Thursday, August 8, 2013

Hey, women, stop perpetuating the "fake geek girl" myth!

Today this essay started popping up on my Twitter feed and promptly enraged me and several of my friends, but really, it's just the latest example of a genre that crops up far, far too often. In it, the (female) writer expresses her very serious worry that Stephen Moffat and the BBC have risked the entire Doctor Who franchise by casting an "all wrong" person as the twelfth Doctor - and by "all wrong" she means not that Peter Capaldi* is another white male, but that he's a white male who isn't young and hot enough. She states that the show's popularity is due to the sex appeal of the last three Doctors and that this casting means it will "potentially lose half its audience."

And this way of thinking, this common, common way of thinking about young women and their media consumption, well, it makes me want to throw things. Because it does a terrible disservice to everyone, really, but specifically to those young women and to young girls coming of age in this society that assumes that they can't actually like something because it's good, that they can only be lured in by pretty boys and pandering to their shallow - young women must be shallow, you know - frivolous interests. Did having attractive people on the show help grow Doctor Who's audience? Sure. (You know what else has attractive people? Virtually every show on TV.) Is having a lust object literally the only reason for young women to watch a science fiction show? No! That's ridiculous! Apparently this might be a shocking statement, but I swear, young women will watch shows they like, and they'll like things for any number of different reasons. It's almost like they're people or something.

But no, of course young women couldn't watch a science fiction show because they like science fiction. People like the writer of the above essay (and there are many; this is just the one that pushed me over the edge) are careful to say that they themselves like the show on its own merits, of course, but everyone else, all those FAKE geek girls, they must be the majority and they can't possibly be watching for the "right" reasons, and therefore they must be patronized and pandered to at every opportunity. It's infuriating enough when men say things like this, but seriously, women, stop spreading this nonsense about other women. You're not making yourself look better by claiming you're not one of "them." You're just making things worse for everyone, because by reinforcing the idea that young women have a very narrow range of interests, you're encouraging people to make a narrow range of entertainment options for all of us. And by saying women will only watch a Doctor who's young and hot, you're giving every man - and woman - who's looking for it permission to dismiss the opinions of the women at their gaming stores, at their conventions, in their lives, and to take for granted that the women around them aren't really people with a right to be there, because they're just "fake geek girls."

* I don't want to get too far into the specifics of any actors, as that's not really my point here, but I'll just say that I think Capaldi is very talented (and, you know, attractive, which it IS possible for someone over the age of 41 to be!) and I've quite liked him in other things, and I'm looking forward to seeing him in the role.


  1. I just posted a lengthy comment on her essay - and shared it with my friends on Facebook as well.

  2. I commented there, also. It doesn't look like Tiffany is getting much support for her thesis.

    Personally I'm hoping that this new Doctor means we will move AWAY from the romance stories. I'm quite excited for Capaldi's reign and I hope we see a little more diversity with his companions. Amy Pond and Clara were the same character, for fuck's sake. Is it too much to hope that Donna Noble makes a reappearance?

  3. My first thought on hearing the announcement was good, now they will remove the potential romance element from the show. The classis DR. Who was hugely popular and there was no hanky panky in the Tardis. I'd read one time it was actually written into the contracts with Peter Davison (he being rather younger than previous doctors)that no whiff of romance would creep in. I'm sure Peter Capaldi will be a wonderful doctor and a shift in the relationship between the Doctor and Clara can only be a good thing. I was rather hoping she would go, but at least now she'll probably stop mooning about him.