I'll put my virtual Asbestos suit on for this one, I need something flame resistant...
Prompted by a Facebook thread by a friend of mine; I'm writing today about my thoughts of Joss Whedon as a Feminist writer.
In short he isn't one, or at least not as much of one as he thinks he is.
There are a few reasons for this, some simple some quite complex. I'll try my best to be consise with my explaination but a lot of it is bogged down in theory...
Reason the first; the 19th centuary Natualistic falicy.
It's actually hard to say when this one started in history but my brain often associates it with 19th Centuary spiritualism so thats how I nickname it. (It's much older than that I am sure.) The basic idea is so engrained in our culture most people still havn't gotten over it today.
It can be simply explain as :
Now originally this wonderful boiling down of all things was used as a reason for female=bad=original sin; the very root of what became known as the Madonna/Whore dicotomy. With the wave of interest in Paganism in the late 19th centuary, the idea quickly became switched around. Female=Nature=good or the way the world was supposed to be before Men corrupted it with Civilisation. We still see it repeated today by psudo intellectuals and people purvaying alt medicines; if something is natural it must be good. (Hense the "Naturalistic Falicy" Arsenic is Natural for example, I wouldn't be taking it for my health though)
Now while good writing is few and far between in this world today, most of us have moved passed this simple dicotomy. Women can be more than either untaimed temptresses or obediant wives, they are people who have human wants, fears and desires.
Many of Whedon's female characters, and charcters in general can be broken down along these lines. (a few are a tiny bit more complex, but fall pray to reason the second..) Willow in Buffy is a sterling example of this,simply put the "good" Willow is a shy intellegent girl, while the "evil" Willow from an Alternate universe is a Vampire (or a Witch) who's desires sexual and otherwise are unbound. The "Slayer" spirit basically spells out the Naturalistic Falicy in the last season of Buffy; the reason all potentials cannot become Slayers is because the watchers wanted to control the Slayer spirit. The Watchers are men, and they seek to prevent the Slayer (a female spirit) from reaching it's full potential.
In Firefly Whedon has matured a little as a writer, so River is a more complicated example of this. She does not become totally unbound when released from Male control , she retains loyalty to her crewmates. But she is still an example of some sort of natural force being bottled up, and it's not suprising that she becomes a Buffy like killing machine when she realises her potential. (It's a whole other tract of argument that can be taken as well, that the female (River or Buffy) become empowered when they do what men "do" in our Culture- Kill.)
Part 2 coming soon...