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The slow regression of Joss Whedon


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Joss Whedon is not without his directorial and writing merits. Over the course of his career, he has written and directed several films and television series which boast compelling and complex female characters, a rarity in an industry which is notorious for limiting women to bland and uninteresting roles that continue to sideline their narratives, emotions and personhood for the sake of male characters. He was a breath of fresh air in a stale, musty locker room of a men’s club.

However, following his 2016 divorce to Kai Cole and her recent allegations of infidelity against him, the general public has been forced to reexamine Whedon’s status as a feminist director and writer, and came to the very succinct opinion that he was garbage. I can’t say these voices are wrong, but I think that the entirety of the situation merits some level of exploration.

I, for one, am of the vein of Roxane Gay, author of “Bad Feminist,” who argues that since we are human we cannot be perfect feminists, because we naturally make mistakes. Does that mean we shouldn’t try? Of course not. But Whedon’s apparent serial mistakes do a lot to illustrate his character.

The allegations, which remain unrefuted, give us a glimpse into his relationship with perhaps the most prominent woman in his life and, likely, his most intimate. Thus, it is probable that she saw more of him than the polished persona he wears for the public.

A persona which, I might add, has begun to falter. “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” one of Whedon’s earliest and more iconic works, isn’t perfect, but it holds a lot of obvious feminist values and, in many ways, feels ahead of its time, as it struggles with the tension between good intention and the limitations of 90’s perspective. Compare this, however, to his more recent films, particularly Marvel’s “Avengers” series, which gave the only central female character the complexity of, say, a spoon. Combine that with the timely leak of his version of the “Wonder Woman” script, which is currently the first Google suggestion when you search his name by the way, and you get the image of a man who has either lost his edge or gotten overconfident. It’s not good.

So now we have a portrait of a man whose work has stagnated and regressed, whose marriage has fallen apart due to claims of infidelity and now bears the cross of an un-knighted feminist. What a pathetic scene to behold.

If you’re expecting me to come to Whedon’s defence, you’re going to be disappointed. He is a grown man, capable of making his own choices and facing their consequences. But he’s just one example of a group of male feminists: men who pat themselves on the back for recognizing women as people, writing them as complex characters or even ensuring their sex is consensual, as they glow with an unearned sense of pride. Yeah, those are good things, but only in the “I want to be a decent human” vein. While these are all feminist ideals, they’re also basic expectations of people.

All this to say, Joss Whedon is yet another example of the dangers of a male feminist. Maybe he can get better, maybe he’ll just get worse. But for now I’m satisfied with seeing the repercussions unravel.

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The slow regression of Joss Whedon