Sunday, August 04, 2013

Hello, I Must Be Going (4)

Please understand I respect and admire the frailer sex
And I honour them every bit as much as the next
        Jake Thackray

Actually, the prospect of a lady Doctor doesn't bother me at all. It's the endless discussion about whether or not there should be a lady Doctor that I find so dispiriting.

You might be okay with the idea of the Doctor being a woman; on the other hand you might think that that would be a step too far from the "Edwardian English Gentleman" persona. We could have an civilized chat about that. You might, for all I know, think that the Doctor ought to shed, once and for all, the nerdy image and become a tough edgy gangster who thinks with his fists. We could have a civilized chat about that, as well. But the question is in danger of being co-opted by a quite separate discussion about equality and gender; about rights and morals. The next Doctor ought to be woman; anyone who thinks that the next Doctor shouldn't be a woman obviously hates women. People who ought to know better are saying things like "It is not fair that my young daughter is going to go through life knowing that she can't ever be Doctor Who" or "Saying that girls can't be Doctor Who is like saying that they can't be doctors or engine drivers or in particular Church of England Bishops." Some people even said that it was like saying that gay people couldn't get married, although that was mainly because the Matt Smith story broke on the same day there was a more than usually fatuous debate in the House of Lords. 

No, Mrs Worthington, of course your daughter can't ever "be" the Doctor. The Doctor is a made up character in a story. If you do decide to put your daughter on the stage, then she will not be able to play the role of, for example, Harry Potter, any more than your son will be able to play the role of, for example, Hermione Grainger, because the one is a dude and the other is a dudette. But even supposing that your son does become an actor rather than a nurse or an air-steward, he will still not be able to "be" Harry. When we were very young, many of us imagined that acting was like playing soldiers and Dungeons & Dragons. You pretend to fly the TARDIS, and you pretend so hard that is is almost practically real until you take the costume off and go home for tea. Now we are six we understand that acting is a very skilled and exacting (and often quite boring) trade involving moving your eyebrow at exactly the right time towards exactly the right camera and getting your breathing exactly spot on and then doing it six more times exactly the same. Most of us couldn't do it and wouldn't want to. That is why actors get paid such a lot of money. If your actor becomes a daughter, then of course there are roles that she could play and roles that she could not play. And of course it would be a good thing if there were more and better roles for women actors; and of course it is a good thing that there are, although still not enough. But saying that the roles of Harry Potter, Doctor Who and Superman ought to be taken by women so that little girls who don't yet understand what acting is can aspire to cast magic spells, travel in time and space and break the necks of supervillains is simply nonsensical. I submit that there is ontological conclusion going on between the process of regeneration and the process of auditioning

That's the answer to the Black Spider-Man question, by the way: more black superheroes, better black superheroes. Superheroes whose whole back story is tied up in the their African heritage; superheroes who live in New York and Cardiff and who just happen to have dark skin; everything in between. And then turn some of them into movies.


This essay is going to form the epilogue to the next volume of my collected Doctor Who essays, tentatively entitled "The Viewers Tale vol 4." 

The book will also include the long essay on different approaches to Doctor Who, the essays about season 7 that have already appeared here, and the unpublished essays on The One With The Daleks, The One With the Dinosaurs, The One With The Cowboys, The One With The Cubes, The One in New York, and The Christmas One. 

The book will be avaiable, on Lulu and Amazon in due course. 

In the meantime, the complete text of this essay and the unpublished reviews are available as a PDF, Epub and Mobi in return for a suggested donation of £2. Like Kickstarter only without the grief. 

People who have previously sent me money should already have recieved the PDF and are not allowed to donate again.