Thursday, March 27, 2008

Joss Whedon Misogynist? Zoe Boring? All Sex is Rape? Frodo and Sam?

I'm taking a major detour to Nerdsville and you guys are stuck for the ride. Over at Ace's place he links to a discussion of the misogyny of Joss Whedon vis-a-vis the interaction between Mal and Zoe and Mal and Kaylee. Bat crap. But Ace is full of crap, too. He says that Zoe's character is one-dimensional and boring. Whatever. I prefer to view her as battle-worn and stoic. Her comic lines are played straight. She is tough, uncompromising and a warrior. Even Jayne was scared of her. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

First, lets deal with stupid women writing stupid feminist shit about something they obviously doesn't know shit about. The title of this piece of magnificence is called "A Rapist's View of the World" and the writer says this:

I have to say that now that I have subjected myself to the horror that is Firefly, I really am beyond worried about how much men hate us, given that this was written by a man who calls himself a feminist.

I find much of Joss Whedon’s work to be heavily influenced by pornography, and pornographic humour. While I would argue that there are some aspects of Buffy: The Vampire Slayer that are feminist and progressive, there is much that isn’t and I find it highly problematic that there are many very woman-hating messages contained within a show that purports itself as feminism. But Firefly takes misogyny to a new level of terrifying. I am really, really worried that women can call the man who made this show a feminist.

For myself, I’m not sure that I will recover from the shock of watching the malicious way in which Joss stripped his female characters of their integrity, the pleasure he seemed to take from showing potentially powerful women bashed, the way he gleefully demonized female power and selfhood and smashed women into little bits, male fists in women’s faces, male voices drowning out our words.
Huh. Having watched Firefly from beginning to end and re-watched many episodes, all I can ask is,"Were you watching the same show I was watching?" The major problem this woman seems to have is understanding the context of this show. It's a ship. It's enclosed. People don't get out or go anywhere for long stretches of time. There is sexual tension. The men are brash. You're unlikely to find a soft, tree-hugging, bunny-affirming male on a ship--any ship. There's a reason why there are lots of pregnant sailors on ships. People like sex. But here, according to the author, is the definition of rape:
"I believe in the radical feminist definition of rape. That is that men who pressure women into sex are rapists. That women who are pressured are not freely consenting and are therefore being raped. There have been a few discussions recently in the rad fem blogosphere debating whether all male initiated sex is rape, given that women are politically, socially and economically subordinate to men. So, in my understanding of Joss Whedon as a rapist is hinges on my definition of rape. I would argue that most 'sex' between men and women, in the contemporary 'sex-positive', pornographic, male-supremacist culture, is rape."
Oh, that's just awesome! No wonder she's a lesbian; it's the only way she can have sex and not be raped. Although, I wonder if she would view consensual sex with a female superior in a strap-on as rape. Probably not. My take from Whedon's elevation of prostitution is that he chose one of two intellectually honest opinions: 1) either prostitution is an accepted profession and should be honored as much as the men retain their honor when using a prostitute's service or 2) everyone should be prosecuted and viewed equally vilely by society. He chose option one. And, actually, prostitutes and concubines were often the educated females--temple prostitutes and whatnot. So Whedon is pulling from history in his space-age adventure and fooling around with expectations for shock value. It worked.

The men in Whedon's world are also interesting. Mal, the captain, is a veteran of war, barely survived and is rather cynical. He gives all his subordinates a hard time, including the women. In one case, the author failed to mention, Mal defends a whore house from an assault because one of the Johns fathered a child and believed it was his right to take the child because his wife was infertile. In one particularly hot scene during that episode, Mal beds one of the prostitutes and treats her with ....respect. Whedon portrays Mal as the reluctant hero, a man at war with society because society sucks--kinda like Robinhood. Read up on Robinhood. Robinhood was the good guy. So is Mal.

But Ace insists that Mal is a bad guy. In what 'verse? He poses as the outsider, but when it comes down to it, he makes the moral choice every time. Well, almost every time. And this is where I'm going to travel deeper into the Nerd village. I see an analogy between Mal and Zoe's relationship and another relationship from literature: Frodo and Sam from Lord of the Rings. Both are the classic military relationship--Mal is Captain, Zoe is XO. One major difference, besides gender, is that Sam isn't torn between his wife and Captain until the end. For Zoe, the tension enters early. She is loyal in an entirely devoted way to Mal. She is also married. For me, the weakest character isn't Zoe, it's her husband Wash. I wasn't surprised that he was killed off in the end, it was either him or Zoe. The tension couldn't last. And besides being a good pilot, he was a problem in combat operations.

Zoe is sort of one-dimensional, I'll grant Ace that much, but to say she's mechanical seems excessive. She is the strong, silent type who has the ability to surprise. And after the loyalty inspired by Mal, she devotes her life to his mission--stealing stuff. Hey! It's a TV show, it doesn't have to make sense.

Okay, I think I've demonstrated more than enough evidence of not getting out enough. Bottom line, feminism is stupid and Firefly should still be on TV. Oh, and sex is good. And, yeah, The Lord of the Rings is awesome, too.


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