In Brief

Doctor Who: is she driving men to crime?

Tory MP says vogue for ‘gender-flipping’ characters has helped create crisis in masculinity

Pop culture has long triggered moral panics of varying levels of absurdity, said Ed Power in The Daily Telegraph. But Nick Fletcher, the Conservative MP for Don Valley in South Yorkshire, took things to new heights last week, when he argued that the vogue for “gender-flipping” beloved TV and film characters – having Doctor Who played by Jodie Whittaker, for instance – had helped to create a crisis in masculinity.

During a debate to mark International Men’s Day, Fletcher declared: “In recent years, we have seen Doctor Who, the Ghostbusters, Luke Skywalker and the Equalizer all replaced by women, and men are left with the Krays and Tommy Shelby [the anti-hero of Peaky Blinders]. Is it any wonder that so many young men are committing crimes?”

I can see a couple of holes in his argument, said Marie Le Conte in The Guardian. For a start, “there are still countless mainstream movies in which male protagonists are the good guys, as evidenced by the roughly 7,000 Marvel movies produced in the past decade”.

And there are probably more positive male role models today than ever before: just look at Gareth Southgate and Marcus Rashford. It’s frustrating, because Fletcher’s moment of madness distracted from the important points he made in his speech. Suicide rates for men, he noted, are three times higher than they are for women; 83% of rough sleepers are men; and 96% of the prison population is male.

These are major problems, “but they will not be solved by men who believe that a female Time Lord is turning boys to crime”. Fletcher later claimed that he had been misunderstood, said Ryan Coogan in The Independent. Even so, his assertion made a point which proponents of media diversity have been making for years: “representation matters”. Having positive media role models that people can identify with helps them “feel part of society”.

He’s right too, to be dubious about the vogue for gender-swapping. Representation is important, but rather than repurposing Doctor Who or Star Wars, it would be better to create more original stories featuring female leads.

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