How Jodie Whittaker’s Replacement of a Notable TV Role Unveiled Judgemental Flaws in Society
In an era where women are frequently on the cusp of being “too modest” or “too provocative”, the battle for equality and image is still an ongoing matter in society and the media. So when Jodie Whittaker was revealed as the first female ‘Doctor’ in the hit series Doctor Who, why was there an array of animosity surrounding her casting and appearance? And why did it spark a notorious trend ‘#NotMyDoctor’ to circulate on Twitter?
Doctor Who has been a treasured television series that has captured the attention of many households in the UK and around the world since the 60s and once again in its reprisal in 2006. The show focuses on ‘the Doctor’, “an extra-terrestrial being” who travels through time and space in a blue police box. The protagonist has the rare ability to “regenerate” and change his/her appearance when the body is too damaged to heal. This occurrence has to date been presented thirteen times, with a new male actor rising up to the role, until 2018 that is, where Whittaker made television history by becoming the first woman to play ‘the Doctor’.
Whittaker as expected was delighted and so were many women who saw this as a staple moment for strong female presence on screen. However, when the series came out a small minority of viewers took to social media to express their views on Whittaker’s debut on the show. Amongst the various critique was ‘#NotMyDoctor’, a hashtag where tweets stated: “Jodie Whittaker is incapable of this range of acting ability”, “Jodie Whittaker was awful” and more concerningly “the Doctor shouldn’t be a woman”.
Thankfully, numerous users recognised the small group of misanthropes and members of the fandom came to defence of Whittaker and the show’s decision to connect with women especially young females who now had a chance to see a beloved character as a strong powerful woman. This blurred the lines of the traditional expectations in the sci-fi universe and what was now becoming a possibility. Social media itself is a significant tool that is able to ignite conversation about important topics, but it is also a platform that reveals strong views that are harmful to the progression in society.
In an interview with The Guardian, Whittaker spoke of how her position on the show made roles that are initially gender restricted a talking point and how in the future the question of gender would be less criticised and more of a natural acceptance on screen and in society. She also added that her gender is a prominent change for the show’s direction, but it wouldn’t make her any more or less superior compared to the prior cast who have also undertaken the role. “It’s massive to have a first woman Doctor, but I won’t let it be used as an excluding technique” said Whittaker.
There is still a corrosive stigma that exists around male leads being replaced by women, however, Doctor Who has redefined image on screen and even influenced major films such as the James Bond franchise to be reinvigorated; by making Daniel Craig’s departure a breakthrough by replacing ‘007’ with the incredibly talented Lashana Lynch. The only way to dissipate scrutiny is by continuing to make such matters a normality that mutes controversy with an end goal of inspiring young people so that in the future, gender would not have to withhold anymore aspiring female actors to take on prominent roles in the industry.