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Joss Whedon is a misogynist who sold himself as a feminist, and the industry bought it

  • "All of us operate according to a narrative we have adopted for ourselves," says Saraya Roberts in response to the Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel creator's recent New York magazine cover story profile. "Depending on who you ask, that narrative can be closer to the truth or … not. Usually, it’s somewhere in between. But for people like Whedon, for people like Louis C.K., even for people like Harvey Weinstein and Bill Cosby, their narratives about themselves are not only false, but foisted upon everyone else. As these men acquire more and more power, that forced autobiography becomes so ingrained that the growing pile of actions pointing to the contrary becomes easier and easier to ignore. The internet didn’t raise up Whedon; the internet raised up an idea of Whedon that he actively fostered, that his power allowed him to proliferate. And the modern internet did not pull him down, it pulled down the idea it had bought into along with everyone else. This is not about the complicity of fandom or the celebrity machine, it is about the complicity of the wider culture in the stories powerful people tell, a genre which runs on the famously patronizing adage, 'Do as I say, not as I do.' The Whedon story opens with academics deifying the sci-fi filmmaker as the founder of a new faith, having subverted centuries of oppression by creating a blonde cheerleader from the valley who kills vampires. If that sounds facetious, it’s because it’s supposed to—academics, of all people, should know better than anyone that the origin story of subverted stereotypes is usually found in the very marginalized communities that have experienced the repercussions of those stereotypes. This happens long before the inevitable white male nerd comes along and—with the help of multiple people, including the woman who discovered him—casts himself as the male embodiment of female empowerment, the savior of women in a world full of men like him." Roberts adds: "Whedon is a misogynist who sold himself as a feminist, and the industry bought it. And then that image was sold on. Now, despite not copping to much of the behavior he is accused of, Whedon claims he has a condition (complex PTSD, the same condition, New York notes, that his ex has) that explains all of it. This is a man casting about for absolution without acknowledging the reason it is necessary. People may not be buying Whedon’s line anymore, but the media is still willing to put him on a cover, and that says something...Whedon knows he still has the power to draw a crowd. Too savvy to lean on silence, he speaks over his actions and says, 'I’m terrified of every word that comes out of my mouth,' knowing full well that his audience will still be hanging on to every single one."


    • Joss Whedon's downfall has felt crushing and inevitable: "Whedon’s Buffy the Vampire Slayer is the reason I first started thinking critically about television," says Caroline Framke. So, she adds, "watching Whedon and the cult of faux-feminist personality around him collapse with every new allegation of sexual harassment and workplace abuse has felt both crushing and inevitable. The more I learn about the entertainment industry and world surrounding it, the more I know to be wary of people who spend much of their time trying to prove their progressive bonafides. The more I interact with men who insist they’re the 'nice' ones — as Whedon does to accidentally devastating effect in the New York piece — the more it’s clear they’re not. The more I see people deflect blame onto everyone else’s inability to understand him — as Whedon continues to do with all things “Justice League,” including suggesting that Gal Gadot literally couldn’t understand him — the more I suspect they’re the ones to blame." Looking back at Whedon's Buffy, Angel, Firefly and Dollhouse, Framke says, "the more I see worrying patterns. I see jealous boyfriends and damsels in distress that go against everything Buffy was supposed to be about. I see women express their sexuality before suffering terribly for it. I see countless women trying to be independent and strong on their own terms only to have needy men consume them for the thrill of it. With the benefit of some distance from the show that was briefly my entire life, it’s simply become more obvious that the Buffy character for which Whedon felt the most sympathy wasn’t Buffy, but Xander, the former dork desperate to prove he’s just as tough and virile as any vampire trying to suck the life out of a world Xander sees as rightfully his. This, at least, Whedon admits more freely now. According to the New York report, not even coming from a wealthy family with a Hollywood legacy and getting to run his own show at 31 years old could convince Whedon that he was anything but a Xander-ish dweeb. He came to understand his fixation with bedding and discarding beautiful women as some screwed up power play in which his only chance at evening the playing field was to degrade anyone he perceived as a threat, whether that be his employees, girlfriends, or wife."
    • How to love a problematic fave like Buffy in the aftermath of Joss Whedon's downfall

    TOPICS: Joss Whedon, Angel, Buffy the Vampire Slayer