Why Are We Obsessed With Playing Gender Musical Chairs?
Opinion|Sep 11, 2020

Why Are We Obsessed With Playing Gender Musical Chairs?

Switching Genders Of Major Characters Always Runs The Risk Of Alienating Fans.
Alexandra Marshall

If Penthouse suddenly switched all of its glossy double-page spreads to abs and cocks, you’d expect some backlash. A few awkward silences. Probably a sharp drop in subscriptions.

Does this make its readers a pack of bigots, misandrists, and man-hating homophobes burdened by fragile sexuality? No. They were simply looking for something else. The magazine’s target audience has an established sexual preference, confirming the old adage ‘sex sells!’ is as true for Penthouse as it is for a fifty-year-old science fiction show.

Doctor Who is the James Bond of the geek world – men want to be him, and girls want to shag him. I can’t speak for the boys, but who doesn’t want a gorgeous, older boyfriend with a time machine, infinite bank balance, no job, endless adventure, and a demi-god status in the universe? He is an inconvenient sexual fantasy that contradicts the preferred social politics of the BBC, despite being its flagship show.

It is no accident that ratings soared when Scottish heart-throb David Tennant took over the role in 2005 alongside his young, attractive female companion Billie Piper. Their will-they, won’t-they romantic tragedy elevated the BBC production out of the fringe geek world and into the mainstream market of swooning teenagers. The onscreen sexual tension made the international arm of the network a fortune in the US, propping up their less successful social justice vanity projects.

2018 saw the progressive agenda inside the BBC hit peak woke – cannibalising their golden goose. The desire to promote inclusivity with casting choices, led new showrunner Chris Chibnall to hire Jodie Whittaker as the first female Doctor. Token casting is normally fatal but identifying as a taxpayer parasite makes it impossible for the BBC to ‘go broke’ like its corporate peers. This artificial survival allowed us to watch the gender-bender experiment play out to hilarious disparities between glowing critical reviews and god-awful audience scores that were so bad BBC management kept deleting them.

I say this at risk of committing a hate crime, but audiences are made uncomfortable by gender switches. We form emotional attachments to characters in fiction. Changing their gender asks intimate questions of an audience who will switch off the TV to avoid answering them.

The boys who wanted to be a handsome Timelord aren’t so keen on being linked with transgenderism, while girls generally don’t like the implication they are now lesbians because their previous love interest has switched genders. The season final pushed this already uncomfortable idea further by revealing that the Doctor was originally a woman – retconning the audience’s sexual attraction to what they thought was a man. That pretty much killed the show. You cannot force people into gender fluidity or bisexuality by lying about the past. Coercive politics in entertainment is a real ratings put off.

Human sexuality is deeply rooted in our entertainment preferences and despite rainbow logos on social media giants, the overwhelming majority of an audience remains straight. This is not the first time that Doctor Who changed the gender of a well-known character. Michelle Gomez took over the role of The Master in 2014 as a test run for audience acceptance. Oddly, this gender swap worked for the same reason that the Doctor’s failed. Changing the gender, The Master transformed the Doctor’s rival bromance into a traditional love interest – accidentally contradicting the BBC’s woke agenda.

If ratings are anything to go by, this obsession with gender musical chairs is probably just a phase, like androgynous fashion or neo-coloured mullets. I reckon the Romans had the right idea, drawing dicks on the sandstone to guide people around the city. At least they were clear about the entertainment on offer.