In a recent interview with Pearl Mackie (The actress who plays The Doctors new companion in Series 10) it was revealed that her character is gay. In the interview Pearl said:
“Yeah Bills gay… and it shouldn’t be a big deal in the 21st century really. I am just playing one character… I’m not here to represent everyone of colour, and I’m not here to represent everyone who is gay. I’m just here to play the part as truthfully as possible. People are gay, People are black. There are also aliens in the world so you know watch out for them.” – Pearl Mackie
Following the interview most of the Doctor Who fandom decided to give their opinion, along with most mainstream media outlets in the UK. Taking a quick glance at the post on the BBC Doctor Who Facebook Page confirmed that quite a few fans were not happy.
To begin with most people decided to point out the 3 other main LGBT characters in the show – Captain Jack Harkness (John Barrowman), Madame Vastra (Neve McIntosh) and her wife Jenny (Catrin Stewart). But what most of them forgot is that the post stated that Bill would be the “First openly gay companion” not the first gay character on Doctor Who. Yes Madame Vastra and Jenny were in a gay relationship, but neither were companions. And yes, Captain Jack Harkness was omnisexual but he wasn’t a companion either. He was only ever an ‘Occasional Companion‘. So yes, Bill Potts is the first ‘Openly gay companion‘.
Their next point was usually something like this:
- “Why is this a big deal?????”
- “Nobody cares what you do in the bedroom…. Just write good stories”
- “Why is everything about sexuality now??”
There are various answers to these questions… The first thing that needs to be pointed out is that if they aren’t bothered about her sexuality and don’t care, then why are they commenting on it? If it didn’t bother them wouldn’t their reaction be “Oh OK” and then move along? So clearly they are bothered by it in some way.
The next point is ‘Why is it a big deal that Bill is gay?’, and my answer is that it is a big deal, AND it isn’t. Her sexuality and the fact that she is gay is not a problem, and doesn’t matter at all. It’s just a part of her and isn’t something that affects anyone else except her. So her being gay doesn’t matter. What does matter is that The Doctors companion is gay, and the representation that comes with it. But most comments couldn’t understand why representation was important. Quite a few comments stated that the representation wasn’t necessary because of the lack of LGBT people in the UK. One commenter said:
“It’s about time”. Statistically no, it isn’t. Only 1.5% of the British population identifies as either gay or lesbian. So we’d need a lot more companions before it’s “About time”. In actual fact, homosexual characters have been massively over represented in Dr who over the last 3 years or so. Stop.” – Comment on the Doctor Who Facebook Page
Many comments were using similar facts to suggest that the show has featured too many LGBT characters. But when seeing these facts its important to take a closer look. According to the Office for National Statistics (ONS) in 2015, 1.7% of the UK population identified themselves as lesbian, gay or bisexual (LGB), and 3.3% of the population aged between 16 to 24 identified themselves as LGB. But a YouGov UK report showed that when asked to plot themselves on a ‘sexuality scale’ (Invented by Alfred Kinsey in the 1940s) 23% of British people marked something other than 100% heterosexual, with that figure rising to 49% among 18-24 year olds. These figures definitely don’t show active bisexuality, considering over 89% describe themselves as heterosexual, but they do show that more and more people, especially young people, are more open minded and fluid with their sexuality, and that is why representation is important.
Considering the shows main target audience is young adults and families, seeing someone that you can relate to, or someone with various aspects of their personality or life that is similar to yours is important, especially in young people at a time where their life can be confusing and they are figuring out who they really are. Having an LGBT character ups the chances of a positive image of an LGBT person being shown to someone who is questioning their sexuality, or feels like they are not accepted. It also normalises LGBT people and their relationships and thus helps people accept who they really are but also helps people to not make being LGBT a big issue. So Bill being Gay shouldn’t be a big deal, but until people feel like they are represented in the media it will be.
Pearl Mackie is also a person of colour, and as she revealed in a recent interview with The Guardian she understands what it feels like to grow up as a young girl and to not see someone like you on the TV. After seeing pictures of two young girls who had dressed up as her character Bill she said:
“When I was little there weren’t that many people who looked like me on TV, so it’s great to have two little kids thinking: ‘OK, she looks like me so I’m going to dress up as her, and I don’t need a different kind of face make-up, I don’t need to straighten my hair.’”
This highlights the importance of representation, especially to young people who crave to be accepted and to be able to relate to someone like them, even more so a celebrity or someone in the public eye.
And to all the people saying that Bill being black and gay is just another way for the BBC to tick its ‘politically correct boxes’, take a step back and realise something. Having a character that represents real people is not being politically correct or ticking boxes. It’s showing the real world, and even if the group that the character represents is only a minority, they are still real people that need to be shown and represented.
So to conclude I think its best to take a look at something Pearl Mackie said in her interview.
“People are gay, People are black.”
Get over it.