Digital Polyphony

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Doctor Ageism

Posted on August 28, 2013 at 5:40 PM

Doctor  Ageism


For all the discussion on who will be the next to portray the now-insanely-popular and ubiquitous Doctor in BBC's Doctor Who, there was one element that was never brought up. Many noted they would be open to a female Doctor, or one of color and maybe even one that wasn't British or Scottish.

Nobody once brought up the notion of age.


Considering Doctor Who is arguably the most accepting and progressive show across television today, I would argue that gender and race changes aren't as big a leap as some think is. Age, though, alters a much so that Doctor Who fans, and note we're talking about new fans that have never seen an "old" Doctor, feel the newly cast Peter Capaldi is too old and not attractive.

I'm sure that's a vocal minority, but the fact it's even a minor issue is a concern to me.

Let's face it, since the reboot, Doctor Who has been cast with mostly young and mostly attractive people. You might get a guest star that's older here and there, but everyone is usually attractive physically at the very least. The first time they went against type, and about where I think they finally decided to put all that sexiness on the backburner in the rebooted series, was with Donna, not ugly mind you, but not that "dreamy hot girl" that the show had relied on before and after her either, which might be why Donna was my favorite companion because she was actually a character that went somewhere and developed and wasn't just there to flirt or look really, really, really good in a police officer's kissagram outfit.


But there's a serious issue in regards to how people have come to sexualize Doctor Who, which is a strange feeling.  Perhaps it's a carry-over from the romance plot in rebooted first season (or Series One for you cool UK folks) and they've never been able to break away from that, but either way it's always been a little sexy and the fans, the fangirl army pretty strong with Doctor Who, have now come to expect it. They like him a little hot. A little "is he flirting with the companion?" and "does she have a crush on him" high-school-esque conversations. Despite it on the backburner, even under Donna's reign, it eventually krept back up again and the tone of all those flirtations and crushes and trapper-keeper-poetry was still very much there.

"Fangirl" is often, though not always, a deragatory term. It's basically a level crazier than being just a "fan" (which still means 'fanatic' mind you) and often being a fan of something for the wrong reasons. They're like "fanboys," the male equivalent of obsession. Fanboys are often snarky cynics, fangirls tend to really sexualize what they love, both are afraid of change.

So why were so many people yearning for a non-white or non-male actor? The more I think about it, the more I feel that would just have been a superficial change - a safe change that would allow for the same style and tone and "sexiness" that Doctor Who was kind of becoming stuck in but enough of a difference for them to still say "look, it's different!"

No, it wouldn't be, not beyond a skin color or gender. They would have still have been young, probably attractive, and the show would probably retain everything that young, cool, hip audiences like and had become accustomed to. More importantly, young, hip and cool is much easier to market - and if anything you have to admit that saying "goodbye" to that easier franchise marketing and merchandizing for the young crowd is probably the biggest risk of anything.


But age…that's the change we should have been clamoring for. Perhaps the fan base thought it impossible, they don't want to dress up as an old man- they want to dress up as a young sexy Doctor after all, but it turns out it was the best thing Moffet and company could have done. Age changes a lot. It removes the necessity of the Doctor having to be goofy, or flirty or sexy and dapper. It completely changes how others will act towards him and how he will act in return. Chemistry is altered entirely from "potential love interest" to "older friend" or even "father figure."

And, let's face it, there's a more sophisticated and distinguished way the Doctor can carry himself now and you buy it. In a recent Podcast, Matt Smith noted how in the 50th Anniversary he and David Tennant acted like their Doctors: silly and childish and very animated. Then he'd look over at John Hurt, who is also playing a Doctor mind you, and it was entirely different. The mood. The way he spoke. The relationship to the characters. It was the Doctor yet not the Doctor.


I think that might have influenced Moffat's decision to go with Peter Capaldi. He's not obligated to write for a younger audience anymore, he can do just about whatever he wants (and he can as far as I'm concerned, he's handled the series with grace and after "Blink" him doing what he wants is fine by me). Capaldi and Moffat are around the same age, he'll have a different insight in to writing for an older man than trying to write for a hip, animated one.  That's real change - something beyond just the physical but something that could change the entire tone and "texture" of a show that was starting to become a bit "samey."

That being said, I'm using the logical deduction of an older actor doing more for a show as simply a way to sound smart. Truth is, deep down, I'm glad they went away from what fans were wanting - to stop putting the sexy, flirty Doctor out there and start approaching stories in a way that, who knows, might piss some of the fans off.

That's a real shakeup and, like all the other times fangirls and fanboys go off on stuff, after a month, nobody will remember that hating Peter Capaldi being cast because of his age was a "thing" at all. It'll get lost in the wibbly-wobbliness of the internet and everyone will just sit and enjoy Doctor Who. A new Doctor for a hopefully new direction for the show.


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