Monday, June 16, 2008

Dissertations on the work of Joss Whedon, on Buffy, Angel?

My fifth-grade teacher used to say, "Follow your first mind." I wish I had taken this advice in late May when I was watching old episodes of Joss Whedon's television shows Buffy the Vampire Slayer and also Angel on DVD. While watching I went into deep reflection about Whedon's feminist messages. In particular I reflected on the Angel episode called Billy in which a demon passes rabid misogyny on to men, who in turn commit acts of violence against the nearest female, usually women they love. The demon passes hatred of women on as though it's a disease, a specific form of dementia.

I say I should have taken my fifth-grade teacher's advice because had I done so I would've been ahead of the curve instead of behind it with this blog post. I read today at CNN a story headlined "'Buffy' Goes to College", posted June 6, that said academicians gathered in Little Rock, Ark. this month to present papers on Joss Whedon's work, in particular its feminist themes. One paper was called "Buffy and Feminism" and another "Gender Stereotypes and the Image of Domesticity in 'Firefly.' " The CNN article lists other titles also. Firefly is the Whedon show that started on Fox and morphed to Serenity on the SciFi Channel.

Here is Joss Whedon sharing in his own words his theory about why misogyny lingers. It comes from his post at Whedonesque called Let's Watch a Girl Get Beaten to Death.
I try to think how we got here. The theory I developed in college (shared by many I’m sure) is one I have yet to beat: Womb Envy. Biology: women are generally smaller and weaker than men. But they’re also much tougher. Put simply, men are strong enough to overpower a woman and propagate. Women are tough enough to have and nurture children, with or without the aid of a man. Oh, and they’ve also got the equipment to do that, to be part of the life cycle, to create and bond in a way no man ever really will. Somewhere a long time ago a bunch of men got together and said, “If all we do is hunt and gather, let’s make hunting and gathering the awesomest achievement, and let’s make childbirth kinda weak and shameful.” It’s a rather silly simplification, but I believe on a mass, unconscious level, it’s entirely true. ... (Whedon)
I know Whedon created Angel, the TV show, with David Greenwalt, but when I watched the "Billy" episode again two weeks ago, knowing of Whedon's feminism, I kept thinking the episode was probably more influenced by Whedon than Greenwalt. I could be wrong. I don't know that much about Greenwalt, who was an early producer on the show Moonlight, also about a vampire detective. I haven't been able to watch a full episode of Moonlight, doesn't hold my attention.

And here's a clip from Angel's "Bill" episode. The second half illustrates misogynist thinking through Wesley belittling and attempting to control Fred (Winnifred), accusing her of intentionally tempting men and threatening to beat her. Wesley, who's been infected by Billy, says, "You think you can do anything you like because you're connected to live, because you bleed. Is that it?"

For a while I've also wanted write about Whedon's use of an African-American female, the Jasmine character, to be the most beautiful creature on earth. At least, an evil creature took the form of a black woman when it decided it wanted to deceive the world into believing it was beautiful so it would receive worship. But I haven't developed my thoughts on that theme.

Whedon also draws from Christian archetypes and liberally from Greek and Roman mythology in his works. I wonder if he's been influenced at all by the story of Metis, the first wife of Zeus, whom Zeus devoured when he heard the prophecy that she would bear a child greater than Zeus himself.

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Having been married to one, I am always drawn to articles on misogynists. Thank you for this information on Joss Whedon and his feminist ideals. I'm very intrigued and will be googling him tonight.

Unknown said...

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