So audiences are calling Joss Whedon a misogynist? Well, let’s talk about that.
Over the past few days, people have taken to Twitter to voice their complaints about Joss Whedon’s latest film, Avengers: Age of Ultron. A female character in the movie is sterilized, and therefore infertile, and people were not happy about it. Whedon was attacked by several users who made death threats, called him names, and harassed him until he blocked accounts and eventually quit the social platform altogether. Whedon has risen to a much more well known level of filmmaking over the past few years with his success of his first Marvel movie, Avengers, and then again when his highly anticipated sequel earned over $180,000,000 its opening weekend. However, the recent backlash over a subplot in the film has angered many Marvel fans, who have used one of their only connections to their favorite franchises’ creators to bully the man they hold responsible for their displeasure.
It’s easy to look at all of this evidence of Whedon being as far from misogynist as possible and laugh off the notion that he could hate women, but for argument’s sake, let’s look at the evidence. Joss Whedon’s first claim to fame were his writing days on the TV show Roseanne, but he became a household name when Buffy the Vampire Slayer hit the WB. Buffy became wildly popular for its witty banter, genre-mashing style, and its monster of the week scenario, but most of all, the show gave Joss Whedon a reputation as a feminist for his portrayal of his lead character, Buffy Summers. The chosen one, Buffy is a descendent of a long line of slayers, a.k.a. women with incredible strength, innate survival skills, prophetic dreams and quick healing powers. The slayer can only be female, yet she possesses no built-in uniquely feminine traits, because she is “not just a heroine, but a hero”. Joss stressed the importance of establishing women as people, and therefore their characters should be just as complex and heroic as any male character in all writing universes. This is the man who brought us not only Buffy, but Zoe Washburne, First Officer and partner to the Captain Mal Reynolds on the ship Serenity, River Tam, the incredibly brave survivor who escaped an evil laboratory and went on to save the lives of her entire crew. This is the man who brought us Cordelia Chase and Winnifred Burkle, two women who believed in “helping the helpless”, and fought daily to avenge the lives of those who had fallen prey to the supernatural underbelly of Los Angeles. This is the man who brought us Illyria, the ex-god with leftover super powers and a booming confidence that allowed her to casually utter statements like “your opinion of me weighs less than sunlight”. This is the guy who gave us ruthless, dominating female villains and anti-heroes like Glory, Gwen Raiden, Lilah Morgan, Echo, Darla, Drusilla, Faith, Dark Willow, and Saffron/Yolanda/Bridgette. To argue that he doesn’t write strong female characters or support women in general is a useless act when there’s so much proof to the contrary.
But what’s really the kicker is how people don’t even realize that they disprove their arguments immediately by holding Joss Whedon to a higher standard of filmmaking. Audiences aren’t this critical of the so-called “messages” behind Captain America, or Thor, or even Guardians of the Galaxy. In trying to call him out, they only make it even clearer that he’s a superior filmmaker, because they expect so much more from him than they do other people who make the same blockbuster superhero movies. By demanding more of him as a writer and a director, they automatically determine him to be of higher moral character and capable of a more intriguing, fleshed-out story. They disprove him as a misogynist by recognizing him as a feminist and complaining that his latest project isn’t as profound and groundbreaking as it could be. By taking the character Black Widow to new heights in Avengers and actually turning her into a real person as opposed to just a sexpot in black leather like in her previous films, more is expected of Whedon in his next features, despite the fact that his predecessors weren’t given the same expectations.
So is Joss Whedon a misogynist? Everyone’s entitled to their opinion, but based on his past actions and his many speeches, evidence seems to suggest otherwise. Geek culture needs to stop turning on its own kind, and ditch the judgmental behavior for a more supportive system if it ever really wants to grow. Comic book movies are a fad like any other, and will undoubtedly grow less popular over time as other sub genres take over Hollywood, but in order to keep Superhero media relevant, fans need to come together in celebration of their successful march into theaters and their powerful overtaking of pop culture, instead of tearing it apart from the inside, waiting in anticipation of a fault or a sign of weakness that can be pounced upon like wounded prey. Joss Whedon has made some truly terrific, exciting, and influential Marvel movies. Why don’t we just appreciate him while he’s popular, while the fleeting moment takes place, before another superhero movies swoops in and steals the spotlight.