Friday, July 13, 2012

Screed of Anti-Buffy Feminist Criticism

(See also the video version)

Reconsidering the Feminism of Joss Whedon” by Natasha Simons is an article that harshly criticizes Joss Whedon’s shows Buffy, Firefly, and Dollhouse, asserting that they’re quite anti-feminist. While she does make a few good points, for the most part her article makes it clear that she doesn’t understand the shows at all, which actually does feminist criticism a disservice by connecting it with what amounts to angry slander. I’ll tackle this one point at a time, starting with the Buffy article.

First of all: the huge picture at the start. It shows a large male vampire (Luke) with his hand wrapped around Buffy’s throat, glaring down at her menacingly. Well… HE’S A VAMPIRE. SHE’S A SLAYER. Menacing is what he does, and by the end, she kills him. Yay, Buffy. Happily ever after. The whole point of vamps was to represent the problems that come up in high school and how they can be overcome, giving girls an adversity-defying role model. The idea of a vampire attacking the Slayer being representative of male dominance—even when taken out of context—is just ridiculous.

The famous exchange between Whedon and a reporter – Why do you write these strong female characters? Because you’re still asking me that question – is bandied around the internet on a frequent basis. (Although this exchange was of his own imagining.)

While someone somewhere (besides the author) may have mistaken that for a real exchange, for the most part, it’s always understood that Joss says it as part of a speech. It’s the fact that he made that speech that’s regarded as cool. If he actually used that line in an interview, it wouldn’t make any sense because it’s out of context. In the speech, he describes how he was asked that question a million times and really thought about his answers. He uses the structure of the exchange to deliver his various thoughts, but it’s not supposed to be a collection of quotes, just some insight into his psychology and writing as fit for a feminist audience. It all makes sense in context, and it isn’t some big reveal that this beloved Joss quote came from a speech he wrote.