Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Blogger Calls Joss Whedon's Firefly "Rapist's View Of The World"

As busy as I am, couldn't pass this one up.

LiveJournal user allecto claims that Joss Whedon's TV show Firefly is a "rapist's view of the world":

"I find much of Joss Whedon’s work to be heavily influenced by pornography, and pornographic humour. While I would argue that there are some aspects of Buffy: The Vampire Slayer that are feminist and progressive, there is much that isn’t and I find it highly problematic that there are many very woman-hating messages contained within a show that purports itself as feminism. But Firefly takes misogyny to a new level of terrifying. I am really, really worried that women can call the man who made this show a feminist."

Granted, I've only seen a handful of Firefly episodes. But what do all of you out there familiar with the series think of allecto's analysis? Are there anti-feminist themes in Firefly, or in the Buffyverse?


  1. Anonymous5:45 PM

    Saw that yesterday and it angered me greatly.

    Whether or not Firefly, Whedon's body of work, and all of mainstream television narrative contains outdated, or sexist ideas could be a discussion, but allecto's analysis is shallow, ignorant and one of the most offensive things I've read in a while.

    And that was before I got to the part of the review where she claims black women are incapable of healthy relationships with white men, and where she states that Joss probably regularly rapes his wife.

    Radical feminism can be so hateful that I'm surprised it's so accepted.

  2. Do we really need to say it?

    Calling the creator of Buffy Summers a misoginist who uses "pornography" as an influence and portrays the world through "the eyes of a rapist".

    On other news Youtube Commentator Darth_Balls1993 ponders on Hillary's "concession" speech :

    "DOOOOD, WTF, Hilari is FAT FAT!!! Id stil do her tho"

  3. The argument could be made, I guess, that Whedon's work is less feminist than advertised...but it would have to be made by someone a little less full of themselves by this person.

    She makes a big issue of the opening scenes of the pilot, in which Zoe, a black woman, repeatedly calls Captain Reynolds "sir." Imagine that, someone in the military addressing their commanding officer as "sir." Doesn't the other white man in the scene ALSO call him that?

    From there, she rails about Mal repeatedly marginalizing Inara and referring to her as a "whore." Fair enough, that's pretty blatantly anti-feminist, but the question should be asked, is the problem with the creator...or with the character? Could it be that Malcolm Reynolds was intended to have character flaws, and therefore allowed to grow and mature over time?

    That's about as far as I got. I would hesitate to even consider this feminism; it plays to every Rush Limbaugh stereotype of the radical, man-hating *sigh* "feminazi," filtering everything through her "men-are-evil" glasses.

    But of course, being a man, I'm sure my opinion is meaningless.

  4. Anonymous5:49 PM

    I might have already posted this, not sure if it went through.

    Whether Whedon's work, and Firefly is sexist, can be discussed, but allecto's analysis is shallow, ignorant and quite offensive.

    By the time she accuses Joss of routinely raping his wife I had thought her comments would have reached beyond any reasonable acceptance.

  5. i haven't read it yet-- i will. nicely inflammatory title-- i would like a godwin's law sort of approach to the word "rape," especially considering, you know, ACTUAL RAPE HAPPENS & comparing a show you don't like to it is a bit much. okay?

    as to anti-feminist. the whedonverse DOES have problems with sexuality. i think it says more about the psyche of its creator than it has an "anti-feminist" agenda, but the whole "has sex/turns evil" thing is a big motif.

  6. I'm sorry, but that post strikes me as hysterical raving.

    Call me a misogynist.

  7. Whedonesque had linked to her piece a few months back and I actually trudged through it. As far as I can tell - blinded as I am by my Y chromosome - she's batshit insane and needs help before she hurts herself or others.

    She had clearly gone off the rails when she bitched about Zoƫ taking orders from Mal. At the beginning of the pilot. When they were fighting against the Alliance. As soldiers.

    It was apparently a foreign concept to the author that in the military, rank matters. It wasn't that Malcolm Reynolds was a man, it was that he was her Sargent.

    The piece (I'm trying really hard not to call it by its proper term of "rant") has numerous examples of that lack of comprehension of reality. Joss Whedon isn't perfect, but at least he's not completely insane.

  8. I watched all of Firefly and Serenity with my fiance. I know that I personally have never once thought Firefly communicated this point of view, and my fiance has never mentioned it. In fact, she absolutely loves the show.

  9. here is a bit by bit read through:

    oh gosh, she said "lesbian feminist sister." crap.

    oh crap, a girl called the captain sir. oh no, now it is on. okay, wait, you are still talking about this. wait, okay, woah.

    wait, i'm quitting this review. there is no way for me to respond to this except for to be snide, & that isn't a helpful attitude. MORDICAI OUT!

  10. "Zoe, of course, is meant to be our empowered, ass-kicking sidechick. Like all sidechicks she is objectified from the get go. Her husband, Wash, talking about how he likes to watch her bathe. Let me just say now that I have never personally known of a healthy relationship between a white man and a woman of colour. I have known a black woman whose white husband would strangle and bash her while her young children watched. My white grandfather liked black women because they were ‘exotic’, and he did not, could not treat women, especially women of colour, like human beings. I grew up watching my great aunts, my aunty and my mother all treated like shit by their white husbands, the men they loved. So you will forgive me for believing that the character, Wash, is a rapist and an abuser, particularly considering that he treats Zoe like an object and possession."

    WHAT. Okay-- no? I don't have to forgive you that you are a racist.

  11. that person is a crackpot

  12. Bless your heart, Val. With one link, you've shown me that if someone can take crazy to its greatest extreme, you end up somewhere beyond awesome, deep in the realm of legend.

    That essay is gonna live forever, just like the Magna Carta and Irene Cara. It's feminist media analysis as performed by Mr. Garrison during his time at Les Bos. In a word, it is EPIC.

    I am in awe.

  13. *boggle*
    I'm a Firefly/Serenity fan.. and... I just don't see it.

  14. 1. Read that a while back

    2. Doesn't get the "speculative" part of speculative fiction.

    3. The stuff about how black women and white men never can have good relations is biased and cranky, and undercuts the writer as having insight.

    4. Has some fair points about the "male fantasy" part of the Companion setting. But again, the "speculative" is underplayed in favor of ranting about how this fits a ideology being "pushed".

    5. Whedon probably is influenced by porn. Everyone is, unfortunately.

  15. Anonymous6:44 PM

    To be perfectly honest, I think she over analyses. While the series might have some questionable aspects (and IIRC the creation of the Inara character, space prostitute, was influenced by the network), she blows things out of proportion. Honestly I felt that while she might have had some valid points, in her quest to prove her points she had simply looked to hard and started reading a little too much into glib jokes and dialogue. In the end she comes of as a bit of a rabid fanatic, finding only support in the choir while antagonising many more, who will only dismiss her as a crackpot.

  16. I can't speak to Buffy, but I think alecto is way off base about Firefly. The whole critique just seems like a big pile of confirmation bias. For starters, I think she completely misrepresents the Zoe/Wash relationship. I also don't understand how you can use the weaknesses of male characters as evidence that Whedon thinks males are superior. If alecto can't accept a female addressing her current and former commanding officer as "sir" or being told to shut up by said CO when walking into an ambush, then I'm certainly not going to find any common ground on whether it is acceptable to depict someone voluntarily choosing to exchange sex for money.

  17. I've read allecto's thoughts on Firefly & Joss Whedon before, and I find most of her claims and conclusions to be spurious and largely based on ideas and information either taken out of context or completely misinterpreted.

    With that said, I always did find Whedon's idea of "Companions" to be somewhat... dubious? Questionable? I'm not sure exactly what the best word for it would be, but I was somewhat unsettled by his modern day “happy hooker” when it first comes up within the show. However, does the fact that it seems to be a somewhat positive presentation of prostitution automatically make it misogynistic? Is it feasible that prostitution could ever be something other than debasing and injurious to women? I certainly don't know, but I think it's a question that needs to be examined within the context of the show (and yes, I realize this is probably a frequent debate within feminist studies).

    Furthermore, even if prostitution is fundamentally wrong, does its presence within the story equate to Whedon's endorsement of it? Does someone who tells a story set in Nazi Germany endorse Nazism simply by using it within their work? Ultimately, it comes down to the usage they make of such elements. I don’t think we saw enough of Firefly to truly be sure if Whedon had some further idea or plan on what he was planning to do with the idea of the Companions.

    With all that said, my own personal opinion is that Firefly is a work that presents women positively, even if some of the elements of the show itself left something to be desired. I think Whedon had good intentions with the idea of the "Companions," even if the rationale behind it was somewhat simple minded/short sighted. And when one considers all of the effort Whedon has made to present positive portrayals of powerful women, I think he’s earned the benefit of the doubt.

    Ultimately, bringing this back to the impetus for this post, I think allecto approached Firefly with a whole slew of preconceived notions and ideas, and interpreted the work accordingly, instead of drawing objective conclusions based on the actual contents of the story.

  18. Anonymous7:29 PM

    Sigh. In my opinion, everything Joss does is on behalf of feminists everywhere. He created Buffy because he wanted to see a girl who could kick butt. All of his shows had very strong female characters and every time this person's manifesto gets brought up I can't help but to roll my eyes. Obviously the writer doesn't know anything about Joss or his morals and lacks any credibility.

  19. Random nerd on Livejournal takes express train to Hyperbole-ville when discussing geek fiction: FILM AT ELEVEN

  20. The author of that piece isn't a feminist, really. She's just kind of insane. It's a shame because there might be an interesting idea or two worth considering in the piece, but if so it's buried so deeply beneath the man-hating and personal attacks on Whedon as to be undecipherable.

    Why would anyone listen to her when she says things like, "Beyond a shadow of a doubt, Joss uses his own wife in this way. Expects her to clean up his emotional messes. Expects her to be there, eternally supportive, eternally subservient and grateful to him in all his manly glory. I hope the money is worth it, Mrs. Whedon. But somehow I doubt that it is. No amount of money can buy back wasted emotional resources."

    Reading this, as a man, it makes me wish the blogger was more ... reasonable? (I'm grasping for the right word) ... so that it could actually become an interesting discussion. As is, it's just a rant, and a venomous, rambling, unfairly one-sided one to boot.

    (Oh, BTW, Valerie I found your blog a month or two ago and now check it every day. I love it!)

  21. Wow. "Woman hating bile." You know, sometimes I think there are anti-feminist themes present but to a certain extent wouldn't or couldn't their presence be seen as a critique of those attitudes? Although later seasons of Buffy did seem to degrade her unneccessarily and not even particularly interestingly to the point where certain episodes are unwatchable to me.

    But as far as Firefly's misogyny being terrifying... I guess so if you nitpick everything from a strict constructionist standpoint and then exaggerate those qualities. In that case, even a common housefly looks like a grotesque monster when viewed through a microscope.

    I think she's confused some of the themes the show explores and criticizes... and also the fact that in drama (and especially action drama), bad things have to happen to characters regardless of gender... with the idea the show's condoning such behavior.

    Some good points, but to my mind it's ultimately a case of confirmation bias. She wanted to see these things and therefore saw them. This is a case of dogma overwhelming critical thought.

  22. I find Whedon's writing to be pretty darn feminist, but I also think he has his shortcomings. I'm still confused about how many people insisted FIREFLY was so original when their more-or-less lead female character was a hooker with a heart of gold. I mean, come on, that goes back to the days of the Westerns! I think overall Whedon seems to divide his female characters (the madonna/whore, good girl/bad girl thing) more than showing a wide variety of personalities the way he does with men, but I also believe he's trying to improve that.

  23. On the other hand, essays like that do cause us to think harder or more about what we're being shown and is being passed off as feminism or pro-feminist. It requires us to exercise our own capacities for critical thought and we can then accept or reject the premise fairly.

  24. I was too busy thinking it was terrible to do any in depth analysis.

  25. To the writer of the quote: Um, examples? I was taught in school you needed to cite examples for statements like that.

    Meh, I don't really care enough to go back to the original article to see if there are examples. I love Buffy, and what I've seen of Firefly I've loved. And I'm tired of the world telling me something I love is bad for me. The world can have sugar that I can't eat anymore but I'm keeping my vampire and space western goodies.

  26. _allecto's version of feminism is mind-bogglingly narrow (and outdated), and she appears to possess precisely zero understanding of how to approach art from a critical viewpoint. She refuses to separate Whedon's characters words/deeds from those of the man himself, and quite often draws the exact opposite conclusion someone educated in criticism would infer. _allecto's attempt is riddled with attacks on Whedon's character and regularly uses words (such as "rape") in her own obnoxious definitions (paging Dave Sim). The whole thing just makes me sad, given the wealth of strength that can be drawn by both men and women from Joss Whedon's stories. I'm sorry _allecto and her yes-posters are missing out. :(

  27. Honestly, I couldn't read the whole thing. There's militant and then there's psychotic.

    I'll pick out a couple of things I noted before I had to stop.

    The author takes the first officer of the ship, a strong black woman named Zoe, and writes the character off because of her respect for her captain and for the often [necessarily] rigid chain of command enforced aboard the ship. Having seen the whole series and the movie, I never got the sense that Zoe was intended to be characterized as weak or subservient, except in the sense that she follows her captain's orders. This is the way it works in militaries (the characters fought together in a war with ranks and everything) and on ships (at sea here on earth, and most of the time in space in science fiction). Zoe is a strong fighter, takes a strong hand in her relationship with her husband, and intimidates just about everyone but her captain (and even him sometimes).

    The author's arguments are weak at best from the start because she uses Zoe as her jumping-off point.

    As for the representation of prostitution, I can't say that I have a big problem with the way it's represented in most of the series. Every indication is that the society shown in Firefly has found ways to make the profession palatable, both to the "companions" and to the customers. As a utopian ideal, prostitution shouldn't exist, but the show isn't about Utopia (although the movie kind of is). Perhaps all prostitution really is rape - I don't know, and I'm reluctant to make that call because I'm male and not a prostitute. But, the prostitution in Firefly is about as far from that as it could possibly be.

    Finally, I'll quote the passage that stopped me in my tracks:

    "Beyond a shadow of a doubt, Joss uses his own wife in this way. Expects her to clean up his emotional messes. Expects her to be there, eternally supportive, eternally subservient and grateful to him in all his manly glory. I hope the money is worth it, Mrs. Whedon."

    The author is a) taking the show far too personally and b) judging a situation and two people that she doesn't know. The above told me all I needed to know about the author's point of view and dropped my numerical value of same to zero.

    Finally, my thought on the issue: No, I don't think Firefly was a "feminist" show. However, the idea that Joss Whedon was, either consciously or unconsciously, trying to show female characters as weak, submissive and only interested in pleasing men is ridiculous.

    One wonders what the author would think of any woman who decides to put a man's interests ahead of her own, ever. While that certainly shouldn't be the default female position, the spirit of cooperation and compromise would seem to mean that there would be giving and taking on both sides of the gender line.

    PS- My apologies for the long post.
    PPS- For the record, I'm in favor of feminism. There are inequities in our society (and, definitely, in our entertainment media) that need to be addressed. It's just this particular whinge that is weak sauce.

  28. I am reading this post. It is making my head explode.

  29. This blogger, while clearly well intentioned, is deconstructing the show WAY further than it should be.

    I think she has strong views on gender and sexuality, some of which I agree with, many of which I don't. These views are coloring her vision of the show beyond what I think is a fair assessment.

    If all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.

    The important the notion that what a character says is not always the voice of the author is fairly well ignored.

    For the record I'm Male and consider myself both a Feminist and a Firefly Fan. Also, and I guess this goes without saying, if I had an inherent problem with feminist critiques of popular fiction and literature, I probably wouldn't be reading this blog.

    Anyway, that's my two cents, would love to hear others, especially Val's.

  30. Anonymous8:35 PM

    Firefly was just the opposite, from what I remember.

    I thought the whole "Companion" business was way over-the-top and showed women in an unflattering light. The Companion concept is essentially an updated version of historical Japanese Oiran high-class courtesans (prostitutes). I am of the opinion that prostitution of any form degrades women, cultural "values" be damned. Firefly consistently plays the Companion concept as a normal, accepted, and most importantly a REVERED class of women, which to me always rang very false.

    But I've also gotten into several arguments because of this view. Most people I've spoken to take the concept at face value and excoriate me for condemning it as a glorification of prostitution. They take the view that "respecting other cultures" is an absolute.

    I haven't read the article you linked to yet.

  31. No. There are a lot of strong women characters in the show, regulars and non-regulars alike. There are also a number of con women, whores, and weak, lying, sniveling dishrags of women in there too. Same with the male characters. Just like in the real world. What I like about the show is that it is intelligent when it puts all these different characters on display. Whores are not just whores, but people who whore for a reason. There's depth there.

  32. I love Firefly and know the show well. I also know numerous, well educated feminist women who like it. At the least, the blogger is off base in her characterization of other women and their ability to make critical judgments about culture.

    In fact, I'm not at all sure what this person has in mind. Perhaps she has missed some subtleties. For instance, a major character in Firefly is a prostitute. However, the show is critical about this image of femininity (the first ep, for instance, closes with the image of the 'whore' bestowing her benediction on the Priest, inverting the normal hierarchy in a sly bit of commentary).

    Also, the final episode of the series could be disturbing to some. It features a deeply misogynist character, whose misogyny is explicit and violent. Significantly, the misogynist is intellectually bested by a 16 year old girl. If the ep is disturbing, it is because it is depicting a disturbing reality--but also trying to produce an empowering, counter-image of a young woman.

    So the show treats images of women with a lot of of sophistication, I'd say. But it's also possible to jump the gun and miss the subtlety,as this blogger seems to have done.

  33. Wow, that was one angry essay. I personally love Firefly and pretty much all things Whedon.

    I'm not going to say there's nothing valid in her arguments, but I certainly think that it doesn't take any context into account. Firefly is a space western, and as such, many of the cultural norms, including many of the attitudes about women, are more western than space.

    But I will say the following:

    1.) Zoe is a military woman. People in the military refer to male superior officers as 'sir'. She also gives a lot of orders.

    2.) Mal is a jerk and often an anti-hero. His abusive language and tendencies to resort to violence are pervasive but not presented as noble.

    3.) The whole prostitution thing is an interesting and controversial component in the show. Prostitution was rampant in the old west and in westerns, hence why it rears its head here. But again, its presentation is complex, as is the character primarily in question, and to make blanket generalizations as though she just sits there on her back and loves the abuse is not an accurate description of the show.

    4.) Narrative inherently involves conflict. Some of those conflicts in Firefly involve men telling women to shut up and vice versa. Sometimes they involve women using their sexuality as a tool for manipulation. Sometimes black people hit white people and white people hit black people. Just because these things appear in a story doesn't make them a reflection of the way the creator feels about a certain demographic group.

    5.) Young women look at Whedon's work and from it get a sense of empowerment. They don't look at Zoe and remember the times she calls her captain 'sir'. They remember the times that she takes charge and saves the day and kicks ass. If someone wants to have a debate about the treatment of women in Whedon's work, that's legit. Calling it porn or a rapists dream is not.

  34. Anonymous8:51 PM

    Well. This was interesting.

    First, let me say that I am swedish. I don't have the background to deal with the issues of race, because I have not grown up in that society, and in many cases just doesn't get it. So I will leave that part alone, except for noting that at least there were ANY black characters in Firefly...

    Second, I consider myself a feminist. More to the point I consider the notion that there are more differences between sexes in general than between individuals within the same sex a product of society. While we live in a society where women have a much greater shot at success than before, most people never see the million ways they are degraded. Of course this applies to men as well, or poor people, or anyone not being what society wants them to be.

    Third, I will also say that I like Firefly. I like Buffy. I Like Angel. I do however not like Josh Whedon. At all.

    Now this might seem like a contradiction, but I reserve the right to like a work of art yet recognize the fact that it might have severe problems.

    For Mr Whedon, one of those problems is his supposedly feminist stance. I am sorry, I call bullshit on that one. He is as feminist as the Spice Girls. To sum it up, yes he gets off on strong women, but after that it is all downhill.

    The Blogger in question do have many very valid points about Firefly. For example, yes, there is always the age old debate whether you can show happy whores or not in media. I am of the opinion that yes, of course you can, but don't go around and expect people to like it. Or think you are daring and feminist.

    I am far more annoyed by the subtler things. Like the fact that the men are the ones that drive things forward, women are there for support, kooky dialogue and scenery. Or, in Whedon's case, violence.

    The criticism that the female characters are not fleshed out is well... they aren't. But neither are the males. Neither of the characters are allowed to step beyond the stereotype, so to just hold that against the women is a bit unfair. Though in general, males have more fun and action driven stereotypes, and women a lot more limited.

    But, in short... I agree with the Blogger in many things. Especially the very unsound male/female dynamic. A lot of this comes from the old western themes that have been adapted to science fiction, but unfortunately they just comes across as very unsound and more than a bit embarrassing for the author.

    It should be pointed out that I don't think he's much worse than many other things on the telly, he just doesn't really deserve the reputation for being a feminist.

    In fact, he reminds me a bit about that fella behind the Open Source Boob project, aiming for empowerment but only succeeding in showing that yeah, he's just the same old male in a new suit.

  35. I think its crap frankly. His fanbase heavily leans towards the female audience. His lead characters are often strong (if imperfect women). Firefly does have "companions" which are like japanese geisha (highly trained and cultured legal prostitutes, the show heavily incorporates asian influnce) but I don't think that alone is enough for her statement. (shrug)

  36. You know what. She's got a point there...somewhere.

    There is a lot of objectifying in Serenity. Inara was the character I thought didn't fit.

    My understanding was the Serenity/Firefly as a copy of the wild west but in space. So the men were pigs and bastards. In that case Joss did bring about what he wanted. These are broken characters all living out the brokenness in their lives. Joss was rather accurate in his depiction of them.

    As for the woman who wrote this. She has been broken too. Because she has seen the things she has seen she sees them in stuff like this. Theres a lot of anger in her writing and I feel most of it is justified. I think she needs Jesus.

  37. hey all, sorry it took me so long to get your comments up, I had gone out to dinner after I posted this. Am catching up with reading your comments in-depth now.

    But for starters, I never saw that thing with Zoe, from the several episodes I watched. I thought she was just a really strong woman.

    I don't disagree with putting the work of Whedon's under a feminist lens -- and even finding it wanting in certain instances. But when there assumptions made about him personally, I's pretty harsh

  38. Anonymous10:27 PM

    To rattsu;

    I think you pinpointed another relevant factor, if we're trying to actually have a debate about this. In that, none of the characters were extremely well-fleshed out, but part of that blame has to fall on the short life of the series. Given a couple seasons we might have come to see the depths of their identities.

    The whole Inara thing though, I mean, he is playing with the concept of the hooker with a heart of gold. The whole series is steeped in old west cliches, so I definitely think Whedon was aware of the choices he was making and what they said.

    Jane Espenson worked on Firefly didn't she? And she's five kinds of awesome.

  39. That was the nuttiest thing I've read all day. And not entertainingly nutty, either; I'm talking Dave Sim feminist/homosexualist axis nutty.

    What the post really displays is the alecto's unwillingness to consider any differing viewpoint could possibly, just *maybe*, be valid (that someone could identify both themselves and Whedon as feminist is "shocking", but no attempt is made to understand why they might see things that way) and a distressing lack of imagination (she's never seen a white man have a positive relationship with a black woman, therefore she believes the character of Wash is a rapist and abuser {even though it's made clear throughout the series that his supposedly abused wife could kick his ass eight ways from Sunday}).

    And, if there was something resembling a valid point in alecto's rant, she completely undercuts it with her absolutely baseless speculations regarding Whedon's relationship with his wife.

    My mind has been well and truly boggled.

    Andrew Foley

  40. The lady is definitely an extremist nut. I suspect she could find any show on television and accuse it of the same crimes and/or worse. I pity this woman, because she's clearly incapable of enjoying life. I would just "love" to see her review for the series "Rome." (A show that just rocked! Thank you!)

  41. I'm not a Whedon worshipper by any stretch, but that has to be one of the most willfully idiotic things I've read in a hell of a long time.

    I think someone is a little needy for attention.

  42. I see that none of the people leaving comments got far enough to the more insulting part of the rant... as if saying that white men and women of colour could not have healthy relationships or that Mr. Whedon abuses his wife wasn't bad enough. She then stated that any heterosexual sex was rape. By that point (I can't believe that I got that far), I was done with her opinions, whether they were correct or not.

    Whether or not Mr. Whedon is misogynistic, or Firefly is a positive or negative show for women, has unfortunately been completely lost under the vitriolic bile. This reminds me of the numerous arguments that I would have with feminist activists in university, trying to convince them that every time you accuse a man of being a rapist, you're probably losing someone who might be willing to support your cause. Almost every man will agree with the idea that women and men should be treated equally and have the exact same chances. But when you follow that up with statements such as "White men and women of colour are incapable of having healthy relationships", you've probably lost them completely and, even worse, they're going to tell their friends that feminists are insane.

    It's just a shame that she can't see past her own problems to realize the damage that she's doing to her own cause.

    I know, off topic when we're talking about Firefly, but the rest of the posters covered that very well.

  43. I've read this "angry crazy blog" before, and immediately wrote the woman off as absolutely bonkers.

    Then - I watched the entire series of Firefly on DVD with my husband while he was recovering from back surgery...

    My conclusion is thusly: Joss Whedon is not a feminist.

    Which is cool - because I don't think it was ever really his intention to be one in the first place. He was given that label (by the media, fans, etc), and his work is unfortunately viewed through that lens.

    The idea of men being feminists always elicits a little mental chuckle from me.

    I don't think you can truly be a feminist, unless you can experience life as a female.

    I appreciate and respect men who claim to be feminists but it would be like me (a white woman) claiming to be an African American, and understanding the "black perspective."

    It's not reasonable to assume that Joss Whedon is constantly thinking from a woman's perspective. Or that his shows will reflect that.

    What Joss Whedon (as the creator of a show) does well, is hire awesome women writers who can create strong female characters.

    Which is why I'm stoked for his latest endeavor "Dollhouse." With a predominantly female cast, starring a female. Should be good stuff.

  44. To be perfectly honest, I think she over analyses.

    To be perfectly honest, I don't think she 'over analyses'; Allecto doesn't actually bother to analyse at all, rather comes in with a thesis, and distorts the text to fit. I'm all for 'feminist' perspectives on pop culture, but I don't have any time for intellectual and critical dishonesty. If nothing else that's a fraking insult to feminist scholars who are worthy of the title.

    (And for the record, I'm a huge admirer of Whedon's work but Firefly didn't really kindle the fanatical Brownshirt devotion in this breast.)

    And like others here, I really think Allecto really needs to do some honest self-examination of her own sexist (and racist) hostility towards inter-racial relationships. Perhaps I'm 'biased', being the child of such an inter-racial marriage, but it's too depressingly familiar.

    But when there assumptions made about him personally, I's pretty harsh

    Um, I respectfully disagree with you there, Valerie. Calling Whedon a racist misogynist is "pretty harsh". Opining that he regularly rapes his wife, who's basically just in it for the money, is way beyond. Let's try defamatory -- and where I come from a woman who submits to sexual degradation for money is a... whore. I guess that kind of labelling is only bad when you're a white man called Joss?

  45. What the...? People are actually still discussing Firefly? ;)

    If I had a problem with the gender politics of that show, it would be that Zoe is essentially the Tasha Yar of the series: the supposedly strong, powerful female character who is actually unfortunately underused to the point of becoming exceptionally boring.

  46. I read up to the first cut, and thought that there were some interesting points to be had, but unfortunately the poster undermines her strong ideas with a lot of weak ones and some frequent ad hominem attacks (as well as some of her own personal biases at work.)

    Her material on Inara is probably the best; prostitution is always going to be a polarizing topic, and Inara did get short shrift as a character in the series (which focused primarily on a sort of "Moonlighting"-esque relationship between her and Mal.)

    Her material on Zoe is unquestionably the worst; she blatantly ignores the fact that Zoe is portrayed as a professional soldier without it ever being a subject of comment by anyone in the series (no "women can't fight," not even so much as a hint of it) to focus on the fact that she calls her old military buddy 'sir'. She clearly brings in her own personal history involving interracial relationships to draw conclusions not supported by the text ("Wash beats his wife"? Oh, please. If anything, she beats him. :) )

    Kaylee...again, she dismisses the clear and obvious feminist elements (professional mechanic, hired by Mal without comment on her gender based on her expertise) to focus on an idle comment made in the pilot that is clearly meant in jest. Kaylee is actually one of the best-drawn female characters in science-fiction to my mind; she's allowed to cross a number of boundaries for characters (she acknowledges her sexuality without being defined by it, she has a masculine role on the ship but isn't "butch", really, if it wasn't for the fact that she was afraid of guns, she'd be the best feminist character ever. :) )

    And some of her comments on Whedon's personal life, unless she knows the man and didn't make it clear, are clearly spurious character assassination. I don't agree with Dave Sim's views on women as stated in 'Cerebus', but I wouldn't call him a rapist without evidence.

    In short, the essay read like someone who leapt before they looked, in terms of their rhetoric.

  47. Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar and not a metaphor for male rape fantasy.

  48. This is clearly an extreme view. And feminism at that extreme is the twin sister of misogyny. This is the same philosophy that brought us the Dworkin Doctrine of "all penetration is rape". Just as there are men who believe all women are inherently inferior, so are there women who believe all men are inherently abusive.

    I feel sorry for this woman. Either something unthinkably terrible happened to cause this perspective, or she was indoctrinated into it during a formative period of her life or both. Regardless of its origin, this sort of viewpoint makes for a very lonely and anxious existence. I can only hope that at some point she sees that such extremism is ultimately untenable.

    Oh, and I love Firefly in a way no man should ever love a TV show. But if wanting to make sweet love to a TV show is wrong, I don't want to be right. :)

  49. i'm curious how heavily moderated these comments were, because i'm pretty super impressed by how reasonable they all are. go team occasional superheroine commentors!

  50. No comment ...... Ignorance is bliss and the "article" is a waste. Geesh. With all that is going on in the world this person needs to actually conjure and spend energy on a pointless opinion based on more fiction than Firefly (now on!!) ..... Take one moment from the drawing board for this?? LOL LOL. It didi make me laugh. That's good.

  51. Jonah Goldberg of the National Review (sorry, I'm a conservative) has an interesting point about ideological lenses (in his example, it was marxism, but it applies to the "feminist lens" too).

    The lenses are like the blue light they use on CSI. Very interesting for pointing out some things that a general viewpoint would miss. Like power relations in economics, and power relations in M/F relations.

    But the lights need to get turned off because they're distorting (and blue). Not EVERYTHING is economic power relations or M/F power relations.

    The Blogger has the excuse that this is "art", and so things like the "first words uttered by a character" have more weight in analysis than random uttering by people you meet on the street. I suppose she'd find it femininistly correct (?) to have the main character be Zoe, and her tell Mal to shut up. that would be "different" and what she got was "more of the same".

  52. The criticism that a Mal calls Inara a "whore" makes Whedon a rapist means that writers are their characters and are not creating fiction. All characters, then, are the author. If we extend that reasoning, anyone who writes a WWII story set in Germany and uses a Nazi character is a Nazi. If an author writes a story set in the 60s South and one of his characters uses the "N" word he is a racist. Since "Roots" author Alex Haley wrote characters who sold slaves and spoke of them in dehumanizing ways, should we argue that he is a pro-slavery bigot?

  53. So, does this mean my bi-racial marriage is doomed?

  54. I've read allecto's analyses several times, and speaking as a lesbian feminist, they inevitably disgust and enrage me. It's an incredibly shallow view of his work which assumes that every character he writes shares his viewpoints and the bad things that happen are specifically anti-feminist rather than a product of an inherently unfair world.

    There are aspects of Whedon's work and some comments he's made that make me uncomfortable; I think his treatment of Tara Maclay, for example, was and continues to be unfair, and I felt that it was wrong of him and his staff to blatantly lie to the fans. (And he's still lying at times. Ask Amber Benson about Tara's promised return and you'll get a totally different story from the one he tells. And if he wanted to bring Tara back but couldn't work it out with Amber, why hasn't he done it in the comics?) So I'm not saying he's perfect. But to call him anti-feminist, to call him little better than a rapist...ridiculous on the face of it.

    And the whole Mal/Kaylee thing...I can't even believe she's citing that as an example of raging misogyny. It's little more than affectionate ribbing, as further episodes bear out. If it comes off badly, in my view, it's due to the awkwardness of the first pilot (I personally think The Train Job does a much better job of setting up the tone of the series and many of the characters, though Serenity contains vital information) than aggression and misogyny on Mal's part.

    Pundits like allecto are why otherwise reasonable and progressive women hesitate to call themselves feminists. And that's what makes me especially sad, and especially angry, when I read this kind of thing.

  55. This woman should go bowling with Dave Sim!

  56. FWIW, my wife who is a feminist, and not much of a SF fan, enjoyed Firefly/Serenity quite a bit.

    Good enough for me.

  57. I actually came across this essay a few months was at once utterly hilarious and incredibly painful to read. Just unfounded and off-the-track analysis, by an author so biased (almost suspiciously so) that it didn't make any sense half the time.

    And regardless of your sociopolitical leanings, implications against people you DON'T KNOW (Joss Whedon) about abuse against their significant others is just wrong, and makes you deserving of the same amount of respect as I'd show the nacho I dropped on the floor. Grow up, beacuse I (and I'm sure many others) lost any shred of even humor the instant we read that.

    -costa k

  58. This really captures the trouble of arts mixing with politics. I love Firefly. I watched it all on DVD recently, after it ended. It's really good. Noteably, I was most rapped up in the character of the mail lead, Mal, over anyone else. Of course, I'm a guy.

    The question this raises is whether or not the work of a writer necessarily reflects what he thinks the world should look like. Sometimes we come up with stories because they are stories. Does that mean the world reflected in those stories reflects the world we want? Sometimes it just makes sense. Sometimes it just feels like it would be compelling.

    Of the many, many reasons I hate identity politics in all its culture deadening forms, this analysis represents the worst of it. The underlying assumption of this post seems to be that a work can't be, on balance, feminist or pro-women, if there's anything in it that doesn't advance that view.

    So, if a strong woman gets hurt for no good reason, it's not feminist.

    If a bad guy gets away with doing something harmful to a woman, it's not feminist. If that harm has a sexual nature, it's really not feminist.

    If a strong female character does something weak or makes herself subservient, it's not feminist.

    All of that is crap. The truth is, sometimes that's the way the world really works and as a viewer you're going to get very strong emotional reactions sometime when the story you see is unjust. If it were always just, you might as well watch saturday morning cartoons. It's just not compelling.

    I guess I'm saying that I don't just disagree; I reject the whole question. Whedon is creating a narrative, not a manifesto. Whether or not he is or isn't feminist is beside the point, but it's worth noting that his work does include some pretty unique female characters who fill more roles than that of wife/vixen/sex object/matron that women tend to be relegated to elsewhere.
    This Too Will Pass

  59. There are a lot of very interesting comments here and I know I'm re-treading some information.

    I think that this is one of the problems with English literary theory. You can prove just about anything. Is Ray Carver sexist? Is he a feminist? Does he depict realistic relationships? Actually... it's all three and more!

    I think that what you have to do to judge a show is compare it to other shows. I bet even this woman who wrote this would admit that Firefly, even from her perspective, is less sexist than, say, Three's Company. Joss Whedon is not creating a world from nothing. In Buffy, he's taking horror conventions and putting a feminist spin on it. So Buffy is a clear step up from, say, the Texas Chainsaw Massacre in terms of empowerment of women characters.

    And also you have the question of reality versus an ideal world (Hey! That's what Serenity's about! I bet there was no sexism on Miranda!). I don't like it when shows purport to have gotten rid of the problems of today (cough Voyager cough).

    Now, having said all that, this person strikes me as completely insane. I think it is about as far from feminist as you can be to make assumptions about someone's wife using literary criticism without knowing else anything about the wife. She might make a valid point here and there, but her GIANT mistake is to take literary criticism and apply it to the author of the work rather than the work itself. And then to make assumptions about the guy's wife? Is she just trying to make us angry?

    I bet if we could magically switch the gender of everyone on the show, she would still hate it for that exact same reasons, just with different support.

    It should be noted that I'm not saying this of feminists, but rather of people who study literary criticism and take it too seriously.

  60. That Blog is what happens when you can't (or won't) see past your particular world view ever.

    The O.P. doesn't think women should be subordinate in any circumstance even in a military chain of command situation such as would exist abord the Serenity.

    She's also never seen a healthy I/R relationship so it's impossible.

    She kinda depresses me.

  61. It should probably also be stated that Whedon isn't the SOLE creative force on the show, and that some of the producers have a more libertarian bent that Whedon explictly distanced himself from politically.

    Here's another poltically liberal critic, just for the grist mill

  62. I already commented, but I just wanted to add that pieces like this just make me appreciate you more, Val :)

  63. Anonymous6:04 PM

    I find it interesting that she has limited her comments to "friends only" on her blog.

  64. Well, in regard to Firefly itself, I always thought the whole Inara thing on the show was kind of dodgy. But you could at least see Whedon & co. going for the idea of a healthy, open sexuality, occasionally set against Mal's prudishness.

    And you could argue that having a show built around a male lead isn't furthering feminist causes as much as a show with a female lead might. But Whedon did give the world Buffy, and when it didn't come out the way he wanted the first time (the movie), he went back and did it again. So, the dude's done something, at least. Presumably, he'll do it again when he gets the chance.

    On the definite plus side, Kaylee and Zoe both kicked ass in very different ways. And the relationship between Zoe and Wash, which I thought was one of the best elements of both the show, neatly reversed gender roles.

    And I seem to recall that Firefly continued the Whedon & co. tradition of women cutting through male bullcrap on a semi-regular basis.

    So, apart from bringing up Inara, I don't think there's much to what she says, not in the piece you linked to at least. (I only skimmed the others she wrote.) There's some things where she's obviously missing the context (Zoe calling Mal "sir), and other things where she seems narrow-minded despite her good intentions (furthering feminist causes, viewing media and media makers critically). Good intentions don't guarantee insight or accuracy, and consciously aligning oneself with the side of the angels doesn't prevent one from saying or thinking some pretty deplorable things (like the comments about Whedon and his wife).

    More generally, I've only seen one full season (the 6th) plus scattered episodes of Buffy (which I dig the least of his shows), so I'd cede to anyone else more familiar with that series (such as Autumn's comments here about Tara), but at worst, I think you could charge Whedon with occasionally being clumsy with regards to these matters, or making problematic choices, but that's not the same thing as being anti-feminist or, obviously, a rapist.

    Anyhoo, judging by her comments in her follow-up posts, she doesn't seem interested in listening to views different from her own, and the internets are a great place to not listen to people who disagree, so, let her have at it, I guess.

  65. I've read the article in question and its follow up. My mother taught me if one cannot say something nice, one should not say anything at all.




  66. That was the most repulsive mind-bending femi-nazi propaganda lying piece of garbage I have ever read. I am saddened and disappointed that you would even link to something that's so disgusting. It is clear that the author has some serious gender issues that have no relation to the show or the characters on that show. To drag Mr. Whedon's wife and the nature of ALL inter-racial relationships in general into it just make it that much sicker.
    I love your site but Please re-consider who you link to in the future.

  67. I don't think it's a stretch to say that the tone Firefly is nowhere near as feminist as Buffy. It has its moments, I think, but I don't believe there was a deliberate feminist agenda with this show.

    I also believe the portrayal/treatment of women on this show was not done thoughtlessly or maliciously. If this blogger had any interest in doing a fair analysis (not just isolating those moments when a man was somewhat harsh or a woman was somewhat deferring or when something intended to make us wince actually does), she'd examine how Mal treated the male members of his crew (no pun intended).

    If Mal treats everyone like crap, then he's treating men and women equally. It may not be progressive, but at least it's balanced.

  68. Misandry's the word for hatred towards males and just males. I feel cheated that I learned the word on a forum for games like Dungeons and Dragons.

    I think the biggest scary thing is that allecto's saying that is Whedon were a true feminist, he would endorse murder.

    It's kind of disappointing that she says Wash's a horrible human being for hoping that Zoe would cook for him, but eh. It's pretty saddening that if you want to have sex with someone else, you don't love your current partner (but only if you're a guy!). Or that it should've been okay for Saffron to steal the ship . . . because . . . I guess because she's a woman.

    The big thing I don't get is how she can dismiss stuff she's saying as okay because she's . . . whatever she is. If I took this, turned the names around and put a guy's name in "written by" space . . . it'd drive feminists nuts. Or just switch the names of the protagonists for those in something like the Color Purple (but with the females' names in the place of the male Firefly names). It just seems like they want to flip an already shitty dichotomy so it's women cracking the whips and oppressing.

    The thing I really don't get is that if she's right about men . . . how can she hate us? If she's right, it's not our fault. We can't help being the way we are anymore than a fish can help swimming.

  69. Anonymous2:40 AM

    Inara, Zoe, River, Kaylee. Are any two of them at all alike? Whatever form of feminism Firefly does or doesn't have, these characters are four very different women. I love that. No, they don't cover any spectrum of every possible form of anything could. But they're all so different yet full characters, and I think that shows at least some kind of respect on Joss's part for women.

    Talk about focusing on the negative, or even imagining a negative to focus on, when you can't appreciate the charm of Firefly's women. They're all complex. I admire Inara's character, but not her job, but then I admire the way she believes her job is good. Kaylee may be the strongest (I'm a bit biased toward her), but she seems the weakest at first glance. Well, ditto for River. Anyway, why not enjoy all the layers of humanity that these characters show us, instead of pushing one's own bitter agenda? I don't know if this ranter is sexist, but she comes off that way.

  70. I just hope that no one confuses this crap with actual feminist thought, which includes... you know... THOUGHT.

  71. Anonymous12:27 AM

    I know this is old, but I want her to do Ophelia from Hamlet next.

  72. Rather than repeat some of the criticisms offered here and rather than engage with allecto by proxy (since on her new blog she deletes comments that take issue with her), instead, I will limit myself to an observation or a question or two.

    If Inara is "the hooker with a heart of gold" isn't Mal the "Robin Hood with a heart of gold?" Part of the intrigue of the Inara/Mal dynamic was his hypocrisy. He DID try to set limits for her that he didn't apply to himself. Was this presented uncritically and without complication?

    Due to extremely short run of the show, we'll never really know. That's the thing about Television With Something to Ask -- shows can be cancelled at any moment, and if you're juggling too many flaming torches regarding feminism and human nature, as a writer, you're gonna get burned.

    Approach *Dollhouse* with fear and trembling, Whedon. You're even further out on a limb, here.

  73. ... Wash... abuses Zoe? Dude, is that even possible? He practically worships her, and it's pretty clear she wears the pants in their relationship. Not to mention, he acknowledges that he's madly in love with a woman who can, and I quote "kill me with her pinky". I always thought their relationship was adorable, and I never thought Zoe was at all put down or objectified. Besides, she can kick any ass that presents itself. He rapes her? Riiiiight. Is that before or after she'd snap his spine like a toothpick? This person has some personal issues to work through. Firefly might not be a feminist utopia, but it was never meant to be. It was meant to be a clever twist on old westerns.

  74. Anonymous12:28 AM

    Crazy chick won't let anyone but her friends comment on her posts. I think somewhere deep deep inside (buried beneath all her crazy psycho-feminist ideas) she realizes that she has no real idea what she's talking about.