We all know there’s a bit of a problem with sexism in the film and television industry. It’s not like the industry goes out of its way to hide it or anything; just look at how James Bond is paired up with a different voluptuous young lady every movie, with this being presented as perfectly normal and to be expected. Daniel Craig has himself spoken out about this as well, saying he regards Bond as a misogynist for how he treats women. And he’s right, yet somehow this was seen as a bit startling, this acknowledgement that how women are portrayed in action movies is very unfavorable to them, deliberately and consistently putting them at a disadvantage. It is a problem so pervasive we even see it on the evening news, where middle-aged male anchors are almost universally paired up with much younger female anchors. It’s a problem that isn’t going to go away unless more people start calling attention to it.
Peter Capaldi spoke out on this a little bit in a recent interview, and I love him for it, because it’s something that needs to be said. He stood up for his costar, Jenna Coleman, refusing to do a photoshoot that followed the old cliche of dominant male action hero + sexy submissive female, and went on to discuss the lunacy of how young women are paired with older men in all these dramas, and then when the younger women aren’t younger anymore they can’t find work.
“It’s ridiculous that we get these old guys with young women draped round them. When I started Doctor Who and we were doing photoshoots we’d be asked if Jenna could just lie down there while I, you know” — he leaps up and acts out a young woman sprawled coquettishly about while he gets to stand and look powerful over her. “I had to say, ‘Look, that’s just not what we’re about. The relationship between my Doctor and his companion is one of deep love. But it’s a strange sort of platonic bond. It becomes clearer and more moving as this particular series goes on.”
Capaldi saves his most Tucker-esque sneer when discussing sexism in the industry. “Of course it’s sexist. Most of my peers have partners their age, so if we have a dinner party with a bunch of actors, the wives or partners are largely the same age. Then you see your friends on screen and they are suddenly with some extraordinary young lady who wouldn’t be at the dinner party. It’s ridiculous.
“It is true that women reach a certain age when people decide that they’re not useful anymore as actors. There are a few significant theatrical roles that they might be viable for. That’s not fair, it’s not right, it’s not a proper reflection of what goes on in life.”
The whole interview is well worth a read here, at the Evening Standard, with plenty of other observations on the acting life, Doctor Who in particular, and his aspirations beyond. It closes with a truly delightful mental image appropriate for the recent Halloween holiday:
Capaldi recalls that a few nights earlier, on Halloween, young trick-or-treaters who came to his house were spooked when Doctor Who greeted them. “In a few years’ time, once I’ve left the show, I’ll miss it so much I’ll be coming to the door in my costume.”