What’s (Who’s) in a Role?

Over on the Atlantean Publishing blog, I explained why I was disappointed that the next Doctor would be a woman as regards the character being a great role-model for boys. Former Doctor, Peter Davison, expressed a similar view, prompting another former Doctor, Colin Baker, to suggest that it was a possible to just be a role-model for people.

Colin Baker is, of course, correct. When it comes to many things it is, indeed, possible for a person to a role-model to everyone regardless of gender, age or race. A female Doctor can still provide a good role-model in terms of using the intellect in place of violence or seeking justice, just as any athlete can be a good role-model in encouraging people to be fit or play by the rules. There was never any question of that.

But, it cannot be denied that, regardless of positive general role-models, what people think they can achieve is frequently defined by what they see people like them achieving. No matter how many politicians there are from various backgrounds, if none are black, black children are unlikely to imagine that politics is a field they can achieve in. No matter how many brilliant scientists there are, if none are women, little girls are unlikely to imagine science is a field they can enter. And, no matter how good a female Doctor is, little boys have been denied a positive role-model to counteract the far-more-frequent ones that depict the only plausible roles for men as thugs, buffoons or sex addicts.

Of course, in the same sense, no matter how good a male Doctor is, he isn’t providing an example of what women can achieve, which is why creating an equivalent series centred around a female character (whether part of the franchise or the star of her own) would be a great idea. Little girls deserve to be shown female characters with just the same positive qualities. A positive role-model for boys shouldn’t come at the expense of girls, nor vice versa. But, I guess that would require money and effort.

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