December talking meme: 12/12

Dec 12, 2013 22:56

Just as a storyteller? Yes. I love the way he thinks. I love the way he’s so engaged with stories that he can talk to us in tropes and conventions even as he’s playing those conventions against each other. I love how much he loves his characters. I have an immense amount of admiration for his ability to find and use talent. I love BtVS and Dollhouse; I love AtS in a more qualified way; I really like Cabin in the Woods even as someone who doesn’t care for horror movies generally; Firefly, Serenity, and The Avengers are…perfectly fine, if not entirely to my tastes.

Politically, of course it’s a little more complicated (and I think he’d be the first person to agree that it should be). I feel like the general trajectory of people with Whedon is “I thought he was awesome and then I was exposed to XYZ social criticism and now I think he sucks!” and…I kind of went in the opposite direction? Having roughly the same politics as I have now, I had been wandering around general feminist pop culture circles and heard a ton of times about how Buffy was this big deal and that’s why I gave it a shot. And so I had these high expectations, in retrospect probably quite unfair ones, and actually found BtVS frustrating and AtS to be straightforwardly awful. The consent issues, the punishment for sex, the emphasis on a specific performance of hyperfemininity, the weirdness about pregnancy and masculinity on Angel, the unfortunate pattern of showing some women’s ~sassiness by having them constantly victim-blame other women, &c, &c. And then I watched Firefly which…was free on Hulu and had some fun dialogue? but is like THE WORST EVER philosophically.

But then two things happened: (a) I got a little bit more into SF/F television generally and got a better feel for the industry standard, and (b) I got into fandom. (a) has made me more appreciative of Whedon, and (b) has made very defensive of him wrt gender and sexuality issues. (Clearly, there are a lot of very valid criticisms of Whedon’s race issues, and I’m glad people are as vocal as they are on that front.)

Like, anytime anyone has a stupid criticism of Buffy herself, they tack it onto “and OF COURSE Joss DID THIS to a great FEMALE character!!!” which actually just reveals that this person was operating in the misogynist framework that implies any and all marks of humanity on a woman - aggravating quirks, physical or emotional scars, bushy eyebrows, what the fuck ever - decrease her market value and therefore the only ~~respectful way to deal with them is to pointedly ignore and deny them. People find ways to prop up female characters at the expense of other female characters BECOZ FEMINISM JOSS SUX AMIRITE??!? Consent gets co-opted into a convenient play and not a real and necessary conversation.

My other big thing about Whedon, which I unfortunately cannot say for much of fandom, is that he is willing to learn. A story that’s really stuck with me were some comments he made to reporters after meeting Equality Now about Dollhouse, and he came clean about a few criticisms they’d made of this concept full of really dicey topics. He tackled this difficult subject matter, acknowledged that his friends knew more than he did, talked to them, listened to what they had to say, worked to make the improvement, and then told LITERALLY THE ENTIRE WORLD about the whole thing. There is ABSOLUTELY NOTHING in that sentence which is not above and beyond what I expect.

I mean. Do I get frustrated watching his shows? Sure. More frustrated than I do about most works? Frequently. But, and I can’t emphasize this enough, standards are a COMPLIMENT. If a show can keep my attention and investment, even with my long and growing lists of “new stuff that I really want to meet the first time” and “stuff I love and would happily rewatch a hundred times over before subjecting myself to fiction that’s merely mediocre,” it is quite good. If a show convinces me to take seriously what it has to say about certain fraught, painful aspects of the way the world works (in Whedon’s case, gender inequality, and to a lesser and more fragile extent, the status systems around mental illness and capitalism), even only seriously enough to be dissatisfied, then it’s doing a lot more than I expect. I’m old, I’m cranky, and the world is a terrible place. And yes, because Whedon consistently clears those aesthetic and philosophical bars and several higher ones on several fronts, I like him a lot.

Anyway, I am a little behind on prompts for the next couple days, but I'm enjoying thinking and writing about all of them so they will be up this weekend, I hope!

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feminism, btvs/ats, dollhouse, firefly

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