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Get a Grip, Nerds, Women Make Sci-Fi Better

  • Mon, 17 Jul 2017 23:20

And other answers to questions you didn’t ask.

Image: AntToeKnee Lacey
“I don’t think a lady should be ‘Doctor Who.’ Does that make me a bad person?” — Sci Fi Steve

Science fiction used to be a Fortress of Solitude for sad little white guys to play Dungeons and Dragons with each other and not feel bad that they had no lives at all and could never get laid. But, it turns out that being a sad little white guy is not required to enjoy science fiction. With the dawn of the age of computer special effects, now the worlds of comic books and space ships can be enjoyed by a mass audience, thrilled with stories of heroes and villains. It’s better than reading excel spreadsheets all day.

Sadly, whenever their little boys’ club gets invaded by the lady folk, sad little white guys sulk. These days they do their sulking on the internet. And social media has given us all the illusion that all our opinions matter equally. They don’t. Many people have terrible opinions. Before computers they used to just die inside their brains unspoken.

I used to play basketball in my driveway every day. I had long giant games against Jeff Weinstock that really should have their own “ESPN: 30 for 30.” One day when Jeff wasn’t home Shirah Weinstock wanted to play me in basketball. She beat me like 21–2. I learned a few things that day, like I am not good at basketball, and Shirah was better at basketball than me.

As much as you and your buddies would like to live in a Mommy-only Universe, women are out there. They are smart and brave and have good ideas and can do stuff. You will fundamentally have to deal with this, or you will die alone in your mother’s basement, with only your action figures to attend your funeral. So deal with it!

So, yes, it does make you a bad person. It’s also fundamentally against most of the things that the Doctor on “Doctor Who” represents. The show is about outsmarting people and getting your way without using weapons. The Doctor is wise and good, driven by altruism and thoughtfulness. Surely a lady could pull this off even better than a man.

Most men I know, if they had access to a time machine, would not waste time using it to save people for no reason. They would probably use it to pick up players on their fantasy baseball teams they knew would hit a bunch of home runs. Or go back in time and buy up all the copies of X-Men #1. Sure, they would also use it the same way that the regular Doctor used it: to impress ladies. You just pick them up in your time machine and drag them all over the galaxy so they can risk their lives with you.

Perhaps you are attracted to Doctor Who’s need to mansplain. That’s mostly just a necessity of the exposition, not a life choice. The Doctor’s companion generally stands in for the TV-watching audience, so when the Doctor explains the “timey-whimey” aspects of space and time travel, he can explain it to someone. Surely a lady can do this as well as a man? Plus, he has joked about being a lady before. So you can’t say you weren’t warned, broflakes. If the conceit is that if the character can completely regenerate its body, why has he already regenerated 13 times in a row as a white British dude?

When I first started watching “Doctor Who” it was a tall British guy with a scarf. The most important thing about him wasn’t his gender, it was that damned scarf. Why was it so long? And he wore it year-round. Indoors, outdoors. He was as mysterious a figure as the Monkee who never took off his hat. Also, I could barely understand a word Doctor Who said. Because he was British and on PBS. The episodes were frequently shown not in order, he generally spoke about stuff that had happened in episodes I’d never seen. And that accent—no wonder we had an American Revolution. All I knew was that he had a time machine and scarf that he should have tripped over every day (and that probably contributed to his death).

Maybe you grew up in a world where only Uhura and Princess Leia were allowed into the Science Fiction Boy’s Club. But there are way more women in the universe than just one per Sci Fi series. This way you don’t accidentally make out with your sister, like Luke Skywalker. If we’ve learned anything it’s that women can be captains, jedis, ninjas, assassins, cops, lawyers, queens, whatever it takes to make a TV show or movie good.

This was the rule with “Doctor Who” Doctors, too. Whenever a new one comes along you’re like ??? but when you give them a chance, they are all kind of great in their own ways. Why can’t you give the new Doctor Who a chance, nerds? If you really like Doctor Who there’s still the Tardis and the Daleks and everything. If she’s anything like my mom, she can probably beat those daleks to death with a wooden spoon. I lived in fear of that spoon! Ow! I can still feel it, Mom!

If you watch Doctor Who for the hulking masculinity of David Tennant or Matt Smith, ah, OK. You probably wanted Wonder Woman to be cast as a man, too. And the Ghostbusters forever and ever. If the appearance of a lady lead in your favorite TV series is enough to send you into a tizzy, you probably don’t like the series all that much. What are you going to do? Give up TV? I don’t think so. Grumble a little softer and give Rey, Doctor Who, Thor, Wonder Woman and the Ghostbusters a chance. Watching them is way more fun than reading.

Jim Behrle lives in Jersey City, NJ and works at a bookstore.

Get a Grip, Nerds, Women Make Sci-Fi Better was originally published in The Awl on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

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