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If Young Boys Can't View A Female Time Lord As A Role Model, That's Society's Problem, Not Doctor Who's

22/07/2017 11:09
BBC

In the week since Jodie Whittaker has been announced as the new lead in 'Doctor Who', I've seen a number of arguments floating around about why the role should never have been given to a woman.

They've all made me incensed, but I've tried not to get too much on my high horse about it, because left, right and centre I've seen a number of articulate and intelligent women stepping in to shoot these invalid arguments straight down. I don't want to step on anyone's toes when there's a debate about feminism, particularly when it looks like the women have got this covered.

But over the past few days, there's one argument in particular that I've seen cropping up time and again, and it's one that's now been expressed by former 'Doctor Who' actor Peter Davison.

He reckons that the ones really losing out in all of this are the young boys who regularly watch the show, who are suddenly being painted as victims of a system that is taking something away from them.

For the past 50 years, the Doctor has been a hero to all those boys and men who feel like outcasts, who act with their brains, rather than with physicality.

Speaking to crowds at Comic-Con in San Diego, Peter said: "If I feel any doubts, it's the loss of a role model for boys who I think Doctor Who is vitally important for."

This is where I feel compelled to step in, because I was one of these young boys once upon a time. I didn't identify with the Action Men I was given to play with, the footballers and wrestlers that other boys my age were looking up to didn't resonate with me. And when it seemed like all my peers were getting themselves wrapped up in the world of sport (I grew up in the North East where football is pretty much ingrained in our local culture), I'd much rather have been sat inside with a book than doing anything of that nature.

Trust me, I know how these kids are feeling, because their experiences were my experiences.

I know what it's like to feel different, to feel like an outcast, to feel like I just couldn't deliver what was expected of me.

Perhaps surprisingly, given their questionable feminist credentials, but it was the strength of the Disney princesses I was presented with at that time that inspired me.

It was Belle in 'Beauty And The Beast', Ariel in 'The Little Mermaid', Jasmine in 'Aladdin'. All of them frustrated, all of them wanting to explore a world that felt impossible to reach, all of them misunderstood or underestimated. And all of them got what they wanted in the end.

So when I see people complaining that young boys are losing out now that a female actor has been cast as The Doctor, I struggle to accept that as a valid argument.

And if I was an exception, and boys and young men really don't relate to a female role model, isn't that a problem we need to correct, rather than cater to by keeping things exactly as they have been for the past 50 years of 'Doctor Who'?

Young girls who watch 'Doctor Who' have spent the show's entire run watching a male actor in the role, getting by just fine and not struggling to identify with him. Why? Because his gender was never once called into question. It was never once important to the plot of the episode. So why would this change with a woman in charge?

The way I see it, there are no losers with this new setup. Boys get to watch the same show they've always loved, and girls finally get to see themselves represented on screen.

And if I'm wrong, and boys really do start switching off, well they're in luck, because there are already a plethora of episodes with a male Doctor in the show's history that they can watch whenever they want.

Or, alternatively, maybe they can tune into one of the five million other programmes on TV with a strong male lead, and take comfort in those instead.

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