In defense of separating artists from their art.
Joss Whedon’s former wife of 16 year years Kai Cole has revealed her ex-husband to be not a real feminist and actually a hypocrite in a guest blog post for The Wrap. Whether or not Whedon is a feminist is fair game considering he brings up gender a lot when discussing his career. He’s not exactly comfortable with the word, as my Twitter friend Noah Berlatsky has previously discussed. The AV Club has written up a reminder about longstanding criticisms of gender portrayals Whedon’s work that now look to be indicative of problems in his personal life.
Yet something is bothering me about the way these events are unfolding. I’ve never been more of a casual fan of the Whedonverse so I have very little stake in what its true origins are. I’m not particularly interested in uncovering Joss Whedon’s personal sins either. I am simply a little bewildered that people seem to think those who profess feminist ideals are incapable of sinning.
From the details in Cole’s letter, it sounds like Whedon does regret his behavior during their marriage even if he doesn’t understand which were the really bad parts. As of this blog post, I don’t know what he would say were his mistakes now. Maybe they have evolved and then again maybe they haven’t. And maybe the women he cheated with weren’t accomplices in killing feminism, maybe they were all equal partners in doing the wrong thing. I’m not sure it really matters or that its any of our business as long as no crime has been committed.
But this was apparently enough for the fan site Whedonesque to shutter its doors. That’s their decision but its hard not read that decision as being a fan of Buffy The Vampire Slayer or Firefly is now supporting misogyny and chauvinism.
Creators and their creation have a relationship, but that does not invalidate the relationship that audiences build either. You don’t have to give credit to the author for the good feelings their work gave you, especially in the case of television where many other creators are involved. Don’t let a cheating, gaslighting, dickbag determine what it means for you to be a feminist consumer of culture.