It’s a pretty important week for females and fantasy. The BBC have announced that the next Dr. Who is going to be a woman. For many, this is a very welcome change. For far too long, this genre has been almost completely dominated by white men. From Superman to Wolverine, Dr Who to Thor, the faces that are seen as saviours and heroes are all too often a variation on a theme, with hair colour and beard being the only factor of difference. With the last companion being black and lesbian, they have made some headway, although it will undoubtedly be some time until we see black female heroes leading the charge against Daleks or the Green Hornet. It is, at least, a step in the right direction.
Some, of course, are less than happy. With comments ranging from the new Dr’s parking skills (oh how original) to criticism of the BBC for ruining everything by being ‘too PC.’ The thing that always confuses me about this kind of outrage is that it seems to imply that women are somehow a minority, a tiny proportion of the population that corporations like the BBC are humouring in order to keep happy.
The truth is, white men are a minority. They don’t make up the majority of the world’s population, so why should we be happy to see them dominating the representations of anything, be it romantic lead roles or heroes that are out to save the world? How casting a female in a central role in what is essentially a TV show for kids is in any way controversial in 2017 is beyond me. The character is a time-travelling alien. I don’t see anything there that prohibits the type of genitalia you have.
There are other interesting developments happening. The Handmaid’s Tale is proving incredibly popular, and opening up a wider debate about control – the worrying realisation is that we are in fact a lot closer to Atwood’s vision of a horrifying world where a woman’s body is not her own.
Writers often challenge the status quo. But let us not forget that this book was written in 1985. It’s yet another example of how laws don’t necessarily change thoughts or attitudes. Feminism is over, we have a female prime minister! Well, not quite. Sexism, racism and homophobia is systemic in huge swathes of our culture, perfectly embodied by the ridiculously over-the-top reactions to choosing one half of the species to represent a popular character. “You wouldn’t watch Jane Bond, would you?” asked one Twittering ranter. Well, yes, I would. Why wouldn’t I?
As audiences, readers and viewers, it is our place to embrace artistic freedom. As writers and creators, it is our job to push boundaries and challenge those who are comfortably sitting in their white male dominated world. It skews perceptions, it leads to bigotry, hatred and resentment. If nothing else, you have to love this girl’s reaction to the news. My niece shouldn’t have to feel that, in order to be someone in the world, she needs to change her gender. Let’s embrace the change and remind the haters that they are the minority, and perhaps the rest of the world is sick of always pandering to their needs.