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June 21 2017

Whedon under fire for 'sexist' Wonder Woman script. An overview of the recent criticism comes via the Sydney Herald. Includes links to several of the initial critiques of the unproduced screenplay.

Just to mention that the script appeared online back in January '14 and not last week as several outlets reported incorrectly. Also it's not unreasonable to assume that Joss has some unofficial input into the latest Wonder Woman movie as his deal with DCEU seems to have gone further back than most assumed.

The counterpoint arguments to the the script flaming is that it was a draft, not the final product, and we have no idea what the studio asked Joss to do.

And as ever keep the debate civil which would be a nice change from social media.

Good points, Simon. I've read the script as it was posted, but the truth is, that script really does not seem to have Joss' voice down well, so it makes me wonder what level of draft it is, whether it is Joss' at all, and how much interference and alteration was put into it by others. It just does not sound much like him, to me.

Parts of it sound like him. The interaction with Steve when he finds out that she has an invisible jet sounds very Joss.

There are other parts that would never actually be in the movie. People have criticized it for the way descriptions are written, but nobody would have been reading those descriptions in the actual movie. A script is supposed to be written for a very few people, then those people make a movie. Even dialog can and does get changed before a movie is finished.

There could be a whole debate on whether that was a good way to write things, but Joss wasn't writing for publication. Without knowing what stage of writing this was in or what Joss planned to change, without any comment from Joss at all about this, it's hard to say much.

I dunno. "Leaked" + "Screenplay" are not the most trustworthy of terms to marry together.

First of all... Is it real? What stage of it is it at? Did nobody else have an uncredited go at it?

It does kinda worry me that people are inmediately so gullible as to believe it is, without a doubt, totally real, and, of course, absolutely what he was going to shoot. It worries me not because of this. This is nothing. It worries me that people have not learned certain lessons about the internet yet for they will do the same mistakes when actual important stuff happens.

Then again, this IS the internet. A place where four guys/gals worry about something while the rest of the world couldnt care less and yet we make it out as if the entire universe is caring about it.

Joss is always going to be called a sexist, no matter what he does. Certain feminists dont want feminist men, they want colaborators that bow to them, and they will never forgive him for being a man labelled as a feminist. Other feminist have a VERY precise idea of how women and feminist issues SHOULD be portayed and will always resent those who call themselves feminist that dont do it theyre way. Then there are always the detractors. They got a field day every time a creator they hate gets a place they can hurt. And, yes, its perfect clickbait. Its a good story. "Aclaimed feminist is actually sexist" is always gonna be wonderful news.

Personally? Judging a "leaked" unproduced script is always folly. Judging a man and an unproduced movie on that script is worse. And because i still want to keep it civil, i wont say what judging an entire career of produced and finished and polished stories against an unproduce "leaked" script really is... But its not nice.

I also think that people simply dont know how art works. If they could hear Beethovens first draft of his fifth symphony... shudder.

[ edited by Darkness on 2017-06-21 15:30 ]

We all know how often his work gets messed with by studios who want to make it more what they are looking like.
This wasn't a finalized script, this was a draft. We have no idea which draft it was. It was also 10 years ago and tbh, feminism has come a long way since then.

Joss has been writing strong female characters for a long time now, he's been a trail blazer. He's always had women in the writing room with him.

I'm the most feminist person I know and that feminism was shaped partially by having representation of strong women characters available to me. Those women were Buffy, Fred, Zoe and Adele. Joss asked us if we were ready to be strong and now we are.

To be honest, the WW that was made was a farce of feminism. It should have been called "Wonder Woman and the vastly more capable men who will explain things and then save the day when she's having an existential crisis"

I'm sticking by my hero. He hasn't disappointed me in this, the apocalypse. His Planned Parenthood commercial is the most moving thing I've watched this year.

I'm not going to toss him on the fire because a draft script from 10 years ago that has not been verified to be his sucked.

Next up: Internet is ablaze with anger over fanfic allegedly written by celebrity XY when they were 13, according to their former classmate, which has been deemed "problematic" by multiple bloggers. Huge controversy!

But really, why is anyone surprised? This is the time when people leak footage of a 20 year old TV actress in a gym in a private conversation with a friend, argue whether she uttered a racist word or not when she said something that cannot be made out clearly on the video, and then claim she did and rake her over the coals for it. In the pantheon of recent faux online controversies, this barely makes top 5 in ridiculousness.

I've seen this story unfold and haven't been surprised to be honest. The effigy of Whedon as feminist being burned seems appropriate to the times we're living in where the Left eats their own, where anyone that doesn't live up to their increasingly puritanical standards is vilified and expelled from the group. Where now people are retroactively looking askance at Whedon's work and finding that it never met up to the standards required to be worthy of feminism in the first place. Any tendentious reasoning is fair game to blackball an individual, smear his reputation. This is pervasive nowadays, feminism is merely one strand of a culture that's begun to embrace the very authoritarian impulses it always stood against.

Seldom before has 'LOL' been a more appropriate comment.

Haven't read the script, by the way. Don't really care about it and if it's only a first draft it probably shouldn't be read by the public anyway.

I have not read the script as a draft! Years ago!


But seriously, I'm with what Propane said.

And I loved the WW movie out now, esp no man's land which was admittedly completely unrealistic.

And what Propane said.

Agreed. While I've only read the less-savory bits people have highlighted on twitter, even then I was well-aware this was a script from years ago. I feel like our societies have become more aware of different perspectives on life, art, etc. since then (whether that's bad or good, it's up to each person to decide) which led to Patty Jenkins' (imo, damn enjoyable) movie today. We'll never really know who had what hand in which parts of the script, if all of it was Joss, etc.

Perhaps it's because we aren't super-casual fans that watched one of Joss' series once years ago (not that there's anything wrong with that, I've simply seen people on twitter who've read the script and brought his other works into question saying, 'wait, did I really like Buffy all those years ago as a kid?') or haters, but I certainly feel like many of us are more likely to give Joss the benefit of the doubt because he's created amazing worlds we've experienced through ups and downs.

Either way, I took this with a grain of salt, but am glad we're talking about it here, at least to acknowledge it's going on. I wasn't full outrage, though many I follow were, and am sticking by Joss and his work, AND (even though I am a Marvel stan) I have full confidence his Batgirl is going to be awesome.

It's been a while since I've posted here and admittedly, I've spent the last 7 months trying to forgive Joss for calling me and any other progressive who dared not vote for Secretary Clinton "the worst human beings on the planet." However, even if I still think that Joss is a well-intentioned, under-informed, out-of-touch, very talented guy who said something extremely ignorant and hateful, the idea that he is somehow sexist is beyond absurd.

I read through just about every comment made on that Twitter account that apparently started this "controversy" and it comes off as a deliberate attempt to mine for anything that could be taken out of context and treated as sexist. There are a number of motivations for things like this and I don't know enough about this person to comment on that. However, the arguments made are just entirely lacking in merit.

For instance, apparently you can't have a villain or a clueless newscaster say something sexist without it meaning that the screenwriter is sexist. God forbid that a strong female protagonist from a sheltered society have to face the misogyny found in the real world. Also forbidden is having a male character from the world she has just entered explain anything about that world to her, because that is clearly "man-splaining." In fact, having another character to dramatize the clash of cultures that appears to be central to the conflict of the screenplay at all, let alone a man, apparently means that you've turned Diana into a supporting character.

I mean, at one point, Joss is attacked for likening something to a "blunted bell," because bells can't be sharp. This, of course, ignores the completely legitimate and long-in-existence alternate use of the word "blunted" meaning weakened, or reduced. but that's the real problem here, and it's one that I've seen too much as of late. It's not enough to have a shared value or ideal. You need to have the identical, very specific belief in how to go about striving for that value or ideal. That word's not acceptable. I find that method of resistance to be repugnant. How dare you try to offer to help, as if we need your help.

There seems to be a much simpler solution, yet people are far too angry, divided, and defensive to consider it most of the time. I, for instance, am very supportive of the Black Lives Matter movement, but I'm a white guy from New Hampshire, so I don't pretend for a moment to be able to empathize with the very specific and overwhelming challenges faced by the black community, nor do I feel empowered to decide for that community how best to make progress. However, I want to know what I can do. I want to know what is helpful and what isn't. I would gladly sit down with members of that movement to listen to what they have to say and to ask how I can contribute. I think it would be unacceptable for me to demonize them for having strong beliefs about how to make progress, but I also think it would be counter-productive and wrong of them to treat me like a villain either because I can't directly relate to what they face or because I don't instinctively know how best to help.

We form our ideas based on our core values and the information we gather throughout our lives, yet so many people seem ready to pin every action and every idea on the values, ignoring the information. Perhaps your idea of a great feminist screenplay is one set in a world where sexism doesn't exist. Well, Joss seems to prefer to set his stories in worlds where sexism still runs rampant, but his character subvert those ideas and demonstrate how hateful and inaccurate they are. Accusing him, or even his work, of being sexist for featuring a different approach is small-minded, just as it was for Joss to assume that my vote in the last election made me "the worst" instead of considering that I had different information.

I trust Joss.

What darkness aid pretty much. There's this weird group of people on the internet who are connived Joss is some sort of soy/secret agent sent to infiltrate feminism and anything even remotely sexist (even i its taken out of context) are secret revelations that he's been working for THE MEN the whole time. So..yeah...the internet. :/

Edit: Also yeah the articles stating the script was JUST leaked online...do some research people.

[ edited by Grack21 on 2017-06-21 20:35 ]

I'm so tired of the way Joss gets picked apart online. There's so much more vitriol directed against him than the vast majority of male filmmakers who have never said the word 'feminist' in an interview and have never tried telling stories about women. It's not just that his work is held up to a far higher standard, it's that the criticism gets oddly personal. It's ridiculous.

It's not just Joss. There's a pattern of people trying to promote feminist stories and not living up to everyone's standards, and they get flamed far worse than writers who don't even bother. The way I see it, you can either accept everyone who genuinely wants to be an ally or you can reject them and alienate even more people.

As for the script, well, if it's real it's a draft, and there's no way to know what demands the studio made. And people are still reading the quotes going round and claiming 'this proves everything else he wrote was sexist'. I can't wait for the vitriol against Joss to blow over. After The Avengers everyone loved him, and after Ultron people turned against him, so the sooner he can get another film out there the better. I can't wait to see what he'll come up with because while he was working for Marvel the entirety of popular culture became far more aware of inclusiveness and feminist issues. Batgirl will be the first female-led piece he's created since feminism became genuinely mainstream.

I think there is more here going on than meets the eye. Unfortunately, the world we are now living is far more misogynistic than it was even 2 years ago, and many people are far more willing to go public- at least under their screen name- to post vitriolic comments. Thus, Joss is simply yet more grist for that mill- the misogyny mill, as we have seen with WW the current movie, let alone WW the Joss script. He has gotten swept up in the larger cultural crapstorm- as Felicia Day was, as Brianna Wu was, etc. He is being used as a pawn in a larger game. I have my issues with Joss, but here I believe he is not in any way involved or "at fault." In a world where we no longer want to simply convince our detractors that they are wrong, we want to destroy them, that is what people are doing to those who are willing take a public stance. Joss has done so. Good for him. I may not always agree with his writings, but as always, I would fight for his right to say what he wishes. And here? It was unfinished. Nothing more.

Thanks for this thread. The extreme hatred Joss gets online depresses me and I hate that (online anyway) it seems like it's popular to bash him. Constructive criticism is one thing but I don't really understand why or when this vitriol started. Gamergate? Ultron? I also don't understand why it's okay to rip apart a draft for being "evidence" of misogyny when his finished works have proven time and time again to be beneficial to the feminist conversation. I appreciate and agree with everyone's comments especially Darkness and Profane.
I've been following Joss since 2001 and hope things get "back to normal" without all this (in my opinion) undeserved hate and vitriol. So grateful, as always, for this website.

Ohh i dunno if it started with Ultron, but Ultron definitely kicked it up several notches. Not that I agree with nay of the Ultron critiism but that's a whole nother rabbnit hole.

I was just reading this essay:

https://mybrainmadethis.tumblr.com/post/143813350679/this-is-the-cast-of-the-hit-tv-comedy-brooklyn

It is precisely because the show features multiple examples of each of these demographics that they escape stereotyping. If you see one Latina woman who exhibits aggressive traits, you might think that all Latina women have anger management problems. If you see two Latina women, though, and one is aggressive and the other isn’t, you would not reach that conclusion. It would be impossible for someone to watch an episode of Brooklyn Nine Nine and come away thinking “ah yes, now I know what all Latina women are like” or “ah yes, now I know what all black men are like”.

It is fine not to approve of tokenism in fiction. It’s fine! Including a character purely to check that character’s ethnicity or gender or disability or sexuality off of a checklist can be terrible writing. Token characters can perpetuate negative stereotypes, or even help to create new ones.

But, if you don’t like token characters, the answer isn’t less diversity.

It’s more.


The ideas in the essay obviously apply to Firefly, but they also apply to Hollywood. If there's only one person writing stories with Strong Female Characters, then he starts to represent all feminists, and people start to say, "How come the only feminist writer is a guy?" and "Isn't a Strong Female Character kind of a cliché?" and "Doesn't this movie kind of objectify women?" And those are all good questions, but if all the studios were filled with feminists making movies about a wide variety of women, the questions wouldn't seem nearly as urgent.

[ edited by Danielm80 on 2017-06-22 11:51 ]

I have been astonished by the recent level of uninformed rage against Joss and anyone offering even the mildest defense of him. My experience of this venom was coming from another very thoughtful fandom that parallels the Buffy demographic.

I had read this script well over a year ago and I didn't care for it, but I offered a fairly simple response to people writing explosively negative opinions. It was from over a decade ago, it might not even be real. If it is real, we do know that there was over two years of disagreement with the studio, that was ultimately unresolvable. So, we don't how much, if any, should be attributed to him. No matter what his involvement, one unpublished script is not the complete expression of a quarter century long career.

I might as well have been whispering in a hurricane.

I was not expecting the level of personal attacks that would generate from people I have known for close to two decades. Mostly the responses devolved down to this direct and complete quote from one person, "and that's why Josh sucks."

Truly unbelievable.

Kevin Smith famously had to put a load of crap in the Superman Lives script that he didn't want to due to producer Jon Peter's weird requests. From Wikipedia (and I've heard Kevin Smith talk about this stuff)

"Smith met Peters after completing a script and Peters instructed him to include a robot sidekick for Brainiac, a fight scene between Brainiac and two polar bears, and a marketable "space dog" pet, similar to Star Wars character Chewbacca. Smith inserted them into his script, but the project was abandoned and the script discarded."

Peters was also obsessed with the idea of Superman fighting a giant spider, and idea which ended up in Wild Wild West(!!!!) in the form of a giant mechanical spider.

So, no, we don't know how much in there was studio meddling, what draft it was etc., and with these properties the executive interference runs high, and Joss hadn't directed a hit movie yet, at that point so probably had little influence.

Even with The Avengers, and Ultron we know he had to toe the studio line to a certain degree.

Is this the same script that was read by Drama Club Heroes on Geek and Sundry about a year ago which was also featured on here?

Because I did enjoy that one and I believe so did the G&S people who would certainly not be ignoring any kind of sexism. Although they might have been forgiving some things on the merits of this having been a (n early?) draft.

[ edited by Huschel on 2017-06-22 16:19 ]

I'm with slayerinthedark for the most part. While I have serious problems with some of Joss's stances, there's no way in hell he's sexist. His entire body of work is a testimony to that. As for the script, if it's the one read by the Drama Club Heroes on Geek and Sundry, it was clearly a first draft that hadn't been fleshed out (more like an outline or guidelines for a script), and there was nothing freaking sexist in it. The article is clearly click bait.

I don't think you can, unfortunately, call it just a click bait attempt. This "story" has made its way round to a LOT of sites and forums. As to the merits of said story, I have no intention of reading the thing in the first place as it was both leaked illegally and as others have said it was barely a first draft. Heck not even sure if the legitimacy of it has ever been verified.

I guess people are upset mostly cause Wonder Woman does a sexy dance. I shit you not.

I think a lot of people are upset because Wonder Woman is, y'know, a woman. SIgh.

Ha, touché.

I guess people are upset mostly cause Wonder Woman does a sexy dance. I shit you not

I'm sorry but that's not all it was, so either you're misinterpreting people's complaints or being a little dismissive and/or deceptive. There was a lot more to the script that people took issue with such as the way WW's body was described, the way her mother was described, the way WW and other women were referred to as "bitches" and "whores", the way Steven lectured and talked down to her throughout the entire movie, and yes, the dance. And in my opinion it's all pretty valid.

I guess we can debate how much of it was Joss but there's some very telling signs that at least some of it is - like his insistence on WW being barefoot in a scene which does seem to be this persistent 'fetish' that Joss has. I don't agree that Joss is a raging misogynist and some of the online criticism is way overboard but I do think people have a point that Whedon's feminism really has not evolved since the 90's. Buffy will be my favourite fictional character of all time but you can't ride on her coat tail's forever and the "tiny little super powered women" girl power theme has gotten stale. And I do think that there's valid criticism about the patterns in Whedon's work where female characters are only given power through being subjected to mental and/or physical torture.

Regardless, this was a very poor script. It wasn't just sexist but also full of pretty bad dialogue and a terrible plot. I wasn't enamoured by WW as many other people were but it was a good film and far more uplifting and well-written than this script. For his own reputation and career, it's probably a good thing this never happened.

Sigh indeed, if even an even-keeled critique like vampmog's is apparently too much.

A lot of the demonization of Whedon out there is definitely extreme - you would think he was the worst of the worst misogynists when there are people out there with much worse tendencies than Whedon who don't get half the criticism. Over the years, Whedon has demonstrated great levels of respect and empathy for women and written some of the most well-rounded, richly characterized female characters I've seen (which is, in my opinion, his most important contribution when it comes to female characters, not just that some of them are physically strong). It's a little sad that some people are so willing to dismiss that in favor of blowing every flaw they can find out of proportion.

That being said, he is most definitely not above criticism, and it makes me equally sad to see even balanced and respectful attempts at criticism treated dismissively. It's not a zero sum game. It's not he's either ragingly sexist or not sexist at all (personally I think it's nearly impossible for anyone to not be even a little bit sexist, or racist for that matter. We all have all kinds of unchecked biases and harmful attitudes that we take for granted and don't see clearly in ourselves)

I stated in my post that constructive criticism I have no problem with and I think when done respectively can be beneficial. ( I personally feel that a lot of the creative decisions done with Buffy's character in season six calls her effectiveness as a role model for girls into question, although it was excellent development for her as a character). I don't think anyone has issue with what you or vampmog stated (I definitely don't). I am, however, tired of reading all the threatening and hateful comments directed at him online under any article posted about him such as when it was announced that he was doing Batgirl. These comments often have no intellectual conversational intent and are come across more as school yard bullying, and it makes me really sad to have seen these types of insults escalate in the last couple of years. Whedon's not perfect but some of the hate he's been getting recently I wouldn't wish on the most despicable celebrity (ok maybe Bill Cosby).

I also don't mind people criticizing his WW screenplay (if it had actually been executed and still had those flaws), but I feel the author's decision to tear apart a screenplay that hasn't even been verified and never got made into a movie the same month that WW was a smash success, was a tabloid/clickbait decision and didn't add anything to the feminist discussion, especially when most of the article involved posting a lot of Joss Hating tweets, many of which seemed to be from people too young to see any of his other works.

[ edited by whedonite26 on 2017-06-23 22:25 ]

It's true that discussions about Joss on other parts of the internet tends to get pushed to extremes. People are either criticising every character he's ever written and claiming his work was never feminist in the first place, or they're seen as defending everything and blind to any flaws. Any real debate feels impossible. I just want him to release some new work to give everyone something new to discuss, and hopefully to remind people of how good he can be (unless of course he leaves in a couple problematic lines that supposedly ruin the entire film).

Vampmogs, I see the point about his feminism still resembling 90s feminism. But then again, a lot of the recent evolution of feminism hit the mainstream in the 2010s. Many of the creators he's compared to now weren't able to put out much feminist work before then either. For all that time he's been writing for Marvel, and there's only so much you can do with an ensemble comprised of one main female character without her own franchise. I'd argue that he hasn't had the chance to show the development of his feminism in actual produced screen work, so for all we know it has developed.

Sigh.

I take it you have nothing to contribute then. Cheers.

@BluelarkI'd argue that he hasn't had the chance to show the development of his feminism in actual produced screen work, so for all we know it has developed.

The thing is, even in his most recent works the same kind of patterns keep showing up. In DH the main character is a petite, emotionally fragile woman who gets her power through mental/physical torture. In AoU, Wanda gets her power through experimentation and after being terrorised by Stark's weapons and Natasha from sterilization.

You also have to take a look at Whedon's work as a whole. BtVS was groundbreaking for its time but he explicitly admitted that Dollhouse wasn't feminist. Their idea to have Inara raped by Reavers and then have Mal finally respect her because of it and kiss her hand is utterly grotesque and would have destroyed Firefly. Penny was fridged for Dr Horrible's manpain. And Angel is an utter mess when it comes to it's female characters when every. single. one. of. them is killed off and there's an incredibly disturbing pattern of having them all die as a result of their bodies being violated (Cordy by Jasmine, Fred by Illyria, Darla by the fetus inside her).

I'm mostly playing devil's advocate here because I think a lot of people on this site tend to be too dismissive of the criticisms people have of Whedon's work. There's a lot to love about those shows but BtVS was the only one that was really 'feminist' so it's valid to examine how much he's really living up to his self-proclaimed cred.

There is a variety of female characters in Whedon's work and I appreciate that (Buffy, Adelle and Joyce are nothing alike, for instance) but Joss does seem to hone in on the Echos/Freds/Rivers who are all mentally damaged and "crazy." And his recent interview about Batgirl he says he's looking to see what makes the character so "damaged" (I'm paraphrasing the exact quote) which suggests he has no interest in changing or evolving at all. He also does seem to have a particular fetish of showing women barefoot or focusing on their bare-feet which gets a little creepy, and he takes a liking to actresses with a very particular look (waify) which I think is deserving of some criticism. People tend to notice this stuff more because back when he was making BtVS there wasn't a lot of other work of his out there to examine and for people to start noticing these patterns.

Lol, my sigh was mostly at some bringing up the foot fetish bullshit AGAIN, and then, well, you just did it again. And then just criticized Whedon for his "taste" in actresses. So I will state it again:

Sigh.

Also pretty sure Natasha ant get her "powers"(?) from sterilization.

I'm sorry let me try to clarify that to sound like less of a butt. I'm not saying that you can't criticize Joss or that your criticisms are invalid, but when you end it with "also lol he likes feet the sicko" it makes your entire argument sound...not so good.

@vampmogs
And Angel is an utter mess when it comes to it's female
characters when every. single. one. of. them is killed off


With the exception of Connor,
every single human character in the show is killed off.

re: vampmogs:
What everybody else said.

*racks mind for exception*
Oh, Kate isn't killed off either!

@Grack21 Lol, my sigh was mostly at some bringing up the foot fetish bullshit AGAIN, and then, well, you just did it again. And then just criticized Whedon for his "taste" in actresses. So I will state it again:

Why is it "bullshit?" How about you actually *elaborate* on your opinions instead of contributing nothing but your "sighs" and labelling people's opinions "bullshit" and then people wouldn't misinterpret what you're "sighing" about.

@RobynH"With the exception of Connor,
every single human character in the show is killed off."


Well, I don't why we would exempt Connor but Gunn was also still alive before the credits closed. Also, I'm not sure how the fact that all the human characters did die (which they didn't) changes the fact that we were left with nothing but male characters or that the 3 main women in the show didn't all die through having their bodies violated.

AtS was weirdly fixated on having it's women violated and impregnated. I mean, Cordelia alone was impregnated by a demon spawn in S1, she was forcibly held down and impregnated by a demon spawn in S2, and then she was impregnated with Jasmine and ultimately died from her birth in S4. Wtf?

[ edited by vampmogs on 2017-06-24 07:59 ]

Uh, because its 1. A rumor off the Internet based of nothing but heresay and speculation and 2. It's completely irrelevant to the point. It's if I ended this post with oh yeah I heard vagmogs does cocaine any way so his opinions mean nothing. Or more similarly, oh he likes goths with short hair whatcha weirdo anyway.

Wait, what's a rumour? That there's a pattern of Joss having his actresses barefooted and has had the camera linger on their feet or specifies in his script that they should be? Because that's not a rumour when people can point to specific examples of this happening – like in this WW script. It wouldn't be commented on so much if it weren’t noticeable.

If you're saying that it's hearsay to assume this is because he has a foot fetish then, ok, but when people notice patterns in a person’s work then it’s only natural they’re going to speculate on why that may be or express how it comes across to them.

And it's not irrelevant to the point because for many people, having only your actresses in a certain state of undress (no matter what part of the body it may be) may rise some eyebrows, especially if people interpret it as being a particular, um, fascination of the directors. Part of the reason people seem to have loved the WW film so much is that there’s no exploitive shots of Diana’s body or male-gazey shots throughout the entire film, which is appropriate for a feminist character & movie. And definitely some of the criticism aimed at Whedon’s script isn’t just the suggestive ‘dance’ she does, but the way he repeatedly sexualizes her body when referring to it in the script, how she's described as being "scantily clad", and, yes, the way he specifies that she needs to be barefooted.

Likewise, I brought up his ‘type’ of actress because it’s another common criticism aimed at Whedon’s feminism, which, IMO, has some merit to it. Women come in all shapes and sizes and people would like to see that reflected on their screen more. When people start to notice that a director tends to favor women with a very similar resemblance to one another it’s only natural they’ll start to examine why that may be, particularly a director who talks a lot about being a feminist. It's a legitimate critique of his body of work.

[ edited by vampmogs on 2017-06-24 09:45 ]

Mmmm no I'm going to withdraw from this argument before it turns nasty. Someone else can take over.

I think you've had problems remaining civil from the moment you started talking to me so yeah, that'd be for the best.

I also just realised after re-reading the thread, that you never even bothered to read the leaked script and yet feel qualified to blow off people's opinions about it anyway. If I'd known that (my fault for missing it) I wouldn't have even engaged in the first place.

[ edited by vampmogs on 2017-06-24 10:52 ]

With all due respect, but why would anyone - other than his wife that is - care whether or not Whedon has a foot-fetish? I honestly can't believe we are even talking about this. Not joking (which should be done, because the topic is somewhat funny) - but seriously talking about it.
The guy is telling stories. Thanks to talent and hard work he has put himself into a position where he can more or less tell the stories he wants in the way he wants to tell them. Like everybody else in such a position he's going to incorporate elements - both bigger and smaller, obvious and less so - that for whatever reason he cares about or that fascinate him. So maybe it's feet with him. Big whoop. Maybe it's even rootet in some sexual fantasy. So be it. You can champion women's rights and still have a kink. Who doesn't? Why is this a bad thing? Nobody is forced to do anything. If I had to guess, I'd say most actresses prefer dropping their socks to dropping their bra - which happens in quite a lot of movies.

So maybe you want to look at it from a gender-angle. Alright. I'll put it this way: Petite women's feet are potentially pretty (although it's a prettyness I personally can't perceive) - big hairy men's feet are not. Who in their right mind would want to show that on camera? Unless it's "Harry and the Hendersons" you'll probably lose ten million dollars on the box-office right then and there! (I'm half-kidding here.)
But we can also turn it around. How many naked male asses have there been in comedy movies? A lot. How many naked female asses have there been in comedy movies? Not quite that many, because apparently writers, directors, producers, and - I guess - censors think that a man's ass is something funny, while a women's ass is less so. Therefore, guys are getting asked to drop their pants while their female co-stars stay clothed. I'm perfectly fine with that (well...maybe not perfectly...) - just like I am fine with a guy wanting to put ten seconds of a woman's feet into a 120 minute movie.


I also don't get the criticism regarding a "seductive dance" and sexualization of the body, or - on the other hand - praising this year's WW movie for (apparently) not including such elements.
Seriously? Look at the source material. I'm not talking about Wonder Woman specifically, but superhero comics in general. What are they, if not sexual fantasies? Again, look at them! It's big muscles, big tits and tight outfits. The mere notion to take such a product and strip it of its sexual elements in favour of being a "feminist movie" (whatever that might be) is...well, I honestly don't know where to start.
Now if you say that you want Batman and Superman and Iron Man to be sexualized just as much as Wonder Woman or Black Widow, then I'm right there with you. (Although I'd say that's already happening. Guys like Stephen Amell, Chris Evans or Chris Hemsworth have been dropping their shirts quite a bit in recent years.) But taking the sex out of superhero movies makes little to no sense to me. It shouldn't be praised, it should be frowned upon.

I'd also like to add, that I don't consider being "sexy" or "seductive" to be a weakness. It's a strength. It's empowering. Why wouldn't you want your heroes to be powerful? Being able to seduce people, to have that effect on them, is just as powerful as being able to punch them through walls. Sometimes even more so. (It's also more realistic and attainable.)
Furthermore, I want to consider the target audience. Comicbooks used to be written for young males. That's different today, which includes the film adaptations. However, it wasn't today's landscape back when Whedon wrote his WW script. I've looked at some IMDb voting data for comparison:
"Spider-Man" (2002) has 67,0% male voters vs. 12,6% female voters. 29,7% are boys and men under the age of 30. 28,5% are men between the ages of 30 and 44.
"Batman Begins" (2005) has 69,0% male voters vs. 10,9% female voters. 31,4% are boys and men under the age of 30. 29,0% are men between the ages of 30 and 44.
"X-Men: The Last Stand" (2006) has 69,4% male voters vs. 12,7% female voters. 29,6% are boys and men under the age of 30. 31,6% are men between the ages of 30 and 44.
That was the audience, Whedon had to consider. Young men, who - OBVIOUSLY - want to see "hot chicks". Let's not forget: This is the entertainment business. Movies like "Wonder Woman" aren't being made to potentially better the world, they are being made to potentially making people rich(er) by enticing others to pay money for a product which they don't need, but want. There isn't much, people want more than sex. Especially young men. It therefore makes all the sense in the world to offer them exactly that: Hot, young actresses who portray hot, young, powerful women.
I'm not talking about being slutty. I'm not talking about being degrading. I'm talking about the type of person, that women wish to be and men wish to be with - a fantasy. Just like Tony Stark - but the other way around. It should be classy, it should in no way be porn, it shouldn't be so that the sexual element is the only - or even the most obvious and most important - thing about it (or about them). But it should be there. It's part of the package. And it's not something that warrants criticism. Sex is good - without it, none of "this" would be happening.

I'm talking about the type of person, that women wish to be and men wish to be with - a fantasy.


Here's the thing. The sexuality you describe ('sexy', 'seductive') isn't the type of person many women wish to be, at least not constantly; it's what men want them to be. You acknowledge that comics were originally drawn for the male gaze. From the way they were traditionally drawn, the male heroes are power fantasies and the female heroes are sexual fantasies, and those are two very different things. Feminist superhero stories are the ones that allow their female characters to be a power fantasy (and it can be for men as well as women). To do this successfully they have to take the female hero's point of view, which by definition means they can't be filmed for the male gaze.

FWIW, it's been noted that IMDb skews male, so you really can't use that voting data as an accurate representation of film audiences. A big mistake Hollywood's made repeatedly, and is only just starting to correct, is assuming all its blockbusters are for men when there's a lot of audience data to dispute that. So a male cinematic audience is no excuse when it comes to the Wonder Woman draft. However, it's a draft that was never meant to be read by anyone except the producers. So while the focus on the looks of the female characters is troubling, it was in a way written for the very male audience of film executives. I really hope it wouldn't have come across in the same way had he filmed it.

I have no intention of reading something that was leaked illegal, sorry if I ever implied that I had.

@Sahjan
You can champion women's rights and still have a kink. Who doesn't? Why is this a bad thing? Nobody is forced to do anything.

Because there's nothing 'feminist' or 'empowering' about hiring women you are attracted to and then deliberately writing a script or filming an episode in a way that forces them to be objectified for your personal pleasure. And as for “nobody forcing [the actress]” to do anything? Joss is the director. Joss is the boss. Joss is in the position of power and the actress is not. There is a great power imbalance where actresses are “forced” to do things in an industry notorious for it’s poor treatment of women and are objectified in ways male actors are often not because those holding the power are predominately men.

There are two main criticisms that people have here. That Joss (The Boss) is deliberately having his actresses (his employees) depicted in a way for his own personal gratification and people find that uncomfortable because of the power imbalance. It wouldn’t (or shouldn’t) fly in any other workplace but people always believe Hollywood should be the exception. The other is that there’s nothing remotely empowering about sexually objectifying a woman for a man’s pleasure, which leads me to;

I also don't get the criticism regarding a "seductive dance" and sexualization of the body, or - on the other hand - praising this year's WW movie for (apparently) not including such elements.

You don’t get why people would be praising a movie for treating it’s female protagonist the same way that, say, Robert Downey/Iron Man is, and having her be portrayed as a superhero young girls can admire and look up, and not an object of lust and sexual gratification for men? What is so hard to understand about that? You don’t think women want a superhero treated with the same respect afforded to her male counterparts? Where in the Iron Man script is Tony Stark’s body repeatedly described in a sexual way? Where does Tony have to do a sexual dance because apparently his brains and brawn are not enough?

I'd also like to add, that I don't consider being "sexy" or "seductive" to be a weakness. It's a strength. It's empowering. Why wouldn't you want your heroes to be powerful? Being able to seduce people, to have that effect on them, is just as powerful as being able to punch them through walls.

There is nothing 'feminist' about the male gaze. It's about objectifying women and their bodies for the titillation of male viewers and no amount of spin is going to change that. It is not done for the benefit of women and it isn’t done with women in mind. I mean, you more or less admit that yourself when you say that the script was most likely done to appeal to a predominately male audience so I'm not sure why you even waste your time pretending it was ever meant to be remotely inspiring or empowering for women. There is nothing “empowering” about referring to WW as “scantily clad.” There is nothing “empowering” about a male character grabbing WW’s blouse and looking down her top (I mean, WTF?). There is nothing “empowering” about WW being touched “invasively” (his exact words) in her weakened state. And there's nothing "empowering" about WW having to do a "wicked sexy" and "sensual dance" for the men in the club. Do you think that made them respect her? The same kind of men that shame Diana in the script and refer to her as a "whore?"

When people talk about Whedon's shortcomings as a male feminist or a male director this is what they mean. And when they compare it to Patty Jenkinson's script you can easily see why a female director should have always been making this movie. Jenkinson's was approaching WW from a female POV and was writing her with a female audience in mind. She wasn't interested in making sure WW was sexy or sexually objectified because she had no interest in making her a sexual object for the gratification of men (or herself). I actually wasn’t as enamored with the film as others were (I thought the third act was a letdown) but it did do a marvelous job in how it portrayed Diana and I am very happy that there are so many stories of women crying in the cinema or of little girls dressing up as WW for their screenings. Would little girls have been inspired by Whedon’s script? I doubt it.

@Grack21
I have no intention of reading something that was leaked illegal, sorry if I ever implied that I had.

Then I'm at an utter loss as to how you ever felt you were in any position to be dismissive of people's opinion about a script you know nothing about. It wasn't just about people being upset over a dance, "I shit you not." You wouldn't know that of course, because you didn't read it, but I guess you felt qualified to ridicule people anyway.

[ edited by vampmogs on 2017-06-25 01:47 ]

Edit: Apologies. I am... not going to get into this one. I should know better by now.

[ edited by Grack21 on 2017-06-25 03:27 ]

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[ edited by Grack21 on 2017-06-25 03:25 ]

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[ edited by Grack21 on 2017-06-25 03:26 ]

Starting off by saying I've not read the script so can't really comment on it's content. My comments are more general.

I have long made peace with the flaws in Joss' writing. That doesn't mean he's still not one of my favourite writer/director/auteur's out there. I think that from an outside perspective he does appear to have developed over the years in respect of the race/body type/age of actors hired. I say from an outside perspective as the more diversity is Joss' casts does seem to increase with the amount of power/control he has - it is difficult to tell whether he has evolved or whether he has always wanted more diversity and was not allowed to by Faceless Network Exec. I would imagine it is a combination of the two + the change in the TV landscape over the years. That said I think we are a long way off Joss writing a script with Viola Davis as the main character.

He does have a particular type for his leading ladies and I don't think it's wrong to address that.

Joss created my two favourite characters (Buffy and Cordelia) so I have a lot of slack to give him. But what happened to Cordelia/Charisma is also why I think it's important to address his work critically.

This script (and again note above I admit I have not read it) I don't find it interesting to judge him on. As noted above even if it is real it is a draft written 10 years ago with likely contributions from other people. As I know from the small amount of writing I do often a draft can be incredibly rough and you have to work with it longer to get to know the characters and plot better. We have plenty of Joss' finished product to dissect.

I think it's fairly standard practice for a main character in action/sci-fi/fantasy to have a sad/dark backstory whether they be male or female (although with male characters this does or used to skew more towards a fridged partner/spouse). I personally find power and comfort in the story of someone who has been a victim gaining control and becoming powerful. (What happened to Cordelia was not good storytelling for me - that was gratuitous). But that is my preference and I can also understand how people could have a different reading.

The foot thing... I can't believe I am wading into this... but maybe he just thinks it is a good way to show someone as vulnerable? It's not like it's the first time that Joss has reused something in one of his scripts.

I find myself avoiding a lot of Joss articles on the internet now unless they are linked by Whedonesque. So many sites seem to have it out for him (let's not even get into Tumblr) and most ranting articles are not well-reasoned criticism where flaws are discussed fairly but seem more to be from people who are bandwagon jumping and who have maybe only ever seen one thing Joss has done. Buffy saved my life, I can't get behind the idea of Joss as misogynist. He is not beyond criticism but like all of us he a product of this world, his time, his upbringing. We all have our internal prejudices/preferences that we must confront and challenge but if we are attacked for them we are more likely to withdraw than evolve. And I do believe people can change and evolve.

When you are identified as writer who is trying to write better for women/LGBTQIA/POC the dogpiling onto you does seem to be worse than a writer who just wants butts/boobs/explosions. And I get it because perhaps people go into your work with more hope or more of a critical eye and so are more likely to note the flaws but at the same time it does often mean that the criticism is way out of proportion.

Anyway... I am looking forward to Batgirl and whatever else Joss chooses to do next. I will still be front of the queue.

Leaf, I agree with basically everything you said.

It's one thing to criticise the work and a whole other to start speculating on hidden motives and claiming he's not a feminist. I've seen claims that he only writes powerful women as part of a male fantasy, or that his favourite narrative of powerless to powerful is because he enjoys depicting oppressed women. I don't buy it because as far as I'm concerned, when he writes female characters he IS the characters. It's the mark of a good writer, and that's why women in his work are so complex and varied (in personality - there is something to be said about the way they're cast).

It is a mistake to confuse the actions of a writer's characters with the intentions, inner world, motivations, or psychological preclusions of the writer themself. You do not know Joss. None of us do.

Shots of feet walking across a floor are as old as cinema itself. Bare feet are not sexual objects unless YOU bring that to the imagery. As a visual metaphor, nudity in general and therefore nude feet can represent a host of things including being a creature of nature, honesty, vulnerability, and yes a touch of the sensual. This does not naturally equate Joss having a foot fetish, and it is childish, ignorant, or simply petulant to assume you know a person's sexual proclivities from a motif in their art.

For the same reason, it is wrongheaded to accuse a writer of sharing the opinions of their villains. Calling Fight Club sexist for the things Tyler Durden -- the film's villain -- says is akin to saying a film about WW2 that has any nuance is antisemitic. Most of the criticisms coming from the Twitter account that started this and from those who agree with it can be tossed out for this reason alone. When the villain calls Diana a whore, it's because that's what Joss thinks a sexist villain would do, and his instinct is to put a sexist villain against WW. Either way, a villain's words are even less a portal into the inner beliefs of the writer. It's simply an invalid criticism.

Wonder Woman is beautiful. It's part of she and in fact her entire race of Amazons' primary characteristics. Black Widow was tortured and brainwashed. When she thinks she's a monster, it's not because Joss thinks she's a monster, it's because the world Natasha lives in has taught her if she cannot be pregnant then she is not a woman, and because of her bloody past. It's her first sign of vulnerability and humanity. She certainly doesn't 'get her power from her torture' -- that's a reduction to help further your argument by stretching everything to fit your thesis. Willow was always exactly as powerful as she was -- it is Tara's death that destroys the inhibitions that were keeping that power in check. Joss's men all tend to be horrible, violent animals trying to redeem themselves even as his women, victims of similar animals, grow in power the more they reclaim autonomy from those who torment them.

Sexuality isn't the exclusive realm of the male and its repression is not the path to freedom. A hero can willingly sexualize him or herself without sacrificing their power. In fact, our sexuality in many cases is the only superpower a human will ever possess. It manipulates those around us, it makes us feel invulnerable, it brings us closer, and it creates life.

Conversely, deleting rape, sex trafficking, the male gaze, rape culture, etc. from one's stories is one way to present a feminist narrative (write the world as you wish it to be). Another is to include all of them, so that people don't get to pretend they don't exist. Joss's works have always been a blend of the two.

Which brings me to my final point. The motif of small women developing their powers as a result of their violation is certainly present. Allow me, now, to break my own rule and psychoanalyze this motif: I think that Joss confronts these things because it is how he sees the world, and possibly how he's experienced it. It is an empowerment fantasy -- he's not the violator here; he's the victim. It's his inner female aspect that has been violated somehow, and his writing is attempting to heal that wound by continuously empowering women that others would outwardly prejudge as weak. Dollhouse was about Echo awakening and freeing herself, not about whatever violations were occurring to her at its beginning. Its premise isn't "Futuristic Brothels Are the Best!" but rather, as all of his shows are ultimately, "A Victim Overcomes Their Victimhood to Become a Hero."

My point is not that I'm right in my interpretation of Joss's inner workings, mind you -- as I said before, none of us know him. Rather it is that two can play the game of analyzing a psyche through the art it produces and still be no closer to knowing them.

If you want to know who Joss the man is, whether he is feminist, and other characteristics of the adult stranger whom we've dedicated some chunk of our life to dissecting here, perhaps look to his actual works. His speeches on humanism, his contributions to organizations for women, his activism, and his words in interviews. Even then, you won't know him, but it's certainly a better way to judge the person. Stick to criticizing the art on its own merit and content, and please stop metagaming.


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