There is an adage about meeting your heroes which inevitably leads to disappointment. I think that applies because we can sometimes hold them to unaccountably lofty standards. I have been lucky enough to have met many of my heroes. I have enjoyed those meetings and walked away thinking how much I like the person. This was the case in December of 2007 when I met Joss Whedon.
For those unfamiliar with the name you probably know his TV shows and movies. He created the television version of Buffy the Vampire Slayer along with its spinoffs. He made the jump to movies and was the director of the first Marvel’s The Avengers and its sequel. He has been known for creating roles which feature strong female characters. From 1997 until 2015 Mr. Whedon was a geek mainstay while being considered one of the most creative members of it all.
I met him when he came to Boston in the early days of Hollywood Writers Strike. Writers were fanning out to different cities to lead protests. On this cold day in Boston he would lead a march around Harvard Square. As we walked, he would fall in step with different groups and chat with us. He has as quick a wit in person as his characters do on a page. As it was with every fan panel, I ever saw the discussion turned to why he chose to write stories about women who exhibited a pronounced sense of who and what they were. I don’t remember his exact answer, but it is a riff on this I heard him say many times, “I do it because I’ve only ever had those types of women around me.” On that day I walked away thinking this particular hero had lived up to his impression in my head.
Which is why the recent news about Mr. Whedon has been so distressing. Starting with actor Ray Fisher who Mr. Whedon worked with on the “Justice League” movie. It would become more than one angry actor as others who had worked with Mr. Whedon would begin to tell their stories. All of them were of him unmercifully berating the people he was working with. It has come to light he enjoyed tearing down the people who worked for him, especially it seems the women.
What bothered me personally was the way he touted his belief in women being more than equals in public. Only it turns out to be something far different in private. Now I felt like I had been had by a con man. Which to some degree remains my primary emotion.
To help give me some context I went back and watched some of my favorite pieces of tv and movies he has been responsible for. The stories being told are still of empowered heroines doing heroic things. That part doesn’t change. That I know there was emotionally manipulative efforts by Mr. Whedon bothers me. Yet I believe the work stands on its own.
Despite being created by a con man closet misogynist the stories are worth being seen. Hopefully to inspire future generations to be able to stand up to bullies like Mr. Whedon.