Doctor Who Star Jodie Whittaker Was Told To Get Botox

Elias Hubbard
February 14, 2019



We're hopefully moving into a new era for women in entertainment and film. Inspired by the #MeToo movement, which has been backed by some of Hollywood's biggest stars, the demand for equal female representation in prominent roles and at awards ceremonies has never been louder. Because of that, we sometimes forget what a toxic place the worlds of television and movies have been for female performers for decades. That, sadly, includes the past twenty years.

It’s almost 2020, and we tend to think that racism and sexism, although they still exist, were worse in the 20th century than they are in the 21st. We’ve come a long way in the fight against discrimination, but interviews like the one Jodie Whittaker has just given to fellow 'Doctor Who' star David Tennant are stark reminders that there’s still a great deal of prejudice behind the scenes.

In the interview, Whittaker reveals some troubling advice she was given as a young actress trying to break into the big time. Whittaker is still only 36 now; hardly old, and so it would be fair to assume that the advice came in a conversation she's had more recently than 1999. Without naming specifically who she was speaking to, the current ‘Doctor Who' told Tennant that she was told to ‘wax her top lip and get botox for her forehead to get rid of a line.'

Whittaker refused to take the advice, correctly recognizing that botoxing the expression out of her face would be detrimental to her ability to perform, but the question must be asked of why anyone would think that was appropriate advice to be giving to a young actress who was, presumably, still in her teens. Nobody of that age should be told to get plastic surgery for the betterment of their career, especially when their appearance isn’t the most defining aspect of their job. Even now, Whittaker has the appearance of somebody much younger, and it’s staggering to think that a television professional considered it appropriate to impart such a suggestion to her.

Jodie is, unfortunately, no stranger to receiving inappropriate comments purely based on her gender. When she landed her starring role in the BBC sci-fi show, she became the first female incarnation of the Time Lord in its 55-year history. Although her first full series in the part has met with favourable reviews from critics, and has generated some of the highest viewing figures in the show's recent history, that still hasn't placated some hardcore fans. A group of them campaigned behind a #notmydoctor hashtag on Twitter to register their displeasure that the part hadn’t gone to a male performer for the thirteenth consecutive time. That reaction alone made it apparent that we still have a lot of work to do before female and male stars are viewed as equals in the eyes of some of the viewing public.


In saying that, we should also recognise that gender equality has progressed further in Britain and much of the Western world a lot faster than it has elsewhere. In Saudi Arabia, women have only just been granted the right to drive, after years of Government sponsored misinformation about how driving has negative implications for female reproductive health, and even that decision prompted a lot of controversies.

By contrast, we're far removed from that debate here, where gender debates are more likely to be about equal pay and equal opportunity prospects at work than fundamental human rights. The gender divide and the stereotypical role of a woman in Western society has changed fundamentally in the past few decades. Sports are no longer the preserve of men; female football, rugby, darts, and boxing are more rising in popularity. Even that most macho and male haunt, the casino, is becoming more welcoming to women. There are even online slots websites dedicated to female players, and serving their interests as an audience. While playing a slot machine was once something you’d only imagine a man doing with a pint in his hand at the pub, now it’s equally likely to be played by a woman with a glass of wine in her hand at home.

Although we'll probably never know who gave Whittaker that awful advice, we can all be glad she didn't follow it. As well as her starring role in ‘Doctor Who,' Whittaker is known and loved by British audiences for her lead role as Beth Latimer in all three seasons of ‘Broadchurch,' where she played a young bereaved mother. Deprived of her ability to emote with her face, she'd have struggled to convey the tragedy and emotion of the part. As much as we applaud the younger Jodie for having the strength to say no (which she did in style; her response to the suggestion she should wax her top lip was ‘I'm allergic to wax, sorry. You'll have to colour it in!'), we should worry about how many young actresses were given the same advice by the same person, and felt like they had to take it. How many performers are now struggling to get parts because they had unnecessary plastic surgery done at too young an age?

The remainder of the podcast touched on more jovial subjects, such as why proud Scotsman Tennant decided to play the part of the Doctor with a cockney accent, and contains some interesting stories about dealing with the show's obsessive fandom. Whittaker's natural charm, personality, and enthusiasm come through loud and clear during the interview. Those, along with her acting talents, are traits that she has in abundance, regardless of whether she has a line in her forehead, or if she occasionally needs to bleach her top lip.

We look forward to future interviews and podcasts where female performers don't have to be asked these questions, and don't have to tell these stories, because they're a thing of the past. Given that she plays television's most well-known time-traveller, perhaps Jodie could do us all a favour by nipping into the TARDIS, taking a trip into the future, and then coming back to tell us all when we can expect the issue of sexism to be finally put to bed.




Other reports by Click Lancashire

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