9 October 2018

Here Come The Girls

At 6.45pm on Sunday, a little smile appeared on my face.  We were about to see the emergence of the new Doctor Who.  For the first time in that leading role; a woman.

There has been much talk about the new Doctor.  A woman did not have, to some angry voices, any place playing Doctor Who.  An alien with two hearts who could regenerate into absolutely any being.  Except, apparently a woman, which was a step too far for some.  

The usual default setting of a white man in a leading role was being challenged.

I started watching Doctor Who when Christopher Eccleston came into the role.  Since then we have had David Tennant, Matt Smith and Peter Capaldi.  All totally different Doctors, all with their own spin, coming from different genres and styles of acting.  Who could have thought for example the shouting, swearing Malcolm Tucker would one day play Doctor Who?

So I watched, with trepidation.  Trepidation.  That is a strange word to use about watching a new actor take over an iconic role.  When I watched the change between David Tennant whom I adored as the Doctor, to Matt Smith; I was uneasy and unsure as to whether he would play the part well.  He was a quirky Doctor, unlike the charm and charisma with the slight dark tinge of David Tennant.



But with Jodie, it was different.  Because she was being, yes in 2018, judged first and foremost as being a woman.  Not an actor who had a fabulous backlog of previous characters to show her skills.  Not her personality and how she would play the role.

But because I knew that should that first episode not have worked, had her spin on the Doctor or the way she played it been any less than spot on and well formed; she would have been blamed not for her character portrayal or her take on the Doctor, but because it would somehow prove in the minds of the misogynists on the internet, that a woman had no business playing Doctor Who.  

(I did not think, by the way, that the story was a great first starter to the series and would have liked a little more oomph with more excitement, but that did not take away from Jodie's fabulous performance).

With Jodie, little girls everywhere have a lead character role that is not defined by the way that she looks, how she dresses or how much she needs to rely on a man to succeed.  Any of us can imagine ourselves as Jodie and I can imagine many a little girl (and sod it, yes me too), visualizing herself now in the role.

When I was a little girl, I remember watching the boys in the playground playing as soldiers and spies (no doubt channeling James Bond).  They had a plethora of film stars and characters to aspire to and want to be.

In my formative years I remember watching Scooby Doo for example.  You had the option of wanting to be the ditsy atypical stereotype airhead of Daphne, or the geeky, dowdy Velma.   The message back then was clear.  You could be beautiful or clever; you couldn't be both.



We had Wonder Woman who could have been an amazing role model for girls, yet her character was defined by the outfit that she wore.  Even Princess Leia who was an amazing role model for girls, is remembered most for the gold bikini she wore when captured by Jabba the Hut.

We had She-Ra who was supposed to appeal to girls as He-Man did for boys, yet she was styled and drawn with barbie style curves, large breasts, short backless dress and riding a unicorn; despite also having super human strength which did not correlate with how she was styled.  Not practical for one!  The idea itself was great, but the execution in her styling, as visualized by the men drawing her, were not.

Boys did in He-Man have a similar problem in the stereotypical muscle bound man, but they had at least other role models to look towards.  The shy, geeky types had Spiderman and any boy could emulate Bond who although an international agent for MI6, was shaped like a regular guy; granted always in a great suit.

Don't even get me started on Barbie.

We did of course have the occasional amazing female lead.  Ellen Riply, Sarah Connor, Clarice Starling.  All well thought out, complex characters who functioned as a single entity without needing direction through the plot by a man.  They didn't need or require sexy clothing, obligatory large breasts (see Lara Croft) and were not there simply to appeal to men.  They demanded respect and they got it.

I noted the recent Lara Croft film reboot.  The main commentary I saw was complaining that her breasts were too small to play Lara.  What the actual fuck?  Is that STILL how women are mainly defined?

In the last few years, female lead characters have been on the uptake.  Little girls can aspire to be Hermoine Granger, Katniss Everdeen, Letty Ortiz, Hit Girl, Merida from Brave (until Disney gave her, and subsequently retracted, her makeover into an "acceptable" looking woman).


I don't want reboots or woman taking over characters that used to be men.  I don't want a female James (Jane?) Bond.  Women deserve their own storylines, their own well defined characters.  We are not a genre, we are half the population of the Earth.

In the days of Instagram and filters and the endless need to be "perfect", female so called icons like the Kardashians who, in the words of Jameela Jamil, are selling self consciousness with their waist trainers and diet lollypops; while one in four 14 year old girls are cutting themselves; we need iconic, strong female leading characters more than ever.

I cannot end this without saying, as I think my teenager self would have shouted out in class had we had The Hunger Games in my teenage years;

I volunteer as tribute!!!!! 

2 comments:

  1. Great post Vicky, very well said. I've never watched Doctor Who but it's ridiculous that people (mostly men I suppose) were so upset about a female lead. It's 2018, for God's sake. I've always loved Buffy, and even though the show is not perfect, I like the fact that the character is both strong and vulnerable, very powerful but still has to deal with the same issues other teenagers/young women deal with everyday. I always get a bit annoyed because the main thing a lot of Buffy fans still talk/argue about is which dude she should have ended up with. That shouldn't be the main topic of discussion.

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    1. I LOVED Buffy. I agree, she was so many things and encompassed so many emotions that we all experience. Strong and vulnerable at the same time which is something that we can all relate to. It bores me so much when the talk is all about Spike versus Angel. Thanks so much for the comment! x

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