Does Famous Feminist Anita Sarkeesian HATE The New Doctor?!?


As is usually the case with titles that pose such questions, the answer is… no.

But some people seem to think so.

For those who don’t know, the Feminist Frequency Twitter account posted a short thread in response to the announcement of Jodie Whittaker as the next Doctor. A lot of people seem to be taking it as Anita being really angry at the announcement.

Of course, it seems as if people only picked out one or two tweets from the thread. But if you see the whole thing, you realize that, of course, not only is it much ado about nothing, but Anita had some really important points worth discussing. I’m not just going to post the entire 7-tweet thread here, so please go check it out in full. I will post three of the tweets, however, because it is worth discussing…

Let’s start with the fact that Anita was clearly not at all mad, judging by the tweet that started the thread:

So… that doesn’t read like anger. It reads like excitement.

The tweet that seems to have some people in a twist is this one…

She follows this up by pointing out that you can’t just fix one problem at a time… it has to be done in tandem.

And that’s 100% true. I didn’t address in my initial post about the announcement because, in my excitement, I didn’t think about it. But this is really important.

Yes, the most recent companion was a black woman who also happened to be a lesbian. And it was really something that both of these things were just… accepted. Her race and sexual orientation just weren’t a big deal. It wasn’t commented on that often, and in the rare moments that her sexuality did come up, it was simply accepted and everyone moved on. There was never a big to do about any of it. And Pearl Mackie played Bill Pots so well that, despite some issues with her overall story (for starters, we really needed more than one season with her… and for another, there were many instances about the narrative around her, especially in The Doctor Falls, that were extremely uncomfortable to watch in so many ways), she is probably my favorite Doctor Who companion… ever.

And Doctor Who has had some diversity in casting in the past, as well (Mickey and Martha were black companions, after all).

But Anita is 100% correct that, overall, the show has been extremely white in its 54-year run, and Jodie Whittaker, while being a woman, is still white. I did mention that I hoped this would open the door to a much more diverse cast of actors playing the Doctor (then dropped the idea of Laverne Cox as the Doctor… an idea which still has me excited). But intersectionality means that things don’t get fixed one at a time… they have to get fixed, as Anita said, in tandem. Casting a woman is great, but wouldn’t a woman of color have been better, or even a trans woman of color?

Anita finished off her short thread with this:

So there you have it. Anita is not at all angry that Jodie Whittaker is the next Doctor. She’s simply pointing out the fact that, in the end, the Doctor is still white, so while this is a step in the right direction, it’s still a tiny step. A bigger step could have been taken, and hopefully will be with the next Doctor after Jodie’s (hopefully long and successful) run.

Comments

  1. Dunc says

    Well, of course Dr Who has been extremely white for most of its run -- it’s British. I’m not sure that Americans realise just how white Britain is (especially outside of London), or how recently most of our non-white population arrived here.

  2. sonofrojblake says

    Sarkeesian can be dismissed for precisely the same reasons as all the whining manchildren complaining that a woman has been cast at all. “It should have been a black transgender lesbian because reasons” is precisely as valid an expectation as “it should always and only be a white straight man because reasons”. Worse, it is ignoring reality wilfully in the teeth of mountains of available evidence. Doctor Who is one of the most meticulously documented shows in the history of television. There is practically no detail of its production that isn’t available to know about. There’s no excuse for not understanding how it works and why they cast who they do. And yes,

    the show has been extremely white in its 54-year run

    Well, duh, yes, because it’s had a fucking 54 year run. For the first TWO YEARS Doctor Who was on the air in the UK, there was no law against racial discrimination (“No dogs, no blacks, no Irish” was a common sign on pub doors). For the first FOUR YEARS Doctor Who was on the air, homosexuality was ILLEGAL. For the first FIFTEEN years Doctor Who was on the air the Black & White Minstrel Show was mainstream BBC light entertainment, ffs. Newsflash -- the past was shit.

    Doctor Who has been pretty good at representation of minorities on British prime-time family television since its return in 2005. From day one it has been subjected to pretty much constant media and fan attack, mainly focused on its perceived “gay agenda”, starting with the presentation of the pansexual Captain Jack Harkness in episode 9 of the first series (written by outgoing showrunner Moffat). It cast a sometime black companion in 2005, a full-season black companion in 2007, and a transgender actor in a guest role 2015.

    But people criticising the casting seem to forget that this is a TV show made in the UK in the real world by the BBC. I was crossing my fingers really, really hard for Tilda Swinton this time round, knowing all the time that wasn’t going to happen. I’d have been very happy with the slightly more possible Phoebe Waller-Bridge, but again, realistically, her career is such that makes her casting a no-go -- she’s got films going on, she’s as much a writer of her own material as an actor, among other things. Casting the Doctor in the 21st century is hard.

    The show is the BBC’s single most popular drama export -- it’s an enormously valuable brand, one of the “crown jewels” like Top Gear or Attenborough. It’s therefore not possible to cast a complete unknown -- someone with proven reliability is absolutely non-negotiable. Equally however, the role requires the lead actor to commit to spending a large portion of their year(s) living and working long hours in Cardiff. And as they really, REALLY don’t want another one-series wonder like Eccleston, ideally the actor chosen is known by and comfortable working with the whole production team for those long hours. Those three requirements narrow the field down enormously.

    To all the whiny morons bemoaning the casting of a woman, I have little to say beyond “shut up”. To Sarkeesian and those agreeing with her bemoaning they didn’t cast a transgender actor of colour, I also have two words: “Which one?”. It’s not a facetious question. Which transgender actor of colour has a solid record making episodic television behind them, is known to and comfortable working with the production team of Doctor Who, and is prepared to go and live and work in Cardiff? And yes, today in 2017 that list has zero entries, and that’s a shame and it should change and will change, inevitably. But the BBC can’t wave a wand and change it today.

    It is unreasonable to expect the BBC to do something that isn’t “safe” with one of their most valuable properties. It is more unreasonable to criticise them when it is to a large extent their own efforts over the years that have made Jodie Whittaker a “safe” choice.

  3. Vivec says

    Truth be told, I’m really not a fan of Whittaker’s acting, but I put up with Moffat’s drudgery, so I’m sure as hell going to give her a chance. Hopefully, the seasons with her will be really successful, and we might get an even more progressive pick in the future.

  4. says

    To Sarkeesian and those agreeing with her bemoaning they didn’t cast a transgender actor of colour, I also have two words: “Which one?”. It’s not a facetious question. Which transgender actor of colour has a solid record making episodic television behind them, is known to and comfortable working with the production team of Doctor Who, and is prepared to go and live and work in Cardiff? And yes, today in 2017 that list has zero entries…

    You don’t know that.

    In fact, that’s the same excuse that directors give for casting cis people in trans parts.

    And while I can’t be certain once you’ve narrowed it all the way down to a pre-existing “is known to and comfortable working with the production team of Doctor Who”, I can guarantee you that the REST of that exists. If anyone ever bothers to actually look for trans actors, you will FIND US.

  5. sonofrojblake says

    I can guarantee you that the REST of that exists

    And yet despite your certainty you seem unable or unwilling to come up with even one name. Muttering vaguely that you’re sure there must be someone doesn’t cut it for the lead in the corporation’s flagship drama product.

    (As an aside, Laverne Cox (great as she may be) is a non-starter. The BBC will make the Doctor a one-legged trans black lesbian Muslim midget before they EVER cast a Yank. The very idea.)

  6. blf says

    Apropos of nothing much, Colin Baker supports the decision whilst Peter Davison is dubious, Doctor Who casting: Time Lords clash over ‘loss of role model for boys’: “Peter Davison says Jodie Whittaker removes ‘vitally important’ hero for boys — but Colin Baker says he is talking ‘absolute rubbish’.” Colin — who said “You don’t have to be of a gender of someone to be a role model. Can’t you be a role model as people?” — also wants to see a non-white Doctor in the future (I concur).

    (Ironically, I preferred Peter Davison, the fifth Doctor, over Colin Baker, the sixth Doctor; albeit “my” Doctor is Tom Baker (fourth).)

  7. says

    I haven’t watched Peter Davison’s, Colin Baker’s, or Sylvester McCoy’s runs, yet. I need to and plan to when I have more time. That said… I’m really disappointed in Peter Davison. Of all the previous Doctors who’ve responded to them, and I think it’s all of the still surviving ones, plus the kids of the ones no longer surviving, unless I’m much mistaken, Davison is the only one who’s “sad” about it. I’m surprised, because I know that his announcement as the Doctor was not received well because he was seen as “too young”, so I’d have thought he would know better.

    Yeah, Peter… you’re an old dinosaur. Colin Baker is absolutely right.

    ————————————————-

    Yo, sonofrojblake…

    Hari Nef is a trans woman actor, though white. I admit that, when I searched, I had trouble finding some British trans actors of color, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t out there, and Doctor Who has a history of casting unknowns in the role (in fact, I think Peter Capaldi is the most well-established actor to ever take the role… save maybe Tom Baker and William Hartnell himself). There may not be any British trans actors of color who are popular enough to be found on the first page of a simple Google search, but the fact is that acting is enough of a tradition that they most likely do exist.

    So stop using that as an excuse to ignore what Anita is saying.

    Your picking nits just to be angry at Anita when she a) expressed how utterly excited she was, and b) simply used her platform to point out how far we have to go as a society. She isn’t saying that the next Doctor should have been a trans actor of color instead of Jodie… she’s saying that a future Doctor should be, and I agree with her 100%.

    I’m kinda done with white cis-male Doctors myself, and hope the future sees actors of color, trans actors (both white and of color), more women, etc. It’s easy enough to explain within established “Doctor Who” canon. Not only do you have the fact that Time Lords are capable of complete sub-cellular regeneration (that’s what it is, after all), but you can even explain away the statistics by the fact that, again, Peter Capaldi was not actually playing the 12th Doctor. He was playing the first Doctor of a brand new set of regenerations, and that means that any statistical argument is now out the window, and every subsequent regeneration could simply favor different genders and races.

    So sure… maybe, as of right now, there were no trans women of color available for the role. But when there are, and there most definitely will be, one should absolutely be cast if she’s perfect for the part. Obviously I don’t want a casting that is actually meant to tick boxes, but I also think the BBC has a pretty good track record of casting Doctors who are good for the role. It’s been said that Jodie owned her audition… wowing even the skeptical BBC heads. And that is why they allowed Chris to cast her. So I will not hear arguments that Jodie was cast to “tick boxes”. I definitely trust that the BBC wouldn’t do that with Doctor Who, and so I fully expect at least a good Doctor from her, if not an amazing one. And when they do cast a trans actor of color, I have no doubt that she (or he, because trans men of color exist, as well) will also have been chosen primarily because she proved herself (or himself) perfect for the part.

    As for the whole thing about Yanks… normally, I’d agree with you. I also don’t really want a US-American Doctor. However, I’d be willing to forgive that for Laverne Cox, so that argument’s a non-starter for me in this specific case.

  8. sonofrojblake says

    Oof, where to start? In order:
    Davison’s point, that role model for boys has been taken away, is true. It doesn’t make him an old dinosaur. It is more reasonably defeated by simply pointing out that boys have WAY more role models than girls in mainstream culture, and taking away this one isn’t the end of the world. Call us back when Iron Man, Captain America, Captain Kirk, Spock, Batman, Superman, Spiderman, Sherlock Holmes, Zorro, Buzz Lightyear, Indiana Jones and Han Solo have been recast as women.

    Hari Nef is American, and thus entirely irrelevant. Baffled why you’d even mention her. I could list about a dozen trans actors, if you’re casting something in the USA. This was about Doctor Who.

    I admit that, when I searched, I had trouble finding some British trans actors of color

    You don’t say.

    that doesn’t mean they aren’t out there

    Sure. What it does mean is that there aren’t any with anything like the necessary profile and experience.

    Doctor Who has a history of casting unknowns in the role… I think Peter Capaldi is the most well-established actor to ever take the role… save maybe Tom Baker

    It’s hard to respond to this without coming across as condescending, which is absolutley not my intention. However: you appear to know almost nothing about the show’s cultural context, which calls into question the validity of your opinions about it. Let me help:
    1. Hartnell was a well established actor on film and television when cast as the Doctor in 1963. See, e.g. “The Mouse That Roared” with Peter Sellers, and “The Army Game”, a BBC sitcom at a time where there were just two TV channels.
    2. Troughton was the first actor to play Robin Hood on television (a fact alluded to in a wink to fans in the Capaldi episode “Robot of Sherwood”) and had appeared in “Jason and the Argonauts” in cinema, among much else.
    3. Pertwee was known from the long running radio show “The Navy Lark” and three appearances in “Carry On” films, again among much else.
    4. The nearest to an “unknown” cast in the history of the programme, Tom Baker was famously labouring on a building site when he got the call. That is, if you can call a double Golden Globe nominee “unknown”.
    5. Davison was coming off household name status as Tristan Farnon in “All Creatures Great and Small”.
    6. Colin Baker was a household name due to his role in “The Brothers”, and was known to BBC sf fans from his roles in “Blake’s Seven” and as a character called Maxil in a show called “Doctor Who”.
    7. McCoy seemed for most of my childhood to be rarely off children’s telly, appearing in Vision On, Jigsaw, Tiswas, Eureka and many others.
    8. Paul McGann was the Monocled Mutineer.
    9. Eccleston was in Cracker, Shallow Grave, Our Friends in the North, 28 Days Later and The Second Coming, among much else.
    9. Tennant was Casanova and was Barty Crouch Jr. in a fucking HARRY POTTER film before becoming the Doctor.
    10. Matt Smith had a high profile role in the BBC’s “Party Animals” prior to his casting. Passed me by, personally, but clearly impressed the bosses.
    11. John Hurt was John fucking Hurt.

    “A history of casting unknowns”? Yeah. Just like Marvel/Disney has a history of casting unknowns as Avengers and “The Fresh Prince of Bel Air” was mostly New York Jews.

    the fact is that acting is enough of a tradition that they most likely do exist

    I refer you to my observation above: muttering vaguely that you’re sure there must be someone doesn’t cut it for the lead in the corporation’s flagship drama product.

    Your[sic] picking nits just to be angry at Anita

    I’m not angry at her at all. I’m as excited and happy as she is at the news of Whitaker’s casting (although I could be happier, see above). I’m just comfortable ignoring her other opinions because they demonstrably come from a position of wilful ignorage of reality.

    She isn’t saying that the next Doctor should have been a trans actor of color instead of Jodie

    That’s exactly what she’s saying. I can’t see any other way to interpret this tweet:
    >It’s not as if you fix the “woman” problem, THEN the “race” problem, THEN the “queer/trans” problem, etc. It all has to happen in tandem

    As for the rest, I completely agree with all of it.