John Ostrander: The Doctor and the Judge

by John Ostrander

Two big events occurred last weekend: Judge Brett Kavanaugh was confirmed as a Supreme Court judge and the first woman to play Doctor Who (Jodie Whitaker) debuted. One event delighted me and the other appalled me. Can you guess which was which?

There is something that connects the two. Bear with me.

I’m a LONG time fan of the British SF show and this weekend the new season debuted on BBC America (and, indeed, around the globe). Lots of new things – new companions, new composer, new showrunner and chief writer (Chris Chibnall) and, most importantly, a new Doctor. Now, for those of you benighted souls who may not be aware, the show has had a very long run because of a very clever concept. The main character, the Doctor, is an alien, and every so often the Doctor’s body regenerates into a wholly new one with a completely different persona and this has kept the show fresh. This time, the Doctor also changed sex and became a woman, played delightfully by Jodie Whittaker.

Capsule review: I was very pleased. The show had mystery, suspense, humor, darkness, death and a sense of freshness. Mr. Chibnall’s script had a different feel than former showrunner Stephen Moffat that was very welcome and Ms. Whitaker makes a wonderful Doctor.

Not everyone will agree. How do I know? Because some fans were opposed from the moment she was announced, some going so far as to say they will never watch it. This is not altogether unusual; every time someone new steps into the TARDIS, a certain percentage of the fans voice their displeasure and/or anger and vow never to watch it again (their loss).

There was an undercurrent, however, to Ms. Whitaker’s selection and sometimes that current was not so under. It came down to her gender. A certain percentage of that certain percentage of fans said that the Doctor couldn’t be a GIRL. Eeeeuuuhhh! 

This despite the fact that the Doctor is an alien, has two hearts, travels in time and space, is about 2000 years old, and regenerates. No, having him become her is just not acceptable.

I won’t say that every fan who opposes Ms. Whitaker as the Doctor is a misogynist. Some are, themselves, women. However, in many of the comments there is a strong streak of misogyny, a streak that runs through male fandom. Again, not all but a significant and vocal group.

That also underlies the appointment of Brett Kavanaugh as a member of SCOTUS. It was on display especially by the GOP during the confirmation hearings for Judge Kavanaugh. There were credible questions about past sexual misconduct raised by several women, principally by Christine Blasey Ford who, in turn endured attacks by the GOP and mocking by President Trump. Senator Ben Sasse of Nebraska described women who opposed Kavanaugh’s appointment as “hysterical”, a statement that in itself I find somewhat hysterical.

This misogyny extends beyond Dr. Who Fandom and the political arena. There’s the Comicsgate crowd, a group of comics fans and professionals, who are not pleased with the (as they see it) liberal slant of comics and what they perceive as “forced diversity”. A principal leader in the group, Richard Meyer, referred to a female Marvel editor as a “cum dumpster” and claimed that several female professionals in the industry had sucked their way into comics, among other repulsive comments. To call the man a piece of shit demeans shit.

Misogyny is defined by Merriam-Webster as a “hatred of women”. I think it goes beyond that in all three of these cases; I sense a feeling of anger and fear, a part of the far(alt) right’s fear of not only women but all minorities, of gays, of trans people, of anyone who is not THEM. For too many, it’s a zero sum game – the more power you have, the less I have. For me to win, you have to lose. Because if YOU win, I lose, I have less power, I am less. And that is unacceptable.

I’m not anti-conservative. I was raised a conservative, I have many family members and some friends who are conservative, there are traits in myself that I identify as conservative. I see a need for real conservatism to balance out possible liberal excesses (and, my lib brethren, they do exist). What we don’t need is this knee jerk, black and white, FoxTV talking point, zero sum brand of conservatism. Neither liberals or conservatives are all right or all wrong.

Well, some things are all wrong.

The ramming through of Brett Kavanaugh’s appointment to SCOTUS was wrong and, for a variety of reasons, including the allegations of sexual misconduct against him, he should not have made it to the Highest Court in the land. It disregarded a good woman’s honest testimony and was a slap in the face to all women.

It made my enjoyment of Jodie Whitaker’s debut as The Doctor all the greater. Not simply because a woman is now playing the part; it’s because she is a really good actor, not because of her gender, but because of who she is. She was given the chance and she ran with it. I’m looking forward to that run.

Justice Kavanaugh’s run on the bench? Not so much. Prove me wrong, broh.


John Ostrander is one of LB’s favorite writers in any medium. It’s been awhile since he’s been here, but now John’s back with a new column at a new blog, PopCultureSquad, where this piece first appeared. You can learn more about John and his many masterworks HERE