Be careful who you anoint as a hero.
On Sunday, Kai Cole — Joss Whedon’s ex-wife (who you may recall from Much Ado About Nothing and her hand in “Once More With Feeling,” the Buffy the Vampire Slayer musical episode) — penned an article detailing Whedon’s mistreatment of her over the years and how he’s basically a big, fat hypocrite for riding his faux feminist credentials to fame and larger projects.
First thing: I have no reason not to believe Cole. The only reason to summarily dismiss her article is to further perpetuate Whedon’s undeserved reputation and/or further advance the very patriarchy we were led to believe Whedon was against.
Now, the main point…
This doesn’t surprise me, because honestly, I never bought into the narrative of Joss Whedon, Feminist God (TM). Sure, I enjoyed a lot of his work; I’ve spoken on that at length on this page before. But to elevate a white cisgender male to such a status was always destined to be a fool’s errand.
Spoiler alert: white men — even the well-meaning ones — are poor role models.
The proof of Whedon’s lack of feminist bonafides is clear as day for anyone willing to see it. There was how he treated actress Charisma Carpenter when she became pregnant leading up to season 4 of Angel. There was a reported storyline for a potential season 2 of Firefly that involved Inara, Reavers, rape, and potential suicide. There was the entire premise behind Dollhouse (a show that was fantastic at times, but the premise was… yeeeeah).
The fact that Whedon is friends with Adam “Tea Party shitlord” Baldwin.
The fact that Avengers: Age of Ultron featured a contrived romance between Bruce and Natasha (written as a way to keep Bruce from losing control) and that Natasha considered herself a “monster” because of her inability to have children. Claim studio interference all you want, but Whedon was that film’s writer and director — and he had the name and the geek cred to push back against the studio if he really wanted.
And come on, did you see the snippets of that Wonder Woman script he penned several years ago? Let’s all be glad that’s not the version that wound up on the screen — and hope he doesn’t screw up Batgirl (though he probably will).
The fact is… people claimed Whedon to be a feminist icon because in 1997, he helmed a genre TV show with a female lead when such shows were still a rarity. And he just… ran with it.
Some of his work will always be important to me — how Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel saved my life cannot be erased by any of this — but to sit there and hold up a white male geek as an icon for feminism when there are so many better role models — female, of color, of different sexual orientations and genders — speaks to everything wrong with geek culture and America as a whole.
Generally speaking, a white male is overly vocal about how much of a feminist he is likely isn’t much of a feminist.
My opinion of Whedon was a human being has taken a hit, but not as much as some other people because I didn’t believe the hype. I’ll always love Buffy, Angel, and Firefly, but I think it’s time we start being more careful and more aware of who we put on pedestals — and start demanding receipts from those who boast about just how good an ally they are.