‘All the char­ac­ters are white’

Fe­male led ‘Doc­tor Who’ stokes talk about lack of vis­i­ble mi­nor­ity hero­ines

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - ENTERTAINMENT - BY DAVID FRIEND

“Doc­tor Who’’ fan Melissa Perez was ex­cited to hear one of her favourite TV se­ries had picked a woman for the lead­ing role.

But she couldn’t deny feel­ing a lit­tle dis­ap­pointed.

Even though the cast­ing of lauded Bri­tish ac­tress Jodie Whit­taker is widely con­sid­ered a step in the right di­rec­tion for the show, Perez points out she’s also an­other white hero­ine in a genre that has al­ready em­braced many.

“I see peo­ple talk­ing about how we’ve come so far and how roles for women have im­proved so much. And then I look at the ex­am­ples they give,’’ says Perez, who iden­ti­fies as Afro-Latina.

“All the char­ac­ters are white — they’re white women.’’

Science fic­tion and fan­tasy gen­res have no bound­aries for sto­ry­telling and yet racial di­ver­sity among fe­male leads is a line few writ­ers or pro­duc­ers have crossed.

Whether it’s Won­der Woman, the cast of “Game of Thrones,’’ the hero­ines Rey and Jyn in “Star Wars’’ films, or fe­maleled TV se­ries “Van Hels­ing’’ and “Wynonna Earp,’’ there are plenty of ex­am­ples that prove vis­i­ble mi­nori­ties are widely ab­sent from the list of mod­ern hero­ines.

“You can have dragons and magic ... but hav­ing any­one that’s not white is go­ing too far,’’ Perez adds.

It took 36 sea­sons and 12 doc­tors be­fore “Doc­tor Who’’ cre­ators gave their char­ac­ter — who fre­quently re­gen­er­ates into the bod­ies of new ac­tors — the free­dom to emerge with the phys­i­cal traits of a woman. So it’s not sur­pris­ing that many fe­male view­ers are tread­ing care­fully when they crit­i­cize or ques­tion what’s be­ing per­ceived as progress.

Ash­ley Lynch hopes more women will work be­hind the cam­eras at the TV se­ries as well. She says it’s en­cour­ag­ing to see Whit­taker in the lead­ing role, but if “Doc­tor Who’’ in­tends to ex­plore new realms and dif­fer­ent char­ac­ter dy­nam­ics, it needs more fe­male in­put.

“It’s one thing to have that face,’’ says the Burn­aby, B.C., fan, who works in the post­pro­duc­tion in­dus­try on re­al­ity shows like “Un­told Sto­ries of the ER.’’

“But take a look at ‘Jes­sica Jones,’ which is a fe­male-driven show — fe­male writ­ers, di­rec­tors and show run­ner.

“If you don’t have that di­ver­sity of voices you’re re­ally miss­ing out and pro­duc­ing some­thing that’s a lot more my­opic.’’

Univer­sity of Ok­la­homa as­sis­tant Prof. Lisa Fun­nell can quan­tify some of the evo­lu­tion within the in­dus­try.

Last year, the Hamil­ton-born Fun­nell had to re­work her “Fe­male Hero­ism in Hol­ly­wood’’ course to ad­dress the emer­gence of in­flu­en­tial new char­ac­ters in “Mad Max: Fury Road’’ and the “Star Wars’’ movies.

“We’re grow­ing up in an era where it’s not just a princess that I can look to as my hero,’’ she says.


Bri­tish ac­tress Jodie Whit­taker poses for pho­tog­ra­phers upon ar­rival at the Bri­tish In­de­pen­dent Film Awards in London in this 2016 file photo. Whit­taker is set to become the first woman to take the lead­ing ti­tle role in the long-run­ning science fic­tion TV se­ries “Doc­tor Who” but many peo­ple are ques­tion­ing why vis­i­ble mi­nori­ties are widely ab­sent from the list of mod­ern hero­ines.

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