When I’m reading a book or a comic, or watching a movie, or a tv show, or whatever form of fiction you want to throw at me, I almost always find at least one character to attach myself to. There are exceptions of course (most recently Watchmen), but usually there’s a kind of “that one, that one is me”. It makes sense, we want to see ourselves in the stories we love. I mean, why do people take so many Buzzfeed “Which [insert thing here] Character Are You?” quizzes? Relatability in a character makes us more invested in them, gives the writer more power over us. Of course you don’t have to relate to a character to be attached to them, there are tons of ways for writers to capture our hearts, but it’s a pretty effective device.
I have tons of characters I relate to, that I’ve formed strong attachments to. Sometimes, though, you’ll find a story featuring someone that speaks to the parts of you like no other character has. I’ve written about Aza from Turtles All The Way Down before, how reading that book was eerie because it was like it was about me, and she’s so important to me because I don’t see characters with OCD a lot in fiction, and when I do it’s pretty much misrepresented. Aza isn’t just important to me, she’s important to the literary world, and to other people out there who see themselves in her and understand that they are not broken.
I just watched the first episode of the new season of Doctor Who, The Woman Who Fell to Earth (yes, this is related, I promise). The new Doctor, for anyone who hasn’t heard, is a woman. This stirred up a bunch of controversy with The Insecure Fanboys, because of course there’s no way that The Doctor, an alien who travels the universe in a police box that’s bigger on the inside, who can literally regenerate every cell in their body to come back to life, who fights deadly aliens with arms that look like whisks and plungers, of course it would be impossible for this absolutely absurd being to be a woman. Come on people. Really? The Doctor probably exists outside of the gender binary anyway. All of this is a reflection of a much larger issue, of course, and the arrival of Jodie Whittaker’s 13th Doctor could not have come at a better time.
After 12(ish, it’s complicated) lives spent as absolutely wonderful and eccentric men, The Doctor crashes to earth as this energetic, disoriented woman, still putting herself back together post regeneration. She is so important, not because it’s impossible for people of a different genders to relate to a male character, but because there will be women and girls watching Doctor Who and finally seeing themselves represented as the genius with the time machine instead of the astonished sidekick. Nothing wrong with the companions, but, come on, 13 built a sonic screwdriver out of spoons. She is undebatably fantastic. Fiction is far from perfect when it comes to representation, as a someone who wants to create fiction it’s something I like to be aware of, but we are getting better, and The Doctor is here to help.