There is a great deal of excitement going on in the world of the science fiction television show, "Doctor Who."
Not only is the long-running series celebrating its 50th anniversary this November, but a new actor has been chosen to play the star role of the Doctor.
For those unacquainted with the premise of the show, the enigmatic Doctor regenerates a new face and body when mortally injured — a clever device of the original show makers. When the current actor playing the Doctor, Matt Smith, announced he would retire from the role this year, there was a great deal of discussion over who the new Doctor — the 12th — would be. Most interesting was the notion that the new Doctor might be unlike all the others: this Doctor could be a person of color, or perhaps a woman.
Why not? The Doctor is a space alien, so why would all of his regenerations thus far be white, heterosexual men? Many names were bandied about: Idris Elba. Chiwetel Ejiofor. Helen Mirren. However, when decision time came, the same choice was made: another white man, Peter Capaldi.
He was announced in early August, in a spectacular, eye-catching reveal special on BBC.
It was later shared that the show's current executive producer and head writer, Steven Moffat, never really had anyone else in mind — especially a person of color or a woman — to play the Doctor other than Capaldi.
To be honest, "Doctor Who" truly lacks in the realm of diversity. Of all of its recurring characters, only two have been minorities: Martha Jones and Mickey Smith, both black. So, was anyone surprised that Moffat, a white man himself, chose to keep the star role lily-white and male?
"Doctor Who" simply exemplifies the status quo in mainstream media: male-dominated and Eurocentric. This is problematic because there is a grossly disproportional representation of minorities. Additionally, when one considers that the vast majority of roles available to people of color and women in television and film are usually minor, supporting, near invisible or stereotypical. It should be alarming that we live in an age that decries racism and sexism, yet is preposterously biased in a major way.
To put it plainly, in most American and British television shows and movies, a white man is the default. A white man is what is normal. A white man is the successful and very educated leader, the hero, and the one who wins a seriously objectified woman as his prize.
American and European media send the message loud and clear: white men are the people who matter.
This message affects our society in unexpected ways. In children, for example, it affects self-worth. Various studies show that when watching television, the self-esteem of white boys generally increases, while the self-esteem of minority boys and girls of all races generally decreases.
Despite this, studies also show that minorities and women are among the biggest consumers of American television shows and movies. It would seem as though they are watching as much as they can, on the off chance that they see someone who resembles themselves represented in a positive light.
In the case of "Doctor Who," they may be watching in vain.
Andrea Richardson is a sophomore in anthropology. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.