being—the last of the Timelords, an alien race that is capable of reincarnating at the end of their lives. Many fans have been longing for a female Doctor, and the 13th Doctor will fulfill their wish, in the form of Actress Jodi Whittaker.
Whittaker appeared in a teaser released Sunday and, in an accompanying interview, seemed to anticipate the inevitable backlash that happens whenever insecure men who fanatically enjoy a media franchise feel it is suddenly catering to women. "I want to tell the fans not to be scared by my gender," she told the BBC. "The fans have lived through so many changes, and this is only a new, different one, not a fearful one."
Read more: Why Nerds Are So Sexist
Indeed, the backlash was swift, and quite unoriginal. Many people on the internet have indicted "political correctness" for the Doctor's female regeneration and have proclaimed they are absolutely finished with the series. One self-identified "massive KISS fan," for instance, stated, "Political correctness wins again," calling for all "TRUE fan[s] of Dr. Who to boycott this shite!" A "Reiki Master" and fan of Dr. Who for 33 years responded directly to Jodi Whitaker, graciously informing her that she "will only ruin the show." Others still decided to never watch the show—even though they presumably wouldn't have tuned in if the show had continued casting men as the titular Doctor.
It's been established in canon that this can happen either deliberately or non deliberately in the regeneration cycle.
The attacks on the female Doctor range from relatively dumb boycott demands to offensively stupid twitter essays. However, anyone questioning the legitimacy of a female incarnation of the Doctor is foolishly uninformed of the series' canon. Liz, a fan in her twenties, tells Broadly that the change is "a welcome non-issue," explaining that "it's been established in canon that this can happen either deliberately or non deliberately in the regeneration cycle." She points to several examples of episodes that explain this possibility.
Like Liz, many Doctor Who fans are excited for Jodi Whittaker to take on this role. "As to why fanboys are upset—they see their fandoms as belonging to them," Liz said. "Any 'feminizing' of it by changing the main character's gender… is seen as an invasion or corruption."
In recent years, several subgroups within nerd culture have had meltdowns over the perceived encroachment of feminism upon their beloved fandoms. (The backlash to the all-female reboot of Ghost Busters is one notable example of this, as is the freak-out over women-only screenings of Wonder Woman earlier this year.) In 2016, sociologists and masculinity experts CJ Pascoe and Tristan Bridges told Broadly this is because nerds are, as a group, generally emasculated in society. "In fandom cultures—where men who have been denied traditional routes to stereotypical masculinity congregate—increasing equality and visibility for women and queer people and characters threatens a sphere that these men see as being the one place where they can be dominant, where they can be recognized as masculine," Pascoe explained.
"There is a lot of toxic masculine behavior in nerd cultures," Bridges said. "Think about it: #GamerGate happened among the nerds, not the jocks."
Their comments resonate today—and pretty much any time that male nerds start behaving terribly to women. Liz considers this latest iteration of the injured male ego to be "standard patriarchy drama; men often seem to not be able to empathize with female characters," she explains.