If you were on these rough Internet streets a week-and-a-half ago, you probably caught wind of the Joss Whedon’s age-old Wonder Woman script.
You know, that thing that bounced around in production hell briefly, nearly attached to the likes of Charisma Carpenter and Lucy Lawless. It had been rumored for years. Over a decade. And at one point, since we were all convinced that Whedon was some Feminist Geek Overlord™, folx were mad at DC/WB for a long time because we were convinced that they had possibly stopped a really good Wonder Woman film from happening.
Were we wrong. Like…way wrong.
Rave Sashayed’s Twitter thread on Whedon’s aforementioned script shows us just wrong we are. Sayshayed dived into what I assume was a fairly long script and, against all odds, made it all the way to the very last page. My favorite critic ever, Valerie Complex, also jumped into the fray and couldn’t make it past the 60th page. And judging by how far they made it, I am sure that I would have only made it to page 10, for the damage to my ocular nerves and brain cells would be too high, I would have probably gone blind at page 11, and I would possibly have suffered permanent damage to my psyche.
Still. I did manage to catch the worse snippets of both readings and just peeking at that script was a doozy. The reactions I saw in response to it, however, were an even bigger doozy. Most people were as horrified as you suspect. I mean, I would be too if the greatest warrior princess in the history of forever (besides Xena) was sidelined in her own goddamn hypothetical movie for the manliest man to ever man. Those reactions I expected.
Now, the other reactions I did not expect were the overabundance of Whedon stans to find themselves in my mentions and camp out there…only to tweet-yell at me, screaming: “BUT WHAT ABOUT BUFFY THO!”
…Sike. I expected them. I always expect them. Because they’re just that predictable. Indeed. I was aware that even with my not mentioning him by name, they would still come to defend their overlord. Because he gave them what they believe to be the premier feminist magnum opus and apparently, the greatest feminist manifesto ever:
Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
I was not surprised by this, because it has become the ultimate trump card for folx who cannot even fathom Whedon having dissenters, talk less female ones (because, you know, he is the greatest feminist ever). However, I was shocked by the sheer volume of people—of all genders—who put on capes for him.
Like…it was a lot. And simultaneously amusing and disturbing. Which eventually caused me to ponder the following question:
Why are we still letting Joss Whedon coast on 20-year-old [White] feminism?
There are plenty of reasons that come to mind. The first reason being that folx are always satisfied with the base minimum when if comes to White, male allies.
Truly. As long as ol’ dude is shimmying correctly, slapping Black Lives Matter in his bio, and reading The New Jim Crow, and/or becoming “woke” to some experience that he will never, ever experience first-hand, he suddenly becomes the wokest bae to ever woke and is, therefore, pardoned for any unsavory thing he might do in the future
…Except it doesn’t work like that. Or at least, it should not work like that. But it seemingly does because the bar for cis straight [White] men is so painfully low that all they need to do is step on the dang thing for them to qualify.
In Whedon’s case, he did this about two decades ago with the previously mentioned Buffy The Vampire Slayer. At the time, the show was perceived as revolutionary. Centering around teen girl Buffy (played by Sarah Michelle Gellar, the show garnered most of its praise from its titular lead. Protagonist Buffy Summers was a strong-willed and had the brains fighting skills to match. The show itself had other redeeming qualities as well, including possessing a cast that was at least 50% female most of the time as well as featuring queer relationships.
On the flip side, however, the show was fairly problematic too. Buffy was emotionally-constipated (something that is a recurring character trait in many women written by Whedon). The queer relationships that folx deemed “groundbreaking” could never survive the “Bury Your Gays” trope. While the cast was heavily female, they were all overwhelmingly White…which dually highlights the lack of inclusion that exists in Joss Whedon’s imagination and reinforces the fact that White women are the only women who are actually considered women, because apparently, women of color do not count.
Oh, and the show routinely to pulled what I would call “The Jean Grey Twist” where anytime a woman was discovered to have unimaginable power or obtained unimaginable power, she would go completely batshit. A famous example is none other than character Willow Rosenberg, who was reacting to events stemming from Whedon “Bury[ing] Your Gays” by killing her partner, Tara Maclay.
You see? Very problematic. Highly, even. Which kind of has me wondering why folx are so gung-ho about using that as Joss Whedon’s premier license to write the women forever. I have a lot of working theories, but this is the immediate one that comes to mind:
Nostalgia…and resistance to change.
I used to kikiki when folx would say “Nostalgia is a dirty liar” because I didn’t think it was that all that serious. But ever since this Buffy/Wonder Woman windstorm happened last week, I kind of have to agree now.
You see, I view nostalgia as that one friend who retells that one story that happened to y’all that one weekend and lies about all the weird shit that happened. For no reason. And because they embellish so much of it, even down to the minor details, it doesn’t even resemble the original story. In this particular case, nostalgia has folx thinking that Buffy was the greatest thing ever (and thereby deifying Joss as some Feminist Nerd God™), when in fact it was not and is more problematic than we’d like to remember.
Now, I don’t subscribe to problematic-ness being an automatic disqualifier for a piece of media. This is firstly because we can admit something is problematic (as we should) and still like it (within reason). And secondly, what is problematic now was always not always problematic back then when said media emerged.
I draw the line at the refusal to change and to update our definitions of what is acceptable as feminism, as representation, as media and, you know, what is not. Our acknowledgment of that which is problematic should be accompanied by growth. Not by sticking our fingers in our ears, shoving our heads into the grounds, or digging our heels into the dirt as we try to resist change.
As this pertains to Buffy, while the show was the feminist “it” thing for a while, it certainly does not qualify for that now. Not in 2017. And it is okay to admit that.
Seriously. It is okay to admit that you rocked with that show (and still do) back in the day AND also admit that it could have done much, much better. And, to be honest, that’s the whole point. We are supposed to want better, not more of the same old, same old. Our collective journey toward great representation should always be striving to be better. Smarter. More inclusive.
And this cannot be done by replicating what such representation would have looked like twenty years ago. Because if you’re going to come to the table with twenty-year-old White feminism masquerading as quality entertainment for all people…in the year of 2017…you can keep it.
Images: Empire Online, Buffy Wiki, NY Daily News, Giphy, Imgur