Off topic, but this discussion tweaked on some thoughts I’ve been having about Joss Whedon and how he’s been hailed uncritically as a Feminist writer and producer and director because he writes active, physically strong female leads when, actually, he’s really not Feminist in the way he uses those leads.
Let me start by saying that I was and am a huge Buffy/Angel fan. I cannot express how much these shows meant to me, how much I adored them, what a difference they made to me during a difficult period of my life (my mid to late teens). BUT. That show is fucking awful to the female characters. The treatment of female as opposed to male characters is startling when you look at it in retrospect. Female characters are infinitely more disposable than male.
Angel? Left and got his own show. Spike? Left, came back, left, came back and left again ad nauseum. Riley? Left and came back then left again. Oz? Left and came back and left again. Giles? Left and came back. Wesley? Left and got his own show.
Now let’s look at female characters who bore roughly equal importance within the story as love interests, friends, or allies.
Jenny? Dead. Kendra? Dead. Joyce? Dead. Tara? Dead. Cordelia? Dead. Anya? Dead. Fred? Dead.
Every time that Joss really needed to hammer in a message about tragedy, hopelessness or darkness, the first tool he reached for was fridging the female. Did a beloved MALE character ever die in Buffy or Angel in order to increase the emotional stakes, tension, or sense of peril? No. The only time a male main character died for good in either show was Doyle, and that was because the actor was leaving, and they needed to get shot of the character fast. Generally, even when you thought one of the guys had died, they would come back, like Angel, and be fully reintegrated into the plot.
Female characters who died only got to return briefly as avatars of evil, such as Jenny being used as the face of Buffy’s most dangerous enemy, the First Evil, Cordelia’s stint as the mother of Jasmine (and then for one further episode as herself, before dying again). Fred’s *actress* got to stay, but her soul got ripped to shreds so finally that there was no hope she’d ever return, and her body was left as the host for an evil goddess who later turned out to be not so bad, really, apart from that whole… murdering Fred, thing.
What I’m saying here isn’t that Joss Whedon is an evil, terrible, no good misogynist. What I’m saying is that we shouldn’t so easily accept a male creator as a force for Feminism when his work displays such a stereotypical disregard for the female characters.
Other factors to consider:
The Goddamn infuriating Nice Guy Xander Harris, who slut-shames, assaults, judges, and dumps his way through the female cast and is still somehow billed as the series’ ‘heart’.
The way that female sexuality is consistently punished. Buffy has sex with Angel = Angel turns evil and tries to kill everything she loves. Oz and Willow shown having sex = Oz turns feral and leaves her. Willow and Tara get back together and have sex = Tara dies and Willow turns evil. Buffy has a relationship with Spike = Xander shames her and then victim-blames her when Spike assaults her. Every other relationship Buffy has = Buffy gets dumped and has her heart broken.
The way male sexuality is treated neutrally or rewarded. Xander sexually assaults Buffy while under magical influence and pretends to forget about it = no consequences. Xander tries to force Cordelia to love him and casts a love spell on all the women in town = no consequences. Xander has sex with Faith = no consequences. Xander jilts Anya at the alter = no consequences for Xander AT ALL OMG.
This presents, to me, a picture of a male creator who WANTS to write a Feminist show full of strong characters, female, but is so mired in the tropes and conventions of our patriarchal media that he literally cannot help himself from conforming to them without even realising it.
So basically… Joss Whedon isn’t in any position to be calling himself a Feminist. Even if he wanted to, which he doesn’t because he thinks we should call ourselves Humanists even though that completely misses the point and also already means something else anyway. *Sigh*