Several years ago, I dated someone who my friend adored. She told me what a great friend he was and a funny and interesting person. He was one of the most immature and self-centered men I’d ever dated. Who someone is in a relationship can be radically different from who they are in the rest of their life. Reading Joss Whedon’s ex-wife’s recent essay made me think of that moment.
What stood out to me is “It’s not just like I killed you, but that I’d done it subtly, over years. That I’d been poisoning you. Chipping away at you.” Maybe Whedon is realizing his mistakes and hates himself for it. Maybe he said this matter-of-factly with no remorse. He’s not talking so we’ll probably never know.
Whedon says his silence is because of concern for his kids and respect for his ex-wife. Maybe Whedon is letting Cole have her truth after years of terrible treatment or maybe he doesn’t want to admit all the wrong he’s done and is sitting quietly. When an ex of mine took to social media for validation, doing nothing made me look great and him look incredibly petty.
The difference here is that very few seem to doubt Cole’s claims. Whedon’s performative feminism makes sense even before reading Laura Browning’s critique of Whedon’s feminism. A man playing at gender equality becomes the hero the world tells him he is and we get so few powerful women in sci-fi we don’t look too hard at the flaws when we do.
I believe Whedon had these affairs and deceived his wife. I believe Cole let herself get lost in that relationship. What is true beyond that isn’t certain. I am incredibly disappointed in Joss Whedon and I will let my dollars talk when it comes to his future projects. However, I refuse to ignore the things he’s created that meant something to me. I still love Firefly and Dr. Horrible and always will. We should never forget Whedon’s quote:
“Why do you write these strong female characters?”
“Because you’re still asking me that question.”
It still applies and it’s still an important point. Whedon is another fallen hero because he is a deeply flawed man but he still managed to create great content. He showed that women can and should be heroes in our media.
Women should continue to demand similar content and characters and hold artists accountable. Don’t let sci-fi fall back to being a boy’s club. Demand more female heroes, more diverse writers and content, demand representation. Whedon opened the door and we need to keep it from shutting.