I had to think things through yesterday (as well as get over a headache of titanic proportions). The Guardian gave us an interesting view on Friday with ‘loss of role model for boys‘ (at https://www.theguardian.com/tv-and-radio/2017/jul/21/doctor-who-casting-peter-davison-laments-loss-of-role-model-for-boys). The entire issue is that the new Doctor, the 13th one will be a woman named Jodie Whittaker. It is a new step in refreshing the brand; it is equally an interesting step that forums have debated for the longest time. Two previous doctors have given their own view. First we see Peter Davison with “a former star of Doctor Who, has lamented the loss of a role model for boys after the part of the Doctor was given to a female actor for the first time“. It is an interesting premise. I am not sure I agree. Peter Davison who would be regarded as the Doctor by some and as Tristan Farnon by others has played the doctor, and as such has seen waves and waves of fans. The opposition, the side I tend to agree with states “absolute rubbish“, this is Colin Baker who played both the 6th Doctor and Paul Merroney, the cold hearted accountant in ‘The Brothers’. You see, I am not certain why the two sides exist (academically speaking). When we look at ‘role model’, we see ‘a person whose behaviour in a particular role is imitated by others’ (source Meriam-Webster), this came into official usage in 1947, the same year that the words ‘Chopped Liver’, ‘Bikini’, ‘Time Traveller’, ‘Workaholic’ and ‘Final Solution’ were added to the dictionary.
So when we consider that ‘the imitation of a particular role’ is generic, does it actually matter what the gender of the player is? How many people see Oprah Winfrey as their role model? How many are man? Even when we look online for some of the best talk show hosts ever, in one case she was seen below Marc Maron and Howard Stern, who the hell is Marc Maron? So as we see that a renowned talk show host, who was ranked in 2013 as the most influential woman in the world, she got to number 6? I think it is high time that more women become role models. In this we should take heed that Jodie also featured in St. Trinians, so the upcoming role model could be a chaos creator. Yet does that matter? You see in the end, are the younglings regardless of age following the image played, the portraying actor, or the writers who created the image? So are these boys and girls following the image of the Doctor, or the image as written by Steven Moffat, the man who also gave us Jekyll with James Nesbitt?
The definition gives us the character as played by Doctor who, yet in all this, does it matter whether the player is a he or a she? Well, there are a few issues as seen. One source gives us “The gender difference between role models and female students has shown to have no significant effect on student attitudes, whereas perceived dissimilarity with stereotypical role models showed a negative effect on self-confidence in pursuing STEM careers“, in this, STEM careers are the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematical . Yet, in this, as we consider the works of Friedrich Weyerhäuser and realising that he died when WW1 began, is there enough traction remaining to give that the highest levels of acceptance? I can understand part of his view and perhaps in those days of set premises on how the family was going to go, it made sense, yet after WW1, we got the great depression, WW2, the era of opportunity, the sexual revolution and higher education. When compared to then the average education now and then, the bulk of the 70% educated now are on par and surpassing the education of the top 90%, the highest 10% is reserved of the higher educated now, whilst 90% of the educated are far beyond the lower 30% of those days. If education is an essential side of acceptance, the premise given earlier should not just surpass the standard of the early 1900, we should see that when a talk show host, an African American woman is the most influential woman on the planet, we can see that it is not the gender of the role model, it is the quality of the model that sets the stance for whomever follows that example, regardless of gender.
Yet, we need to take a step back towards modern sociology. In this, we see that Robert K. Merton is seen by larger groups as is considered as a founding father of modern sociology. In this there might be a foundation to have a new Doctor as a woman. Let me try to reason this as follows. If we accept Robert Merton and his setting of the social strain theory, we should change the barriers. In the social strain we look at the discrepancies between culturally defined goals and the institutionalized means available to achieve these goals. If we accept that ‘success’ is a goal definition and institutionalised means are the setting, the properties to set to get there, we can argue that as it is mainly a man’s world, introducing a woman changes the premise of the path, or in equal measure we can argue that we criminalise the actions women will take to get there. The danger of a strain approach is that there tend to be two paths. If we accept the 5 paths of deviance namely, conformity, innovation, ritualism, retreatism and rebellion, we might see gender as the overthrowing of conformity, ritualism and retreatism. Can any of this be proven? Well, in Chinese culture, most will remember Hua Mulan due to Disney exposure, yet there have been several more.
The question becomes, should it matter?
In my view a role model is a role model. It can be set on bravery like Florence Nightingale, set in science as Madame Curie, set towards engineering like Amelia Earhart (or Charles Lindbergh), we have seen that given the chance in getting toward the path of excellence, gender has never been the challenging factor. As we upped the deviance pressure towards certain paths, we get in equal measure the impact of the opposite direction like the cyclist Lance Armstrong and the fall from grace in 2012. So as stated, it can go in either direction, it is the drive, the realistic option of meeting a goal that has the larger impact.
In this, Colin Baker also stated “They’ve had 50 years of having a role model. So, sorry Peter, you’re talking rubbish there – absolute rubbish” he said. “You don’t have to be of a gender of someone to be a role model. Can’t you be a role model as a people?” This is a fair enough view. Yet in my view it is not merely the one playing the role, but in equal measure the quality of material handed to the layer, which gets us to Steven Moffat. I believe that one enables the other which gets us the result. For those in doubt, ask yourself, who remembers Charles Laughton, Domonic Rowan, Arthur Bouchier or Tony Church? They all played the same character! Now who remembers William Shakespeare who wrote the Henry VIII play?
It is not a fair comparison, but the comparison still matters, these players will be remembered by those who watched the play, probably for the rest of their lives, but the others? Even as TV reaches billions, we realise that our old idols like Gareth Thomas and Paul Darrow in Blake’s 7 were heroes to some, yet have we forgotten about Terry Nation, the man who did not merely created the Blake team, but also was responsible of creating the Daleks, an opposition who has been enthusiastically exterminating mankind since 1962?
When we realise the cogs in the clock that makes the setting for the heroes we have admired for the longest time of our life, is it not sad that those who actually created the wave of role models are too often forgotten? When we realise this, does it actually matter what the gender of the role model is?
It is just a thought that you should consider when you get some hatched job from the Sun or the Mail online, remember that when it comes to role models, they have never been one to follow any, their role model is greed and circulation, so as they give us “It is frankly nauseating that the [BBC] should now get on their sci-fi high horse and gallop into Right-Onsville to plonk a woman sheriff in town“, let us not forget that the people referred to are the same people who gave us “The captain of missing flight MH370 practised crashing into the Indian Ocean on a simulator weeks before his plane disappeared, confidential police documents reveal“, right after the entire Leveson inquiry and never showing ANY ACCEPTABLE level of evidence. It is even better seen in the Guardian article (at https://www.theguardian.com/media/greenslade/2012/nov/16/dailymail-leveson-inquiry), here we see “How is it defensible to talk of “freedom of the press” in the collective sense when a single man exercises so much power?” as well as “For a national paper to devote the best part of a dozen pages to an investigation so obviously based on prejudice against the Leveson inquiry is surely counter-productive”, this shows us that no matter how we see a role model, it is likely to be under non-stop attack by media publications that have merely the doctrine of greed via circulation in mind. So will Jodie become a new role model? Will we see Paul Dacre in a straightjacket? Would it not be great if we got both? We get two role models, Jodie to tell us how we move forward and Paul to show us how being backward tends to be a self-destructive path. All options in the innovation path, none of them gender based, merely two examples on how we should and could see innovation move.
So in defiance of the definition is not entirely in play. Gender was never a given, it was what others made those role models to be in the end, I will leave it to you to follow whomever moves you forward; it does not matter if that person is a he or a she, does it?