Jodie Whittaker’s ‘Doctor Who’ debut was must-see TV for girls in particular.
It’s about time.
The BBC’s beloved “Doctor Who” series has run strong for 55 years thanks to an ingenious loophole: its hero (a time-traveling, humanoid alien) gets reborn into a new body whenever he is in mortal peril, which means the showrunners have replaced their star as needed (12 times, in fact) without ending the show. Yet for more than half a century, the titular Doctor has always been male — until now.
“Attack the Block” star Jodie Whittaker debuted as the quirky British sci-fi hero who travels through space and time helping people (and aliens) on Sunday, and the first-ever female Doctor drew 1.4 million viewers in the U.S., Deadline reported, which is up 48% in total audience from the previous Doctor, Peter Capaldi, who was the 12th man to take on the intergalactic role.
In the UK, Whittaker’s premiere episode “The Woman Who Fell To Earth” beat the debuts by previous actors portraying the Doctor, including David Tennant in 2005, Matt Smith in 2010 and Capaldi in 2014, reeling in 8.2 million viewers and a 40.1% share of overall British TV viewers. “Doctor Who” is among the BBC’s five top-selling programs, helping the broadcaster net more than $260 million last year.
And many of those viewers last weekend were young female sci-fi fans. Broadcast reporter Robin Parker in the U.K. noted that the Oct. 7 episode reeled in more girls under 16 than boys; 378,000 girls tuned in compared to 339,000 boys. Compare that to last year’s series premiere, when only 143,000 girls watched compared to 390,000 boys.
More girls than boys (under-16s) watched Jodie Whittaker's Doctor Who debut – 378,000 v 339,000. Last year's series opener: 143,000 girls / 390,000 boys.
— Robin Parker (@robinparker55) October 8, 2018
The BBC built up buzz about Whittaker’s history-making arrival with a teaser trailer that showed the first female Doctor standing beneath a smashed glass ceiling.
And while the cast and crew initially faced some backlash for casting a woman in the traditionally male role, the Thirteenth Doctor’s arrival was the most talked-about show on social media on Sunday with 93% positive comments, according to BBC America. Many men and women alike took to Twitter to rave about Whittaker in the role, and posted about watching the premiere with their daughters.
Jodie is outstanding as #DoctorWho. Such vibrancy and humour. Sheffield steel, that's both perfectly Northern, but with a core of galactic grit that's lived through so many faces and so many lives. What a breath of fresh air. What fun. It's about time.
— Laura (@incorrigible) October 7, 2018
— Amanda Johnston (@AmandaDecimate) October 7, 2018
I have watched every #DoctorWho actor since the first back in 1963. Jodie is quite outstanding & up there with the best. Brings great vibrancy, energy & no little touch of humour to the role. Jodie is Dr. Who.
— Keith Nieland (@KeithNieland) October 7, 2018
This initial outpouring of support shouldn’t come as a huge surprise, however, as research reveals that kids want to see more female superheroes, and 85% of girls aged 10 to 19 and 88% of those aged 5 to 9 say that there are not enough strong women characters shown on TV and in movies. Women made up only 31.8% of speaking characters in films last year, according to a study by University of Southern California’s Annenberg Inclusion initiative.
— Doctor Who Official (@bbcdoctorwho) October 10, 2018
And diversity sells. The 2016 Hollywood Diversity Report, which studied 200 major motion pictures released in 2014, found that the eight films released that year with a 41% to 50% minority cast scored a median global box office gross of $122.2 million, compared to the 55 films with minorities making up less than 10% of the cash earning less than half that at $52.6 million.
Television has been a growing bright spot for badass superwomen of late, however, with Ruby Rose coming to the CW as Batwoman — and the first openly lesbian superhero ever on TV. The CW’s “Supergirl” will also introduce trans activist Nicole Maines as Dream Girl, television’s first-ever transgender superhero. And Fox is rebooting “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” with an African-American actress staking her claim as the vampire hunter first played by blondes Kristy Swanson and Sarah Michelle Gellar in the ’90s.
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