Doctor Who broke records when it debuted its first episode with a woman - study shows that we do need more female heroes

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Jodie Whittaker as the 13th Doctor in Doctor Who. Image: BBC
Jodie Whittaker as the 13th Doctor in Doctor Who. Image: BBC

The very popular British sci-fi series Doctor Who broke records when it debuted its first episode with a woman in the titular role, becoming the show’s best watched episode in a decade. Which, if you know anything about Doctor Who fanatics (or Whovians as they are collectively known) is a pretty big deal. 

More than 9 million people tuned into the BBC to watch actress Jodie Whittaker take up the role of The Doctor, more than for any series launch since the 2008 opener’s 8.4 million viewers, according to The Guardian.

Jodie’s debut drew more viewers than any of her three most recent predecessors in the role, including Peter Capaldi, Matt Smith and David Tennant. They peaked at 6.8 million, 7.7 million and 8 million respectively in their first outings. The only Doctor who got higher ratings was Christopher Eccleston, who was watched by 9.9 million when the rebooted Doctor Who series premiered in 2005.

READ MORE: The Harry Potter fandom is up in arms about what they say is a racist casting choice

Fans and critics have been waiting in anticipation to see the first female doctor since the BBC announced Jodie’s casting in July 2017.

She is the 13th Doctor to date, including the eight actors who did so in the 1963-1996 incarnation of the series. (Although the number varies depending on if you count specials, etc.) 

The show’s audience has dwindled in recent years. The audience for the latest show however, which achieved an average of almost 8.2 million viewers, was almost twice as big as the 2017 opener’s 4.6 million-person audience.

Could this be simple fascination with seeing a historically male character now reincarnated as a female hero? Or is it because we really just want to see more female characters in TV and movies? 

Well, it seems the answer might be both. 

According to a study by BBC America and the Women’s Media Centre, the gender gap in onscreen representation in superhero and sci-fi films and TV series can have real-world effects on even its youngest consumers. 

READ MORE: The number of women in lead roles in Hollywood has increased by only 2% in the past 10 years

Teenage girls are less likely than boys to describe themselves as confident, brave and listened to, and nearly two-thirds of girls ages 10-19 say they don't see enough role models or strong and relatable characters of their own gender onscreen.

The study concludes that better onscreen representation can help close the confidence gap for girls and allow them to see themselves as leaders and heroes. It was released a day after Jodie Whittaker’s debut as the Doctor. 

Read more about the study here.

So here’s hoping that films like Wonder Woman and the female remake of Ghostbusters and Jodie being the 13th Doctor will help young girls to see themselves as heroes and strong and powerful. 

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