Sunday morning, I woke up to find that “Broadchurch” alumna Jodi Whittaker had been cast to play the newest iteration of The Doctor on the BBC’s “Doctor Who.” I found out because many of my Facebook friends were sharing links to the announcement accompanied by harsh denunciations of all the fragile, sexist men who were offended by the casting decision.
Somebody even made this fun little game:
Naturally, I decided to go in search of this misogynistic outrage mob, only to find that it existed mostly in the imaginations of the people mocking it. It would take me dozens of regenerations to fill up that bingo board.
For those unfamiliar with the show, “Doctor Who,” which ran from 1963-1989 and then was resurrected in 2005, is a mostly non-violent, kid-friendly sci-fi series in which a witty, eccentric alien with the ability to “regenerate” in a new form every time he (she? they?) dies, ventures through space and time with an ever-changing cast of human companions.
Whittaker will be the 13th (or 14th) actor to portray the titular Time Lord and the first woman. This step is unprecedented, but not canon-breaking. Other Time Lords have switched genders in regeneration before, and even The Doctor himself (herself? themself?) has raised the possibility of coming back as a woman.
So who exactly are the people upset by this?
I typed “Jodie Whittaker” into Twitter’s search box and couldn’t find a single negative tweet about her casting. So I dug into the replies to each of those tweets and finally found three people (one of whom was Matt Walsh) who were anything but excited about the female Doctor. Then I did a Google news search for “doctor who 13th doctor” only to find a wonderful Fox News opinion article that further reinforced my worst suspicions.
The author accused the media of catering to a preconceived narrative of cultural sexism, although at this point, with Twitter and media outlets feeding off each other’s fury, it’s hard to tell where the outrage originates. Buzzfeed ran an article showcasing the best clapbacks against these misogynist man-babies, but unfortunately, their showcase only included eight negative tweets, all of which had well under 1,000 likes, while the positive responses often had over 10,000.
This isn’t the first time this has happened.
For all the “outrage” about the black Stormtrooper in “Star Wars,” I knew exactly one guy who was mad about it and he was a dick anyway. When the Huffington Post reported that “the masses” had flocked to Twitter to complain about two “Hunger Games” characters being black, I never found a single person (besides the three quoted in the article) who complained.
More recently, video game developer Ubisoft announced that “Far Cry 5” would be set in Montana and feature a white-supremacist doomsday cult as the primary antagonists, and soon after the outrage at the outrage began. Clicktivists from across the Twittersphere angrily shared a racist petition that urged Ubisoft to either cancel the game or replace the “American Christian” villains with Muslims or inner-city gangs.
However, as one Forbes writer pointed out, the petition was almost certainly created by trolls. The “gamers” who supposedly authored it cited their continued virginity as an example of societal oppression and then quoted the philosopher “Boltaire.”
The people who shared that petition, and the ones who are currently complaining about people complaining about Whittaker, are playing right into these trolls’ knobby little hands.
I realize it feels good to open up your browser and crusade for justice and equality by retweeting some sick Twitter burns, but next time you’re tempted to pile onto the counter-outrage bandwagon, ask yourself one question: Did I hear about this from someone who is actually angry or did I get it secondhand from the backlash mob?
In my experience—and I take great pains to prevent my Twitter from becoming an echo chamber—the ratio of critics to critics-of-the-critics is gaping. By stoking the Internet’s anger against this supposedly widespread misogynist meltdown, all we’re doing is giving jerks with 40 Twitter followers a global megaphone for their keyboard excretions. They do it for the attention. Ignore them, and they’ll go away.