Image: Jodie Whittaker as Doctor Who / Screenshot / BBC
The internet has been a slippery place this week; made perilous by the constant drip of male tears. Wending one’s way around the puddles that overflowed from the bowels of reddit, 4chan, The Daily Mail, The Sun and the like has been a frustrating but increasingly familiar task, one that has become necessary every time the quest for gender equality (AKA feminism) permeates the testosterone-fortified wall around another cultural icon.
The announcement this week that Broadchurch star Jodie Whittaker will play Doctor Who simultaneously represented a joyous leap forward for humankind, and an angry stomp backwards for a certain subset of men.
We should really be used to it by now. From Ghostbusters to Wonder Woman, strong female characters have a knack for knotting the knickers of dudes who prefer their heroes with a penis. The excuses for such twisted Y-fronts inevitably spring forth in a torrent, as broflakes rush to justify a reaction that stems not from the rational, but from a deep-seated distaste for a world in which women are equal.
They will most likely disagree with that characterisation, but no explanation they’ve offered has led me to any other conclusion. To some people, women are inherently inferior, and the casting of a woman in a role that has been traditionally reserved for men makes for an inferior hero. For others, the childhoods and childhood memories of little boys should be kept safe from the ravages of gender equality (little girls be damned). For some it’s simply “PC-gone-mad”, foreshadowing a future in which men are emasculated and women are dominating shrews. Who knew a small handful of fictional heroines could be so powerful?
The radical notion that the contemporary trend of female protagonists may simply be down to the fact that half the population is female and until very recently you wouldn’t have known it from consuming almost every form of media available (other than porn and women’s magazines, perhaps) seems to be lost on them. This righting of the uneven scales understandably seems drastic to a group of people who have become accustomed to seeing themselves overrepresented in almost all forms of storytelling.
Most of the irate fans whinging on social media have been taken in by a red herring, however. The main story is not that Jodie Whittaker will become the 13th doctor, it’s that it’s taken 54 years for the role to be played by a woman. The real headline is that women have been underrepresented in media and culture for, well, ever, and the tide is finally turning.
And that in itself makes for an interesting storyline. It is a simple reality that writers often look for new and thought-provoking ways to tell their stories. The male hero is most definitely not new. In fact, it’s such a tired trope that has been thrashed for so many years that it’s decidedly old hat. While I have no doubt that there will be many, many more male heroes in all forms of culture, the female protagonist isn’t such well-trod ground. Through her, new story arcs can be explored from a new perspective. I think it’s really no great surprise that she’s having her moment in the sun.
Eventually - hopefully - the scales will settle somewhere in the middle. For now, however, it’s pretty depressing knowing that a sizeable group of men passionately hate the idea of a story revolving around a female main character. It’s telling that for them stories about women are irrelevant and boring, while women have simply been expected to enjoy watching shows centred around men for decades.
Maybe now they understand how women have felt.Support Villainesse