May 2016


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Rant on my least-liked fandom opinion

A Note: I know that not everyone hates Joss, I just had an epiphany, and needed to get this out. Comments are most definitely welcome, because I know I'm not the best at stating my opinion, and I know others can and will state it better, but I will cut comments if I feel they are being abusive/missing the point.

I've seen rants about Joss Whedon and feminism before. Specifically how some think he's not as feminist as fans seem to think he is. They point to certain characters as "proof" that he's as bad as any other male director, despite allowing more females in his casts in general, and despite having female main characters.

These comments have always brought me up short. I've been a fan of Joss Whedon for a long time—since the very first episode of Buffy, really. And I always felt he did an excellent job of humanizing his female characters, despite being a man. So why some folks in fandom want to spew this bile on him has always shocked me. Especially when I've always seen him as someone who is doing his best to give women in Hollywood not only a leg up, but authentically great roles? He's not perfect, I admit, but then, no one is. But the fact that he tries more than any of his similarly-placed colleagues suggests to me that he is far less deserving of this bile than they.

I finally think I get it. I don't know that it will make a difference to those determined to hate him, but here's my take. They want him to make women's roles better than men, or at least to show the female characters as what they see as perfect. They want the women to have no flaws, and to have no need for men in their lives. At least, that's what I take away from their comments, given that all they ever seem to do is point out any flaws or relationships with males any of his female characters have.

The number one complaint I always see? Sexy characterization/sex work. Okay, I'm a woman. I understand why women have an issue with this. But it has always been my belief that denying something doesn't make it go away, and burying it won't make it cease to have existed. If you want something to improve, you need people to know about it, and the history of it. Ignoring it only makes it worse. By making it part of his stories, Joss makes it part of the conversation—do we really need to treat women this way? Why only women? Why is it negative? All very important questions that need to be discussed, not ignored.

Yes, the Dollhouse was basically a whorehouse. But did you notice that it wasn't just females? And that Joss made sure to point out that the boys were used that way too? Just something to think about. Even more, the show constantly points to the fact that really, that is the least of what the dolls do. They're used more for espionage than they ever are for sex.

And in Firefly, Inara might be a sex worker, but she's not without power. This is not someone who was forced into her role. It's a job. Even more, it's a prestigious one. It's constantly pointed out in Firefly that she has more legitimacy than Mal and the rest of the crew do. He actually gives her power in this job, as opposed to taking it away, the way we usually see with this sort of role.

So why is it wrong these characters are sex workers? Because it makes you uncomfortable? That's not a good enough reason to stop it. Is it because you think being a sex worker should never be talked about in polite company? Then you're only legitimizing those who want to keep it in the shadows, where anything can happen to the women who find themselves trapped in that profession. We need dreams to help us rise. And Firefly and Inara do that, at the very least, if nothing else.

Feminism is a dual-edged sword. We think that what we're saying is that we expect people to treat us the same as men. When really, we expect them to treat us better than they do. And we fail to understand what this means. Men are not perfect, either. And we're allowed to see that onscreen all the time, because so many of movies and TV shows are headed by male casts and main characters. But there are far less women onscreen, even in our "enlightened times." So female characters tend to be one in a crowd. Or possibly two. If we're really lucky, three. This means if a woman is shown as imperfect—needing something, wanting to be with a man, showing herself as sexy—she is seen as weak and therefore an unworthy character, and there is no opposing view of another character who might show the opposite, because there simply aren't enough females to go around. Female characters tend to be more caricatures than not, unlike their male counterparts.

Joss isn't afraid to show all aspects of a woman. But what makes him different is that he doesn't avoid any aspects of a woman. He shows her strength, her knowledge, her courage, but he also doesn't avoid showing that they can be and are even allowed to be flawed, too. That doesn't make him a bad writer. This is a man who constantly pushes to get women in his projects in all aspects. He shows women not only as wives and mothers, but also as single, as sexual, as victim and aggressor (watch Buffy again if you don't believe me). He's not afraid to show the negative aspects, because he has more than one female on the casts he works with, so he can without seeming to show only one kind of woman. And that's why he's the best writer in Hollywood today. At least, that's my point of view.


Sep. 9th, 2012 11:05 pm (UTC)
no arguments from me. I find it refreshing to see sex workers as having power, and for there to be women who are strong in relationships.
Sep. 9th, 2012 11:32 pm (UTC)
Me, too. I tend to boggle when I trip over them, and I'm just glad they're few and far between.

Saying that "Women characters shouldn't be..." anything is just as bad as only portraying them one way, as far as I'm concerned.
Sep. 10th, 2012 12:16 am (UTC)
People have a problem with Joss' female characterizations? Huh...

I love Joss, so clearly I'm not your target audience, but I must say. I totally agree with this. :)
Sep. 10th, 2012 12:18 am (UTC)
I've read it from one or two people in fandom (at large, not buffy-specific) that I follow. I think the last big push of it came with Dollhouse, but there's plenty out there, if you really search for it. Blows me away every time...

:) I think he's damned cool, too. But i might be a mite opinionated. ;)