|Peter Capaldi as the Twelfth (current) Doctor|
Perhaps that’s because I haven’t been looking for them. The Internet allows such fungal undergrowth to flourish beneath various rocks on Reddit and 4Chan, but unless one of their number gets elected President, few actually venture into the sunlight, knowing the general cultural trend has moved away from them. Their sexist, homophobic, bigoted attitudes belong to a long-gone era, and they know it. They have the common decency to stay away from us normal people.
Yet rather than let such attitudes fester and die quietly, members of the progressive call-out culture feel obliged to share, retweet, and otherwise publicly announce the existence of such attitudes. They qualify the shares with snarky comments or condemnations of regressive attitudes, which maybe gives such shares the vestments of sanctimony. But as working journalists discovered last year in sharing Donald Trump’s message, vocally refuting regressive attitudes doesn’t change the value of free media attention.
Every time some white, male yob claims that a female Doctor, female Ghostbusters, or female Jedi “ruined my childhood,” they get free publicity from those who purportedly oppose that position. I’d think having a childhood so brittle that you’re still hanging “No Girls Allowed” signs on your door, would be ruined without outside intervention. But by giving these self-proclaimed martyrs sunlight, my fellow progressives allow these attitudes to flourish and propagate, past their sell-by date.
|Paul McGann as the Eighth Doctor|
Richard Walter, professor and chair of screenwriting at UCLA, writes that “American television seems to love last year’s— or last decade’s— controversy.” In other words, media won’t embrace a position until it’s safe enough to handle without getting burned. Hollywood refused to touch the anti-racist message of Broadway plays like Finian’s Rainbow until history had made the message essentially harmless. The BBC is British, yes, but it suffers under the same constraints as American television.
So yes, a character created in 1963 will carry the whiff of the white, patriarchal influences under which he (she?) was created. Though original showrunner Verity Lambert was a twenty-something woman, the character she oversaw was old, male, and white, reflecting the British power structure in her era. The Doctor didn’t get a black traveling companion until Mickey Smith in 2006, or an openly gay one until Bill Potts in 2017. Hispanic? Sorry, not yet.
But the show planted seeds for the Doctor’s more inclusive regenerations years ago. We saw our first on-screen Black Time Lord in 2008, two years after Black actor Patterson Joseph was briefly considered to play the Doctor. We saw a male Time Lord regenerate into a woman in 2016, demonstrating that such transitions were possible. (Don’t bring me Steven Moffett’s “The Curse of Fatal Death,” where Joanna Lumley plays the Doctor. Gag episodes don’t count.)
|Tom Baker as the Fourth Doctor|
Which is why I cannot take either side seriously. Calls to make change happen instantaneously, even when such change is legitimate and overdue, are as unreasonable as demands to forbid change and keep things static forever. The Doctor will become a non-white woman someday soon. Possibly even a gay woman. (I favored Sue Perkins for the role, after all.) Conservatives cannot stop it, but progressives cannot rush it. Corporations are slow, but change is inevitable.