The Regeneration of Doctor Who to Doctor Her?
June 17, 2013
The times are changing over at Doctor Who. It was recently announced that Matt Smith, who has played the iconic role since 2010, will be leaving at the end of the year. For those who have been watching Doctor Who for years, like me, the second that a Doctor announces that he is leaving, the speculation about his replacement begins. Odds are already going around as to who will be the new face of the famous Time Lord, and people as varied as Rupert Grint (of Harry Potter fame) and John Hurt (who will be in the 50th Anniversary Special this year) are rumored to be under consideration. However, there is also a suggestion that, for the first time, there may be a female Doctor. And many longtime fans are aghast.
I have been watching Doctor Who for more than 30 years, and the idea of a female Doctor, until recently, had only been a joke. Something funny to consider. Never in a million years did I think that people would start to take the idea seriously. And it is a horrifically bad idea. Not only would it completely alter the character, it would be doing so only to appear progressive and modern. It would not be furthering the character’s development or enhancing the mythology. It would only be making it so complicated and confusing that the essential core "Doctor" that has been in development for five decades would be totally transformed for no reason other than to be groundbreaking.
Those are my reasons for being against a female Doctor. But I recently read several interesting articles about the idea that all raised a very important point that I had not considered. By making the Doctor female, we would be depriving young boys of a role model that is almost entirely lacking nowadays in popular culture. A male hero who uses his brain over brawn. Who is hyper intelligent and yet also cool. There are a tremendous number of heroic role models out there for boys to look up to. But their primary way of battling evil is by using their strength and superpowers. The doctor battles with his brain. He shows that being smart is just as good as being strong, and this is something you don’t get much in books and onscreen today.
Take a look at The Big Bang Theory. It is one of the funniest shows on television, and I love watching it. However, it also perpetrates a stereotype that has come to dominate these days. The hyper-intelligent, yet weak and awkward male, who dresses funny, is totally uncool, can’t get a date, and is regularly beaten up by the "real" men. Unfortunately, I can’t remember the last time I saw an intelligent young man who was not portrayed in this way. Even the two Sherlock Holmes series currently on television show a hero who is smart, but also a little weird. Intelligence is no longer seen as something positive for a young boy to be. "Real" men play sports, carry guns, and beat up the enemy.
In literature, you see the same trend. It has been many years since you have had someone like Encyclopedia Brown or The Hardy Boys being created for young men. And while these two series continue to be read, there have not been many new characters added to join them. Most of the heroic stories for boys continue to place the emphasis on superpowers and fighting skills. Even Harry Potter, while not stupid, was not the brains of operation. Hermione was. Great for girl power, but disappointing for boys. It is no wonder that we continue to see more boys wanting to be captain of the high school football team than valedictorian.
Studies have shown that our boys are falling farther and farther behind our girls when it comes to academics. Girls are entering college at a higher rate than their male counterparts and are also graduating at a higher rate. I don’t think that it is a coincidence that this is happening at the same time as the branding of all smart boys in popular culture as being "geeks." Let’s face it, no boy wants to be considered weak. This is the message that they are constantly getting, however. Being smart is just not manly.
Having a male character like the doctor that shows that smart boys can not only be heroes, but can be cool as well, is very important. And let’s face it, right now he seems to be the only one of his kind out there. To take him away and make him a woman would deprive all those boys sitting in science class, who have just watched a guy like them save the world, from feeling like they could do the same. Doctor Who shows all young men that to be educated does not mean you’re uncool and pathetic. So, let us hope that the show continues to do this for the next 50 years. In other words, keep him a him.