The lead character on a teevee show made for foreign children has been recast, Enthusiasts, and it is news. In fact, I believe that capitalization is in order: it is News. Some have responded with Takes, which have led to Beefs, Clapbacks, and three official Owns. Several people have been upset about this News, but far, far, far more have people are upset at the people who are upset. Mount Kilamanjaro will not have snow on its summit in a very short amount of time, but let’s talk about the genitals of teevee actors.
Doctor Who is now a lady. (Don’t worry: she is still a white lady, but we’ll get to that.) Doctor Who is a British sci-fi serial that has been on the air since the Interregnum. It is neither an anthology, nor an evolving soap; instead, the show has followed the adventures of one character for its entire run. This is accomplished through a particularly clever piece of bullshit: Doctor Who, a time traveling nuisance who insists on putting England in danger via his very presence, can regenerate. (Had I been writing the show, I would have called it “reiterating.”) Actor ages out of the role? Wants to go back to the legitimate theater? Punches a producer? Boom: regenerate him.
Renegotiating your contract has to be hell for a Doctor Who actor. It’s not as if you can threaten to quit.
So Doctor Who is a lady now, which makes all those masculine pronouns I just used retroactively sexist. (I oppose a female Doctor Who for the same reason I opposed a female president. Hiring/electing a woman to the job means when speaking about the group of people known as “the Doctors Who” or “the presidents,” one would be forced to use the awkward but correct “him/her,” or the incorrect but smooth “them.” TotD endorses Male Supremacy on grammatical grounds.)
But should she be? Is changing the gender (or race or ethnicity or sexuality or whatnot) just a cheap stunt, or a sop to the diversity police OR is it a creative and natural evolution of a character? Also: who are the diversity police? Are they like the dream police?
It comes down to Character Essentialism.
Please stop capitalizing words.
I’ll capitalize you.
That doesn’t MEAN ANYTHING.
I capitalized you.
STOP THIS. I’M YELLING AND I DON’T WANT TO BE.
Stop interrupting me.
Anyway, Character Essentialism is about what cannot be taken away. I know we’re discussing Doctor Who, but I watched a half-hour of one of the shows when David Tennant was in it, and then I turned it off and never thought about Doctor Who again, so let’s use a different fictional Brit.
The essentials of Sherlock Holmes’ character are:
- The greatest detective in the world, but not a cop.
- Arrogant, rude, and oblivious of/disrespectful of social mores.
- Plays the violin.
- Lives at 221B Baker Street in London. (There’s a dopey teevee show on now where Holmes lives in Los Angeles, and fuck that noise.)
- A constant companion, a medical doctor named Watson.
- Brother named Mycroft.
- Nemesis named Moriarty.
And that’s about it. He doesn’t have to wear a deer-stalker and smoke a calabash. He doesn’t need to live at the tail end of the Victorian era. There’s nothing in that list that specifies race or gender. Certainly, it would be odd to cast a Latina actress in the role if it were set in the original time, but as long as she was British, there’s nothing stopping her from picking up the magnifying glass in a production updated to modern-day.
Conversely, some characters are essentially male, female, white, black, etc. Continuing with the detective theme, Hercule Poirot must be a man because Hercule Poirot must have his silly little mustache. Miss Marple has to be an old lady. But, Sam Spade could just as easily be hard-drinking, good-with-her-fists Samantha Spade.
Captain America–at least the Steve Rogers version–has to be white because he was turned into a superhero by the United States Army in 1944, and that was a segregated organization at the time. Dracula doesn’t have to be white because Dracula is a dracula and can therefore look like whatever he wants to look like. Wonder Woman and Iron Man need to be, respectively, a woman and a man BUT Tony Stark doesn’t have to be a man. Toni Stark, the billionaire inventor, could just as easily invent the suit and call herself Iron Woman. (Wonder Woman’s alter-ego could not be gender-flipped: Diana was made out of clay and magic on a lady-island.)
So: TotD declares the de-testicling of Doctor Who legitimate. You’re welcome.