We should have had a female Doctor ages ago


Who remembers the 2001 Oscars? It was another year when the Academy had been scrutinised (quite appropriately) for failing to honour non-white actors, so they basically reacted by going completely overboard – in the manner that, I don’t know, a closeted racist who desperately didn’t want to seem racist might – and just chucked as much gold at Halle Berry, Denzel Washington, and Sidney Poitier as they could get their hands on. I’m not taking anything away from any of those actors, they’re all brilliant, and in 2001 perhaps Halle and Denzel’s were the best performances going (Washington in Training Day though – not sure), but it smacked of a case of limp tokenism from a bunch of dinosaur executives who were attempting to seem progressive – a bit like when Trump manages to stand next to a woman (an actual woman) without honking her tits. He thinks about it, it’s probably all he thinks about, and then he congratulates himself for not doing it.

The point being that 2001 marked a day when an old institution played a hand, and really it turned out to be an empty gesture, because more than ten years later the same issues of racism flared up – actors justifiably spoke out, and the Academy doth protested too much. It seems like a cyclical chain of events that will just go on and on into eternity, and that’s a shame. It’s a shame that we seem to have to wait for a car crash to happen before we do anything about it, and it’s a shame that all the nightmarish political visions coming true at the moment are also testament to that fact. Brexit, a reality TV star presiding over America, these weren’t random flukes that no one saw coming, they were car crashes that were allowed to happen. We basically never learn.

The reason I’m thinking about all of this now, as opposed to however many weeks, months, or years ago is because the actress Jodie Whittaker has just been announced as the next Doctor Who, which makes her the first female to step into the long iconic scarf (does that still exist?). As is the trend now, social media has gone berserk, everyone seems happy for the most part – the power of public opinion has surged all the way to the top, yet another dinosaur executive has made a limp gesture of tokenism to make themselves feel progressive. We’ve finally got our gal.

I don’t want to sound too cynical about the whole thing – it’s great that it’s on the agenda, but I just wonder why we had to wait so long? Why couldn’t there be a female Doctor five or ten years ago when the impact would have been stronger? Or twenty years ago – why not then? The same thing goes for casting a black actor to play 007. That’s also inevitable (as it has always been inevitable), but no matter which way you look at it, it’s long overdue. It’s been almost a decade since they inaugurated the first black President in a country that has a far more complex relationship with race than us, so what is so sacred about Bond that he had to wait this long before he could become a reflection of our diverse society?

Unfortunately, the honest answer to those questions is probably quite a simple one – because we are, at our core, as a nation, bigoted. Because the people calling the shots don’t have the stones to embrace diversity with complete confidence, so instead they reflect back at society only what the snivelling masses will complain about less. They’re driven by numbers, they’re in a constant cold sweat about alienating Middle England, afraid of unsettling the heart of a country bubbling with suspicion and hatred – hence everything is served to them just how they ordered it, and no one gets into trouble.

It’s a bit sad really, and I never thought that we were heading in that direction (ie. backwards). For ages it felt like we were in a constant upward curve, constantly improving as a country. But now a female Doctor or a black Bond get uncovered many years too late, and the nation somehow still draws breath and gasps like the Elephant Man just walked into the room. Really, by now, as with race and the Oscars, we shouldn’t even be talking about it.

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