Doctor Who is at the center of yet another big controversy about gender, representation, and the unhappy reactions of certain fans, and now Merriam-Webster has gotten involved. This time, of course, the brouhaha concerns the popular BBC series, in which the English actress Jodie Whittaker was named the 13th Doctor, and the first woman to ever play the role. The Doctor, of course, is an alien who regenerates periodically, in order to explain the casting of different actors in the role over time.
The casting of a woman as the Doctor has been very well-received in many quarters, but less happily received in others, with all sides seemingly aware that the casting is groundbreaking and monumental — including the actress herself. “It feels completely overwhelming, as a feminist, as a woman, as an actor, as a human, as someone who wants to continually push themselves and challenge themselves, and not be boxed in by what you’re told you can and can’t be,” Whitakker said on the day of the announcement. “It feels incredible.” And the dictionary, it appears, agrees.
The Merriam-Webster dictionary’s official Twitter account appeared to express its support for the casting of the new Doctor on Monday, tweeting out that “‘Doctor’ has no gender in English.”
'Doctor' has no gender in English.— Merriam-Webster (@MerriamWebster) July 17, 2017
Of course, it should go without saying some of the replies on that tweet have taken the “well, actually…” route, with others criticizing the dictionary for “getting into politics” by tweeting a relatively innocuous joke about the casting of a TV series. There’s also some dispute over which definition of the word “Lord” is at play in this case.
Exactly how widespread opposition is to the casting of a female Doctor is something of a mystery. There doesn’t appear to be official opinion polls, and a large proportion of those who rail online against the “SJWs” ruining the TV and movies of their childhoods do so under assumed names.
That said, the casting of a favorite TV show is not a nefarious left-wing plot. Giving an opportunity to cast a female performer in the role played previously by 12 men is not “political correctness run amok,” it’s not going to ruin anyone’s childhood, and it may in fact add something new and vital to a long-running series. And if you don’t agree, check the dictionary — or at least, its Twitter account.
Doctor Who will return for Season 11 in 2018, on BBC and BBC America.
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