Following the announcement of the first ever female Doctor Who on Sunday, which provoked the predictable ‘political correctness gone mad’ backlash by the usual suspect sections on social media, The Daily Mail spotted a clear opportunity to try and stir up outrage among its readers the next day with a false and out-of-touch article bemoaning the death of lead male actors on British TV.
The article was titled ‘EXTERMINATE! AS DOCTOR WHO CHANGES SEX, THE DAILY MAIL’S TV CRITIC CHRISTOPHER STEVENS ASKS THE PROVOCATIVE QUESTION… WHY ARE ALL THE MALE HEROES DISAPPEARING FROM THE BOX?
The article was part ‘politically correct feminists are taking over our programming’ and part attempt to have yet another dig at the BBC. But, despite being written by a supposed TV expert, it was full of more holes than a hipster’s jeans.
It started off by making a fair enough point, that of the discrepancy in earnings between the corporation’s top male and female presenters. A justifiable accusation of not practising what it preaches was hurled at the Beeb. There may be plenty of talk of diversity quotas but, as Mr Stevens points out, it is ‘equal in all things, except… in the wages department.’
But it quickly emerged that this was just the starter course on a menu consisting of little else but BBC-bashing.
Things moved onto moaning about the decision to cast the 13th (or is it 14th? I really can’t be bothered to check) Doctor Who as a woman. This, according to the article, is ‘another politically correct blow to a TV show that was once simply a children’s favourite’.
The Mail didn’t explain why a fictional time-travelling character regenerating for the umpteenth time as a woman rather than a man will spoil the fun for kids who will happily engage with stories consisting of talking animals and cartoons where characters die and immediately come back to life.
But in its attempt to jump on the ‘political correctness gone mad’ bandwagon, it seems the paper has misjudged the overall mood of Doctor Who fans. According to a Radio Times poll, only 15% of fans are against the idea of a female Doctor whereas over 40% thought the decision was ‘fantastic’.
But worse was to come. The paper linked the decision to what it saw as an over-riding culture of anti-male casting in British TV shows.
‘Already it’s rare to see a British detective show with a male lead’, bemoaned Stevens before adding ‘In almost every new British drama, men are relegated to sidekick status or else cast as moral weaklings’.
From here, things descended to conspiracy theory levels. ‘TV writers and film-makers who defy the trend will be condemned as sexist dinosaurs… Many will simply give in and submit the same pre-approved plots about dauntless single mothers beset by psychopathic males.’
Stevens then makes the rather ludicrous claim that the only space allowed for male characters on TV these days is as ‘rapists and villains’.
To back his theories up, Stevens names a handful of contemporary British TV dramas with female leads. But a quick look at the evidence shows that there are still plenty of British TV dramas being produced with traditional male leads.
Looking at programmes commissioned by the BBC over the last couple of years, there has been no shortage of male lead parts. Around half of dramas still have male protagonists. Stevens’ claim that men are relegated to sidekicks and no longer get a look in with detective dramas doesn’t bear up to scrutiny.
Dramas commissioned with male leads as detectives over the past couple of years include New Blood, The Moonstone and SS-GB. The 2016 Doctor Who spin-off series Class also had males in the lead parts.
Things are no different when looking at Beeb programmes in the pipeline. These include The Child In Time, a forthcoming BBC One drama with Benedict Cumberbatch in the lead role; Hard Sun, another BBC One drama featuring a male and female detective partnership; two Agatha Christie adaptations with male detective leads; and Strike, a detective series based on JK Rowling novels featuring a lead detective played by Tom Burke.
Sorry, but it looks like this politically correct world where it’s impossible for white men to find a lead part in TV fiction exists only in the minds of some science fiction fans and Daily Mail journalists.
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