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AvatarComments by atomickristin in reply to Vikram Bath*

On “It’s Over, Joss

And not only does he say that his stories are feminist and that he writes strong female characters, he congratulates himself on that all the time despite doing a lot of problematic stuff. If he did the problematic stuff without claiming it's feminism and dislocating his shoulder patting himself on the back, I wouldn't care. Like one of the PP said, I wouldn't care if he did soft core bondage porn if he wasn't dressing it up like it was pro-woman. It's a different scenario. I have different expectations.

It goes beyond dishonesty, it's almost (and I really hesitate to use this word because again it's something that carries a lot of baggage with it) a kind of gaslighting. He and the Whedonite clan are telling me something - that he is a feminist icon - and presenting it as a self-obvious given.

If I don't accept his clams as a given, if I not only do not think that the guy is a feminist but even detect quite a lot of misogynistic elements in it, it's because my perceptions are skewed. I'm "hatewatching" or trying to prove some political point or being nitpicky. The problem is with me, my "version" of reality is flawed. He's a feminist icon, the science is settled on that. No matter what he does from now till the end of time, Joss Whedon is a feminist icon. He's perfect. He's beyond reproach. Any flaws in his work are the result of interference by the evil studios. And if I don't see that, it's because I'm blind or have an axe to grind.

All I'm saying is, I don't buy it any more.

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College students waste an awful lot of time studying prerequisites to be "well rounded" people. (my college-aged son had to take yoga this quarter, as an example - an hour a day, 4 days a week.)

I can imagine a culture which values learning more than ours, and in which students were more highly motivated, creating "well rounded" people by better educating young people long before they got to Starfleet Academy. Thus instead of wasting time on yoga class, Wesley Crusher is learning quantum mechanics an hour a day 4 days a week.

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I chalk this up to superior educational techniques, high levels of motivation among Starfleet cadets, and positive attitudes towards learning in the culture as a whole.

As an example, Scotty took the Kobayashi Maru test to become a captain and because of his results Starfleet strongly recommended (ie manipulated him into) going into engineering instead because of his natural aptitude and interest.

http://memory-alpha.wikia.com/wiki/The_Kobayashi_Maru

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I suspect that had I used the word exploitative people would have found issue with that as well. There's a deliberateness to exploiting people, it's an intentional act. I actually would love to give the guy the benefit of the doubt. It may not even be something he's entirely aware of. The only term that I'm aware of that implies this is internalized misogyny, and internalized misogyny has an awful lot of syllables.

That having been said it's definitely been a learning experience for me and had I to do it again I'd explain better what I meant. I did not realize people viewed the word so much differently than I do (did, anyway).

RE Kaylee, I tried to ignore the "my dad said so" aspect of it because to me, that just makes it kinda worse. Like not only could she not have acquired the skills through any other way but an innate gift, it also has her dad's seal of approval. I felt like that would open up a can of worms where I am now suggesting that fathers can't teach daughters things, and I'm not at all. I would have been fine with that.

But she didn't say her dad taught her. She said she somehow just knew. "my dad taught me" or "I grew up around engines" would have taken the exact same amount of time in the script and carried with it a totally different flavor.

From a creative aspect it's also a hugely missed opportunity. How about "Well, growing up we didn't have nothing to read but Chilton manuals and the Bible, 'n after I read that a couple-three times, I kinda got the gist."

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Because she said it was.

If it was just this one thing it wouldn't have been a big deal. I would have accepted it at face value. But it's not this one thing. It is an ongoing theme. Regular girls who through some outside, usually mystical influence, become "special" in some way. And I don't mean "everyone is special in their own way", I mean special as in "superhero level special".

Buffy: regular girl who is chosen one
Willow: regular girl who learns magic
Cordelia: regular girl who gets helpful visions
Inara: regular girl who is taken to academy to become companion
River: regular girl who is altered to become supersmart killing machine
Kaylee: regular girl who has some kind of innate natural talent to fix engines

Do you see the theme here? I am simply stating a desire for the occasional appearance of a regular girl (and I mean a truly regular girl, not amazingly beautiful like Inara or exceptionally gifted like River) who excels through determination and hard work. It would have taken literally no more space in the script.

Even comic books have characters that weren't bitten by radioactive spiders sometimes.

Aside- I acknowledge that Buffy, Willow, and probably Inara worked hard to achieve their skills and there are burdens that come with these skills for most of these characters. It's just an overall vibe that I find disappointing.

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re: man stealing emotional vampires...

That's why Darla is a fun character at first. Our heroine's new love interest turns out to have crazy ex girlfriend. Sparks will fly.

No one (here) is saying that you can't have female characters who are evil, immoral, manipulative, up to and including being the very embodiment of stereotypical female flaws. Cordelia in Buffy IS a lot of those things. She's the archetypical "mean girl" just like Darla is "crazy ex-girlfriend." But they are operating on their own agendas. They're causing trouble and shaking things up. Cordelia called a demon to curse her ex-boyfriend for cripes sake. Cordelia was NEVER a team player, until her personality transplant where she became Angel's willing servant and was willing to literally die just so she could be of slightly more help to him.

All Whedon's female characters post-Buffy have been largely there to meet the needs of the male viewer, the male creator, or the male characters. Those two characters were used and abused on Angel (and I don't mean by Angel, although that too, I mean by the storyline). Both of them are reduced to miserable breeding machines for Angel's DNA, and neither gets to be a happy mother. It costs them both their lives. I would take Dollhouse a thousand times over the treatment of Cordelia and Darla.

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1) Yes, and that was the intriguing premise of Dollhouse.

2)Re male gaze, I have NO problem with women in skimpy clothes if the situation calls for it. "Situation" in terms of plot, character, and genre.

This is a Gold Bikini argument really - was it sexist for Princess Leia to be in a Gold Bikini? No, because it fit the plot, character, and genre. If she'd been wearing that when she was giving Luke and Han awards or meeting Lando for the first time, that's different.

Please view this in the context the first part of my statement - to provide decent entertainment for women. I'm not trying to set myself up as the czar of Hollywood or tell anyone what they should personally enjoy.

Your question was what could Whedon have done differently to set himself up as making feminist entertainment and I'm trying to answer that from a creative angle, a fan's perspective. What I'd want to see more of as a woman, from his work and that of others.

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Communication is a message. It doesn't mean it's a personal message, there's clearly a big difference between the message of a TV show and the message of a letter from my grandmother.

Text, as mentioned below, has religious connotations that I would prefer to avoid. Subtext, maybe, but some of this stuff is right out in the open and not at all metaphorical.

Simple fact is, when the same thing is happening again and again in a body of work, like the PP mentioned, it's hard not to start to wonder is there more going on here. Take any of these examples in and of themselves they're nothing. On the whole, it starts to add up.

Raindrops become a flood at some point. One can't then pretend that someone concerned about a flood is angry about a raindrop on their sleeve, when it's the flood that is the problem.

I think it's a bit of a cheap shot to throw in an example of someone who was insane. Guilty by association?

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I love Moonrise Kingdom. I've been trying to get my husband to watch that for ages.

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All we can judge on, as viewers, is how it comes off to US. We're the recipient of the message and just like with any speech, the speaker does have some responsibility to send a message that they stand behind. So I think it's fair of us as viewers to interpret and even perhaps judge that message, after all, they sent it.

Having watched Dollhouse and Jessica Jones, they touch on some similar themes but JJ truly explores them in a powerful way, while Dollhouse is using the themes for other reasons. Is this an interpretation on my part, I suppose, but the makers of Dollhouse sent the message that I received. The message of Jessica Jones was entirely different than that of Dollhouse.

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I'll check Voltron out, thanks! I have kids so I am sometimes limited in what I can watch. Much appreciated.

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dragonfrog, great reply! I'll be thinking about that for a while.

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I think what is required to really provide decent entertainment for women is deceptively simple.

1) Portraying women as people in charge of their own fate and with their own agendas rather than existing mainly for the purposes of meeting the needs of the male characters and/or male gaze of viewer, or for conveniently triggering plot points

2)Presenting somewhat realistic personality flaws, interpersonal relationships, and problems (even if subtextual) that are important or interesting to at least some subsection of women, hopefully without demonizing or marginalizing other subsections of women.

It's NOT propaganda or pushing a particular world view. And it's not to tick boxes off on the "gender representation" checklist.

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thank you Veronica! Exactly.

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My husband is a mechanic and there is currently a Ford 9N (carburetor, I think) taken apart on my dining room table.

But I do get where you're coming from. In my day job (which is not mechanics but something also fairly complex) many's the time I just know what is wrong and what to tweak to fix it. I can't always explain it, but I can tell what to do differently. It's like a 6th sense.

The thing is, the reason why I know that is because I studied really hard and have years of experience. That came FIRST, before the intuition part of it.

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If you watch a lot of classic movies you can see the same phenomenon - North by Northwest feels so tame to modern viewers, but it was FIRST!

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Sesame Street totally lost its fastball. :)

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Stillwater, I see where you're coming from and that is what I was driving at when I said that he never actually changed, he just stayed the same.

I think that he probably had a great idea in Buffy (and since he and I are about the same age, maybe it also appealed to me for generational reasons) and then it was well executed - by a team of people, not one man. This created a "perfect storm" and a show I truly love and probably always will.

Subsequent stuff - maybe it wasn't quite as versatile an idea (Dollhouse), maybe it was something that wasn't executed as well (Angel), maybe it was something that appealed more to other people than it did to me (Firefly). That, of course, happens. I can't think of any creator of any art ever that has always hit a home run for every person all the time and wouldn't we be jerks to expect that?

At the same time, though, there also seemed to be a larger trend that I did not see at first, only in retrospect, towards the stuff that I'm talking about (I don't even know what word to use. People take issue with misogyny, so sexism?) At some point if there's a trend in one direction it stops seeming like a fluke and starts seeming representative. Then when I think back and see it so clearly, it's obvious that it was always there. It sneaked up on me, kinda like carbon monoxide poisoning.

It would all fall by the wayside for me, after all there are plenty of shows that I find stupid or that rub me the wrong way on a personal level. But there's just such a cult built around the guy and then his self-proclaimed feminism...makes me want to go all "Emporer-has-no-clothes", I suppose.

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Yes, I did the exact same thing with those. I kinda got the drift. :)

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This isn't it exactly, but yes it's definitely a familiar theme to me. A girl is mocked for her clothes or failing at some other traditionally feminine pursuit, and then excels at some other pursuit (often schoolwork, winning the hand of a cute boy, or engine repair) and shuts up her bullies while "being herself". Nellie Olsen got this treatment a lot.
http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/RealWomenDontWearDresses?from=Main.RealWomenNeverWearDresses

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My husband is a mechanic and he spends a lot of time not knowing what is wrong and troubleshooting a lot of things that don't work out before eventually uncovering a mystery problem.

I don't have any problem with Kaylee being able to listen to the hum of Firefly's engine and knowing something is wrong. That's something any expert in a field can do. I feel the characterization of Kaylee as somehow just intuitively understanding how spaceship engines work, gives an air of passivity to someone who could have easily been an awesome character.

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I didn't like it right from the start. I expected to love it and I was so excited.

I've subsequently watched it several more times and I still don't like it. I think I've given it every chance and then some.

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But those are women who have made a decision to acquire a skill and achieve mastery over their bodies, and work hard to achieve that.

To have someone alter a human being against their will, isn't that basically turning them into a slave? And then for the victim to use their forcibly acquired skills for their own purposes, yes, I guess that's better than to continue being a slave, but at the same time it doesn't feel empowering to me. Not in the way a woman voluntarily choosing to pursue martial arts does.

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They could have done it a thousand other ways. People leave shows all the time. Heck, it's a magic world, they could have Dr. Who'ed her and had her be reborn into a different body.

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