Doctor Who

“What if We Changed FEMALE Character to Male?” Is Not Fooling Anyone

The Doctor is disappointed in you
The Doctor is disappointed in you Screencap from the Thirteenth Doctor reveal trailer
So, you may have heard about the new Doctor Who being a woman for the first time in the show’s long history. To anyone paying attention it’s been in the making for the show since at least 2015, Or, 2002 if you count “Seasons of Fear.” Or 1986, if you listen to folks like series creator Sydney Newman. Regardless, a gender swap in pop culture has occurred, bringing all the entitled male gnashing of teeth that always accompanies such things. There's even a stupid petition about it.

Whenever you get something like this, be it female Ghostbusters or a black Johnny Storm or whatever, the standard regressive talking points come out, and they are generally rather ridiculous. I know, it's shocking that people allergic to critically looking at the media they consume might not produce the greatest response to other criticisms, but it does happen.

My old favorite is, "What if we changed FEMALE character to male, huh!" It's exactly the hot take you'd expect from people whose understanding of sexism or racism begins and ends with the dictionary, but I'm here to tell you bros that feminists are 1,000 percent on board with a huge chunk of that idea.

Brief shout-out to my friend Robyn Pennacchia at Wonkette for this writing prompt. You should read everything she has ever written and tell her she's nice.

Let's start with Disney. Think about it...a gender-swapped Little Mermaid. A man can't talk for three-quarters of the movie and has to use empathy and other means to win the heart of a person he's in love with? Women wouldn't throw money at that; they'd throw the whole damned purse. It's probably why someone wanted to remake Splash with Channing Tatum.

Let's see a successful corporate shark of a woman trying to understand love as more than a visible commodity as a young man finds his self-worth being appreciated. Has there ever even been a movie like that?

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How about Frozen? A young male king who has been struggling with powers threatened by repressed emotions finds comfort and salvation in the love of a sibling and no one ends up in a stupid refrigerator to get him there? Yeah, that sounds kind of nice, actually. Mulan? Man goes undercover as a woman in an Amazonian army to save his parent? I'd watch that.

Someone in the original thread that inspired this mentioned Pretty Woman, that classic hooker with a heart of gold story. I'd argue that they already made the crap gender-swapped version of that with Deuce Bigalow (and even then, the first film really does have some sweet moments). Regardless, let's totally switch it. Let's see a successful corporate shark of a woman trying to understand love as more than a visible commodity as a young man finds his self-worth being appreciated. Has there ever even been a movie like that?

How about video games? Samus Aran as a man? That's fine with me as long as I get that weird Other M storyline where he won't use weapons until his military officer/mother figure authorizes them. Also, completely okay with Prince Zelda as well if a female Link rescues him.

The more you actually examine this idea as a, you know, idea rather than an anti-feminist soundbite it become more and more a feminist-critique win. Remake Labyrinth Lady Gaga as the Goblin Queen and one of those teen Nickelodeon stars in the Sarah role. Replace Clarice Starling with Clark Starling and hand off the juicy role of Hannibal Lecter to a woman.

I could go on and one, but the point is this: the problem with representation in media is not limited to any one role. A female Doctor won't fix anything any more than a male Wonder Woman would destroy feminism via the fallacy of definition. When we look at things like gender in media we're looking at trends. There are lots of female villains, and there are lots of villains like Hannibal Lecter, but there is not a lot of overlap between the two. The trend speaks to a systemic difference in the way we perceive men and women in various roles, as well as the assumptions that we make.

So, before you bust out this idea that the whole argument that the importance of gender in media representation is rendered meaningless by flipping the script, ask yourself something. Where are the Manic Pixie Dream Boys? Where are the Dudes in Distress? Where are the Men in Refrigerators? Why are these roles so rare or complete absent for men in media.

And if you're thinking, "well, I wouldn't want to play that part," then you're closer to understanding the problem under discussion.
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Jef Rouner is a contributing writer who covers politics, pop culture, social justice, video games, and online behavior. He is often a professional annoyance to the ignorant and hurtful.
Contact: Jef Rouner