Jodie Whittaker as Doctor Who. Photo courtesy of the BBC.
There's a common trope in the media that comes ever so close to respecting the existence of women, and here's how it always goes.A woman is tasked with something difficult, and a man says, "You can't do that! You're a woman." The implication being that "woman" is synonymous with "tiny human baby" or "three-legged puppy that has also not been given the correct clearance to do this job." But then—thank goodness!—the woman proves him wrong by being at least twice as amazing and badass as the man could have imagined, while simultaneously juggling ten angry possums and putting out a small house fire.
It's a good way of demonstrating that women are capable and men who think they aren't are idiots, but it also perpetuates a dangerous stereotype: that women must completely excel to be worthy.The new Doctor, lucky number 13, Jodie Whittaker, faces a future of this sort of treatment, in her professional life (which, inevitably, will affect her personal one). There are already people who have never even seen her work claiming that they're "cautious" of her in my @s. There will be the implication that she must be on par with the best to be worthy of praise. There will be articles that respond with surprise that she is any good. She will have to walk a tightrope of qualities ranging from physical attractiveness to facial expressiveness, while avoiding the pitfalls of irritating mannerisms or—god forbid—bad fashion. (Never mind that Matt Smith's Doctor had both of those as eccentric character traits.)
But on-screen, our new Doctor will face what might be her greatest enemy yet: scriptwriters.I do not want to see the Doctor having to take time out of her busy alien-fighting, world-saving job to just prove that she can do it to supporting characters who should know better. Imagine this new Doctor, swirling around the TARDIS like a woman possessed, babbling about electromagnetic fields and wibbly-wobbly stuff, only to have her passenger interrupt: "But can you actually drive this thing?"
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Women always have to explain why they're qualified to talk about points rather than just, you know, getting to talk about them. Take a look under any woman's opinion on Twitter, or on any website, or even listen to the Q&A after talks. It will always be the same tiny voice whispering behind their words: "You can't do that! You're a woman."Let the Doctor do her job. Let us do our jobs. We know what we're doing.On that note, it's exciting to have a woman play the next Doctor, but it's also striking that the actress cast for the part had a breakout part in Broadchurch where she played what one character described as 'an English rose.' While Whittaker is a terrific choice to play the next Doctor, it's hard not to notice how narrowly the series defines the Doctor's Britishness when it comes to race. Especially when the UK has provided so many other shows with amazing women leads of color.Why not share your thoughts on the 13th Doctor on the Waypoint forums.Follow Kate on Twitter.