Naked Doctors: A Look At Male vs. Female Nudity in the Media

Edited by: Sarah Schwartz

As a pre-teen, if I ever even thought about writing an article about naked doctors (which I doubt I did), I am pretty sure that my 13-ish year old assumption would have been that I would be writing about McSteamy or McDreamy from Grey’s Anatomy. I doubt I would have guessed what the article would really be about: People publishing photos of the thirteenth Doctor from Doctor Who in an effort to take away some of her dignity after she made history.

What is it about a naked woman that makes people so much more uncomfortable than a naked man? Why is it, that when men’s forms are shown off on film or television, it is considered “brave;” yet when a woman goes onscreen naked, people almost immediately lose respect for her as an actor and otherwise?

When Daniel Radcliffe went fully nude onstage for his Broadway performance in Equus, people called it a “bold choice” as he tried to shed his old, good boy, Harry Potter skin. Yet, just a year earlier, when Vanessa Hudgens’s account was hacked and her nude photos were released, the young girl was shamed for being disgusting, slutty, and a terrible role model. Disney almost got rid of her completely before their greed got the better of them upon realizing that High School Musical doesn’t exist without Troy and Gabriella.

No one told Daniel Radcliffe that if he did Equus, he would never get to be Harry Potter again. If they did, that person would probably be the one fired for threatening the face and voice of a gazillion dollar franchise.

This all being said, Jodie Whittaker has been cast as the thirteenth Doctor for the brilliant series Doctor Who. While many are quite pleased with this daring casting choice and all that it means for feminism on the show, many more were not so happy. There have been twelve male doctors since the series began (and a thirteenth, actually, played by John Hurt: The War Doctor, who does not quite count in the universe because he did not officially go by the name “Doctor”). People feel that the Doctor is a traditionally male role because every time these regenerations have happened, they have brought on another male Doctor to take over the series and save the world, with a usually female companion by his side. “Why can’t the world just be happy with the constantly female companions?” “Why does feminism have to ruin every good thing in the world?”

People have a hard time accepting the fact that women are not trying to take over the world, but rather just trying to gain a bit of equality on-and-off camera. There’s a reason The Bechdel Test is so simple and yet so many movies cannot seem to meet it’s criteria: women are not yet totally equal in the film world and it shows.

This all being said, Jodie Whittaker, upon the announcement of her becoming the 13th Doctor, it was almost expected that both praise and hate would be received, as happens with any big announcement in this day and age. Still, some of the attention Whittaker drew was more malignant than most.

The Murdoch-owned paper, The Sun, published a truly cruel article on the actress’s past roles claiming that she “has a saucy screen past” and backing it up by publishing naked photos of her in some of her past roles. This article will not be linked to, as I will not condone it in any way.

Here’s the thing: One of the only times a Doctor was naked in the show, they did not show just how naked he was. Matt Smith, the eleventh Doctor, bared a decent amount for one Christmas episode in the series, but we did not see everything. We did not see his penis. Doctor Who is a family-friendly show and that would never happen. Implying nudity is one thing, it’s something little kids can laugh at when they see the hints that their favorite character is naked and maybe a little embarrassed. Still, Doctor Who would never actually have one of their characters be completely nude. It wouldn’t be appropriate. So when The Sun published photos of Whittaker naked to back up the fact that she isn’t afraid to take on a risqué role, it was really meant to say, “Hey, we’ve seen the latest Doctor naked. Let’s undermine her career because she was brave enough to bare all for a role that required it.”

The Sun’s article was rude. More than that, it was condescending and meant to somehow try and take away Whittaker’s humanity just a tiny bit. While anyone could find these photos, it does not mean that they should be re-published in such a manner, especially for an article that is merely discussing a new casting.

David Tennant has gone naked for some of his roles before (Single Father; What the Butler Saw; Casanova), and yet when he was cast as the 10th Doctor, no one felt the need to publish photos with his penis hanging out. People would not even have thought to do such a thing because it was not quite so big a deal. “Oh hey, we have another male doctor! Yay!” was probably about the general consensus for this piece of information. People did not feel the need to say, “Oh hey, we have another male doctor and we’ve seen this one naked! Take a look!”

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