20 Years Later, and the Women of Angel Still Deserve More
October 9, 2019 8:12 AM   Subscribe

"For a long time, [Joss] Whedon himself was lauded as a feminist ally and icon. But after two decades, Angel's feminist legacy doesn't hold up to a rewatch. Though the spin-off featured several nuanced, compelling female characters, too many of them met the same predictable end, sacrificed for male characters' emotional arcs." Lindsay King-Miller says The deaths of Darla, Fred, and Cordelia Chase were a waste. Charisma Carpenter replied, "I have never felt more seen or understood than by this journalist’s expression of all I have never been able to articulate or say myself."
posted by Etrigan (80 comments total) 48 users marked this as a favorite
 
Finally, afraid she won't be able to love the baby once it's born, Darla stakes herself in labor, dissolving to ashes and leaving her infant son, Connor (played as an adult by Vincent Kartheiser), lying on the pavement.

As one does, you know.

Buffy was better, but not that much, but it was also better for its time, but Josh Whedon seems always to have been kind of an asshole, but....well, anyway, professional funny person Jenny Trout has a Buffy rewatch which is very amusing although intermittent and not always tagged.

(And also some Angel rewatches, but you'll need to search - they're not linked on the rewatch page.)
posted by Frowner at 8:17 AM on October 9 [6 favorites]


I was always so annoyed at Angel at how thoroughly it wasted Cordelia, I eventually quit watching because of it.
posted by tavella at 8:23 AM on October 9 [18 favorites]


Angel was an okay tv series, not a cultural milestone.
posted by Ideefixe at 8:26 AM on October 9 [5 favorites]


It always seemed to me that Whedon was only really "lauded as a feminist ally and icon" by fans of the show. From what I gathered at the time, it seemed like other people didn't see it that way.

Color me not surprised that he turned out to be an obnoxious sex pest and blatantly non-feminist.
posted by Sphinx at 8:28 AM on October 9 [12 favorites]


It could have gone a different way. Cordelia could have fought evil while pregnant, had visions while pregnant, worked through her feelings for Angel while pregnant. Motherhood could have furthered her story, challenged her, isolated her, or called her to be stronger.

This happens so often, when an actress becomes pregnant and so all kinds of weird things happen to the character instead of the writers working with it. Big jackets and vases out of nowhere and lots of scenes filmed from the neck up and weird plotlines. As if pregnancy is some bizarre thing that happens only when people are settled down and boring.

I remember how Stargate Atlåntis worked in how Teyla was pregnant -- it's memorable because it's so unusual. (And then she ditched the baby so she could keep having adventures, but oh well.)
posted by The corpse in the library at 8:38 AM on October 9 [10 favorites]


In hindsight, it's probably for the best that Firefly got cancelled when it did, given rumors of Whedon's plans for the show.
posted by ZeusHumms at 8:47 AM on October 9 [17 favorites]


Not to derail, but what were the Firefly rumors?
posted by Servo5678 at 8:48 AM on October 9 [4 favorites]


Okay. I'm an epic Buffy/Angel fangirl and I firmly believe that the end of Angel was one of the best endings in television in a long time. I adored Cordy in all her versions and eventually came to love Fred just as much. But even at the time it happened, I was LIVID at how Cordelia was treated. It broke my heart that they spent so much time turning this one dimensional cliche into a real person only to squash and destroy it at the end.

But...at the time, fans bought it because there was a low key whisper campaign hinting that Charisma was difficult, and had a drinking problem. No one associated with the show ever said that was the issue, but it was strongly hinted at and there was a lot of "We were forced into this storyline because she wanted it this way." The same shit happened with Fred and Illyria, the writers promised us that they had a reason for it. There was a big fight coming. They needed Wes to be broken. They wanted to keep Amy and make her character stronger. This was the only way.

I've grown as a tv watcher, in part because of Buffy and Angel and learning to expect more out of my entertainment. As more and more is revealed about Joss and his less than awesome personality, I can see upon rewatches that almost every point in the two series that annoyed me, or pulled me out of the story, or felt cheap were almost always a direct result of Joss being a little bitch and tweaking his world to suit him and not the story. Wes ending up with Fred? Of course, the nerd always has to get the girl. Xander getting away with everything horrible and ending up a "hero"? Yeah, of course the Joss surrogate would get that treatment. Pregnancy as a punishment, yup. And all the other little inconsistencies that kept a good story from being great.

And what really pisses me off, is that I know some of the writers that were on the two shows. They do good work when not under his thumb. What stories could they have told without him? What stories could be out there without men like Joss created their on little fantasy world that they could play in?

Cordy deserved better. Fred deserved better. As did Darla, Dru, Lilah, Buffy, Faith, Willow, and Tara. We deserved better and I hope there is a new generation of writers and creators that will give it to us.
posted by teleri025 at 8:50 AM on October 9 [43 favorites]






This happens so often, when an actress becomes pregnant and so all kinds of weird things happen to the character instead of the writers working with it. Big jackets and vases out of nowhere and lots of scenes filmed from the neck up and weird plotlines. As if pregnancy is some bizarre thing that happens only when people are settled down and boring.

The best pregnancy cover up I ever saw was the daytime soap called Texas that aired in the early eighties. They had an character get pregnant so they had her swept away in a flash flood. They had her brought back by an angel in the series finale after she had given birth. It was a Christmas Miracle and the dialog actually said her survival was because "God looks after pregnant women".

I still remember the long pause after the line. Just sitting there stunned surrounded by wood panelling, on a couch with cornucopia patterned fabric and in a cloud of my chain smoking mom's cigarette smoke. Then we burst out laughing.

TV God looks after pregnant women in a secret space hidden from everyone until the pregnant part is safely in the past.
posted by srboisvert at 8:58 AM on October 9 [11 favorites]


> The Firefly Episode We're Really Glad Joss Whedon Didn't Get to Make

Oh, good lord.
posted by The corpse in the library at 9:02 AM on October 9 [36 favorites]


I started watching Angel when it came out but it felt very Angel Saves The Ladies and I stopped shortly in (eventually binging it during a period of unemployment). It had some good stuff -- I think the Wesley arc was fantastic (not the Fred part, the Connor part), the finale was perfect, puppets -- but overall I have never felt like rewatching (and I petered out on rewatching Buffy).

I did enjoy Dr Horrible, though it too had a lady problem, and there was good stuff hiding around the edges in Dollhouse, but really he just never grew past S1-2 Buffy which was pretty feminist for 90s tv.
posted by jeather at 9:08 AM on October 9 [2 favorites]


Most of the best episodes of Buffy were written by Jane Espenson anyway. Kinda like how most of the best stuff in the X-Files came from Glenn Morgan and James Wong, not Chris Carter.
posted by tobascodagama at 9:08 AM on October 9 [25 favorites]


there was a low key whisper campaign hinting that Charisma was difficult

One of the things I've realized thanks to the #MeToo movement and the truth about Harvey Weinstein coming out is that whenever you hear about a woman in Hollywood being "difficult" (or if she just disappears), it just means she said "No" to a man. Any man. Not even a powerful man, necessarily. And not even about anything sexual or even important. Just... she said "No".
posted by Etrigan at 9:10 AM on October 9 [132 favorites]


What Etrigan said. Also recall that Joss Whedon gave his ex-wife CPTSD by aggressively gaslighting her about his affairs and general shittiness for twenty years. That's something you can only do in the context of an abusive relationship. I mean, gaslighting is itself abusive, but it's never just the gaslighting.

That is the kind of guy that starts a whisper campaign to punish a woman for saying no.
posted by schadenfrau at 9:23 AM on October 9 [37 favorites]


Poor Cordy.

I remember how Stargate Atlåntis worked in how Teyla was pregnant -- it's memorable because it's so unusual.

They handled it only about 10% better, in that the baby wasn't actually demonic and she didn't die. Otherwise, hoo boy.
posted by praemunire at 9:28 AM on October 9 [3 favorites]


That tweet by Carpenter is rly tugging at me, because a couple of years back I had a moment of, I wonder if this is long enough for her to talk about it with some candour in conventions, and went on a search, and the answer was still, no. She still had to wrap it up in a nice bow of, well Joss sure knew what he was doing! Even when the other women actors on the panel was clearly being supportive, because the vibe from us fans on the floor wouldn't have been able to abide it.
posted by cendawanita at 9:32 AM on October 9 [13 favorites]


...also, yeah, still mad about Darla. Lady villains should never, ever die for babies, unless, in some magical world, it's the baby of her longstanding woman hero nemesis with whom she's had ideological debates and desperate sexual tension for a decade. That I would allow.
posted by praemunire at 9:32 AM on October 9 [8 favorites]


Lady villains should never, ever die for babies, unless, in some magical world, it's the baby of her longstanding woman hero nemesis with whom she's had ideological debates and desperate sexual tension for a decade. That I would allow.

Okay but even then, I submit instead Lady Villain almost dies, but makes it through, Feelings Are Confessed, and baby is raised by Lady Hero and Lady Villain together.
posted by tan_coul at 9:44 AM on October 9 [12 favorites]


Joss Whedon and the Terrible, Horrible, No-Good, Very Bad Script: A Wonder Woman Story (Teresa Jusino, The Mary Sue)

It's about the online reaction to a leaked draft of Joss Whedon's Wonder Woman script from 2006.
As a writer, I totally get being pissed off about a leak, and as a consumer of content, when I see stuff like this, I try to remember that there are many, many steps between script and finished product, and many opportunities for improvement, growth, and change. I mean, thank Hera this never got made! But also … this script may have evolved into something better. We’ll never know now.

I guess the only purpose this serves at this point is to ensure that one of our favorite creators knows that we want and expect better. That we’re not interested in him resting on his laurels and counting on past adulation over his feminism to see him through today. Feminism isn’t something one does once and never thinks about again. It’s an ongoing process. I’d like to think that Whedon is continuing to evolve.
Bolding is theirs.
posted by ZeusHumms at 9:48 AM on October 9 [2 favorites]


I submit instead Lady Villain almost dies, but makes it through, Feelings Are Confessed, and baby is raised by Lady Hero and Lady Villain together.

You have to leave something for the fanfiction!
posted by praemunire at 10:00 AM on October 9


One of the main things that ended up making Buffy work as well as it did was that it was a collaborative project, where the various writers had their own takes on the characters, that sometimes didn't match well, but were made to work by having a strong enough overall premise that forced some sense of coherence to much of possible contradiction. It wasn't perfect of course and one can pick apart of argue for things that could have or should have been done better, but the overall feel of the show worked because it adhered to a basic premise that the actors and writers all worked towards.

Angel didn't really have that at all. It was almost a different show each season, some of the arcs were pretty awful and some of the choices almost impossible to figure, if you stepped back and thought about it for a bit, but the dialogue was sharp and some of the individual episodes were top notch and the mix gave it a real feeling of being its own weird little thing the longer stayed on the air and kept changing.

My god though the worst stuff was really stupid, but some of the best stuff was solid and whatever the total of Whedon's many faults may be, he knew how to cast and had good people working with him behind the scenes. His own main strength, a particular kind of cleverness and awareness of convention that he knows how to twist to get audience reaction, isn't all that far removed from one of his main weaknesses in thinking that cleverness is enough of a gift to be forgiven other transgressions. It isn't as time catches up to the clever and shows how hollow it can be.
posted by gusottertrout at 10:12 AM on October 9 [14 favorites]


I remember the first time I saw Charisma Carpenter talk about how her pregnancy was handled on Angel. It was horrible, because she was also clearly trying to avoid saying anything too negative about Joss Whedon because he was helming the Avengers movies at the time and no genre actor wants to piss of the guy involved in casting the MCU.

This Whedon stuff is not just ickily sexist, it also makes his shows less interesting. Angel had a few great seasons, but the season where Joss had Cordelia make out with a newborn teenager (before kicking CC off the show) was just unwatchable. "Black Widow thinks she's a monster because she can't have children" somehow makes me tremble with anger to this day. Imagine writing for that character and making that choice. And I never especially liked Fred, but boy did I miss her when the alternative was the world's most crushingly dull alien leviathan thing that took her place. (Did they get a good bulk deal on blue paint or...?) By the time Anya died in the BtVS finale, it felt like a joke, because you could imagine that Joss has a checklist for which character he's going to kill off to add spice to an ending. Blech.

(All that said, it is almost Halloween, so I will be generous and remind everyone that Cabin in the Woods is seasonally appropriate and somehow unimpeachably good.)
posted by grandiloquiet at 10:19 AM on October 9 [21 favorites]


I did enjoy Dr Horrible, though it too had a lady problem

I enjoyed Doctor Horrible, too, but it does the same thing as in Angel -- sacrifices Felicia Day's character to complete Billy / Doctor Horrible's emotional arc. It is a tragedy, after all, but it would have been so much more interesting if Captain Hammer had killed himself, not Penny, and Doctor Horrible realizes that his life is empty without his nemesis. (It could also have led to an interesting choice of whether Penny actually would wind up with Billy.)

Maybe that's too much to ask of a Web video basically done just for laughs, but would it hurt to avoid the more obvious tropes?
posted by Gelatin at 10:28 AM on October 9 [16 favorites]


Well well... that certainly went from "not quite as feminist as I thought" to "at least partial monster" fast... I'm personally glad that dollhouse got cancelled, there was just a very distinct creep factor I can't fully explain. But I still can't help but want to see other (not that one) Firefly episodes that might have been... BTW for context, and for the 3 people who haven't seen it, Jayne is a dude. So him striking out on his own and then failing and coming back to Mal is not an issue. Also, I know it's a long time ago, but some credit for Willow, right? The most kick-ass-but-not-in-a-stereotypically-male-way female character I can remember from the 90s.

The Wonder Woman script... my one question would be, are there male characters introduced like

A drinking buddy of Clark's, FRED... fit, but not like he works out - more like he works in construction. Think long, lean muscles. He's well dressed, but his mustache says 'I don't care'

FRED: So, are you dating THE GIRL or what?

... because if not, then yeah.
posted by kleinsteradikaleminderheit at 10:29 AM on October 9 [2 favorites]


I'm personally glad that dollhouse got canceled, there was just a very distinct creep factor I can't fully explain.

I tried watching the series through a few years ago. I have often wondered how the show would have been received if it centered around a male 'doll.' Just that one little switch, the notion of asking people to identify willingly with a male protagonist who is used as a prop in powerful people's fantasies and trying to figure out who they are.

Same Wheedon quirks and conceits, just ... a man as the commodity trying to turn into a person again. How would that have worked?
posted by sobell at 10:37 AM on October 9 [7 favorites]


It could have gone a different way. Cordelia could have fought evil while pregnant, had visions while pregnant, worked through her feelings for Angel while pregnant. Motherhood could have furthered her story, challenged her, isolated her, or called her to be stronger.

This is how I feel about the ending of the latest season of Veronica Mars too. Not going down the very typical and boring route that they did would have allowed for many new and different possibilities that would have resonated with a lot of people.
posted by CPAGirl at 10:41 AM on October 9 [6 favorites]


just ... a man as the commodity trying to turn into a person again. How would that have worked?

Watch Prometheus and Alien: Covenant for your answer. Short version: a white man made as a commodity and denied the benefits of the patriarchy will develop terrifying feminine qualities like 'feelings' and 'wanting to reproduce,' kill a whole bunch of people, and breed a planet full of monsters.

(Oh, and make out with himself.)
posted by praemunire at 10:42 AM on October 9 [6 favorites]


I'm very glad Carpenter feels able to publicly share her validation with this. Years ago I worked on a show she hosted, nowhere near her but I did have access to her personal FTP folder, and damn, all I wanted to do was slip a note in there telling her Cordelia was done dirty. Professionalism stopped me but I think she would have appreciated it.

Fuck Whedon. Even at the time I recognized something was wrong when male characters like Oz and Riley got to leave, while the female characters died over and over and over again. The shows will always been special to me, and I'm totally coming to identify with Angel's message of maybe you can't win but you've damned got to fight in these times, but dammmmmn fuck Whedon.
posted by yellowbinder at 10:52 AM on October 9 [25 favorites]


From what I could see, and took from some veiled comments Whedon made at the time, Dollhouse was intended to be something of a correction to Alias, purposefully attempting to take something of the premise of that latter show, extend its logic and then, eventually, subvert it to show its flaws. That Dollhouse never found an audience meant that plan had to be abandoned for whatever wackiness happened in Season Two. (Which was the point I'd reached my Whedon limit and stopped watching.) It's kinda like Firefly was a reversal of the Star Trek model; no aliens, a corrupt universal government and so on.
posted by gusottertrout at 10:58 AM on October 9 [2 favorites]


Cordelia's death was so crap, those last couple seasons weren't worth watching. She was essentially the main character ffs! Her journey was cool, I hated her character from Buffy times but over Angel's course you really start to root for her. Great handling of a teen trope turned into compelling and complex character without losing her edge.
posted by GoblinHoney at 11:03 AM on October 9 [5 favorites]


By the end of the series Angel was probably the least interesting character on the show. It took a while for them to figure out the mix and develop the characters from such a weak start to many of them, but once Wesley was added and they finally got around to the actual subverting of Gunn's cliched origin, the show really started to spark. Some of the group dialogue scenes were as good as anything you'd find in movies or on TV for having a distinct set of different voices all contributing to a single scene in enjoyable and meaningful ways.

But the plotting of the show, never a big strong suit of Whedon's, ranged from bizarre to bad and that really made things difficult to enjoy at times. The character arcs could be good, but they were stuffed inside these larger plot arcs that made almost no sense at all. The show obviously had to lead to Angel once again turning to Angelus at some point, as that was always the gun just waiting to be fired, but once they made the turn they had nowhere to go with it except relying on the most absurd coincidences and delays to keep Angelus from actually, you know, doing anything to the "good guys" except analyzing them insultingly. I would have much preferred they killed off Angel/Angelus and had the rest of the show about the other characters and Wolfram and Hart, but I guess killing the guy the show is named after isn't a likely move.
posted by gusottertrout at 11:19 AM on October 9 [3 favorites]


purposefully attempting to take something of the premise of that latter show, extend its logic and then, eventually, subvert it to show its flaws

They always say that, and yet somehow the subversion never...actually...happens.

Firefly was a reversal of the Star Trek model; no aliens, a corrupt universal government and so on

These claims always annoyed me. We already had that show. It was called Blakes 7, and it was awesome. (I guess there were aliens but they were basically indistinguishable from humans.)

...Why has nobody rebooted Blakes 7? Perfect for the present moment.
posted by praemunire at 11:19 AM on October 9 [5 favorites]


This is how I feel about the ending of the latest season of Veronica Mars too.

I hated the ending of the recent Veronica Mars, not because of losing that character, but because I have grown (thanks in large part to Joss Whedon) to hate fiction that can't see beyond torturing its lead female character. And then Rob Thomas said he couldn't "imagine" Veronica in a happy relationship, and "for this show to work as a detective show, it has to be with Veronica as a single woman," so I canceled him.

Shame, because I really love Kristen Bell.

I'm personally glad that dollhouse got cancelled, there was just a very distinct creep factor I can't fully explain.

Check out Pass the Bechdel on Tumblr. She recently covered Dollhouse, and very nicely described the elements making up that creep factor.
posted by See you tomorrow, saguaro at 11:22 AM on October 9 [13 favorites]


Anya's death was also a waste.

#justiceforanya


I always thought DS9 did a good job incorporating Nana Visitor's pregnancy into the story.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 11:40 AM on October 9 [14 favorites]


Wynonna Earp did pregnancy better - Melanie Scrofano was pregnant before season 2 (I think) started filming, so they made her character pregnant (with a bit of magical fast-forwarding)...and Wynonna just kept right on kicking demon ass, in between having to pee every twenty minutes.
posted by Mogur at 11:41 AM on October 9 [9 favorites]


Oooo. Thank you for that, See you tomorrow, saguaro; that was awesome. I had mostly blocked out the ways in which Dollhouse was terrible (stuck with it to the end, hated the whole second season but felt compelled to watch it anyway, out of the mistaken belief that it was going somewhere and would all make sense eventually), but that brought it all rushing back, and then added a bunch of stuff I didn't notice at the time, but should have.

Dollhouse full series review (the first paragraph below MORE INFO is particularly worth reading)
Season 1 review
Season 2 review
posted by Spathe Cadet at 11:47 AM on October 9 [3 favorites]


Wynonna Earp did pregnancy better

really? i thought it was completely fucking horrifying, viscerally awful and alienating, that she was magically forced to carry a baby to full term virtually overnight when she'd been on the fence about whether or not she wanted to be a mother yet. i had to stop watching after that.
posted by poffin boffin at 11:48 AM on October 9 [5 favorites]


I'm personally glad that dollhouse got cancelled, there was just a very distinct creep factor I can't fully explain.

I mean, there's just no way it could not be creepy. You'd have to be an extremely smart, capable, non-cis-het-man with total control over the show and a virtually unlimited budget to be able to pull off the premise because it already skews so titillating-we-get-to-talk-about-helpless-naked-ladies. To make that show with a non-cis-het-male gaze would be....possible? But very difficult, and I think a lot of people would say, "hey, why spend one's time steering this unwieldy premise with a bad history that will always haunt it [because there's lots of creepy SF with the same premise lurking in the culturaly background] when I could do something else?"

Dollhouse pretty much retroactively ruined any positive feelings I had about Whedonverse stuff because the premise was, to my mind, utterly trashy and designed to appeal to the worst in viewers, call back to lots of creepy previous SF, etc.
posted by Frowner at 11:52 AM on October 9 [19 favorites]


whatever the total of Whedon's many faults may be, he knew how to cast

Well, sort of. He reused actors a lot, and the subsequent castings often did not work so well.
posted by jeather at 11:53 AM on October 9 [1 favorite]


These claims always annoyed me. We already had that show. It was called Blakes 7, and it was awesome. (I guess there were aliens but they were basically indistinguishable from humans.)

It was also called Cowboy Bebop (although that's arguably more "Lupin III in Spaaaaaaaaaace").

And Blake's 7 is a good example of how you absolutely can do this kind of show without the title character for most of the series and be massively compelling, and with pretty well realized female characters (shit, Tanith Lee wrote an episode didn't she?). But maybe only in the UK in the 70s.
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 11:54 AM on October 9 [6 favorites]


Cordelia could have fought evil while pregnant, had visions while pregnant, worked through her feelings for Angel while pregnant. Motherhood could have furthered her story, challenged her, isolated her, or called her to be stronger.

Ladies and gentlemen, Kira Fucking Nerys.
posted by Halloween Jack at 12:10 PM on October 9 [19 favorites]


shit, Tanith Lee wrote an episode didn't she?

She did. It was boooooooooooonkers.

Not a single supernatural pregnancy on that show, though it was rife with women characters with tragically wasted potential. Man. I would love to see a modern Jenna, Cally, and Servalan.
posted by praemunire at 12:12 PM on October 9 [6 favorites]


and Servalan.


I don't believe Morena Baccarin is working at present. Just sayin'.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 12:28 PM on October 9 [4 favorites]


The core design of Dollhouse was human trafficking / forced prostitution / non-consent (how can you consent if you have your mind wiped, right? ) I mean, Joss was basically asking the question if someone rapes your body but your mind isn't there is it still rape? He thinks that's an interesting idea for a show. Like, women already experience this it's called Rohypnol and yeah it is still rape and we don't need to make a whole show about it.

Now at a certain point they drop the 'rape of the week' plot lines and it starts becoming a mystery/action show that is actually pretty good. The ending is especially strong. It turned out to be a good show! But there was probably a non-gross way to do it. And he didn't.

I wasn't able to put the pieces together at the time. I'd watched his "why do you write such strong female characters" feminist award acceptance speech and I believed in it. But the totality of the evidence-- of his own creation-- suggests he was gaslighting all of us. And I can accept sometimes creators of things I like are bad people but that doesn't ever mean they get a pass for it! I'm not gonna pretend Joss Whedon isn't awful just cause I liked Buffy.

And if he had been honest in that speech I think his answer would have been "I write strong female characters because it's how I assert control over them: as playthings."
posted by cape at 12:39 PM on October 9 [27 favorites]


Regarding Wynonna Earp, I love the show times a million, so it's hard for me to judge objectively, but I thought they did great considering:

1) Melanie Scrofano is the lead, you can't just vanish her to the astral plane for a season like Cordy;
2) Wynonna is a very active character so you can't just have her standing behind a countertop with a mug of coffee for a season;
3) Melanie was 5 months pregnant when season 2 started filming so when we start the season with Wynonna she is already quite pregnant and time-jumping ahead and hand-waving all the backstory that would've had to go into a purposeful pregnancy would've been a narrative disaster, and
4) a pregnancy she didn't get to choose to keep is thematically in-line for Wynonna, although it's a real punch to the head. She didn't get to chose to be the heir or not kill Willa either - a large part of her story is not being able to chose what happens to her, but still learning to be heroic under those circumstances.

But, like I said, I fan this show so hard, YMMV.
posted by See you tomorrow, saguaro at 12:48 PM on October 9 [4 favorites]


At best, I would say that Joss was "feminish." Not a feminist, per se. He had some leanings toward that that went well, and others that well, fit with shitty masculine culture.

I haven't hit the point of quitting liking his works, but I've always liked some aspects and disliked others. Still mad about Fred and super mad about Cordy. Everyone gets a surprise pregnancy throwing off everyone's plans sometime, but they could have come up with a much better plot than that one. That was ridiculous, and always smacked of being vindictive towards CC somehow.
posted by jenfullmoon at 12:49 PM on October 9 [7 favorites]


I don't believe Morena Baccarin is working at present. Just sayin'.

Actually, she's very, VERY busy.
posted by palomar at 1:03 PM on October 9 [6 favorites]


I kind of always had the impression that Joss was the guy who signs up for Women's Studies classes primarily to meet women.
posted by 1970s Antihero at 1:06 PM on October 9 [24 favorites]


Previously, on Metafilter: After 15 years Whedonesque Shuts Down. Site was Inspired by MeFi. (August 21, 2017)
Yesterday, Joss Whedon's ex-wife Kai Cole accused him in a scathing editorial (published in The Wrap) of having multiple affairs with actresses, co-workers, fans and friends and of being a “hypocrite preaching feminist ideals.”
posted by ZeusHumms at 1:17 PM on October 9 [5 favorites]


It's kinda like Firefly was a reversal of the Star Trek model; no aliens, a corrupt universal government and so on.

Firefly was the pre-ANH Han Solo TV series we'll probably never get to see now that Bad Fan Culture ate Solo.
posted by The Tensor at 1:31 PM on October 9 [2 favorites]


Has anyone ever explained why Sarah Michelle Gellar never seemed to participate in promoting the show, no DVD commentary, rarely showing up at cons, etc. It always made me wonder what was going on behind the scenes. The revelations about Whedon's shenanigans didn't come as a huge surprise--something was up.
posted by Bee'sWing at 1:48 PM on October 9 [2 favorites]


I don't think anyone's ever gotten any explanation about that one. Though as far as I've ever been able to tell, she doesn't seem very social in general on other shows, with coworkers, etc. either. Usually the most anyone ever seems to say is that she's "professional."
posted by jenfullmoon at 1:50 PM on October 9 [3 favorites]


Never seen an explanation on that. I remember thinking it was very strange when it was reported/rumored that Gellar stopped doing table reads in the later seasons, and it made me wonder what the hell was going on behind the scenes on that set.
posted by See you tomorrow, saguaro at 1:59 PM on October 9 [2 favorites]


I heard about the Veronica Mars ending just from fan backlash - I think there's nuance there in that it's a noir mystery show, and part of noir is that the main character typically is trapped in their shitty situation, and it's partly their fault. It's why a lot of the noir detectives were alcoholics. The good seasons of Veronica Mars were able to keep her trapped in a situation that's no good for her through Veronica having to go to high school. As an adult, and an adult that (per the movie) very nearly escaped Neptune, the way they replicate that noir feeling is by Veronica making bad life choices that hurt her and the people around her.

I don't care for this as much - it's not as fun - but I see why it's necessary for the tone. It's a key part of the genre, that solving mysteries is an attempt to get back at the shittiness of their own life. (I think, in hindsight, trying to make Veronica Mars work as an adult noir detective was a mistake.)
posted by Merus at 2:07 PM on October 9 [8 favorites]


I mean, Joss was basically asking the question if someone rapes your body but your mind isn't there is it still rape? He thinks that's an interesting idea for a show.

Oh shit, I was Today Years Old when I realized that Dollhouse is basically "What if I read the William Gibson short story 'Burning Chrome' and the Molly backstory paragraph in Gibson's Neuromancer and then turned it into a TV series?"
posted by sobell at 3:02 PM on October 9 [11 favorites]


parts of dollhouse are really good but perhaps they are the non-joss parts. i love epitaph and viktor and sierra. sigh.
posted by armacy at 5:41 PM on October 9 [5 favorites]


Hey, I liked parts of Dollhouse too. I recall when watching it that I thought, like, three episodes were really great, some of the supporting performances were wonderful, and I thought the show may have had potential once it hit its stride. But then it was cancelled and the whole thing careened off a cliff as the second season wrapped up. Oh well.
posted by wondermouse at 6:14 PM on October 9 [2 favorites]


Buffy was such an important part of my teenage years. I watched it in secret, but also spent all of my time on message boards for it, made my first online friends talking about it, made my only offline friends talking about it, and even did weekly trivia for a newsletter for Angel. But I have no wish to revisit it - I'm somewhat tempted by the new Buffy comics that have a more 'modern' sensibility, but revisiting the original DVD's? I'm fine leaving it in the past with Oz's werewolf suit. It meant a lot to me for reasons that only vaguely had to do with the source material. We can have better stories now.

I remember hearing about how Charisma Carpenter was treated shortly after Angel ended - maybe around the time that Dollhouse was on, but other than the Tara bullshit, I don't think I really got that there was that much misogyny while watching it. But then, I do remember a lot of forced pregnancies and thinking that was strange and not even that well done from a body horror perspective, so maybe it was coming through a little bit.

The racism seemed pretty clear through the entire Whedonverse, though, even when I was watching it for the first time.

I do want to take a moment to acknowledge that Marti Noxon had to deal with so much bullshit from the Buffy fandom after taking over as showrunner in season six. Supposedly feminist fandoms sure had a lot of misogynistic bile in them. I'm not saying that season six was good, but elaborate death and torture fantasies for Marti Noxon seemed like they were the norm.
posted by dinty_moore at 7:49 PM on October 9 [10 favorites]


Marti Noxon deserved (and deserves) better.
posted by ZeusHumms at 7:59 PM on October 9 [7 favorites]


Was La Femme Nikita any good? I remember it had a passionate fanbase but I watched a couple of episodes in the middle and couldn’t follow the backstory.
posted by um at 9:03 PM on October 9


LFN, original recipe, was good to about...season three? Unfortunately, the DVDs don't have the original soundtrack, which is important.

"I miss the Cold War, too, Madeline."
posted by praemunire at 12:33 AM on October 10 [1 favorite]


You know, thinking over this - it feels like there just isn't enough well done horror about pregnancy with teenage girls/young women. Pregnancy is great for body horror anyway, but also all of those PSAs about how pregnancy will ruin your life forever (FOREVER! until you're 23-33, in which case, get at it!) had to scar more than one psyche out there. We should have something better than a fifty year old movie by a pedophile.

The Whedeonverse tried for that mutiple times (bad eggs, that first season episode of Angel where Cordelia was impregnated by demon snakes, the mentions here), but all of the versions I can think of were horrible plotlines.

Most pregnancy horror has more to do with an unknown/secretly alien father rather than 'I am biologically compelled to want this thing that is incubating my body and changing it in unforeseen ways and society will judge me harshly for not having at the exact right time', or variations thereof.
posted by dinty_moore at 7:28 AM on October 10 [2 favorites]


Well, I guess there's always Octavia Butler.
posted by dinty_moore at 7:31 AM on October 10 [9 favorites]


Oh shit, I was Today Years Old when I realized that Dollhouse is basically "What if I read the William Gibson short story 'Burning Chrome' and the Molly backstory paragraph in Gibson's Neuromancer and then turned it into a TV series?"

Yea, the Dollhouse is basically the House of Blue Lights, only the wipes are cutout chips and the meat puppets aren't confined to cubicles.

Ladies and gentlemen, Kira Fucking Nerys.


Wish there was a clip floating about from earlier in the same episode, where Kira physically fights her way through several security personnel to get to the vented compartment where Furel and Lupaza were killed.
posted by myotahapea at 9:21 AM on October 10 [3 favorites]


I'll pass on any pregnancy horror plots myself. I'm still mad about characters like Scully and Starbuck undergoing egg-stealing plots and I would really just prefer that there be zero, nope, none violation of my favorite characters' reproductive organs in shows I like.
posted by See you tomorrow, saguaro at 10:23 AM on October 10 [6 favorites]


Yeah, I wouldn't want the pregnancy horror to be about rape, either, but there's no reason it would have to be. Just bog-standard wanted pregnancy is weird and scary enough.
posted by dinty_moore at 10:39 AM on October 10 [2 favorites]


"If Major Kira wanted you dead, you'd be dead."
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 10:40 AM on October 10 [4 favorites]


> Just bog-standard wanted pregnancy is weird and scary enough

Joss, is that you?
posted by The corpse in the library at 11:33 AM on October 10


Joss, is that you?

Uterus-having human here. Among the reasons I don't have children is that pregnancy is a near neighbor to body horror for me.

It's not necessary to be a crappy faux-feminist to find the thought of being pregnant disconcerting or off-putting.
posted by Lexica at 11:59 AM on October 10 [21 favorites]


Joss, is that you?

If I were Joss Whedon, would I be suggesting that you could have a storyline that centers on the woman's reactions rather than how it affects the men in her life?

What's actually scary about pregnancy? Societal expectations and being seen as a mother, possibly automatically being seen as a bad/selfish mother because of who you are (too young, too old, too poor, too unwed, too disabled). People feeling like they have authority over your body and your experiences. Fear of unknown bodily changes. Fear of doing something that might actually kill you. Feeling a biological imperative towards this new being, or not feeling that that biological imperative and worrying there's something wrong with you, as a person. Suddenly having a responsibility over an unknown being, though that one I think is covered okay.

Most horror involving pregnancy is bad because it doesn't actually focus on what's scary about pregnancy for women and instead focuses on what's scary for pregnancy for men: what if the baby isn't mine and is instead this unknown creature? That's why pregnancy horror storylines involve rape, not because rape is scary for women.

What would a good pregnancy horror storyline look like? Octavia Butler's Xenogensis series or Bloodchild. You could make a point about Alien chest-bursters. Though I'd point out that two of those involve men getting pregnant and centering their reactions, and they all have to do about fear of coupling with the unknown.

Pregnancy can be used for horror the same way that rape can be effectively used for horror - when it's actually centering women's fears and not sexualizing/decontextualizing the experiences. It just doesn't happen.

There's also the point that most television shows aren't actually horror shows - Angel and Buffy were debatable, but BSG and X-Files certainly weren't. If pregnancy horror was going to happen, it should be in the horror genre.
posted by dinty_moore at 12:30 PM on October 10 [12 favorites]


pregnancy is horrifying to uterus-havers who don't ever want children and know full well that we live in a world where our right to choose that for ourselves is forever under attack by awful disgusting people whose sole motive in this attack is to cause us irreparable harm for their own sick pleasure. not because "ew women are icky" or whatever nonsense goes on in idiotbag whedon's tiny pea brain.
posted by poffin boffin at 12:43 PM on October 10 [20 favorites]


This is a fascinating thread and I've really enjoyed reading all the comments. For a while, I ate, breathed, and slept Buffy and Angel, and then Firefly. Some of my best fan works were for those shows, but I look back now at all the reviews of episodes I wrote and how much of a Whedon fangirl I was and I cringe. I absolutely loathe him now. I think we were so blinded then by just having some decent female characters we couldn't see the forest for the trees.

I have a friend whose lifelong buddy worked in some capacity on Angel, some sort of major crew position, and she's insisted over and over that Charisma was forced out because of a coke problem. So I've always just believed that's what it was, that's how the story was spun, but it niggled at me for a long time that it seemed to coincide with a real-life pregnancy, and just...I don't know. It's bugged me for years.

The bloom was off the rose for me, though, after Angel was cancelled, and when I heard about Dollhouse, I was just...why. Why would you make a show about that. I was never a fan of Eliza Dushku, it always felt like people were more fans of Faith who thought she was brilliant, but then the information came out that Whedon had been boffing someone during Buffy and I said, "Well, that explains Eliza Dushku." But I still tuned in to Dollhouse, like a schmuck, to give it a chance and managed to get through the whole first season before noping out big time.

It was when Joss's self-insert and another guy on Dollhouse were chortling over how amazing it was that they could tweak something in the character's mind and she was lactating for the role she was in (a new mother with perfectly waxed legs and shiny smooth hair, sure) that I was like, this is sick. This is just gross and sick and I hate everyone involved with this misogynistic piece of crap.

And then later I remember Whedon and some male interviewer chortling over how they got away with calling Natasha a "mewling quim" in the first Avengers and I was like, I hate this guy with the white hot fury of a thousand burning suns.

So I look at everything about CC now with a pretty jaundiced eye. Whedon always has some self insert character who gets away with repugnant things or gets the pretty girl (Bruce and Natasha, anyone?).

Sorry, wow, I guess I have a lot of pent-up feelings about this!

(And La Femme Nikita was one of my other major fandoms at the time, I loved it but yeah, it had its own problems, though I never felt they were quite as significant. The DVD release didn't replace the music, that was only on one episode, one song--they had released Season 2 discs and suddenly pulled them right as they were being mailed or stocked in stores because one band claimed they hadn't cleared their song for use. My friends found me a set, so I have the original ones with the original song!)
posted by emcat8 at 12:49 PM on October 10 [6 favorites]


but then the information came out that Whedon had been boffing someone during Buffy and I said, "Well, that explains Eliza Dushku."

I think this is unfair to Eliza Dushku. I'm bothered when I read this kind of speculation because Joss was abusing his power by sleeping with employees of his show(s) and to say it must've been a certain person because one doesn't like their acting/personality seems like a low blow.
posted by See you tomorrow, saguaro at 1:04 PM on October 10 [19 favorites]


TRUTH.

Dushku was molested on the set of True Lies--when she was 12--and sexually harassed by an actor from NCIS who is now headlining his own show. Rumor mill BS about who she was "boffing" is incredibly gross and doesn't belong here.
posted by zombieflanders at 1:10 PM on October 10 [21 favorites]


Fair enough--sorry, I didn't know anything about that. I only ever saw stories that emphasized how close she and Joss were, which is why I thought that. If I could edit my comment, I would.
posted by emcat8 at 1:16 PM on October 10 [2 favorites]


If we’re talking pregnancy body horror and the X-Files and how it’s not really horror, I feel I’d be remiss in not remarking that that show had not one but two episodes where groups of women were impregnated by the monster of the week, and both are considered light hearted classics with sympathetic “villains” who suffer no consequences. One of them even gets to see Cher!
posted by yellowbinder at 1:41 PM on October 10 [7 favorites]


I distinctly remember a cultural moment when everyone thought “mewling quim” was the height of erudite wit.
posted by thesmallmachine at 5:52 PM on October 10 [3 favorites]


I distinctly remember a cultural moment when everyone thought “mewling quim” was the height of erudite wit.

Not everyone.
posted by seasparrow at 6:20 PM on October 10 [12 favorites]


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