Joss Whedon and the blurry line between homage and appropriation

Discussion in 'Science Fiction & Fantasy' started by Dusty Ayres, Mar 19, 2009.

  1. Hermiod

    Hermiod Admiral Admiral

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    What did Cordelia or Fred ever really do wrong ? I mean the visiting Vampire prostitutes, leaving a room full of laywers to die, keeping a person prisoner for months kind of wrong.
     
  2. Sci

    Sci Admiral Admiral

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    They're about as positive as any Whedon character gets.

    You seem to be arguing that women are portrayed more positively than men, but they're really not. As I said before, pretty much every Whedon character is a complex moral actor with both good and bad points to them.

    Sure. And you could argue that Buffy is a selfish, arrogant girl who simultaneously thinks she's better than all her friends and thinks she's inferior to them. And Willow is a needy, co-dependent goody-two-shoes who went psycho the first time she faced real trauma in her life. And Anya's guilty of countless murders. And Dawn's just frickin' irritating. And Fred reacted to her capture in Pylea by manipulating all the men around her to be protective of her instead of being sensible and being protective of herself. And Cordelia, goodness knows, was arrogant and had a shallow streak in her until the day she died (white light automatically means "good?" and how arrogant are you for assuming they're telling you the truth in saying they want to elevate you to a higher plane?) And Harmony was always shallow and selfish, and later a multi-murderer. And...

    You see what I'm saying? All of Whedon's characters, male and female, have good and bad traits, and it's inaccurate to imply that he only gives bad traits to male characters.

    Part of the point of the episode "Selfless" is that that's no excuse at all.

    I'll concede that, but you could just as easily argue that Liam of Galway losing his soul constitutes the same thing.

    A huge part of the point of that arc was that, 1. Willow was not insane; she was knowingly making immoral choices because of her grief, but she still knew what she was doing was wrong, and 2. that Tara's death was not a valid excuse.

    You must have watched a different series than I did, because:

    1. Her best friend died in payment for those victims' resurrection.

    2. She was lost and in pain and guilt the rest of the series.

    3. I don't think she was ever really forgiven. She was accepted into the group because of a need for allies, but there was a huge emotional gulf between her and the other Scoobies for the rest of the series.

    And then accepted back into the group. How exactly does this differ from Anya's arc (except that Wes didn't actually kill anyone)?

    His characters are plenty equal, and you're completely exaggerating the extent to which his female characters have "excuses" and his male characters do not.
     
  3. Hermiod

    Hermiod Admiral Admiral

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    The two things are not mutually exclusive.

    I never said that, I said the bad traits he gives to female characters are all too often easily excused and quickly forgotten about. Sure, there's Glory or Darla (and even she had her little redemption arc), I'm not saying he can't write truly bad women, it's just that he and the writers working for him try very hard to excuse what they do.

    She spent a thousand years killing men because one cheated on her, but that's okay, she said sorry. At least Angel had his curse.

    Not even slightly the same. Liam was a useless, lazy drunk. Angelus was not the monster he was purely because of Darla, but Drusilla was the monster she was because of Angelus. She has a built in excuse.

    And as I said, even Darla had a whole big deal redemption storyline. When they did the same thing with Spike they just swapped a monster for the other problem - he became a spineless wimp.

    Her "best friend" was a Vengeance Demon who enjoyed her job. As for her "pain and guilt", you really must have been watching a different show.

    The fact that he didn't kill anyone!!! Angel tried to kill him and kicked him out of the group for trying to protect Connor and nearly getting killed for it.
     
  4. Sci

    Sci Admiral Admiral

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    I don't know what shows you were watching, because I never found that female characters' immoralities were easily excused or quickly forgotten. From where I stand, the degree to which the various characters' evil choices would be forgiven or forgotten was directly related to whether or not the primary characters regarded that perpetrator as a friend, not the gender of the perpetrator.

    And, hell, this person thinks Whedon is a misogynist and a rapist.
     
  5. Ayelbourne

    Ayelbourne Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    I stopped reading after:
    The first scene opens in a war with Mal and Zoe. Zoe runs around calling Mal ‘sir’ and taking orders off him. I roll my eyes. Not a good start.
     
  6. Sci

    Sci Admiral Admiral

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    She's pretty frickin' crazy. She honestly believes that Joss Whedon is a rapist because of how he depicts women in his shows.
     
  7. Ayelbourne

    Ayelbourne Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    Someone send Jayne over there, so that he can explain to this person what the chain of command is.
     
  8. Sci

    Sci Admiral Admiral

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    Erm, see, now, threatening male-perpetuated violence against her is not exactly going to disprove her theory that all men are violent oppressors of women...
     
  9. Ayelbourne

    Ayelbourne Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    Ah, but Jayne is a girlsname, you see. ;)
     
  10. Hermiod

    Hermiod Admiral Admiral

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    We've been around the block on TrekBBS more than a few times discussing that particular individual's views.
     
  11. Rii

    Rii Rear Admiral

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    That's just it, that's not why she did it. "Selfless" was about the fact that Anya lacked a sense of self, that her life had been defined almost entirely through externalities.

    Anya didn't spend thousands of years avenging the wrongs of men because a man cheated on her, she walked that path for a thousand years because nothing deflected her from it. She embarked upon that path not only because Olaf cheated on her and she was furious, but because she'd defined herself through her relationship with him, once that was gone she had nothing left and took the first rope offered to her - by D'Hoffryn.

    Notice her drastic shifts in sociopolitical thought. With Olaf she believes in the power of charity, in Russia amidst the revolution she believes in socialism, when thrust into 21st century America she becomes a died-in-the-wool capitalist. Anya reflects her environment to such a frightening (and amusing) degree because she has no internal anchor, no sense of self.

    We see the same pattern repeated in her relationship with Xander. Her identity as a vengeance demon is thrown into chaos when Giles strips her of her powers and again she latches on to the first rope offered - Xander - and goes on to define herself through her relationship with him, the extent of which is made clear by Anya herself in "Selfless" during the flashback to "Once More, with Feeling":

    When her relationship with Xander falls apart in S6 she returns to the only path she's previously known, despite her experiences with Xander and the other Scoobies having left her obviously uncomfortable with the actions required of a vengeance demon. When she tells Xander to get out of Buffy's way in "Selfless" it's not because she thinks she can beat Buffy, it's because she's discovered that she can no longer be a vengeance demon yet can't envision being anything else, resolving instead to meet her end on her own terms, at the point of Buffy's sword.

    The beauty of "Selfless" is that, in the end, it's Xander who sets her free. Anya tells Xander that she doesn't know who she is, that she needs to be alone to find out, yet she doesn't move. She's teetering on the precipice of self-determination and one gets the sense that all Xander needs to do is reach out to her and all that she's struggled with would be undone. Xander, to his credit, gets it. More than that, his love for her is such that he's able and willing to do what she can't: to walk away.

    "Selfless" is a relatively subtle and grounded tale of female empowerment that's often lost amidst the more heavy-handed material in the series, and like all such tales in BtVS it refuses to paint men as demons or women as angels, rather as flawed and complex individuals. It's unfortunate that subsequent episodes didn't follow up on it.
     
  12. Hermiod

    Hermiod Admiral Admiral

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    ^It's funny, you say "Selfless" doesn't portray men as demons as women as angels when, in fact, a female demon took the choice to murder a room full of men. I'm not defending the actions the men took to get there, but Anya made a choice, one that she was rapidly forgiven for.

    You can only judge people by what they do, and she never hesitated to inflict suffering upon men because Judge Anyanka decided they were in the wrong. We never even got a decent explanation as to why she only went after men. The other Vengeance Demons didn't.
     
  13. Rii

    Rii Rear Admiral

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    She was forgiven because the deed was erased, because she was willing to sacrifice her own life to erase it, and because she turned forever from that path at that moment. In the absence of those things Buffy was willing to kill her.

    D'Hoffryn recruited her for that purpose:
    Given the immediate context of Olaf's betrayal it's not surprising that Anya would be amenable to this idea, nor is it surprising that, once assigned and accustomed to a niche, she would stick with it. D'Hoffryn's a smart (and hilarious) guy, folks who are personally motivated to do their job tend to be more reliable and dedicated than those who aren't. Anya alleges that Halfrek's speciality is "bad parents", you think she might've had an unhappy childhood?

    Once she joins the Scooby gang and hooks up with Xander she discovers that all men don't deserve it. Once she returns to being a vengeance demon she has great difficulty in fulfilling her role, her murder of the frat boys comes in response to heat she's receiving (from Halfrek and D'Hoffryn) for not pulling her weight in the vengeance department. She tells Willow that they deserved it, but she's not trying to convince Willow of that, she's trying to convince herself; she knows it isn't true.
     

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