Where’s Wang on Doctor Who Diversity: Not quite there yet

Christmas saw us not only stuff our faces with amazing food, but also witness a historical moment on British TV, as Jodie Whittaker gave her debut as the first female Doctor in history in the shows Christmas Special. While we will have to wait another 9-10 months before we see more of her, why not take some time to reflect on the diversity of the cast in this almost historic series.

The show Doctor Who has had a long-standing tradition of casting white men in the lead role – and by long-standing I’m talking 36 seasons. The show first aired in 1963 – and unsurprisingly in its first run remained very white- and male-heavy. With the relaunch in 2005, they did a lot more work on providing a more multicultural cast, but how have Asians, and Asian men in particular fared in the Whoniverse? Not very well, let me tell you. While this is the first time a woman finally gets to play the lead – and I adore Jodie Whittaker more than anything, not least because of her amazing comedic and acting talent and her thick Yorkshire accent – she is as white as Brits come. So, what about the other big presence on the show, the Doctor’s earthly companions?

While multiple black actors have been cast in this role – both male and female – that is pretty much it. There is no sign of any people with Latino or Indian heritage and especially no East Asians. In fact, while the occasional Asian female doctor has popped up, I struggle to remember any single Asian male actor since the reboot 13 years ago even as an extra (I haven’t seen the old episodes, but am going to go out on a limb and guess that it’s a similar picture).

Yes, Doctor Who is finally making gender progress and they have since the relaunch been putting work into including non-white actors, but a lot more needs to be done. It seems it will be a while before we can hope for an Asian Doctor Who.

WWAM AMWF media review
Where’s Wang explores media through a WWAM lense

“For the most part, what we see of Asian male sexuality is the assertion of a stronger Western virility at the expense of Asian masculinity. In short, the imagery takes Asian men lightly, as less-serious competitors for women, and less-competent fighters.” Sheridan Prasso, The Asian Mystique

The “Where’s Wang” tag allows us at WWAM BAM! to review how present this bias is within sitcoms and other TV shows having come out of the Hollywood machine (and other media) over the past few years, and review any media through an AMWF lens. It does often feel like a game of Where’s Waldo. 

Laura Nutchey-Feng

Laura Nutchey-Feng has been living in China for the past four years. Her love affair with the language and country started in 2006 and she met her future husband, a hunky Inner Mongolian, 5 years later. She blogs about her crazy wedding experience at Our Chinese Wedding.

4 comments

  1. I totally agree with you Laura, it is difficult to find any male leads that are of Asian origin. I feel that a lot of North Americans/Europeans don’t find Asian leads appealing, maybe because the mainstream tend to lean towards a certain type of male, in which Asian is not one of them. Let’s hope that the new year will open up a door for some new Asian male faces?

  2. There is an equal lack of non-Chinese appearing on Chinese TV other than in roles of villains/sex workers (if at all)?
    Why is that?

    1. That’s so true S! I remember the foreigner in Stephen Chow’s The Mermaid was the weirdest psycho lol. I would speculate that again it’s down to media representation in the same way that they like to portray the “other” as weird and of course in Cn we are the other. Just like a huge amount of Hollywood movies throughout the Cold War made the Russians the vodka-soaked villains – I find media is always an interesting reflection of the larger situation of a society at that time – the racism and opinions are more distilled in a way.

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