Hey, who’d have thought I’d be back at the planetarium so soon?
This Saturday I went to Can’t Stop The Serenity, a fundraiser by the BC Browncoats to benefit Equality Now and the BC Women’s Hospital & Health Centre. There was a silent auction, an evil laughs contest, and a whole lot of Whedon- and Firefly-related things to watch. Including a few costumes, though not as many as I expected. There was a fair number of Jayne hats, a group of three people (including at least one girl) dressed as cowboys (i.e.: Bad Horse’s chorus), and one woman dressed like a Vulcan in a blue TOS uniform. Huh. Didn’t see that coming. But I’ll say this for the Firefly/Serenity crowd, they’re pretty ecumenical. The auction items ranged all over the sci-fi spectrum, from an awesome foot-high plush Dalek to signed Stargate: Atlantis posters.
First up was Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog. I actually hadn’t watched it in its entirety in a long time, which is a shame because it’s a damn good story with damn good songs. (Usually I just watch “Brand New Day” because it’s catchy and evil Neil Patrick Harris is fucking sexy. Well, sexier.)
Browncoats: Redemption is a fan-made film set shortly after the events of Serenity, and starring the crew of yet another freelance transport. It’s got a neat plot, so-so acting, and crappy special effects, but hey, I’m not going to make a big deal about that.
We also watched Whedon’s acceptance speech, from when he received an award from Equality Now (“Honoring Men on the Front Line”) back in 2006. And… okay, I’m going to be contrary here, but this is what I think:
Whedon isn’t all that. There, I said it.
Oh, don’t get me wrong, he’s done some good TV. I love Buffy (well, mostly the first 3 seasons, though it only started sucking in seasons 6 and 7) and quite liked Angel though I kind of lost interest about halfway through. Firefly is hella fun, though there’s a lot more style than substance. And I fucking adore Dr. Horrible. (Never watched Dollhouse.)
But his Equality Now acceptance speech really got my dander up. The way he went on and on about creating strong female characters seemed incredibly smug and self-congratulatory. Buffy is strong, yes, in that she can beat up any living creature and most nonliving ones. But when you get right down to it I don’t see how that makes her really special, or even especially feminist. It certainly doesn’t make her revolutionary, because William Moulton Marston has Whedon beat by 50 years.
Not to mention that whatever character development Buffy had was absolutely demolished in the later seasons, what with her creepily abusive relationship with Spike, turning into a one-dimensional cold bitch to the Potential Slayers, Brother Caleb’s over-the-top (and not in a good way) misogyny, and here’s the kicker: discovering that Slayer power really came from primordial male wizards, who created the original Slayer in a weird act of magical borderline rape. Wow, way to crap on seven years’ worth of female-centered mythos there, Joss.
The only comparable characters (that I know of) in his other shows are the badass warrior Zoe, and—here’s a better match—River, who rather like Buffy is a small, harmless-looking girl that had her powers thrust upon her against her will (in this case, nasty medical experiments). Huh. Never saw that pattern before.
No, I don’t think Whedon was trying to make any kind of statement with Buffy, or any of his later characters. I think he just lucked into a character that (with great writing and a fine supporting cast) got picked up as a feminist icon. That said, I’ll give him props for:
- Being a feminist man, and using his fame to campaign for women’s equality. It is a big deal, in real life as well as fiction.
- Being brutally honest. In his speech, one of his many answers to “Why do you always write these strong women characters?” was “because it’s hot”. (Incidentally, Marston’s bondage fetish formed a big part of the early Wonder Woman mythos).
- Writing at least one series with something close to gender parity. Of Firefly’s 9 main characters, 4 are women. Actually, since the two who died in Serenity were men, that brings us to a female majority. A nice variety of characters, too, from the hardened warrior to the sweet wrench-wielding nerd to the crazy psychic dancing timebomb, to the—oh, let’s be honest, Inara is 100% fetish fuel.
Well, enough contrariness. Sorry, had to get that off my chest. I really did have a great time Saturday, and I’ll be sure to go next year.