It’s been two decades since Joss Whedon’s Buffy the Vampire Slayer first aired. His portrayal of the hot, crime-fighting teenage girl was, at the time, groundbreaking. Now, not so much. The idea of Whedon being in charge of yet another girl fighting evil is maddening. His feminism is chauvinistic and antiquated. He doesn’t write strong female characters; he writes hot women doing things.
Variety recently reported that Warner Bros. wasn’t considering making a Batgirl movie until Joss Whedon approached them about making one. Because of course, they weren’t considering making the story until every fanboy’s hero signed on. It always takes a dude to convince other dudes that projects about women are worth time and resources.
When Whedon made Buffy, she was a radical female figure. Whedon, too, became a feminist icon. But he hasn’t evolved. Women are barely present in The Avengers. The few that show up are one-dimensional feminist tropes. Black Widow, for example, is the strong-yet-cold type. The female lead of his 2014 paranormal romance In Your Eyes is the opposite: full of feelings but afraid of everything around her. Luckily she has her roughneck man to protect her. And of course there’s his leaked Wonder Woman script. It was light on female empowerment but drowning in Wonder Woman’s tears while she moped over her love interest.
Even Buffy is softcore by today’s sociopolitical standards. Sure she fights the Forces of Darkness but her character was only allowed to exist on TV for seven years because she was hot, thin and blonde.
After Whedon’s ex-wife, Kai Cole, detailed his 15 years of infidelity, I had naive hopes that the news would impact his career. In her essay, Cole wrote that Whedon blamed the young women her worked with. The “beautiful, needy, aggressive young women,” as he called them. It wasn’t just that he was cheating on Cole. He has built his career around not being like those other guys, the ones who don’t respect strong women. The problem was his infidelity combined with his slut-blaming of the “needy young women” combined with his faux-feminist hypocrisy. All these factors should dethrone him as the de facto leader of the male feminist movement.
Surely being a hypocritical, emotionally manipulative abuser would damage his brand as a self-proclaimed “woke bae,” even if his shallow feminism wouldn’t.
Needless to say, Whedon’s doing just fine. After his marital infidelity was publicized, his feminism was indeed questioned but his career was untouched. Why is nobody wondering if he is really the best person to tell young women’s stories?
Patty Jenkins made history directing Wonder Woman. Rumors flew about Justice League’s reshoots, that it was being revamped to reflect Wonder Woman’s popularity. It seemed like these old man studio executives are finally climbing on board with female super-leads. Both the characters and the women who create them will finally get a chance.
But Patty Jenkins is an exception, as is Wonder Woman. Studio execs realized female-centric movies can make money, but all that really means is now they’re going to put all their best dudes on making movies about women.
Joss Whedon is also getting a writing and directing credit on the new Justice League movie, for his extensive reshoots after director Zack Snyder stepped down. It’s a reminder that men get a thousand and one chances while women get one. If they’re lucky.
In his speech to Equality Now, Whedon joked that one of his reasons for writing “strong female characters” is “because they’re hot.” The joke, of course, was equally not a joke. His strong female characters have always been hot white women. They’ve always been caricatures of patronizing girl power feminism. To let him once again tell a young, hot woman’s story of empowerment is creepy, redundant and offensive.