I protest and not just because I have fancied Peter Capaldi for the best part of 20 years and many people are only just catching up with me thanks to Malcolm Tucker. Reading the reaction to Capaldi’s casting as Doctor Who has been utterly disconcerting and downright offensive.
The immediate response from young girls on Twitter was in the ‘who is this old bloke?’ territory, but we can mock them as people who probably wanted Harry from One Direction cast in the role. The real problem I have is with the media. Every article in newspapers, magazines and websites, whether targeted at long-term fans or the casual viewer, has focused on this meaning the end of sexual tension between Doctor and companion. Why? Is the character over 900 years old or isn’t he? Does the idea he looks 25 make it more acceptable?
Besides which, a 55-year-old man can be attractive. If we had read this kind of reaction to a female actress cast in a role, Twitter would have been up in arms protesting the rampant ageism of the debate. Would they write that Helen Mirren obviously has no sexuality now that she is past 40? Of course not!
It’s not that you have to find Capaldi sexy. It’s that these articles are all presenting his lack of sex appeal as a FACT. There is no discussion; it is simply stated as beyond dispute. ‘Of course,’ they write, ‘now this means winding back the sexual tension between Doctor and companion that has become a recurring theme in the new series.’ Of course. Obviously. Naturally. Evidently. These are the words the media have used to describe the situation. I’m offended on behalf of Peter Capaldi, on behalf of older men and on behalf of women who are treated as if they can only be attracted to some muscle-bound gym bunny with gelled hair who looks like he belongs in TOWIE.
The media also noted this would mean less running around for the Doctor. Good. Did William Hartnell ever run around? The Doctor is not a superhero, he does not have special physical powers. He solves problems with intelligence, craftiness and heart. These are all attractive qualities and ones we should look up to in our television heroes.
So enough of assumptions about how women will react to Capaldi’s Doctor. The media must learn to stop assuming the worst of its actors and its audiences.