My first girl hero was Enid Blyton’s George Kirrin. She of the Famous Five. With her cropped hair and feisty, stubborn attitude, she refused to be constrained by what the world expected girls to be like. She was ‘as good as any boy’. I loved her and wanted to be her.
As previously discussed on this page, girl heroes are important. This is because they inspire girls and boys to understand that, yes, girls can do stuff – any stuff – and do it well. And George certainly inspired me. She is the heart and soul behind the courageous girls I have written into my books.
So to hear that there was going to be a female Doctor in Doctor Who was an exciting prospect. A Girl Time Lord, saving the universe! A She-Doctor, defying time and traversing space – and energising a new generation of young girls and becoming their first girl hero!
Here is a fantastic description of the Doctor from an episode way back in series three (it’s episode 9: ‘The Family of Blood’). I’ve changed the pronouns to the feminine.
‘I’ve seen her. She’s like fire, and ice and rage. She’s like the night and the storm and the heart of the sun. She’s ancient and forever. She burns at the centre of time, and she can see the turn of the universe.’
Wow. Doesn’t that sound fabulous? All that … in a female character! Again: WOW.
Now, I know that the majority view is that the Thirteenth Doctor is amazing – but as a lifelong Doctor Who fan, and an advocate for the rights and aspirations of girls around the world, I have to say that I’m terribly disappointed with how the latest version of the Doctor has turned out.
What I see is a naïve and green Time Lord (who needs no less than THREE people to ‘help’ her for goodness’ sake), running about with her mouth open, starting FAR too many sentences with ‘I don’t …’ and ‘I can’t …’, pointing her sonic screwdriver at EVERYTHING, because she doesn’t seem to be able work out what anything is, what it does or why it’s there (or fix anything) without it. A stereotypical girl-in-a-flap who can’t do much by herself, basically. And the help she gets is 75% male (if you want to be contentious and include the sonic screwdriver and its symbolic resemblance to a traditionally male body part …)
Where is the maverick confidence of Time Lords past? Where is the haunted look in her eye, telling us of centuries of battles, victories, loss, turbulence and difficult decisions? All the male incarnations had a magnificent, burdened gravitas … so why has the female version not got this?
Now, I’ve no doubt that the mere existence of a female Doctor has already done WONDERS in inspiring girls to ‘get out there’ and be the best they can … but, to me, the current incarnation of my favourite Time Lord has been watered down into something rather unsubstantial.
And that makes me cross, because being wishy-washy is part of the damning stereotype of ‘girliness’ that us gals have been fighting so hard to consign to the dustbin.
I’ve got a funny feeling George Kirrin would be furious.