A TARDIS FULL OF BRAS - THE 13TH DOCTOR, GENDER AND TRANS
It only really dawned on me (Gary - hi!) late Sunday evening after the announcement of the new "Doctor Who" that afternoon during the Wimbledon Men's Final that not only was the 13th Doctor a woman, not only was she to be played by amazing actress Jodie Whittaker off of Broadchurch, not only was this amazing for little girls who've always been told that they had to be the companion and that driving the TARDIS was a "boy's job", not only all of this but I realised that however they deal with it in the show itself, the 13th Doctor is queer.
This is actually the thought that is popping the heads of straight white men all over the internet right now and has been since Sunday, they're not just dealing with their own mysogyny in the same way as they had to when Hollywood made a lady Ghostbuster movie, they're not even doing the old "boys don't buy girl toys" bullshit that left Rey and the Black Widow out of Star Wars and Avengers toys sets last year, what they're dealing with is all of this and it's also their opinions about a male character they've known since they were little "changing gender". Their TV Dad is becoming their TV Mum. Their funny Uncle is becoming their Funny Auntie.
Straight white men who get angry behind their keyboard or read the Sun don't tend to actively seek out Transparent or Trans-America or BBC2's Boys Meets Girl or have had the pleasure of going to one of Kate O Donnell's shows, Bethany Black's stand up gigs or shared a bottle of wine with Grace Oni Smith on a Friday night so they don't usually get a nuanced version of this story, they don't get to think and feel and empathise. They feel uncomfortable when Hayley Cropper made Coronation Street her home and they make jokes about Caitlyn Jenner (I'm generalising but you get what I mean). They usually see these kind of stories pop up in gossip columns or in "women's programmes" or "women's genres" such as soaps, reality TV and Orange Is The New Black so they can dismiss them and even switch them off but this time it's happening in what they see as a "boy's show". The conversation this time isn't just about "boys jobs and girls jobs" (can a woman handle made up technology like a proton pack?) and "bras in the Tardis" (seriously click that link, it's amazing!) it's confrontationally about trans issues, gender fluidity and queerness and I love it!
The Doctor is a character all about acceptance and individuality, kindness ("never cruel or cowardly") and hope. The Doctor is all about facing the enemy and never running away. When he/she/they land on planets, whatever the lightyear The Doctor battles the monster. Well when Jodie Whittaker parks the TARDIS for the first time on Earth 2017 she'll have been battling Cyber men on the internet for months and the world will never be the same again. It seems very timely that the show has decided to face this change and not shy away from discussing gender issues, queer issues and that word the world seems to fear "trans". Domestic abuse, hate crimes, fuck boys, online trolls, toxic masculinity, rape culture, pay gap, the DUP, abortion... they're all enemy of the Doctor now because he's now a woman. The Doctor has always stood up for what's right now she's going to have her privilege removed and she's going to have to live through the prejudice of the female companions - it's a big change but it feels right for the show and the character.
Change is built into the show itself, this alien regenerates, moves on and it's painful for everyone including the Doctor but it happens and all of the Doctor's friends have to gang together and help each other deal with it and then this new face becomes the face we accept and we love them a new. This is an experience I and others have had with some of our favourite people and closest friends and family members and perhaps this fictional "mad man in a box" becoming a "mad woman in a box" will bring it into the homes of thousands. Surely this can't do damage to little trans kids and their families, seeing this on screen in the way companion Bill Pott's lesbian relationship last series could end up being a starting point for coming out conversations for gay women in a decade's time!
For a culture obsessed with the myths of superheroes, hobbits and Jedis, maybe this twist in the story of a 50 year old prime time Saturday night family show can put a queered wrinkle in the myth of masculinity just a tiny bit. It might be a small change change of gender but if there's one thing we've learnt from the show....small things have the possibility of being lot bigger than they may first appear.