Role models are people or characters who inspire us, especially when we are young, to be our best selves. They display the characteristics we admire and strive for. As parents, we hope to expose our children to role models that will speak to them in some way. Role models don’t even have to be real people. Fictional characters are sometimes even more desirable as role models because they often encounter extreme circumstances and still exhibit their positive characteristics. Case in point? Doctor Who.
Doctor Who, for the uninitiated, is a time-travelling alien from the planet Gallifrey who periodically regenerates into different human bodies. The Doctor is a Time Lord who is dedicated to overseeing space and time without interference. Doctor Who is an explorer and a problem-solver who abhors violence and uses it only as a last resort. The Doctor is smart, kind and interested in the world. Although not human, one of the best and (I feel) most human qualities the Doctor displays is making mistakes and learning from them. The eleventh Doctor once said that he made a promise that goes like this: “Never cruel nor cowardly. Never give up. Never give in.” Kindness, courage and tenacity- what more could you want in a role model?
The 13th Doctor Who
I woke this morning to the confirmation that Jodie Whittaker, perhaps best known for Broadchurch, has been cast as the 13th Doctor Who. The last dozen Doctors have been portrayed by men.
— Doctor Who Official (@bbcdoctorwho) July 16, 2017
There’s been a lot of outrage over the idea of a woman portraying the 13th Doctor. Because, you know, this is just “taking feminism too far”. Women may have been starring in action movies, sci-fi films and superhero films, but come on! A woman as Doctor Who is clearly proof that the revolution of woman-supremacy is upon us and pretty soon, men will be subjected to a world where they may find that they are only represented in as little as 50% of the leading roles! *GASP*
I admit, I didn’t know a great deal about Jodie Whittaker herself before today, other than how excellent she was in Broadchurch. This morning, however, reading about her casting as the 13th Doctor, I saw what she had to say about winning the role, as a woman:
“It feels completely overwhelming, as a feminist, as a woman, as an actor, as a human, as someone who wants to continually push themselves and challenge themselves, and not be boxed in by what you’re told you can and can’t be. It feels incredible.”
“I want to tell the fans not to be scared by my gender. Because this is a really exciting time, and Doctor Who represents everything that’s exciting about change. The fans have lived through so many changes, and this is only a new, different one, not a fearful one.”
Perhaps the naysayers are on to something. The 13th Doctor is not only being portrayed by a woman, but a feminist as well! These small steps toward gender equality must seem pretty alarming to some people!
“But what about our sons??”
The onslaught of sexist outcries aside, one thing I noticed was that people were worried about the apparent loss of a role model for their sons. The obvious first though might be that perhaps we are actually gaining a role model for our daughters, but I know my daughter has had Doctor Who (and some other marvelous characters in the series) as a role model for some time now. The thing is, gender isn’t always a crucial factor in role models. It’s not even mentioned in any definition that I’ve read.
A role model is defined as a person who displays behaviour and traits that others, especially young people, want to emulate. Jodie Whittaker’s tenure as the 13th Doctor hasn’t started yet but it seems highly unlikely that her portrayal will change the core values of the Doctor Who that fans know and love. The gender of the character seems, to me, far less important than those other characteristics. Even so, having a woman in the role is a positive step. Girls need to see themselves represented just as much as boys do. Even more diversity in gender and racial representation is something I hope to see in future.
I have read tweets and comments from people upset over this “loss” of a male role model, but this is one character in one TV show; we aren’t even close to running out of inspiring men for kids to look up to. Men dominate positions of power all over the world and are far more likely to portray leading characters in film and television. Professional men’s sports get far more coverage than women’s sports do and male sports people have enormous media presence. There are plenty of books, films, shows and media that show positive male role models for kids.
The boys will be alright
Personally, I’m not worried in the least about Whovian boys “losing a role model”, because they aren’t. Boys can actually look up to women and learn from them, after all.
They’ve also got, at last count, 10 seasons of Doctor Who portrayed by a man to tide them over, should they need or desire it. That’s 839 episodes, if you were wondering. If they watch all of those episodes and admire the courage, good humour, strength, intellect and curiosity of the main character, that’s wonderful. They’ll undoubtedly benefit from emulating such a complex and fascinating character.
If any parent thinks all of that positive influence will be undermined by seeing a woman displaying the same characteristics, I think it’s possible they’re underestimating their children. If anything, kids who love the show already are gaining something by seeing a woman in the role. They will be able to see that kindness, courage, tenacity and intelligence aren’t limited by gender.
#IBOT @ Capturing Life.
Gifs via Giphy.