Doctor Who’s showrunner just proved fans’ accusations of misogyny by saying that casting a female Doctor is too progressive for him.
Steven Moffat is only weeks away from ending his eight-year stint as Doctor Who’s showrunner. In preparation for December 25’s Christmas Special, which marks both his and Peter Capaldi’s exit from the show, Moffat was interviewed by the Radio Times to discuss the season finale and the Thirteenth Doctor, who will be played by Jodie Whittaker.
In the interview, Moffat revealed the bizarre reason behind why he never cast a woman as the Doctor. It turns out that it was because of his concern for the “Daily-Mail reading viewers”:
“This isn’t a show exclusively for progressive liberals; this is also for people who voted Brexit. That’s not me politically at all — but we have to keep everyone on board.”
It’s an incredibly out-of-touch statement for the man behind the last eight years of Doctor Who, a show that has pretty much existed as a platform against prejudice. Pretending that Doctor Who is anything but a progressive and liberal show — at least in the current ways we define ‘progressive’ and ‘liberal’ — is completely delusional. It’s a show that transcends borders, race, species, and yes, even gender.
A female Doctor should not be a shock. In fact, most of the shock that followed Whittaker’s casting was because of the audience’s skepticism that showrunners would transcend the usual formulaic misogyny and actually do something good with the show.
(Also, how offensive to imply that every single person who voted for Brexit would have been against a female Doctor. Not that there isn’t probably a significant overlap, but still.)
The existence of women is not a political statement. And it’s ridiculous to act as if female characters are an invention of the so-called liberal media — especially after the show has patted itself on the back so many times for having “strong female characters.”
Fans have long believed that the delay in casting a woman for Doctor Who’s title role was because of sexism, and a fear of repercussions on behalf of a sexist audience, but it’s absolutely shocking to see it said so shamelessly in an interview, from the very man who was at the wheel. Moffat’s nonchalance points to an absolute unawareness of just how problematic such a stance is — and just how pervasive sexism still is.
It was a bizarre decision to say anything about past casting choices anyway, and it seems particularly weak-minded in the wake of the stances taken by other showrunners, such as Jeremy Slater, who recently defended a kiss between two men in The Exorcist by saying:
“If a homophobe can’t watch the show anymore because one of the characters is gay, then I’m glad something good has come out of it. This is 2017 and we still have people throwing temper tantrums online because they don’t want to see gay characters. I think it’s the last gasp of a certain breed of dinosaur that’s on the way out, and let them kick and scream as they go.”
That’s how all creators should respond to critics of progressive-choices-that-shouldn’t-really-be-a-big-deal-anymore.
As someone who has always tried to defend Moffat when he was accused of sidelining female characters — perhaps out of some half-hearted wish to suspend my disappointment — these comments only served to confirm that there definitely was an undercurrent of sexism throughout Moffat’s seasons of Doctor Who. And this revelation begs the question: how many amazing stories went untold because of Moffat’s reluctance to alienate his imaginary, sexist, “Brexit-voting” viewers?
Moffat went on to explain that there was some consideration given to casting a woman as the Twelfth Doctor, after Matt Smith left, with equally bizarre reasoning:
“We could have replaced Matt Smith with a woman, given that his Doctor was more sexless and less of a lad, but then I got obsessed with seeing Peter in the Tardis.”
Despite what he may believe, however, Moffat said that he ultimately agrees with Chibnall’s casting of Whittaker, whom he describes as “a fireball of mischief and irreverence.”
“All credit to him. It’s going to work, I know it is. More and more of the audience were asking for it. It’s is absolutely the right choice. Now is the time.”
Now is, indeed, the time — and it would be nice if at this time we could stop worrying about offending sexist audiences.
Steven Moffat’s last episode of Doctor Who will be the Christmas Special, which airs on December 25 and will introduce the Thirteenth Doctor, played by Jodie Whittaker.