In the wake of the #METOO and #TIMESUP movements, women all over the world are stepping forward. These social movements focus on ending sexual harassment, but they also address broader feminist concerns, like gender inequality, the pay gap, and breaking sexist stereotypes. There have been so many inspiring women, and it’s hard to choose just one to talk about. After all, media mavens like Oprah Winfrey have spoken up. Actresses like Angelina Jolie, Gwyneth Paltrow, and countless others have spoken against the corruption in Hollywood.
But today, we’re going to focus on one leading lady, who’s challenging gender roles and making a significant contribution to the current feminist movement. We’re talking about English actress, Jodie Whittaker – a feminist icon who’s perfect for these times.
— Doctor Who Official (@bbcdoctorwho) November 9, 2017
Who is Jodie Whittaker?
Whittaker hails from the north of England, and she made her theatrical acting debut in 2006 when she also had her big break in Peter O’Toole’s film, Venus. Since then, she’s starred in radio, television and film productions, along with a continued career in theater. In fact, Whittaker once served as an understudy for Carey Mulligan in 2007.
But perhaps her most notable achievement so far is her 2017 role, playing the thirteenth doctor in the science fiction television series, Doctor Who.
What is Doctor Who?
Doctor Who might not be very well known to American audiences, so here’s a brief recap. Doctor Who is a British series that’s been around since the 1960s. The Doctor is actually an extraterrestrial being who travels in a spaceship called, Tardis. The Doctor tries to help people and save civilization.
But ever since the first series aired in 1963, all 12 doctors have been portrayed by male actors. So, Whittaker’s role a very special one. She follows a long line of all-male actors, in a male-only role.
Whittaker’s take on being the first ever female Doctor Who
“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. It feels incredible.”
And while it’s exciting for an actor to have an opportunity like this, what do fans think? After all, they’ve seen men play this role for the last 55 years?
For the most part, audiences were open to this change, saying that a female Doctor Who makes a good role model for young girls. However, she did face some criticism as some thought she was cast for the part only because it was the politically correct thing to do.
So, how did Whittaker respond to both groups? Back when the announcement was first made that Whittaker would be the first female Doctor Who, she said:
“I want to tell the fans not to be scared of my gender. Because this is a really exciting time, and Doctor Who represents everything that’s exciting about change. The fans have lived through so many changes, and this is only a new, different one, not a fearful one.”
And former Doctor Who actor, David Tennant, is in complete agreement and “delighted” that Whittaker is the newest Doctor Who, saying “Its brilliant, and I can’t think of someone better to join the gang and to be poised to take it to a whole new level.”
Tennant points out that since Doctor Who has such a loyal and enthusiastic fan base, people are always disappointed with new Doctor Who’s. So, he wasn’t surprised that people reacted negatively to Whittaker.
What does Whittaker’s version of Doctor Who look like?
Each portrayal of Doctor Who has changed depending on the actor and character. So, it only makes sense that Whittaker’s transformation would include a unique, new flavor.
So, even though her outfit does resemble previous Doctors, it’s still cute and stylish. She wears a teal blue pair of trousers, kept up by mustard yellow suspenders. Her t-shirt has a vintage feel with color stripes running across the top. She wears a beige trench and a pair of sturdy leather boots, which she’ll surely need for her super-heroine duties.
Whittaker joins other leading women in film
Whittaker is just one of many women making waves in film and television, and she’s in good company. In 2017, the blockbuster film, Wonder Woman, came out, showcasing a fictional female superhero, played by Gal Gadot, and directed by Lyda Carter.
Wonder Woman is an Amazonian princess, named Diana, who fights in a war to protect not only her beloved Amazon but the entire world.
Another female-led film, Lady Bird, was directed by Indie actor and director, Greta Gerwig, and received much critical acclaim. It’s a coming-of-age story that depicts a young high school student in California as she moves through those tumultuous teenage years. As an audience, we watch “Lady Bird” dealing with school, parents and typical experiences. It’s a tender film that garnered five Oscar nominations.
Lena Dunham is another leading lady when it comes to the entertainment industry. She has created and co-starred in the HBO series, Girls. It needs little introduction here, but suffice it to say, it’s the story of four young women in New York City, and how they learn to become independent while navigating life and love as American women in their 20s.
Audiences loved this show for its realistic and raw approach to women and female relationships. No doubt, the show’s success has a lot to do with the fact that women were leading the show’s creation, and were able to give a voice to issues and concepts that are otherwise ignored.
The film and television industry still has a long way to go when it comes to feminism and equality. But thanks to women like Jodie Whittaker, and fellow leading ladies, audiences get a chance to see inspiring women in positions of power.