by Shane Thomas
This post first appeared on The TV Collective

Since Matt Smith announced his departure as the titular lead in Doctor Who, conversations have spread throughout geekland, speculating on who the next Doctor would be. And throughout these conversations, I kept coming back to the same conclusion; it’s going to be another white, cisgender male, isn’t it?

And yet, I’d be lying if there wasn’t part of me that thought, “What if?” “What if it’s a woman?” “What if it’s a black man?” “What if it’s a woman of colour? Intersectionality on Doctor Who? Could it happen?” It was like being a fan of a mid-table Premier League club; you know that your team is never going to win the league, but as the season approaches, you allow a sliver of chimeric wonder to enter your mind. Maybe this year, this year, it will happen.

Inevitably, I was left disappointed. For clarity’s sake, my bugbear isn’t that the new Doctor is a white, cisgender male. It’s that all twelve Doctors have been white, cisgender males. Journalist, Bim Adewumni tweeted sentiments regarding the casting of Peter Capaldi that align closely with my own. And while the fact that’s he’s older than previous Doctors is a positive, it may also have remnants of male privilege.

chasing-amy-4In the film, Chasing Amy, writer/director Kevin Smith gives Ben Affleck’s character (who authors a comic-book) a line in which he talks about the target audience for his comic; “Over or underweight guys who don’t get laid. They’re our bread and butter.” This is a throwaway line in the context of the movie, but makes a telling statement regarding the perception of people who like ‘geeky pursuits’. All that sentence was missing was Affleck’s character saying, “”Over or underweight white guys who don’t get laid.” Did you notice the cutaways to the audience during the half-hour press release that doubled up as an announcement for Capaldi’s casting? Finding people of colour in the crowd was not easily done.

So, white guy loves geeky things? Standard practice. But anyone else? That’s either anomalous or suspicious, which causes prejudice such as this. Steven Moffat is reported as saying that now didn’t feel “right” to have a female Doctor[1], which shows that the sexism in Doctor Who goes to the very top.

In his first interview since being cast, Capaldi stated that he felt Doctor Who “belongs to all of us.”

To which I say, yes Peter, it does. All of us. As earlier mentioned, I think he’ll do a fine job as The Doctor, and those making wearisome Malcolm Tucker based jokes should look at his excellent work in the second series of The Hour for some indication of what to expect from him. My problem isn’t with Capaldi at all, but with the unchecked privilege inherent in the notion that Doctor Who is a white, cisgender male (and able-bodied) preserve – which also alienates future potential audience members.

doctor-who-peter-capaldi
Well, guess what? Plenty of us who don’t fit in that aforementioned category also have a deep love for genre-fiction. And rather than be an afterthought, many of us would like to feel truly part of shows like Doctor Who.

We may love the show, but it appears that the show doesn’t love us back.

[1] But it’s right to have a male Doctor, is it Steven?

A mixed-race film graduate, Shane Thomas comes from Jamaican and Mauritian parentage. He has been blogging about sport since 2010 at the website for The Greatest Events in Sporting History. He is also a contributor to Simply Read’, the blogging offshoot of the podcasting network, Simply Syndicated. A lover of sport, genre-fiction, and privilege checking, Shane can be found on Twitter, both at @TGEISH and @tokenbg (and yes, the handle does mean what you think it means).

4 thoughts on “The New Dr. is….. @tokenbg

  1. I don’t have a problem with Moffat writing a woman. He writes great women (Clara for one I think is really well done), and he is a master of storytelling. I have nothing but respect for him in this regard.

    BUT, that being said, the depiction of Martha (and generally POC in DW) was appalling. Martha really did get the short end of the stick. She was repeatedly abused by the Doctor, didn’t really get any direction as a character (which is probably why most people didn’t really form an attachment to her), and was basically written as one of the black stereotypes, Mammy. I also feel the writers missed an opportunity to say something (or anything) about women of colour throughout history. Instead, she’s remembered as the most unpopular DW companion.

    An online article spells out the depiction of POC in DW fantastically. Check it out: http://lifeonmartha.livejournal.com/268192.html

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    1. Thanks for the link. I appreciate that.

      I agree with many of the points. I did a poor job of explaining that while Martha is my least favourite companion (post-reboot), that’s partly down to how she was written, although I think Freeman Agyeman is a competent actor, rather than an especially strong one.

      However, that series did have a couple of examples of the treatment of WoC throughout history – but you could definitely argue that they were executed clumsily. And while she was definitely badly written in the way she pined over the Doctor, I’ll give Davies some credit for giving her sufficient agency to walk away, and end up making a decent life for herself.

      That post makes great points about the way Francine & Tish were written. While they have characteristics of WoC that I recognise, they weren’t fleshed out, and ended up being one-dimensional stereotypes. Although, one thing I did like about the family dynamic was the father initially leaving the family for a younger, blonde, white woman. I don’t think that was an accident from Davies – although after setting up an opportunity to show the racist depiction of white women being ostensibly more desirable, he kind of let it hang there, rather than address it directly.

      Finally, I’m not a fan of Clara (yet). Jenna-Louise Coleman is largely blameless for this. I just think that Moffat has written her appallingly. I’d really like to see if Clara will be a good companion, and dearly hopes she gets more to work with in the next series.

      Sorry this reply was so long. But a convo about kyriarchy and Doctor Who? You alighted on a dream topic of discussion for me 🙂

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  2. The casting of a black man/woman in the role was unlikely at best. What concerned me more was, if a black actor had accepted the role, the prospect of a bunch of white, male writers attempting to write any sort of black experience. After the disaster that was the characterisation of Martha in DW (which I define as a patronising Caucasian need to represent those of colour as overwhelmingly positive, which is just as bad as representing us as drug dealers/prostitutes), I don’t want Moffat to shoe-horn in a black actor and attempt to represent an experience he cannot possibly hope to understand. I want a prime time TV show with a black male/female lead that explores a diasporic experience. Children’s television has much more diversity in this respect, so there’s no reason it can’t happen in later time slots.

    But don’t give me any more tokenism. Martha was bad enough.

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    1. Many have made this comment re the potential casting of a female Doctor. They’d love to see a woman in charge of the Tardis, but not a woman written by Moffat.

      I agree that having a Doctor whose casting divests from what we’ve been served up in the past could be problematic if written by someone who doesn’t come from a marginalised background.

      Interested that you have little time for the Martha Jones character. While she was my least favourite of the companions since the reboot, I didn’t find her as terrible as you seemed to.

      I’d be interested to hear what you felt was so wrong with her? Not in a “So I can prove you wrong” kind of way, but am interested in hearing someone else’s perspective.

      Like

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