Doctor Who will be played by a woman for the first time, but not everyone is happy with the new trend of turning male characters into females – including some women.
The long-running British television series “Doctor Who” is the latest pop culture franchise to get a gender makeover — but is this the right path to increase representation for women?
The science fiction show has been recast and remade several times since its debut in 1963. Actress Jodie Whittaker is the 13th person to play the titular character, but she will be the first female version in the new season that premiered this weekend.
Female remakes of popular films, TV shows and cultural institutions seemed to first come into the spotlight with the Ghostbusters reboot in 2016. Fans famously criticized the need for the reboot, which led to the debate of loyalty to the original and cries of outright sexism. The film ultimately underperformed at the box office.
Since then, there’s been Ocean’s Eight, which succeeded financially but had its share of scrutiny, and several other upcoming projects in production or development, such as Dirty Rotten Scoundrels and The Splash.
As USC Annenberg professor Sarah Banet-Weiser told the Hollywood Reporter, more irate reactions tend to surround projects from “geek genres,” as well as movies that are strongly rooted in the formative years of the men (mostly) lodging the complaints.
Is Hollywood Cheating Women by Denying Them Original Characters?
Recently, this debate has even led to one of the most iconic, virile characters of all — James Bond. The film’s producer, Barbara Broccoli, offered insight into why such a makeover should be avoided.
“Bond is male,” she told The Guardian. “He’s a male character. He was written as a male and I think he’ll probably stay as a male. And that’s fine. We don’t have to turn male characters into women. Let’s just create more female characters and make the story fit those female characters.”
Rosamund Pike, who starred as a Bond Girl in 2002’s Die Another Day, echoed that sentiment earlier in August: “I think the character of James Bond is a man. He is, really. Why not make a kick-ass female agent in her own right?”
Indeed, the most obvious solution to the underrepresentation of women on screen or in the public eye is to simply create more original female characters instead of shoehorning them into existing institutions, which could be seen as a dubious honor in its own right.
However, as any astute observer can see, businesses such as Hollywood are terrified of taking risks with new ideas — they prefer to rehash familiar formulas and faces to heighten financial success — hence the plethora of remakes, sequels, and prequels.
With the historic lack of female characters to draw from — ostensibly due to the lack of female creators in the past — this poses a conflict that Hollywood won’t be eager to resolve graciously soon.
“Doctor Who” begins its new season Oct. 7 on BBC America.