David Tennant with celebratory background

Fred Duval/Shutterstock Zakharchuk/Shutterstock (Licensed)

Fans celebrate David Tennant’s takedown of TERFs, Tories

While attending the British LGBT Awards, he made several statements that had many cheering him on.


Kira Deshler

Pop Culture

Decoding Fandom is a weekly column that dives deep into the world of fan culture and runs on Wednesdays in the Daily Dot’s web_crawlr newsletter. If you want to get this column a day before we publish it, subscribe to web_crawlr, where you’ll get the daily scoop of internet culture delivered straight to your inbox.

According to his supporters, David Tennant is nothing short of a national treasure.

Last month, while attending the British LGBT Awards, he made several statements that had many cheering him on. While accepting his LGBT+ Celebrity Ally award, Tennant criticized Tory politician Kemi Badenoch, who espouses transphobic views

“I don’t wish ill of her, I just wish her to shut up,” Tennant noted. On the red carpet, Tennant offered up another viral soundbite, calling TERFs (Trans Exclusionary Radical Feminists) “a tiny bunch of little whinging fuckers.”

Tennant’s comments produced something of a firestorm, though the famously offline actor declined to get involved further. Badenoch responded to Tennant’s speech on X, accusing him of racism and sexism and calling him “blinded by ideology.” Former PM Rishi Sunak gave his two cents as well, suggesting that Tennant’s statement threatens free speech. The discourse became even more hyperbolic when J.K. Rowling—perhaps the most famous TERF in the world—entered the chat, referring to Tennant as the “Gender Taliban.”

None of this controversy intimidated the Tennant family. On the day of the U.K.’s general election, which saw huge Tory losses and the defeat of Sunak in favor of Labour’s Keir Starmer, Tennant’s wife Georgia posted a photo of the two of them grinning on the London Eye with the caption #turnsouthedidlooktired. This is a reference to a Doctor Who episode wherein Tennant’s tenth doctor takes down PM Harriet Jones by uttering six fateful words: “Don’t you think she looks tired?

The internet reacts to David Tennant calling out TERFs

For many of Tennant’s fans, these comments were worth celebrating. Following criticisms from Rowling and Sunak, his fans started the #IStandWithDavidTennant hashtag to show their support. Many rejoiced in the revelation that Tennant is—according to those who agree with his politics—a good person with a moral backbone.

“I didn’t think it was possible to love David Tennant more than I already do,” one fan wrote on Reddit. Others called him a “king” and an “icon,” and took the opportunity to criticize Rowling and the Tories. “This man has more integrity, love, compassion, and humanity in his little finger than the entire Tory Party,” wrote an X user.

His fans were delighted by Georgia Tennant’s Instagram post as well, giving Tennant credit for Sunak’s defeat at the polls. “the downfall of three prime ministers are linked to david tennant,” one fan noted, echoing a common refrain on X. (This is a reference to Sunak, Harriet Jones, and another Doctor Who PM, Harold Saxon, who Tennant also defeats in the show.)

Fans of Doctor Who were thrilled by this instance of life mirroring art. The mood online was playful and jubilant following the election result and Tennant’s supposed part in it, and one fan summarized the news like this: “Moral of this election: don’t fuck with david tennant.”

Fandom plays a fascinating role in these political debates. As public figures, David Tennant and J.K. Rowling represent arguably the two most beloved British media franchises of all time. Fans feel passionately about both these franchises, though many have distanced themselves from Harry Potter in recent years because of Rowling’s comments. In the case of Rowling and her fandom, there is a sense of disappointment and anger that she has betrayed trans and queer readers with her bigoted views.

On the other hand, for Tennant’s left-leaning fans, there is a real sense of joy that he hasn’t betrayed them, and in fact, reflects their ideals quite vocally.

There have certainly been some infantilizing responses to the news, calling him “wholesome” and saying he “must be protected at all costs,” which is a common impulse among fans of male celebrities. There are some hyperbolic refrains here too, and one might wonder if Tennant gets a bit too much praise for being a decent person. But considering how many stories we hear of male celebrities acting terribly, it makes sense that Tennant’s decency has been met with such adulation. 

Why it matters

It would be a mistake to look to celebrities—who often possess untold amounts of wealth and privilege—for moral rectitude and political clarity.

But while many celebrities are too afraid to speak out about political issues lest they lose capital, Tennant’s stalwart support of trans rights illustrates that many fans—and even casual spectators—appreciate such candor. Though he has plenty of detractors, respect for Tennant is at an all-time high

The Daily Dot