Doctor Who might be the “wokest” science fiction show on TV. Since its reboot, the long-running British television series has cultivated a young audience of progressives whose predilection for coming up with new genders is about as prolific as finding new things to be offended by.
While most of the show’s viewers are keen on seeing where it’s headed with the announcement that the new Doctor (the show’s main character) is female, some are less than thrilled—and it isn’t for any reason you might expect.
In all previous seasons, including the originals from the 60s onward, the show’s main character has always been played by a white male actor. The roster of Doctors includes classical talents like Jon Pertwee and Tom Baker, to more recent Doctors played by David Tennant and Peter Capaldi. The latest season is a change to the formula, with Jodie Whittaker in the leading role.
In the series’ lore, the Doctor is an enigmatic time-traveling figure who’s essentially the same person in a different body each time he (or she, in the case of Jodie’s character) regenerates. While he usually sported a preference for regenerating as a man, the newer seasons leading up to the 13th Doctor paved the way for his regeneration as a female. The Doctor is by no means “transgender,” but belongs to a race that doesn’t much care for binary sexual distinctions.
Feminist critic Anita Sarkeesian, who harassed her critics during a recent panel at VidCon, took issue with the Doctor’s newest regeneration. Writing on the official Feminist Frequency account on Twitter, Sarkeesian condemned Doctor Who for being an “overwhelmingly white show” that simply isn’t doing enough to fix the issue of minority representation in the media–as if it is the show’s duty to address social problems.
“It needs to be said that [Doctor Who] is still an OVERWHELMINGLY white show and that issues of representation do not exist in isolation from each other,” she began. “It’s not as if you fix the ‘woman’ problem, THEN fix the ‘race’ problem, THEN the ‘queer/trans’ problem, etc. It all has to happen in tandem.”
Sarkeesian strongly implied that the new Doctor must be intersectional–a transgender woman of color.
“Treating these as separate issues works to create a vision of progress that perpetuates the very imbalances we’re struggling against,” she continued. “We need to acknowledge the ways these issues are inextricably linked if we’re going to move forward toward a more equitable world for everyone.”
She concluded her sermon by saying people “can and should” celebrate what little progress the show is making with its new casting choice, but noted that there’s still much more progress to be made.
Sarkeesian wasn’t the only one bothered by the development–but she’s certainly the loudest. There are hundreds of tweets lamenting that the Doctor isn’t also black or transgender.
Ian Miles Cheong is a journalist and outspoken media critic. You can reach him through social media at @stillgray on Twitter.