Doctor Who naming Jodie Whittaker… it’s not about time (and yet it is)

 

There are two reasons why I’m posting this essay…

First, because it’s important to me.

I’ve been working on it forever. Well, seems like forever. And I keep kicking myself over and over, trying to make sure things look right, because there is a chance at saying something and having people misread what I am saying and what I mean. That’s delayed this piece from completion and kept it in development for a very long time. But I want to share it, and there comes a point where you ruin something by trying to be too perfect. So, if anything, while I hope it gets viewed on its own, more important to me is that it also could serve as a conversation-starter.

Second, because some things need to be said.

There’s a hidden reality about believing the right things that can be very dangerous. Essentially, you can be a good person, with great intentions, but if it’s only your beliefs then a lack of action can assist the wrong things in continuing.

What I mean is that it creates a self-fulfilling prophecy of repetition, similar in ways to the idea of:

(1) I need a job to get experience.

(2) I need experience to get a job.

Eventually, someone needs to jump onto the merry-go-round, even though it may be in motion. Change, growth and progress are caused by taking action, not by continuing with the status quo and waiting for someone else to step forward.
There are certain things that I don’t believe—or, perhaps more accurately, don’t want to believe—about time when it comes to making a decision or taking an action. I’d like to approach these things thinking they are being done because they are the right decisions… the right thing to do. Fortunately, I think, I’m not dumb enough or naïve enough to be convinced that is the way things always work.

And so…

Doctor Who naming Jodie Whittaker… it’s not about time (and yet it is)

I’ve written this essay dozens of times. Started it dozens of dozens of times. Thought about it hundreds of dozens of times.

The difficulty for me come from a few places. Most specifically—seated on my isolated bench in the park, and naïve in my hopes—the troubles begin with being male and hoping I’ve always treated others the way I would like to be treated. (Starting with respect and kindness.)

Jodie Whittaker is the next Doctor Who. First woman to take on the legendary role. And I want to believe that: (1) She earned it as a talented performer, and not simply as a female performer. (2) That those in charge of making the decision did not approach the selection by wanting a woman playing the part first, with good stories and production plans arriving later along the list of actions.

If we have a situation where those creating the next run of shows and narrative for The Doctor selected Jodie, with ideas in place of the journey they wanted to undertake and picking her as the one they wanted along for the ride, then it’s not about time such a decision was made. It’s a great decision being made at the right time. We have great ideas, and they would be even more amazing with a female Doctor, so, let’s cast the role that way.

But I’m not naïve. At least not completely and blindly naïve. There is a very good chance that someone, in some meeting room, wanted a person in the role that would bring on a bit of controversy… a bit of change… a bit of media attention… and said “let’s get this done” first. There is a very good chance that someone said “it’s about time” and that led to a “select a woman” decision being made.

And I kind of hope that’s not the way things happened.

For one reason… Christopher Eccleston, David Tennant, Matt Smith and Peter Capaldi. Those of us watching the show for slightly more than a decade have been treated to an absolutely brilliant run of Doctors. Saying “it’s about time” has, to some degree, an edge to it that expands in meaning to the idea that previous caretakers of the role were mistakes. You may want Idris Elba, Helen Mirren, Daniel Radcliffe or Ian McKellen in the role—all fine candidates—that shouldn’t come by saying Tennant or Smith were wrong.

For another… I am thrilled to see Jodie Whittaker becoming the next Doctor. Go back to my notes about approaching the changes to be made, and understand that my hopes are that those working on the upcoming batch of episodes wanted a female doctor because of the storylines they had in mind, and selected her because she was the best for where they want to go. I love the idea of a female doctor. (I would also love seeing Idris, Helen, Daniel and Ian have a shot.) In that, you’ll find the anticipation for the possibilities with Jodie is incredible for me. I’m really looking forward to the return of Doctor Who, with her in character. It’s not because they made the switch to a female lead though, and instead it is because they have tremendous opportunities to create quality shows with a female lead.

But it’s because of my being a male, and all of the other thoughts I have and hesitations involved that such perspectives bring into play, that we need to spin this babbling of mine to a different place. Because I’m concerned that people are thinking I’m blind and ignorant (which, hand raised, potentially guilty as a result of my personal experiences). And because, honestly, I’m not sure people really understand the history of entertainment, and how even when attempting to do something different the industries and conference rooms and people involved have really offered us some stunningly inappropriate results. Consider…

…In your satin tights,
Fighting for your rights…

As I noted, I’ve been working on this essay for quite some time. But I keep circling back and find myself facing a few difficulties. In the end, these two lines from a song seem to provide the very best example I have for demonstrating what I mean with a scenario not often cited.

Do you know the song these lyrics are from?

It’s the theme for the television show Wonder Woman. There were several changes made to the show between seasons one and two, including revisions to the theme song. But… head to the internet, navigate to your favorite search engine, and take a look. There it is, and you can even find videos and sound clips to hear it in all its glory…

…In your satin tights,
Fighting for your rights…

Eight words, and they make me cringe.

Charles Fox and Norman Gimbel wrote the theme song, and they are quite the talented pair. When it comes to a significant listing of credits… and some darn catchy earworms… they have a tough-to-beat list, including: (1) Theme songs for shows like Happy Days, Laverne & Shirley and The Bugaloos. (2) “I Got a Name” from the legendary Jim Croche is a Fox and Gimbel song.

Gimbel is the lyricist of the pair, and I don’t cringe because of him or his work. My reaction isn’t about placing the song into any type of context or giving it some kind of rationalization.

Instead, I cringe because as I look at the lyrics, they show me a perfect example of why women (and, anyone facing obstacles concerning respect and equality) have so many problems. And it’s not completely about the actions of yesterday, but it is certainly about the failure of many to learn and grow.

I have a problem with a hindsight approach to correcting art. Cartoons… books… movies… and the ideas of editing them, rewriting them, colorizing them, and in so many ways adjusting the presentation. To me, it does not automatically translate that today’s society should produce a different result from yesterday’s work. You could make a case that it walks into the area of censorship. It definitely compromises artistic design. And I do believe there is a value in viewing past creations as produced and presented, allowing context to also show when there are problems and issues.

So, I do not want to see changes made to Mark Twain, I am not asking for Looney Toons to be edited, and I’m fine with the works of Norman Gimbel.

What I do believe is that it is up to us as a society, interacting with each other as well as being examples for the next generations, to recognize where the attitudes and expressions of the past need to be corrected in what we do today. And, in many cases, corrected because the actions in the past do rise to extreme and obscene levels.

This is where I’ll return to Jodie Whittaker.

To say that I’m excited about Jodie taking on the classic role of The Doctor would be a monumental understatement. I’m thrilled. I’m happy. Intrigued, fascinated and amazed. (Yes. I’m kind of delighted about the season.)

I just hope that we get to enjoy a brilliant performance and extraordinary run of seasons with her because she is a talented performer and the crew delivers quality. And I hope that it is successful, allowing others to be generous and diverse with their productions. Unfortunately, the track record demonstrates that there may be others watching for entirely different reasons (and that my naïve hopes are quite likely quite naïve).

I may not be able to offer an insider viewpoint into all of this. And, quite honestly, it takes action to make changes… not a belief that things should be done properly and hoping changes come about naturally without action. That understood…

I am looking forward to seeing Jodie Whittaker as The Doctor, because it’s her time and the right decision, not because it’s about time and a forced arrangement.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Just a finishing thought, now that the first Jodie Whittaker season has aired—including the New Year’s Special—with broadcasts and viewings by those that recorded episodes and so on complete.

Massive, massive applause is in order. The actors, writers, directors, and everyone associated with the show deserves praise for their efforts. Great season… wonderful storytelling… awesome work.

(Now, if we could just get the next season to its release a bit sooner than 2020.)

 

If you have any comments or questions, please e-mail me at Bob@inmybackpack.com