As a good geek girl I've watched these shows multiple times, but as a 35 year old that has spent the last 5 years discovering the joy and pain of feminism, this viewing has shown me so much more than I saw as a 25 year old.
What I've seen in these shows is something that you don't see that often on TV, something that has been lost, or isn't profitable, doesn't sell toys, or comics, or t-shirts. What could it be? What does Mr Whedon see that so many others don't?
Mr Whedon sees women as people. Fully developed people. He sees their strength not just in their physical bodies, but in their courage, perseverance, their resilience. In their heartbreak and loss the women of the Whedonverse stand up and keep fighting in the face of overwhelming odds or repeated heartbreaks.
Buffy ended 10 years ago, and while the clothes are dated, the message of the show is not. Buffy remains one of the most human people I have ever seen on TV. A 15 year old with an unavoidable destiny that still finds time to be a cheerleader, to deal with the perils of dating an older man, to be there for her friends, her family, and save the world. Again and again. And never alone. The theme of friendship is one that is reinforced from beginning to end. It isn't Buffy that saves the world, it's Buffy and the Scooby gang. A constant and changing Scooby gang of flawed characters that Buffy never gives up on, and that never give up on Buffy.
It is the faith, forgiveness, and friendship that make the show so easy to watch, and so heartbreaking to finish.
That, and the feminism. The one that isn't mentioned anywhere, but is everywhere, in every episode.
The final season when each potential slayer is given her power brought me to tears for the amazing vision of what the world could be if women took their own strength, and power, and self-belief and pulled themselves together to save the world... I want to live in that place.
"From now on, every girl in the world who might be a slayer, will be a slayer. Every girl who could have the power, will have the power. Can stand up, will stand up. Slayers, every one of us. Make your choice. Are you ready to be strong?" ~ Buffy. (Season 7, Chosen)A powerful weapon to destroy the forces of evil, and Buffy decides to take it's power and give it to women all over the world to help them to fight. To stand up and be strong. That message, for me, is the pure heart of feminism, without once mentioning feminism.
As we watch our way through the Whedonverse I can't help but contemplate on the nature of misogyny, and it's slightly less systematic sister, sexism.
I see, and experience, sexism every day. From the insurance company that automatically makes me a "Mrs" after being asked to add my husband to the policy, to being called a "cunt" on twitter for having the audacity to express an opinion, to being called a lesbian for refusing to take my husbands last name. These are all things that women live with every day.
Not to mention the 600+ laws that were passed in various different countries around the world that allow the government to control what a woman does with her own body.
The big things like choice bug me, but it's the small things that get dismissed that really bug the every living daylights out of me.
It's the dude that stands up and says how much he loves women, he's married you see, and he loves his mum and his lovely daughters, so how could you possibly think that he's sexist? Well, Mr Prime Minister, you want to restrict a woman's right to choose and you said abortion was the "easy way out" so you can understand why we think you're a bit sexist.
Or there's the guy that proclaimed to the internet how he doesn't ever tolerate his fans attacking people with misogyny. Don't you call that woman a "cunt" you bad people, but please, please ignore when my friends objectify and belittle women every day on their twitter feed and podcasts.
When they flash a fan's breasts all over their twitter feed it's because they're appreciating women, not objectifying them. When they undertake auditions to add a woman to their all dude show they don't take any of the very talented women, but they do offer the consolation prize of allowing the ladies to come in and flash tits to please the men if they so choose. But don't get mad, feminazi's, it's a joke. C'mon ladies have a sense of humour.
It's the hypocrisy of saying "but look at how much I love women" while ignoring the utterly sexist way in which they present themselves to the world at large.
The promotion and support of misogyny, whether it is yourself, or your friends, or you political party, is, in itself, misogyny.
When you stand by and allow your colleagues and friends to speak of women in a negative, exploitive, or belittling way, without stopping and saying "hey, that's not cool" you are being sexist. It is, essentially, a lie of omission. You're not being sexist, as such, but you are allowing sexism through your lack of action.
"But it wasn't me!!" they exclaim, and true enough, you didn't do it, you didn't say it, how can I blame you for your inaction. You're clearly not as bad as the person that said it, obviously.
Except, to me, you are. You're the guy that walks past a guy beating up on a girl and doesn't do anything because it's none of your business. It is your business. Sexism is everyone's business.
Joss Whedon, when asked why he keeps writing strong women, said:
George R.R. Martin, when asked about writing women said, perhaps the smartest shit on the planet:
Neil Gaiman was asked to reflect on Buffy recently and was asked about writing strong women, he said:
"I think the big thing to point out to people is, you know, possibly they should go and hang around with some women. And also, it's worth point out that people, unfortunately, misunderstand the phrase 'strong women'. The glory of Buffy is it was filled with strong women. Only one of those strong women had supernatural strength and an awful lot of sharpened stakes. And people sort of go 'well yes, of course Buffy was a strong woman. She could kick her way through a door'. And you go 'no, well, that's not actually what makes her a strong woman! you're missing the point.These are amazing authors seem like they don't just say these things, the live it.
Game of Thrones, by the nature of the world that it is created in, has moments of sexism, but it also have really gritty kick ass women. The mother of dragons, Daenerys Targaryen, Arya Stark, even Cersei Lannister in all her cruel manipulations has fire, courage, intelligence and strength that outshine her evilness.
Neil Gaimen's stories contain women of determination and humanity, and when he speaks of women in public it is with respect and decency.
Joss Whedon writes, what I would argue, are the most well rounded, fully developed, true women that have ever been on TV. Or in a movie, for that matter (though I suppose you could argue that Serenity is just an extension of a TV show). And if you google Joss Whedon speaking about women you can enjoy a great youtube of him speaking out about why chicks are super great.
Another example of dudes that do it right, is Sir Patrick Stewart. The true definition of a gentleman, with a slew of youtube clips of him demonstrating what a man should be, and how he should treat women.
These men don't just say that they support women, they prove it, day in, day out. In word and deed.
Now, obviously I don't know them, but from what I've seen around the internet, they seem to understand that supporting women isn't just a thing you blog about, its something you live every day. It's something you notice, something you see around you, not just on occasion, but all the time.
The characters they write are an example of what a woman can be, something for little girls to aspire to, someone that teaches you that you can be anything you want to be.
We're on season 3 Angel now, and we just watched an episode where a kid with demon blood was able to influence mean to display the deep dark misogynistic part of their souls and with that evil dark part of them brought to the surface the men tormented and murdered women.
It was with an incredible delicacy that the writers, Tim Minear and Jeffery Bell, tackled the cliches of sexism that are so prevalent in the modern world.
"I don't hate women. I mean, sure, you're all whores who sell yourselves for money or prestige, but men are just as bad. Maybe even worse. They're willing to throw away careers or families or even lives for what's under your skirt"
And while under the influence Wesley utters the always awful
"What do you tell a woman with two black eyes" "Nothing, you've already told her twice".
As Fred walks away he mutters the always popular "no sense of humour".
At the end of the episode Wesley faces his fear that the behaviour is in him somewhere, that he has the capacity to be that guy. Fred comforts him and says "It wasn't something in you, Wesley. It was something that was done to you".
That's really what it's all about, at the end of the day, isn't it? Misogyny, sexism, it's not something you're born with, it's something that is done to you.
As you grow up in the world you see the casual stuff that is everywhere that reduces women down to nothing but a body to sell a car, or deodorant, or sunglasses, or jeans. You get the message from government, from movies, TV, magazines, that women aren't equal to men. You see male politicians allowed to refer to female politicians as "small breasts, large thighs, and a big red box" without any real consequence. There are hundreds of articles about how the Australian Governer-General dresses, and very few about what she's done while in that role. There were special editions of dozens of magazines talking about how Julia Gillard or Hillary Clinton dressed, but I've not seen any features about Tony Abbott's wardrobe or favourite nail colour.
Every day of our lives we are conditioned to accept sexism, and so few have the self awareness to step out of that behaviour, and call out that behaviour in others.
I'm not sure the point of this blog is. It went somewhere that I wasn't expecting it to go.
I guess the upshot is... wouldn't you like to see the world the way Joss Whedon does? Isn't that a better place than the way you see it now?
You can make it happen you know, we all can.