Doctor Who and the Identity Politics of Regeneration
So there’s this whole spiel with a female actress filling the Doctor Who role. Jodie Whittaker has a fierce discography, and I’m confident she will do a great job with the role. There is always a cycle of doubt and acceptance with any new Doctor. This is nothing new.
What is new, however, is that a role usually filled by a man is now filled by a woman. I’d wager this is no big deal in the long run, but I am curious about the fictional thought processes going on in the Doctor’s brain now that she is a woman.
I have a few questions. I’m not sure how to answer them, given that the Doctor is an alien and we have no idea as to the identity politics for an ancient alien race that exists outside time and space.
But let’s pretend they do. Humor me that timelords have a concept of gender.
Is that Doctor transgender? Probably not. We don’t know how the Doctor identifies. Gender identity has to do with your brain’s gender, not necessarily your outward personality traits, genitalia, or manner of dress.
I feel that timelords are agender. The character “The Master,” who regenerated into a woman, now named Missy, in the last few seasons never really seemed to make a big deal out of it. There was little mention of being surprised about being a man in a woman’s body.
She was pretty indifferent to the whole fact. I’d wager the Doctor would feel the same way.
That, and from what I remember about regeneration I believe it was the shift between Eccleston and Tennant where they discussed that they are “still the same person” but with a little bit of a different personality and a different body.
Based of what I’ve seen in the show, and what little they’ve discussed about gender I feel that timelords must have no concept of gender. They just exist. They have different bodies and different personalities, but it hasn’t changed how they feel about themselves.
That said, almost all the timelords we’ve seen have been men. White men. It’s good that we have a woman timelord, but I’d like to see more POC representation to be honest. Not that Doctor Who is the bastion of progressive behaviour, but it is such a powerhouse in a cultural sense, and I think it would say a lot if they branched out more. (Yes, I realize there have been POC companions.)
I never want it to seem forced, trivialized, or fetishized. The doctor has no gender, but does she also have a race?
I think any time you ask questions like these about fictional characters, you end up making up your own answers. I feel like the Doctor is agender, but nobody really knows how the Doctor feels inside her head, and that’s a hole that could be filled by the writers.
I’m looking forward to the next season. I think Whittaker can really pull it off. Of course, we will all hate her at first, and then she will grow on us by the end of the first season.
What’s your take on this? Does the Doctor have a gender? Should we even be applying our identity politics to alien races? Can we think of fictional characters outside our social perspectives of gender?